Giants vs. Eagles highlights Week 2

John Clayton highlights the best games of Week 2, including the Eagles hosting the Giants in an important NFC East battle.

Updated: September 14, 2006, 5:08 PM ET
By John Clayton | ESPN.com

Editor's note: ESPN senior NFL writer John Clayton's weekly "First and 10" column takes you around the league, with a look at the best game of the week, followed by primers for 10 other games. Here's his look at Week 2 of the 2006 season.

First … New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles
Donovan McNabb has a right to feel disrespected.

First, he has suffered the indignity of playing with Terrell Owens, who verbally threw him under the bus during his prolonged exit from Philadelphia. If that wasn't painful enough, McNabb had to end his 2005 season in Week 10 because of a sports hernia that required surgery.

Forecasters forgot about McNabb during the offseason. In the tough NFC East, the Eagles were generally picked to finish last. Considering the thin receiving corps without Owens, those thoughts were understandable. McNabb didn't believe it and even talked about going to the Super Bowl as training camp began.

Sunday's game against the New York Giants will be a huge statement about where this season could be heading. The Eagles easily handled the Texans, 24-10, last weekend, a wonderful launching point for the season. But Sunday is the real test.

The Giants won the NFC East last season and Eli Manning seems improved. McNabb reminded the NFC that he is still the conference's most talented quarterback. He's been to the NFC title game four times. Even last year with a badly bruised sternum and a hernia that needed surgery, McNabb threw for 2,507 yards and 16 touchdown in nine games.

The acquisition of wide receiver Donte' Stallworth has Philadelphia buzzing. Stallworth caught six passes for 141 yards. His move into the No. 1 receiver role allows Reggie Brown to be a more natural No. 2.

Week 2 is one of the league's early treats. There are 11 division games this weekend. Next week, there are nine. Added to the five division games that opened the season, a number of division races will start to take shape.

Panic could set in around the country. The Giants, facing the toughest schedule in the conference, don't want to be 0-2 heading into a tough cross-country trip to Seattle. The loser of the Redskins-Cowboys game will be 0-2. The Eagles follow the Giants game with contests that they will be favored heavily in against the 49ers and Packers, giving them a chance for a 4-0 start before they play host to the Cowboys Oct. 8.

A 4-0 start earns a lot of respect and McNabb knows it. That's why the Giants game is so important.

And 10. Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Atlanta Falcons

Quarterback
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Profile
2006 SEASON STATISTICS
Att Comp Yds TD Int Rat
29 17 113 0 3 30.5
Jon Gruden is tiring of questions about his quarterback, Chris Simms. Gruden is a master of quick timing passes and he wants his quarterback to get rid of the football quickly. But Simms is getting too many passes batted down at the line of scrimmage. Gruden is tired of the questions, but he also wants to get Simms to play better. An embarrassing shutout loss to the Ravens has made the Bucs an angry team. The Falcons are coming off a great opening victory in Carolina and have a chance to grab the early edge in the NFC South. The extra work Michael Vick had during the offseason with his wide receivers seemed to help. Vick seemed much more comfortable against the Panthers, a team that swept the Falcons last season. The Bucs couldn't get anything going against the Ravens in the opener. Cadillac Williams rushed for only 22 yards and Simms passed for only 133 yards. The Falcons showed an improved defense in Week 1, with new additions defensive end John Abraham and safety Lawyer Milloy making an impact. But Abraham is slowed by a groin injury that has nagged him off and on during his career. The Falcons are going to need a healthy Abraham to pressure Simms and try to bat down more passes.

9. Washington Redskins at Dallas Cowboys
One of the league's best rivalries only got bigger with Terrell Owens' move to Dallas. Owens got off to a good start with six catches for 80 yards, but an opening loss to the Jaguars didn't please anyone. The Redskins struggled in the red zone against the Vikings and lost on Monday night. The pressure is on in this game. The loser is 0-2 and could spot the Eagles two games in the NFC East. The Cowboys have their issues. The offensive line broke down and so did Drew Bledsoe against the Jaguars. Bledsoe threw three interceptions and was sacked twice. One bad game started the speculation that his starting job could be in jeopardy, which is unlikely. But an 0-2 start could cause a lot of speculation in Dallas. The Cowboys have a bye week following the game and bye weeks for 0-2 teams often lead to changes. The Cowboys and Redskins are thinking only of the Super Bowl, but each team faces a tough schedule. Getting into an early-season hole might be hard to overcome. Bill Parcells will be stressing finishing plays and finishing games.

8. Pittsburgh Steelers at Jacksonville Jaguars (Mon., 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Ben Roethlisberger loves challenges. There hasn't been a medical deadline he has failed to beat and it certainly seems like he'll be back Monday night. Roethlisberger returned to practice Wednesday and did well coming off his appendectomy. He survived a major motorcycle accident and didn't miss a day of training camp. Do you think a little thing like a removed appendix is going to cause him to miss more than one game? Absolutely not. Charlie Batch kept the Steelers going by handling the offense well in the opener. The Jaguars are coming off a big win over the Cowboys in Week 1, but the loss of defensive end Reggie Hayward (Achilles) for the season will hurt their pass rush. Jaguars quarterback Byron Leftwich has played pretty well against the Steelers defense in his career. This figures to be a low-scoring game and the team with the football in the final two minutes could be the winner.

7. Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks
Everyone knows the Cardinals have one of the league's most exciting offenses. Kurt Warner can throw to Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin and Bryant Johnson. The addition of Edgerrin James has helped production in the red zone. The Cardinals opened the season with a 34-point effort against the 49ers. Sunday's game against the Seahawks should be a shootout. One matchup to watch is the Seahawks' short cornerbacks against the Cardinals' tall, physical receivers. Another interesting matchup is the Cardinals defense against Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck. The Cardinals love to blitz and have some of the most imaginative rushes in the league. Hasselbeck learned how to handle that pressure last year by gashing the Cardinals on the ground with Shaun Alexander. One concern for Arizona has to be how well the 49ers moved the football against them last weekend. The Cardinals gave up 27 points and 393 yards to Alex Smith and the 49ers. Dennis Green certainly will have to tighten up his defense against the Seahawks. Mike Holmgren added Deion Branch and while the Seahawks are saying he probably won't play, it would be an upset if Branch isn't in uniform. Offense will be a key in this game, and if Branch can help in a drive or two, he'll be worth having on the field. Holmgren, meanwhile, is vowing changes in the middle of his offensive line if there isn't improvement from the opener. Holmgren is looking for the right fit to replace the departed Steve Hutchinson.

6. Carolina Panthers at Minnesota Vikings
Heading into the first week of the season, the Panthers seemed like the most complete team in football. They had a great defense, a solid offensive line, a deep receiving corps and perhaps the deepest backfield in football. But a disastrous loss to the Falcons shot holes in the Panthers. They lost left tackle Travelle Wharton for the season, and center Justin Hartwig is banged up. They switched Jordan Gross from right to left tackle, and now they aren't as powerful on the right side of the line. Steve Smith has a hamstring injury that leaves him questionable for the Vikings game, and the Panthers struggled offensively without him. It's amazing how one week can affect a franchise. The Vikings, meanwhile, are sky high about the hire of Brad Childress as head coach. He was brought in for his bright offensive mind and his reputation of being a disciplinarian. He did every thing right in Week 1. He disciplined safety Dwight Smith for an off-the-field incident and still beat the Redskins. The Vikings appear physical and controlled. Brad Johnson showed great leadership at the quarterback position. And the Vikings defense was great.

5. Detroit Lions at Chicago Bears

Linebacker
Detroit Lions

Profile
2006 SEASON STATISTICS
Tot Ast Solo FF Sack Int
10 7 3 0 0 0
Rod Marinelli's impact on the Lions was noticeable in their Week 1 loss to the Seahawks. The Lions defense flew to the football and held the Seahawks to three field goals. Linebacker Ernie Sims already has established himself as one of the league's most active rookie defenders. He was all over the field against the Seahawks making hits and making plays. The cornerbacks reacted to the ball better in Marinelli's Tampa Cover 2 defense. And defensive tackle Shaun Rogers dominated the interior of the Seahawks' offensive line. The Bears had no trouble with the Packers so they have to make sure they aren't spoiled. For the Bears, Rex Grossman moved the ball up and down the field against the Packers, taking a lot of pressure off him. Heck, the poor guy has been hurt so often Bears management should do high fives if he makes it through a game. Grossman is a leader and the players believe in him. The Lions defense will present an interesting challenge for the Bears. Because the Cover 2 is so active, it will be important for the Bears to establish the run. While the pressure was on Grossman to win the opener in Green Bay, the pressure will fall upon running backs Thomas Jones and Cedric Benson to try to beat the Lions.

4. New England Patriots at New York Jets
Eric Mangini wanted his chance to show everything he learned under Bill Belichick. Many thought Mangini was leaving the Patriots too soon, long before he was ready to be a head coach. Beating his mentor would make him seem like a veteran. Don't jump so fast, though. The Patriots are reeling at the moment. Quarterback Tom Brady has lost his top two receivers, Deion Branch and David Givens. Brady won three Super Bowl rings and he's entering an unsettled period at wide receiver. Brady and the Pats struggled in Week 1, but gutted out a come-from-behind victory over the Bills. Now, Brady's focus in on beating the Jets and getting a second win in the division. The strength of the offense appears to be the running of Corey Dillon and Laurence Maroney and the receiving threat of tight end Ben Watson. It will be interesting to see how Belichick defenses Chad Pennington's short passing attack. Pennington is a master of the short passes, and coming off two shoulder operations, he is going to have to rely on his smarts and the short pass. If Belichick can frustrate Pennington, other teams will copy the defensive game plan and use it against the Jets the rest of the season.

3. Cleveland Browns at Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals had an impressive 23-10 victory over the Chiefs, but the offense is still upset. Carson Palmer is still beating himself up for throwing for only 127 yards. Carson, chill. You're only eight months removed from surgery on a horrible knee injury. Things look good. The defense has improved against the run. Defenders fly to the football. And the offense is only going to get better and better each week with Palmer getting up to speed. Chad Johnson will be looking for his first touchdown celebration of the season after being kept out of the end zone by the Chiefs. The Bengals started slow in the first quarter against Kansas City, but once they went to the no-huddle, the offense clicked. Expect the no-huddle to extend throughout most of this game. The no-huddle will prevent Browns coach Romeo Crennel from doing a lot of substitution in his 3-4 scheme. The no-huddle put the Chiefs into a simple Cover 2 and Palmer moved the football.

2. Oakland Raiders at Baltimore Ravens

Quarterback
Baltimore Ravens

Profile
2006 SEASON STATISTICS
Att Comp Yds TD Int Rat
27 17 168 1 0 94.8
With Steve McNair at quarterback, the Ravens seem like a playoff team. The defense looks reenergized with the healthy returns of Ray Lewis and Ed Reed. And the Raiders seem like shark meat heading into this game. The Raiders' offensive line was overpowered by the Chargers front seven in Week 1. Aaron Brooks had to run for his life. Things were so bad Art Shell benched him after seven sacks to protect his body. The Raiders know an 0-2 start will put a lot of doubts into the season. They have a bye week in Week 3 and will need to do a lot of evaluating. Do they stay with Brooks or do they change over to Andrew Walter? Does it even matter? Randy Moss might be right. The Raiders are a mess. The Ravens won't ease up on them so this could be an ugly, ugly game.

1. Buffalo Bills at Miami Dolphins
Putting safety Troy Vincent on the injured reserve list was an interesting move. Vincent is a leader. He's the president of the NFLPA, but he's a smart football player, the kind you want on a young defense in transition under Dick Jauron. He suffered a hamstring injury in the opener, but the Bills made the surprise move of putting him on injured reserve thus ending his season. With linebacker Takeo Spikes on and off the field with injuries, the Bills had between four and five rookies on the field against the Patriots. The Bills will need to move ahead with youth. The Dolphins want to avenge their season-opening loss to the Steelers. Nick Saban isn't happy about the mental mistakes in the opening loss to the Steelers. He has had extra time to work on the little things. The Bills are exciting with J.P. Losman at quarterback, but they are prone to a lot of mistakes. Saban will try to take advantage of those mistakes to come away with an easy victory.

John Clayton is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

John Clayton

NFL senior writer

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