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.
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, 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.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
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.
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.
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.