- John Clayton, NFL senior writer
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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 4 of the 2005 season.
Wednesday's revelation that he has a sports hernia and will need surgery after the season is just one of his problems. He suffered a sternum injury in the season opener against Atlanta that isn't going away. On Sunday, he suffered a shin injury. Each week the pain increases and all he can do is take anti-inflammatories.
Now that the Eagles and McNabb have put on the table what the quarterback will be dealing with for the remainder of the season, the Chiefs are the first team to really test this incredible story. McNabb can run out of the pocket, but he probably has only so many runs a game. He was comforted by reports teammate Sheldon Brown, a cornerback, played an entire season with a sports hernia, but the two positions are completely different.
The cornerback is asked only to run up and down the field with receivers and make tackles when necessary. The quarterback is the target of 11 defensive players on every down. If his reactions are slow because of injury, the quarterback is subject to more injuries.
The Chiefs know that. Stopping McNabb is the key to getting off to a 3-1 start in what is an important game for them. The question is how well McNabb can gut up the pain and survive in what should be a tough, physical game.
McNabb has been amazing in his first three games playing with pain. He's completed 61.1 percent of his passes for 964 yards and eight touchdowns. His quarterback rating is 99.5 percent. His pain tolerance has been off the charts.
It can be argued that McNabb could have done even better against the Raiders because receivers were open deep and McNabb moved around to other progressions. Credit McNabb with being smart and efficient. He spent a good portion of the summer working extra on his third, fourth and fifth receiving options. That extra time allowed him to get by during this tough stretch.
McNabb's counterpart Sunday, Trent Green, couldn't get in sync against the Broncos Monday night. He banged his left hand and after the game needed X-rays, which turned out negative. But the numbers aren't up to the Green standards after three games. He's completing 57.1 percent of his passes and has only one touchdown toss.
The Eagles will blitz him. They blitz everyone. But at home, Green usually finds a comfort level. Still, in comparison, Green's temporary struggles don't compare on the grand scale to McNabb's. Green is healthy. McNabb's injuries aren't going away and could only get worse.
He's playing the NFL game of Survivor. Sunday in Arrowhead is just another Sunday of pain.
And 10. San Diego Chargers at New England Patriots | Scouting report The Patriots beat the Steelers, but what a price they paid. Injuries cost them four players: left tackle Matt Light, strong safety Rodney Harrison, halfback Kevin Faulk and defensive end Marquise Hill. All four losses leave them vulnerable against the Chargers, who are coming off a rejuvenating win over the Giants. Losing Harrison makes the Patriots weaker against the run. Guss Scott fills in for Harrison, but he doesn't bring the hard-hitting impact and run-stopping ability of Harrison. Losing Light leaves the left side of the line with two rookies -- tackle Nick Kaczur and Logan Mankins. Faulk was the third-down back and that leaves a big gap in the offense. Losing Hill might not be a big deal now, but the Patriots have only six defensive linemen on the roster if you include Dan Klecko and undrafted rookie Mike Wright. That's not good when you consider the Patriots are running a 4-3 more than the 3-4. The biggest test for the Patriots' defense is how well it can do against Chargers halfback LaDainian Tomlinson. L.T. has the ability to put up 200 yards rushing, and he's done it on the Patriots. Obviously, the Patriots are still a good defense, but they have to be careful. Tomlinson could expose problems in the best of defenses.
The Broncos are on a roll. Their defense came together in the second half of the Chargers game two weeks ago, and it is playing with great confidence. Plus, leadership couldn't be any better. Champ Bailey continues to be a leader on the field even though he has a dislocated shoulder and a hamstring injury. If he can practice hard Friday on the hamstring, he will be able to play. John Lynch is a leader at strong safety. Trevor Pryce is a leader along the defensive line. But the Broncos can't forget their last trip to Florida. They opened the season in Miami and melted like ice cream in the heat and humidity. If they can keep the game close, the Jaguars will be sitting and waiting for them to fade. The Jaguars' defense ranks second in the league and is tough to run against. Still, don't be surprised if Mike Shanahan tries to run into the middle against Marcus Stroud and John Henderson. For whatever reason, Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio baits teams into running into the middle, even though it's the strength of the defense. Shanahan has great schemes to free Mike Anderson if he makes the right cut. This game will be a chess match of a great run defense trying to stop a superior running scheme.
8. Detroit Lions at Tampa Bay Buccaneers | Scouting report Joey Harrington didn't need this. He's already under tight scrutiny for his horrible game against the Bears before the bye week. Now he faces the Bucs' defense, which has embarrassed opposing quarterbacks. The Bucs rank first on defense. Their passing defense is giving up only 166.7 yards a game, they have intercepted six passes, have allowed only a 55.7 percent completion rate and have a defensive quarterback rating of 53.2. The Lions have little confidence on offense. For talent, the Lions are loaded. No one can figure it out. Harrington doesn't stretch the field, instead preferring to throw more conservative passes. That bad game against the Bears dropped his completion percentage to 52.3. With Roy Williams, Charles Rogers, Mike Williams and Kevin Jones at his disposal, Harrington is averaging only 10.7 yards a completion, which is horrible. The Lions elected not to bring in a veteran backup after Jeff Garcia went down in the preseason, so it's up to Harrington to right the wrongs of this offense. Carnell "Cadillac" Williams has been the heart of the Bucs' 3-0 turnaround. But the Lions' interior defensive line duo of Shaun Rogers and Dan Wilkinson is hard to run against. If Harrington doesn't do well, he may wish the bye week had been extended an extra week.
7. Minnesota Vikings at Atlanta Falcons | Scouting report Too bad the Vikings couldn't have played the Falcons last week. Because of injuries, the Falcons were decimated at cornerback. Jim Mora was patching former practice-squaders and guys off the street, but Bills quarterback J.P. Losman couldn't do anything against them. All the cornerbacks returned to practice so Daunte Culpepper needs to be at his best to beat them in the Georgia Dome. Culpepper bounced back against New Orleans and had his first big day of the year. Part of his success was attributed to running back Mewelde Moore, an excellent runner after first contact. The Vikings won't have their best receiver, Nate Burleson, and the Vikings' defense faces the ultimate challenge of stopping Falcons quarterback Michael Vick. Vick showed a lot of courage last week, a game in which he grew as a quarterback. A hamstring injury made him concentrate more on staying in the pocket, and he did well. He moved the team and he burned the tough Bills defense after it gave him a few good hits. The Vikings haven't shown the type of toughness and consistency seen from the Bills.
The Seahawks usually have bad odds of winning these East Coast trips. It's hard for a team to travel three time zones and win. And this particular matchup against the Redskins doesn't favor the Seahawks. The Redskins' defense can be stifling. Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams has some of the league's best blitz packages, and Matt Hasselbeck has had trouble against blitzes. Plus, former Seahawks cornerback Shawn Springs will be trying his best to show his former team was wrong in letting him go. Conversely, the Seahawks will design more plays to Springs' side to test him. The Redskins gained a lot of confidence from their Monday night victory over the Cowboys in Week 2, but will that confidence convert into points? The Redskins switched to Mark Brunell as quarterback against Chicago, but didn't score a touchdown in the first seven quarters of the season. They have scored just 23 points this season. Brunell has had two weeks to work out the rust in his game. On the other side of the ball, the Seahawks' defense has held up well. It ranks eighth in the league in yards allowed and looks better through the first three weeks this season than the previous two years. By the fourth week, the Seahawks' defense either improves or fades. Coach Mike Holmgren has seven new starters on defense and there is a better chemistry with this unit than those in the past. This Sunday's game against the Redskins and next week's road trip to St. Louis will give everyone an idea if the Seahawks have the defense to compete for a playoff spot.
5. Dallas Cowboys at Oakland Raiders | Scouting report Coach Bill Parcells kept the Cowboys in the Bay Area for the week between games against the 49ers and the Raiders. A week at home with Parcells can be tough, but he's probably being extra demanding on this road trip. Parcells has a young team and it is giving him a few extra gray hairs. Parcells can't be happy the Cowboys are giving up 23 points a game and 13 yards a completion. Those aren't playoff numbers, and Parcells is in Dallas only to try to take the franchise back to the playoffs. He's comforted by the fact Drew Bledsoe is off to a great start. He's completing 64.3 percent of his passes, has six touchdown passes and an impressive 103.7 quarterback rating. For the Raiders, it's desperation and that could be a problem for Parcells. This game is the Raiders' season. They are 0-3. They have no personality on defense, but they played hard last week against the Eagles and took the NFC champs to the wire. Raiders coach Norv Turner has seen the tape of how Santana Moss burned Cowboys safety Roy Williams two weeks ago for two touchdowns, so you know Turner will test out the middle of the Cowboys' defense with long pass attempts to Randy Moss. The big mission for Turner is to get the running game going. LaMont Jordan was given a five-year, $27.5 million contract to turn around the running game, and his numbers are no better than former Raider Randy Jordan, a journeyman. LaMont Jordan has 49 carries and 148 yards, a horrible 3.0 average. The Raiders have a bye week following this game. They better win, or the 53 players who return after the bye might have their minds elsewhere.
This is an important game for Texans coach Dom Capers, who suddenly finds his efforts to build the expansion team in trouble. Capers fired his offensive coordinator, Chris Palmer, and promoted Joe Pendry. Pendry will be more disciplined in running things for quarterback David Carr. There will be fewer audibles called. The thought was Carr got into a bad habit of calling audibles out of passes to Andre Johnson and into runs. But the Texans didn't run the ball enough. Under Pendry, Carr is supposed to run the plays called and try to execute them better. Johnson has only seven catches and 38 yards, embarrassingly low numbers for one of the top receivers in the AFC. Perhaps a bigger problem for Capers is his defense. The Texans are giving up 24.5 points a game and 143.5 rushing yards a game. If they fall behind early -- which most teams have done against the Bengals -- they will be forced into making too many mistakes and could end up being blown out on the road. The Bengals could be 4-0 with a victory, but the schedule gets tougher in the next two weeks with road games at Jacksonville and Tennessee.
3. Indianapolis Colts at Tennessee Titans | Scouting report Peyton Manning faces a challenge, but those challenges are fun when your team is 3-0 and allowing only 5.3 points a game on defense. Manning's biggest challenge is defeating the special defenses created to stop the Colts' offense. Teams are dropping eight into pass coverage to limit Manning's ability to go downfield. His average completions have dropped from 13.4 yards a catch to 11.4. With so many men in coverage, cornerbacks are jamming the receivers at the line of scrimmage and taking away some of the timing routes. Each week, Manning gets a little better, even though the scoring isn't close to where it was last season. Last week, for example, Manning had only four incompletions. Manning's main option is handing off to Edgerrin James, but don't get too carried away with that. The Colts have been leading virtually the entire season. Teams run the ball more with the lead to eat up clock time. Nothing is wrong with the Colts because they are still winning. The Titans are dangerous because they are a division team and they have great defensive coaching. But they are young. Can Jeff Fisher keep this young defense disciplined for 60 minutes? That's tough. With a good defense of his own, Manning can wait longer in games to deliver the knockout punch with his passing.
2. St. Louis Rams at New York Giants | Scouting report The Giants were blown away in San Diego, but they came back on the cross country trip feeling encouraged. Eli Manning looked good. He had great command of the huddle. He moved the football. Heck, his quarterback rating is higher than his brother's, and he has thrown five touchdown passes to Peyton's two. Eli does hope Plaxico Burress makes all of his meetings on time because he will need him for 60 minutes. This is potentially a high-scoring game. The Rams' offense hasn't hit its stride yet, but it's averaging 24.3 points a game. Injuries could be a problem. Marc Bulger is a little banged up. Isaac Bruce might not be able to play because of a turf toe injury. Steven Jackson has sore ribs and is questionable. Should Bruce not be able to play, watch for Kevin Curtis to step in. Several Rams believe Curtis is good enough to start. Even though having Bruce alongside Torry Holt would be beneficial, Curtis could be given a chance to step into the spotlight.
1. New York Jets at Baltimore Ravens | Scouting report What was supposed to be Chad Pennington against Kyle Boller has turned into a game between Brooks Bollinger of the Jets and Anthony Wright of the Ravens. Of the two, Wright is in the best position. He's started with the Ravens and he's won, taking the team into the playoffs two years ago. Sure, Wright has a history of staring too long at his wide receivers, but he's also had two weeks to work with the offense because of the bye week. Unlike the Jets, the Ravens are healthy. They also have a chance to salvage the season, and Wright must do his part to make that happen in the next three weeks. The Ravens play the Jets, Lions and Browns, three beatable teams. If Wright can win two of those games, the Ravens could be 2-3 before Boller returns for tough road trips to Chicago and Pittsburgh -- two defensive teams that should give problems to any Ravens quarterback. Meanwhile, the Jets are going with a third-string quarterback who tries hard. He has a decent arm and has mobility. Jets coaches call him the Demolition Man because he's willing to bang his body around to make plays. He has only nine career passes, completing five. Jets guard Pete Kendall joked that the only game tape the Jets would have of Bollinger would be in preseason games, featuring his running away from defenders being blocked by players who didn't make the Jets' roster.
John Clayton is a senior writer for ESPN.com.
9hEric D. Williams
10hSharon Katz & Hank Gargiulo