(Sept. 13, 2005) -- This Sunday and Monday in the NFL has been designated as "Hurricane Relief Weekend" and will culminate in an unprecedented fundraising telethon that will be part of ABC's NFL Monday Night Football programming.
Under the theme of "Recover & Rebuild," the NFL, its clubs, network television partners and sponsors will use Week 2's games in a special way as part of an ongoing initiative to raise funds and bring attention to the massive needs of the Gulf Coast region following the destruction of Hurricane Katrina.
Every NFL game this weekend will include elements that will highlight and contribute to the national relief effort. The NFL's network television partners also will participate in their programming. The weekend's activities will culminate with a fundraising telethon from ABC's Times Square studio in New York City that will be incorporated into the ABC and ESPN telecasts of the NFL's Monday Night Football doubleheader.
The New Orleans Saints-New York Giants game, originally scheduled for the Louisiana Superdome on Sunday, will be played on Monday night at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., beginning at 7:30 p.m. ET. ABC will televise the game until the 9 p.m. ET start of the Washington at Dallas game. At that time, the Saints-Giants telecast will switch to ESPN in most markets. The New York, Louisiana and selected hurricane-affected areas will see the Giants-Saints game to its conclusion on ABC before joining the Washington-Dallas game. The beginning of Dallas-Washington will be on ESPN in those markets until the conclusion of the Saints-Giants game.
MORE SURPRISES IN STORE?
Are things supposed to be this surprising this early? Well, yes, this is the NFL!
And off Week 1, it looks like fans can expect another topsy-turvy, season-long series of surprises.
The prime example may be four Week 1 games: Dallas-San Diego, Denver-Miami, Green Bay-Detroit and St. Louis-San Francisco. Compare the 2004 records of the winners and losers. The winning Cowboys, Dolphins, Lions and 49ers combined for an 18-46 (.281) record last year. The losers last Sunday? They were 40-24 (.625) in 2004.
"This is one game in a long season," said Dolphins head coach Nick Saban. A long -- and it looks like an unpredictable -- one indeed.
It continues in Week 2 with games such as:
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (1-0) at CAROLINA PANTHERS (0-1)
STORYLINE: It's Tom and Jake -- together again!
The last time these teams met they produced one of the most exciting Super Bowls ever -- XXXVIII in February '04. A Super Bowl record for scoreless play at the beginning of a game was set in the first 26:55. The clubs then scored four times with 3:05 left in the half. In the fourth quarter, there were two lead changes and a tie. The teams combined for 37 points in the quarter, another SB record. The Pats QB Tom Brady and Panthers QB Jake Delhomme hooked up for a SB record 649 net passing yards. "It was terrific to watch," said winning Patriots coach Bill Belichick, "but not to coach."
Brady and Delhomme can put up the same kind of numbers Sunday, thanks to their two key receivers, respectively -- Deion Branch (7 catches, 99 yards, 1 TD in Week 1) and Steve Smith (8 catches, 138 yards, 1 TD).
JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (1-0) at INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (1-0)
STORYLINE: A young division rivalry gets stirred once again.
They have been AFC South Division rivals only since realignment in 2002, but already these clubs are tight competitors. In the six times they have met in the division (Colts lead, 4-2), no game has been decided by more than 10 points. They split last season, with each team breaking the other's winning streak (Jax at three, Colts at four).
The key to handling the Colts' offensive fireworks, says one who should know, is not to overreact when things explode. "Don't sit back and say, 'Ah, they got us now,'" says Jaguars LB Mike Peterson, a former Colt. "When Peyton Manning hits a couple of passes, get 'em on the next play. You've got to attack."
The Jaguars have allowed Manning only two 300-yard games in the six division meetings between the teams.
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (1-0) at OAKLAND RAIDERS (0-1)
STORYLINE: Explosive offenses vs. still-developing defenses.
It may come from the ground (the Chiefs) or through the air (the Raiders) but the respective defenses may well have their hands full Sunday night.
Now that third-year RB Larry Johnson (110 yards, 2 TDs in Week 1) is getting his carries to rest 31-year-old Priest Holmes, the Chiefs have added even more potency to their No. 1 NFL offense of last year. The Raiders have done likewise, in the air, by trading for explosive WR Randy Moss (5 catches, 130 yards, 1 TD in Week 1) to go along with Jerry Porter.
It's last year's upgraded 30th (Oakland) and 31st (KC) defenses that will be tested. The Chiefs come off a strong performance in Week 1 against the Jets, with seven forced fumbles, two sacks and an interception.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (1-0)-NEW YORK GIANTS (1-0)
STORYLINE: A special game producing a special event.
The Saints come off a thrilling 23-20 road victory over Carolina on a 47-yard, three-seconds-left field goal by John Carney in a win dedicated to the victims of Hurricane Katrina. "We're going to put those people on our backs and try to carry them through the season," says Saints WR Joe Horn.
The teams are evenly matched offensively. Mississippi native Deuce McAlister of the Saints and Tiki Barber of the Giants finished in the top 10 in NFC rushing last year. And New York now feels it has a swift receiver in the mold of Horn (tied for second in the NFL in catches in '04 with 94) in Plaxico Burress from Pittsburgh. Burress had a key 44-yard reception in the third quarter against Arizona in Week 1 that led to a TD on the next play, and his own TD catch later on.
WASHINGTON REDSKINS (1-0) at DALLAS COWBOYS (1-0)
STORYLINE: It's "throwbacks" night -- in a lot of ways.
It's all the old great 'Skins-'Boys memories of the past. It's Joe Gibbs vs. Bill Parcells. It's Mark Brunell vs. Drew Bledsoe. It's "The Triplets" -- Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin -- being inducted into the Cowboys' "Ring of Honor."
Redskins head coach Gibbs (Dallas' Parcells is 12-6 lifetime against him) has named 35-year-old Brunell as his starter over Patrick Ramsey. Brunell, replacing an injured Ramsey on Sunday, led three scoring drives in the Redskins' 9-7 win over Chicago. In San Diego, new Cowboys QB Bledsoe threw three touchdown passes in a 28-24 win over the Chargers.
On defense, it's Week 2 of the Cowboys' conversion to the 3-4 (they allowed San Diego only 291 total yards), and the Redskins' blitzing "D" (held Chicago to 166 yards).