Sunday Countdown: Your weekly NFL guide

  • ESPN.com | September 25, 2011

Weekly Picks

Experts: Ditka, Johnson, Carter, Jackson,

Houston @ New Orleans Houston New Orleans Houston New Orleans

N.Y. Giants @ Philadelphia Philadelphia Philadelphia Philadelphia N.Y. Giants

Jacksonville @ Carolina Carolina Carolina Carolina Carolina

New England @ Buffalo New England New England New England New England

Miami @ Cleveland Cleveland Miami Cleveland Cleveland

San Francisco @ Cincinnati San Francisco San Francisco San Francisco San Francisco

Denver @ Tennessee Tennessee Tennessee Tennessee Denver

Detroit @ Minnesota Detroit Detroit Detroit Detroit

Baltimore @ St. Louis Baltimore Baltimore Baltimore Baltimore

N.Y. Jets @ Oakland N.Y. Jets Oakland N.Y. Jets Oakland

Kansas City @ San Diego San Diego San Diego San Diego San Diego

Arizona @ Seattle Arizona Arizona Arizona Arizona

Atlanta @ Tampa Bay Tampa Bay Atlanta Atlanta Atlanta

Green Bay @ Chicago Chicago Green Bay Green Bay Green Bay

Pittsburgh @ Indianapolis Pittsburgh Pittsburgh Pittsburgh Pittsburgh

Washington @ Dallas Dallas Dallas Dallas Dallas

Week 2 Record 12-4 10-6 14-2 12-4

Overall Record 21-11 20-12 25-7 23-9

Countdown Confidential

By Sal Paolantonio

Expect Giants to bring the heat: Giants coach Tom Coughlin didn't waste any words. He never does. "I expect Michael Vick to play," said Coughlin, who made it clear he is not game-planning for any other quarterback.

It does not matter who is playing quarterback for the Eagles on Sunday. If it's Vick or Mike Kafka, who could be making his first NFL start, or Vince Young, who seems to be partially immobilized due to a lingering hamstring injury. The Giants are going to take a very aggressive approach. Translation: blitz, early and often.

Last year, the Giants' defense set the blueprint on how to attack the Eagles' passing game, particularly Vick, particularly with defensive backs.

In the two games against Philadelphia, the Giants sent at least one corner or safety on a blitz at Vick on 35 pass plays. When that happened, Vick completed just 42.1 percent of his passes, according to ESPN Stats & Information. His yards per attempt on those occasions: just 5.5.

Now compare that to when the rest of the league sent a defensive back on a blitz at Vick: His completion rate was 54.8 percent, with 8.6 yards per attempt.

Problem is the Giants lost twice to the Eagles last year, including a demoralizing 38-31 loss on Dec. 19 that featured New York coughing up a 21-point fourth-quarter lead. The exclamation point: DeSean Jackson's pyrotechnic 65-yard walk-off punt return. So, with an eye on snapping a six-game losing streak to Andy Reid, Coughlin's point of emphasis could not be more clear:

"The theme we had throughout the preseason was to finish," he said. "This is something we have presented to our players this week."

MVP Watch

By Mike Sando

The MVP race could not be clearer at the top.

The New England Patriots' Tom Brady leads the league in NFL passer rating, Total QBR and many related categories, including passing yards, yards per attempt, completions, attempts (tied), longest pass completion and touchdown passes (tied). His team is 2-0 and among the NFL's very best.

The league has named Brady its top AFC offensive player for each of the first two weeks, the first time one player has won that 28-year-old award twice to open a season. Brady won the AFC's weekly honors twice in 2007 and 2010, winning MVP following both of those seasons.

1. Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots The Patriots are one of three teams without a dropped pass this season. Receivers get much of the credit for that, but Brady's accuracy makes life easier for them. No one wants to let down the quarterback when passes are delivered with almost perfect precision. Brady is leading the NFL in passing yards and YPA while completing 71.6 percent of his passes.

2. Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers Rodgers and Drew Brees are the only players with more than three TD passes and no interceptions through the first two games. Rodgers has now avoided throwing even one INT in 11 of his last 14 games, counting playoffs. He has 30 TD passes with four picks in his last 13 games, counting playoffs. Not bad for a player who didn't even make the Pro Bowl last season.

3. Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints Brees has gone without an INT in the opening two games for the second season in a row. His turnover problems began to surface with a two-pick game in Week 3 last season. He threw at least one in each of the final 12 regular-season games of 2010. Keeping down the turnovers this season will significantly enhance his credentials.

Watch 'Sunday Countdown'

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• Last December, then-Giants punter Matt Dodge punted directly to Eagles return ace DeSean Jackson, whose ensuing touchdown gave Philadelphia the NFC East crown and targeted Dodge with criticism and ridicule. Jeremy Schaap reports on Dodge's feelings about the mishap and what he's been doing since.

• Harvard grad Ryan Fitzpatrick has the Bills and their high-flying offense off to a 2-0 start. We talk to the QB to see what advantages and disadvantages there are to being a Harvard graduate in the NFL.

• Tom Brady is arguably the best quarterback in the game. But it might not have turned out exactly as it did for Brady and the Patriots -- if not for a career-changing play 10 years ago. The Mayne Event looks back.

Fantasy Corner

Week 3 rankings RiceRay Rice: Rice is still the best weapon on the Ravens, and whether it's on the ground or through the air, teams will be hard-pressed to stop him, let alone a Rams defense that has allowed 130-plus yards to opposing running backs in Weeks 1 and 2.

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