Steelers hope to spoil Boller's debut
Updated: September 5, 2003, 5:01 PM ETBy By Darrell Trimble | NFL Insider
St. Louis at NY Giants
DE Michael Strahan has 12 solo tackles and 5.5 sacks, three passes
defensed and a forced fumble in the last three games against the
Rams. It will be up to new Rams RT Kyle Turley to protect Kurt Warner. The
Rams didn't get Turley specifically for the sake of facing Strahan, but they
did get him to give Warner premium protection and he'll need it against
Strahan. Luckily for Turley, Strahan missed the preseason because of a
broken pinky toe and he should be a little rusty.
P Sean Landeta is back in St. Louis, but at 42 he's coming back from a
torn calf injury in his kicking leg. He hasn't punted that well in the
preseason, with a puny net average of 32.7, and he'll be punting to Brian
Mitchell, who the Giants signed to be the returner extraordinaire. This is a
matchup the Rams can ill afford to lose.
Kerry Collins must take advantage of a Rams secondary that has been
decimated by injuries. Safety Jason Sehorn and rookie corner Kevin Garrett
are out until October, veteran safety Kim Herring has been released and
Aeneas Williams has had to move over from cornerback to play safety. How bad
have things gotten? Desperate for help, the Rams traded for safety Rich
Coady and signed cornerback Fred Weary, two players who think the words
stop-gap are a compliment. Last year Kerry Collins set a Giants record for
completion percentage of 84.6 (22 of 26) against the Rams and he could have
a similar performance if the Rams' defensive backfield doesn't jell quickly.
Minnesota at Green Bay
The Vikings and Packers got in a postgame brawl after their Dec. 8 game
over a controversial hit. DE Chris Hovan and QB Brett Favre exchanged
pleasantries and hand gestures. Hovan is hellbent on revenge. Marco
Rivera will have the chore of lining up in front of him. He missed most of
the first game against the Vikings last year but played in the second.
Hovan was disruptive in both contests. Now Rivera is going to try to
return early from suffering a torn medial collateral ligament in his left
knee on Aug. 23. If he can't, Mark Tauscher, who missed most of last season
with a torn ACL, will move over from right tackle and Kevin Barry will fill
in for Tauscher at tackle.
The Vikings coverage units have struggled in recent seasons but they
brought in renowned special teams coach Rusty Tillman to tighten up the
gaping seems. If the preseason is any indication, he's got a long way to
go. This will be an excellent opportunity for Antonio Chatman to make a
name for himself as the Packers new punt returner. With the Vikings starting a rookie punter (Nick
Johnson) and their special teams as vulnerable as ever, Chatman
could give the Packers a big advantage in the return game.
Arizona at Detroit
Over the last two seasons the Cardinals have gotten fewer sacks than any
other team, but they tried to improve their pass rush with first-round pick
DE Calvin Pace. But Lions quarterbacks had the lowest sack-per-pass attempt
percentage in 2002 (eight sacks in 429 attempts, 1.61) and were only dropped
behind the line once in the preseason. If the Cards can't get pressure on
Harrington it will allow him to try and attack deep with rookie Charles
The Lions need to stop Emmit Smith, the Cardinals' only real weapon. The
Lions have added speed to their lineup, but the Cardinals have a massive
offensive line and a 270-pound lead fullback. Detroit needs to control the
line of scrimmage early, but with DT Kelvin Pritchett replacing the injured
Luther Ellis, Arizona will have an advantage running up the middle. It will
be up to MLB Earl Holmes to plug the hole in the center of the defense.