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FANTASY FOOTBALL WEEKLY FEATURES

Game Scout - Week 1
September 8, 2006

Atlanta Falcons (0-0) at Carolina Panthers (0-0)

GAME SNAPSHOT
KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET
GAMEDATE: 09/10/06
SURFACE: Grass
TV: FOX, Matt Vasgersian, J.C. Pearson, Jay Glazer
SERIES: 23rd meeting. Atlanta leads, 14-8, but the Panthers took convincing wins in both meetings last season. Losing 24-6 at Carolina in Week 13 marked the first time in six starts that quarterback Michael Vick failed to beat Carolina. The Falcons are 5-6 all-time at Charlotte.
2005 RANKINGS: Falcons: offense 12th (1st rush, 27th pass); defense 22nd (26th rush, 14th pass). Panthers: offense 22nd (21st rush, 17th pass); defense 3rd (4th rush, 9th pass)

KEYS TO THE GAME: The Falcons can't afford a slow start after getting blasted by a combined score of 68-17 in two meetings last season. Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis recorded nine tackles in those games -- 29 percent of his total for the entire season -- acting as a spy on QB Michael Vick. Carolina boasts one of the league's best front sevens on defense, so Vick must prove he can utilize what Atlanta is counting on to be an improved passing game to hurt the Panthers downfield. The Falcons added DE John Abraham and S Lawyer Milloy in the offseason, and will focus on shutting down RB DeShaun Foster, especially if Panthers WR Steve Smith (hamstring) can't play. QB Jake Delhomme has a 106.1 passer rating in three games against Atlanta, but the bigger factor will be the turnover battle, which Carolina won six to one last season.

FAST FACTS: Falcons: WR Ashley Lelie has averaged an NFL-best 17.9 yards per reception since 2002. ... Coach Jim Mora is 2-0 in season openers. Panthers: Had 10 sacks in two games against Atlanta last season. ... Coach John Fox has won more than twice as many games (41) in four years as the team won in the previous four years (20).

Baltimore Ravens (0-0) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-0)

GAME SNAPSHOT
KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET
GAMEDATE: 09/10/06
SURFACE: Grass
TV: CBS, Kevin Harlan, Rich Gannon
SERIES: Third meeting. The Ravens have lost both previous meetings. They fell to the Buccaneers, 22-10 in 2001 and then lost, 25-0, in 2002. In their last meeting, the Ravens defense did not allow an offensive touchdown but the team still lost by 25 points. Tampa Bay's Karl Williams returned a punt 54 yards for a touchdown, and Buccaneers linebacker Derrick Brooks ran back an interception 97 yards for another score.
2005 RANKINGS: Ravens: offense 24th (21st rush, 22nd pass); defense 5th (9th rush, 8th pass). Bucs: offense 23rd (14th rush, 25th pass); defense 1st (6th rush, 6th pass)

KEYS TO THE GAME: Bucs coach Jon Gruden has praised the development of QB Chris Simms throughout the preseason, but that won't prevent the Ravens from stuffing the box to stop the run. The Ravens have two solid cover men in CBs Chris McAlister and Samari Rolle, and the Bucs were 6-0 last season when RB Cadillac Williams rushed for at least 100 yards. To combat the Ravens' strong cover abilities, Gruden will likely employ a lot of two-tight end sets to create mismatches against linebackers in coverage. Baltimore's offense is now led by QB Steve McNair, but he has yet to show a strong grasp of the scheme after being acquired late in the offseason. Baltimore is still a run-first team that needs a strong effort from RB Jamal Lewis to control the clock and help keep the defense fresh.

FAST FACTS: Ravens: Have lost four consecutive season openers. ... Are 8-3 against the NFC the past two seasons. ... TE Todd Heap has at least four receptions in each of his five career season openers. Bucs: Coach Jon Gruden is 4-4 in season openers. ... DE Simeon Rice is second among active players with 113 career sacks.

Buffalo Bills (0-0) at New England Patriots (0-0)

GAME SNAPSHOT
KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET
GAMEDATE: 09/10/06
SURFACE: Grass
TV: CBS, Jim Nantz, Phil Simms
SERIES: 93rd meeting. Patriots lead 51-40-1 thanks to dominating the series since 2000, winning 10 of last 11 meetings overall. The only Buffalo victory in that stretch was a 31-0 gem on Opening Day 2003, a win keyed by QB Drew Bledsoe and SS Lawyer Milloy, two ex-Patriots who never achieved the same euphoria with the Bills. That season ended with the Patriots defeating Buffalo by the same 31-0 score in Foxborough on way to winning another Super Bowl. The Bills wound up 6-10 leading to the firing of coach Gregg Williams. So much for fast starts.
2005 RANKINGS: Bills: offense 28th (20th rush, 29th pass); defense 29th (31st rush, 19th pass). Patriots: offense 7th (24th rush, 2nd pass); defense 26th (8th rush, 31st pass)

KEYS TO THE GAME: When the teams met last December, Bills RB Willis McGahee rushed for just three yards on eight carries. Buffalo revamped its offensive line, and must get better production out of McGahee to help QB J.P. Losman, who is 0-3 lifetime in road starts. The opportunity is there considering the Patriots are without injured LB Tedy Bruschi and are aging at the position, but New England coach Bill Belichick will certainly throw a bevy of looks at the Bills' line. Offensively, Patriots QB Tom Brady still has plenty of weapons, particularly at tight end, despite the holdout of WR Deion Branch. Expect significant work for RB Corey Dillon early on, and the Bills desperately need LB Takeo Spikes to prove he's 100 percent healthy and able to fortify the league's second-worst run defense from last season.

FAST FACTS: Bills: Have 21 new players on the 53-man roster. ... DE Aaron Schobel has 10.0 sacks in his past 10 games. Patriots: QB Tom Brady is 9-1 with a 92.2 passer rating against Buffalo. ... WR Troy Brown needs 18 receiving yards to join Stanley Morgan (10,352) with at least 6,000 in franchise history.

Cincinnati Bengals (0-0) at Kansas City Chiefs (0-0)

GAME SNAPSHOT
KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET
GAMEDATE: 09/10/06
SURFACE: Grass
TV: CBS, Gus Johnson, Randy Cross
SERIES: 23rd meeting. Kansas City leads the series over the Cincinnati Bengals 12-10, including a 7-5 edge in Kansas City. The teams played in Week 17, Jan. 1, with the Chiefs winning 37-3 at Arrowhead Stadium. The Bengals, who had already clinched a home playoff game, rested many of their starters and played their front-line players only sparingly. The Chiefs are tied with Denver for the league's second best home record in the past four years, 25-7, behind only New England, 26-6.
2005 RANKINGS: Bengals: offense 6th (11th rush, 5th pass); defense 28th (20th rush, 26th pass). Chiefs: offense 1st (4th rush, 6th pass); defense 25th (7th rush, 30th pass)

KEYS TO THE GAME: There is no doubt the Chiefs will run until the Bengals prove they can stop the ground game. RB Larry Johnson trounced the Bengals for 201 rushing yards in Week 17 last season, Cincinnati has had to slide LB Brian Simmons to the middle to replace suspended Odell Thurman and Kansas City wants to keep the ball away from the Bengals' high-powered offense. But LT Kyle Turley will be playing his first NFL game in 973 days and Cincinnati will stuff the box and take its chances with Kansas City's passing game. The bigger question is the Chiefs' defense, which will employ a Cover-2 scheme under new coach Herman Edwards. Expect Kansas City to blitz frequently to test QB Carson Palmer's mobility coming off knee surgery, but the Bengals also want to control the clock as much as possible through RB Rudi Johnson while taking the occasional shot downfield.

FAST FACTS: Bengals: Palmer will become the first Bengals quarterback to start three consecutive season openers since Jeff Blake (1995-97). ... Are 7-2 in their past nine road games. Chiefs: Are 19-5 (.792) at home since 2003 and have won 12 of their past 16 home openers. ... QB Trent Green is the only NFL player to pass for at least 4,000 yards in each of the past three seasons.

Denver Broncos (0-0) at St. Louis Rams (0-0)

GAME SNAPSHOT
KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET
GAMEDATE: 09/10/06
SURFACE: FieldTurf
TV: CBS, Greg Gumbel, Dan Dierdorf
SERIES: The Denver Broncos and St. Louis Rams have split their 10 meetings. Denver is 2-1 since the Rams moved to St. Louis after the 1994 season. The last meeting was at Denver in 2002 and the Broncos won 23-16. The home team has won the last six contests.
2005 RANKINGS: Broncos: offense 5th (2nd rush, 18th pass); defense 15th (2nd rush, 29th pass). Rams: offense 9th (22nd rush, 4th pass); defense 30th (28th rush, 23rd pass)

KEYS TO THE GAME: Which Bell, Tatum or Mike, starts at running back for the Broncos might not be known right up until kickoff, but both figure to get significant carries. The Rams have three new starters in the secondary, including rookie free safety O.J. Atogwe. If Denver has success on the ground, it will set up the play-action pass for QB Jake Plummer to test that secondary with new deep threat WR Javon Walker. The Rams will counter with an increased focus on their own ground game led by RB Steven Jackson, who was underutilized by Mike Martz. New coach Scott Linehan wants to use a strong running game to set up a quick passing attack, and Jackson must have a productive opener because Denver's goal entering the season is to limit its blitzes and rely heavily on a push from the front four.

FAST FACTS: Broncos: Coach Mike Shanahan is 8-3 in season openers. ... Have an NFL-best 106-54 (.663) record the past 10 seasons. ... WR Rod Smith needs three receptions to become the 15th player all-time with 800 for his career. Rams: Are 9-2 in their past 11 home openers. ... Linehan will make his head coaching debut. ... QB Marc Bulger is 8-4 against the AFC.

New Orleans Saints (0-0) at Cleveland Browns (0-0)

GAME SNAPSHOT
KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET
GAMEDATE: 09/10/06
SURFACE: Grass
TV: FOX, Ron Pitts, Terry Donahue
SERIES: 15th meeting. The Browns lead the series, 11-3, with the Browns taking the two meetings of the teams since Cleveland returned to the NFL in 1999. Both of those victories came in the Superdome in 1999 and 2002 -- with the Browns prevailing 24-15 in their most recent encounter.
2005 RANKINGS: Saints: offense 20th (18th rush, 14th pass); defense 14th (27th rush, 3rd pass). Browns: offense 26th (25th rush, 23rd pass); defense 16th (30th rush, 4th pass)

KEYS TO THE GAME: Consider the Saints the great unknown with 26 players new to the 53-man roster since coach Sean Payton took over for the fired Jim Haslett. The only certainties are they will try to build off the ground game with RBs Deuce McAllister and Reggie Bush and that they must protect the ball better after 11 turnovers in four preseason games. The Browns' main priority is to avoid giving up big plays on cutbacks by Bush because the Saints' passing game doesn't appear to be threatening at this point. Offensively, Cleveland has to be concerned about the pass rush of New Orleans DEs Will Smith and Charles Grant causing mistakes by second-year QB Charlie Frye. The Browns want to pound away with RB Reuben Droughns, but they are on their fifth starting center of the year and the Saints will likely load the box and attempt to put the game in Frye's hands.

FAST FACTS: Saints: Payton will make his head coaching debut. ... WR Joe Horn needs 57 receiving yards to join Eric Martin (7,854) as the only players in franchise history with 7,000. Browns: Frye will be the sixth different quarterback to start a season opener in the eight years since the team re-entered the league. ... TE Kellen Winslow, Jr. will play in his first regular-season game since Sept. 19, 2004.

New York Jets (0-0) at Tennessee Titans (0-0)

GAME SNAPSHOT
KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET
GAMEDATE: 09/10/06
SURFACE: Grass
TV: CBS, Ian Eagle, Solomon Wilcots
SERIES: 37th meeting. Titans/Oilers lead series, 21-14-1. Jets won last meeting in 2003, a 24-17 win on Monday night. Jets also won last meeting in Nashville, 24-3, in 1998.
2005 RANKINGS: Jets: offense 31st (31st rush, 28th pass); defense 12th (29th rush, 2nd pass). Titans: offense 17th (23rd rush, 9th pass); defense 19th (22nd rush, 17th pass)

KEYS TO THE GAME: The Jets would love to ease QB Chad Pennington and his twice-surgically-repaired right shoulder into the game. The problem is that with two rookie starters on the offensive line and a shaky-at-best running game, the Titans are going to do everything they can to take away the play-action pass that Pennington has thrived off of in the past. The Titans want to stuff the run defensively and use their three-headed running attack to control the clock. The Jets switched to a 3-4 defense that appeared very solid during the preseason and will test the Titans' blocking schemes. QB Kerry Collins is expected to start for Tennessee despite signing just weeks before the season opener. But the vertical passing game should come naturally, and he will target WRs David Givens and Kerry Collins to test a Jets secondary that was vulnerable last season and replaced Pro Bowl CB Ty Law with Andre Dyson.

FAST FACTS: Jets: Eric Mangini, 35, will make his head coaching debut as the youngest coach in the NFL. ... Pennington's .568 (21-16) career winning percentage and 92.1 passer rating are the best in franchise history. Titans: Jeff Fisher's 102 victories make him one of only 17 coaches to win at least 100 games with one team. ... Collins ranks third among active players with 33,637 career passing yards.

Philadelphia Eagles (0-0) at Houston Texans (0-0)

GAME SNAPSHOT
KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET
GAMEDATE: 09/10/06
SURFACE: Grass
TV: FOX, Kenny Albert, Brian Baldinger
SERIES: This will be only the second meeting between the two teams. The first one was in September of '02, the Texans' inaugural season, in Philadelphia. The Eagles won, 35-17.
2005 RANKINGS: Eagles: offense 19th (28th rush, 8th pass); defense 23rd (21st rush, 21st pass). Texans: offense 30th (15th rush, 30th pass); defense 31st (32nd rush, 24th pass)

KEYS TO THE GAME: The Texans allowed an NFL-low four sacks during the preseason. If they can replicate that success during the regular season, new coach Gary Kubiak will be hailed a genius after the pounding QB David Carr has taken for three years. Kubiak brings the zone-blocking scheme over from Denver, but the Texans also have inexperienced running backs in Wali Lundy and Vernand Morency. For Houston to have success against what should be an improved Philadelphia defense, Carr must take a major step forward now that he has WR Eric Moulds to complement Andre Johnson. Eagles RB Brian Westbrook is over his foot injury and Philadelphia will try to use his versatility to loosen up the Houston defense and take shots against its injury-depleted secondary. However, the Texans' strength is their defensive front, which will need to put consistent pressure on QB Donovan McNabb.

FAST FACTS: Eagles: McNabb's 60-28 (.682) career record is best among active quarterbacks. ... Have lost four of their past five season openers. ... Are 15-9 (.625) against the AFC since 2000. Texans: Gary Kubiak will make his head coaching debut. ... LB Shantee Orr has 6.0 sacks in his past six regular-season games. ... Allowed just three first-quarter points in four preseason games.

Seattle Seahawks (0-0) at Detroit Lions (0-0)

GAME SNAPSHOT
KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET
GAMEDATE: 09/10/06
SURFACE: FieldTurf
TV: FOX, Dick Stockton, Daryl Johnston
SERIES: 10th meeting. Seattle leads the series, 5-4, including a 35-14 victory in Seattle on Nov. 16, 2003. That victory snapped a three-game Lions winning streak in the series.
2005 RANKINGS: Seahawks: offense 2nd (3rd rush, 13th pass); defense 17th (5th rush, 25th pass). Lions: offense 27th (26th rush, 26th pass); defense 20th (24th rush, 13th pass)

KEYS TO THE GAME: The Seahawks play their second consecutive meaningful game in Ford Field, but hope the outcome is different than Super Bowl XL. The first-team offense didn't look in sync during most of the preseason and is without injured TE Jerramy Stevens. But for the Lions to keep the game close, DT Shaun Rogers, who missed the entire preseason with a shoulder injury, has to control the line of scrimmage and help limit the damage by RB Shaun Alexander. The Lions' offense is now run by former Seahawks QB Jon Kitna, and offensive coordinator Mike Martz is very familiar with Seattle's defense from his days in St. Louis. Expect the Lions to target CB Kelly Herndon through the air, but they also need to be physical up front against a Seahawks line that averages just 276 pounds among its four starters.

FAST FACTS: Seahawks: With a win, Mike Holmgren would become the 16th coach all-time with 150 for his career. ... QB Matt Hasselbeck's 86.6 passer rating is the best in franchise history. Lions: Only 11 of 22 projected starters were in the starting lineup for the team's 2005 finale. ... Have won their past three season openers. ... Rod Marinelli will make his head coaching debut.

Chicago Bears (0-0) at Green Bay Packers (0-0)

GAME SNAPSHOT
KICKOFF: Sunday, 4:15 ET
GAMEDATE: 09/10/06
SURFACE: Grass
TV: FOX, Sam Rosen, Tim Ryan, Chris Myers
SERIES: 172nd meeting, including one playoff game. Bears lead 87-78-6 and have won three of the last four, including two straight at Green Bay. Prior to that, the Packers won 18 of 20 against the Bears, including 10 in a row from 1994-98. It is the most frequently played rivalry in NFL history.
2005 RANKINGS: Bears: offense 29th (8th rush, 31st pass); defense 2nd (11th rush, 5th pass). Packers: offense 18th (30th rush, 7th pass); defense 7th (23rd rush, 1st pass)

KEYS TO THE GAME: The Bears are counting on a breakout season from QB Rex Grossman, but for the opener in Lambeau Field they just need him to avoid costly mistakes. With two rookies starting at guard and a running game that averaged just 3.2 yards per carry during the preseason, the Packers will likely struggle to move the ball. QB Brett Favre threw a staggering 109 passes in two meetings last year, and must get help from RB Ahman Green to avoid continually attacking the teeth of Chicago's defense. The Bears' offense will focus on the ground game led by RB Thomas Jones, and the Packers certainly have the defense to keep the game competitive. If Green Bay can stuff the run, Grossman will have to make plays against one of the strengths of the Packers in CBs Charles Woodson and Al Harris.

FAST FACTS: Bears: Seek first three-game winning streak over Green Bay since 1990-92. ... Jones has increased his rushing total in each of the past five seasons. Packers: Only one of nine 2003 draft picks (LB Nick Barnett, first round) remains on the roster. ... Favre needs four touchdown passes to join Dan Marino (420) as the only players with 400 for a career. ... Mike McCarthy will make his head coaching debut.

Dallas Cowboys (0-0) at Jacksonville Jaguars (0-0)

GAME SNAPSHOT
KICKOFF: Sunday, 4:15 ET
GAMEDATE: 09/10/06
SURFACE: Grass
TV: FOX, Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Pam Oliver
SERIES: 4th meeting. The Dallas Cowboys lead series, 2-1. The Cowboys won the last meeting 21-19 in 2002. This will be the teams' first meeting at Alltel Stadium in Jacksonville.
2005 RANKINGS: Cowboys: offense 13th (13th rush, 15th pass); defense 10th (15th rush, 11th pass). Jaguars: offense 15th (10th rush, 19th pass); defense 6th (14th rush, 7th pass)

KEYS TO THE GAME: With a very suspect passing game, the Jaguars can't afford to get caught up in a shootout with the high-powered Cowboys. RB Fred Taylor is healthy and must lead a strong ground game that allows Jacksonville to control the clock and field position. Dallas is extremely athletic along its defensive front seven, and will wreak havoc if allowed to attack mobility-challenged Jaguars QB Byron Leftwich, who struggled during the preseason and lacks proven receivers. Jacksonville's strength lies with its own defense, which must stop the run without the help of an eighth man in the box. If given the time, QB Drew Bledsoe will attack downfield to WRs Terrell Owens and Terry Glenn, who will be locked in a great duel with the solid tandem of Jaguars CBs Rashean Mathis and Brian Williams.

FAST FACTS: Cowboys: Need eight regular-season victories to reach 400 as a franchise. ... Have a league-best 29-17 (.630) record in road openers. Jaguars: Have an NFL-best 8-3 (.727) record in season openers. ... Coach Jack Del Rio started 44 games as a linebacker for Dallas from 1989-91. ... Are 10-1 when Leftwich passes for at least two touchdowns.

San Francisco 49ers (0-0) at Arizona Cardinals (0-0)

GAME SNAPSHOT
KICKOFF: Sunday, 4:15 ET
GAMEDATE: 09/10/06
SURFACE: Grass
TV: FOX, Josh Lewin, Bill Maas
SERIES: 30th meeting. The 49ers lead series 17-12, but the Cardinals won both meetings last season by a combined score of 48-24.
2005 RANKINGS: 49ers: offense 32nd (17th rush, 32nd pass); defense 32nd (18th rush, 32nd pass). Cardinals: offense 8th (32nd rush, 1st pass); defense 8th (10th rush, 12th pass)

KEYS TO THE GAME: 49ers coach Mike Nolan said he wants to run the ball 60 percent of the time, and it's not a bad goal with LT Jonas Jennings healthy to play alongside new LG Larry Allen in front of RB Frank Gore. But it's also to protect QB Alex Smith and an inferior defense. The Cardinals have questions to answer in the secondary, and Smith will have to connect on a few plays downfield if San Francisco is to pull the upset. That's because Arizona WRs Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin present matchup nightmares for the 49ers, who can't offer the extra coverage protection Cardinals opponents used to enjoy because of the addition of RB Edgerrin James. The offensive line still leaves much to be desired, but the 49ers don't have the pass rushers to put consistent heat on QB Kurt Warner.

FAST FACTS: 49ers: Only 18 players remain from when Nolan was hired in January 2005. ... Gore was the first player to lead the 49ers in rushing (608 yards in 2005) since Dexter Carter in 1990. Cardinals: First season opener at home in 18 years in Arizona. ... Warner's 94.1 career passer rating is second all-time (Steve Young, 96.8).

Indianapolis Colts (0-0) at New York Giants (0-0)

GAME SNAPSHOT
KICKOFF: Sunday, 8:15 ET
GAMEDATE: 09/10/06
SURFACE: FieldTurf
TV: NBC, Al Michaels, John Madden, Andrea Kremer
SERIES: 15th meeting. The regular season series is tied at six wins each, with the Colts leading 8-6 in the overall series which dates back to 1954. The Colts are 6-3 against New York in road games, but have lost three of the last overall meetings.
2005 RANKINGS: Colts: offense 3rd (16th rush, 3rd pass); defense 11th (16th rush, 15th pass). Giants: offense 4th (6th rush, 11th pass); defense 24th (12th rush, 27th pass)

KEYS TO THE GAME: Peyton and Eli Manning are the headliners as the first brothers in NFL history to start against each other, but the running games might actually be the key to which team comes out on top. In order to truly attack the Giants' overhauled secondary, the Colts need RBs Dominic Rhodes and Joseph Addai to have at least moderate success against a strong front seven for New York. Otherwise, the Giants will be able to unleash the league's deepest and strongest pass rush led by DEs Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora. The Colts have their own strong pass rush headed up by DE Dwight Freeney, and pass protection is still a bit of a concern for the Giants. Versatile RB Tiki Barber remains the key to the attack, although Brandon Jacobs could see more carries as the Giants attempt to keep Barber fresh throughout the season.

FAST FACTS: Colts: Peyton Manning's 128 consecutive starts is an NFL record for a quarterback to begin a career. ... Are 22-3 in their past 25 games. Giants: Eli Manning is 8-1 in his past nine home games. ... Strahan leads all active players with 129.5 sacks and needs 3.5 to break Lawrence Taylor's franchise record. ... Are 14-10 in season-opening home games (12-7 at Giants Stadium).

Minnesota Vikings (0-0) at Washington Redskins (0-0)

GAME SNAPSHOT
KICKOFF: Monday, 7:00 ET
GAMEDATE: 09/11/06
SURFACE: Grass
TV: ESPN, Mike Tirico, Joe Theismann, Tony Kornheiser, Suzy Kolber, Michele Tafoya
SERIES: 18th meeting. Washington leads series, 10-7, and has won eight of the past 10 games but the Vikings have taken two of the past three.
2005 RANKINGS: Vikings: offense 25th (27th rush, 20th pass); defense 21st (19th rush, 22nd pass). Giants: offense 11th (7th rush, 21st pass); defense 9th (13th rush, 10th pass)

KEYS TO THE GAME: The Redskins played poorly during the preseason and don't know if RB Clinton Portis' separated will be healthy enough by Monday, but they aren't panicking because the defense is good enough to keep them in any game. Minnesota has new schemes on offense and defense that could need time to gel, but the one thing the Vikings can't afford to wait to get untracked is the running game. They have a strong offensive line in front of new RB Chester Taylor, who must have success to keep immobile QB Brad Johnson out of harm's way against an aggressive Washington pass rush. Minnesota's defense is employing the Tampa-2 scheme designed to limit big pass plays, and the matchup against a Redskins offense led by new coordinator Al Saunders, who came over from Kansas City, should be intriguing.

FAST FACTS: Vikings: Brad Childress will be making his head coaching debut. ... Johnson's 65-43 (.602) career record is third-best among active quarterbacks with at least 100 starts. Redskins: Coach Joe Gibbs is 8-0 against the Vikings. ... Have won their past four season openers. ... QB Mark Brunell is fourth among active players with 174 touchdown passes.

San Diego Chargers (0-0) at Oakland Raiders (0-0)

GAME SNAPSHOT
KICKOFF: Monday, 10:15 ET
GAMEDATE: 09/11/06
SURFACE: Grass
TV: ESPN, Brad Nessler, Ron Jaworski, Dick Vermeil, Bonnie Bernstein
SERIES: 94th meeting. The Raiders lead the series, 55-36-2, but the Chargers have won five in a row over the Raiders and six of the last eight. The Chargers haven't defeated the Raiders six straight times since the first six meeting back in 1960-62. The Chargers are also looking for their third straight win in Oakland.
2005 RANKINGS: Chargers: offense 10th (9th rush, 12th pass); defense 13th (1st rush, 28th pass). Raiders: offense 21st (29th rush, 10th pass); defense 27th (25th rush, 18th pass)

KEYS TO THE GAME: The Chargers have won the past five meetings, but QB Philip Rivers will make his first career start in primetime in one of the league's most hostile environments. The Raiders struggled against the run last season and know they will see a heavy dose of RB LaDainian Tomlinson, but using a safety in support is dangerous because of the big-play ability of TE Antonio Gates. Oakland's biggest concern offensively is the revamped line, which will have a different starter at all five spots for the opener. RB LaMont Jordan must have early success, or the Chargers' athletic linebackers can come after QB Aaron Brooks, who is mistake-prone when under pressure. However, if Jordan can muster some success against a very stout run defense, Brooks can test the Chargers' shaky secondary with WRs Randy Moss and Jerry Porter.

FAST FACTS: Chargers: Seek first six-game winning streak against the Raiders since 1960-62. ... Coach Marty Schottenheimer's 25 victories over the Raiders are his most against any team. ... Their 21 victories the past two seasons are their most in consecutive seasons since 23 from 1979-80. Raiders: Art Shell will be on the sideline as a head coach for the first time in 12 years. ... Moss needs two touchdown receptions to reach 100 in only his 126th game.

   
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