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PREVIOUS SPORTS
• Sideline: Yes, Non–Conference Games DO Count
• NCAA Preview 2009
• Sideline: Time For The Talking To Stop
• Sideline: In Memory of Air McNair
• Sideline: Will Goodell Hand Out Hard Time?
• Sideline: Marshall's Not Joshing
• NFL Draft: No Rush To Judgment
• NFL Draft Analysis 2009 (Part 2)
• Sideline: NFL Draft Thoughts (Part 2)
• Sideline: NFL Draft Thoughts
• Sideline: Will Play For Food
• Sideline: Wonderlic Scores
• Sideline: Manning and Sanchez
• Sideline: 2010 Leagues Sci–fi, or Fantasy? / March Madness
• Sideline: Break Out The Brackets
• Sideline: LaDainian Tomlinson On The Record
• Sideline: The Incredible Sulk Continues
• Sideline: Guildford Heat Fired Up
• Sideline: Super Bowl thoughts from the Valley of the Sun
• Sideline: I know I came in here for something
• Sideline: College Football National Signing Day
• Sideline: 27 Points — 27 Super Bowl thoughts
• Sideline: An Epic QB Matchup?
• Sideline: Appreciating Arizona for What They Were
• Sideline: NFL Divisional Weekend Preview
• Sideline: Bowl Season Hangover
• Sideline: Six weeks Later
• Sideline: Wildcard Weekend Preview
• Sideline: Santa's Sackings
• Sideline: A Weis Decision ...for Now
• Sideline: Eye on the Ticker
• Sideline: Lions — An Anagram of Losin
• Sideline: Ready for the Turkey
• Sideline: Making it to the Big Dance
• Sideline: Brighter Days Ahead for Chargers?
• Sideline: Unnecessary Hits To The Pocket / Upset: BYU
• Sideline: Romo's Pause / Seattle Seahawks
• Sideline: Weekend Prep: Red River and More
• Sideline: College Football's 'Crossroads' Weekend
• Sideline: Gramatical Error
• Sideline: Turning The Page
• Sideline: So Cal 'Quizzed
• Sideline: 3rd Tuesday Panic / Forté Yard Dash
• Sideline: Two and Oh; Oh and Two
• Sideline: No More NCAAffeine
• Sideline: Week 1 College Football
• Sideline: How To Spell Heisman / Chad Ocho Cinco
• Sideline: A Second Slice
• Sideline: The Favre story STILL won't go away
• Sideline: Olympic Notes / Ricky's Still Relevant
• Sideline: Committee Meetings
• Sideline: Let the QB Battles Begin
• Sideline: Slinging The Slinger — More Favre
• Interview: Clint Dempsey
• Sideline: Welcome to the 2008 season
• Sideline: Plus One
• 2008 NFL Draft Review
• Sideline: Draft: The Morning After
• Sideline: Draft: Thinking the Unthinkable
• Sideline: Draft: Ready For The Long Haul
• Sideline: Sofa–bound Sport
• Sideline: Post–Winter Wonderland
• Sideline: Six Impossible Things
• Sideline: Brady's Misdirection Play
• Sideline: Colorful Language
• Sideline: Let the Romo–bashing begin
• Sideline: Bowl Bites: The Wrap
• Sideline: All About The Coaches
• Sideline: Bowl Bites 3
• Sideline: Bowl Bites 2
• Sideline: Bowl Bites 1
• Sideline: Coach Situations Vacant
• Sideline: For Some, The Playoffs Are Now
• Sideline: A Certain Lack Of Welcome
• Sideline: Unrelated Notes
• Sideline: Two Thanksgiving thoughts
• Sideline: Halftime: NFC
• Sideline: Halftime: AFC
• Sideline: London / A Tale of Two Chads / Intimidation
• Sideline: Damp Squib / Other London Notes
• Sideline: Rock 'Em, Sock 'Em / Dolphins – The Aftermath
• Sideline: The Dolphins Did What?
• Sideline: Notes on the Defenses
• Sideline: Habits to be Broken
• Sideline: Overtime
• Sideline: This Week's Starters
• Sideline: USF: Covering The Spread / Fantastic Football
• Sideline: Grossman: The Final Act? / McNabb, the Epilogue
• Sideline: Eagles QB in Slight Controversy
• Sideline: Leftwich's Parting Gift / Boos cruise
• Sideline: Notre Dame M.I.A.
• Sideline: Looking Beyond NFL Wk. 1
• Sideline: Best Hope For Heisman
• Sideline: Coaching Hot Seats / AP Poll Feeling ’Appy
• Sideline: The NFL’s Prime Cuts
• Sideline: Michigan Falls to Killer Apps
• Sideline: Look Out Couch / The Taint's On You, Bud
SPORTS

SIDELINE
Observations, Opinion & Occasional Silliness by Richard L Gale

THIS WEEK'S STARTERS
October 6, 2007

First of all, apologies for having a week away from the keyboard (I haven't given up the day job, you'll be pleased to hear). Consider this the 'make–up column'.

For those that enjoy betting on the NFL (yes, in some parts of the world that isn't considered strange), I've long advised skipping Week 4. It's just a kooky week. A misleading collection of 1–2 and 2–1 starts give a false impression of trends, and people over–react to a team doing slightly better or slightly less well than predicted at season start. No surprise then that even the media–designated experts had a hard time predicting their way to a winning record last week.

Normally, however, things get in sync in Week 5.

This Week 5 may be a little trickier, however. I don't think I can remember a time when so many quarterback positions were in flux so early in the season, or when the runningback grades looked so upended at the same time ... which presents us with a good segway into '10 Quarterbacks in Jeapardy':

1.JP Losman (BuffaloBills): Call it the 'Tom Brady' effect that the top three QBs on this list are all from the AFC East. The fact that Brady was a back–up who stepped in for an injured Drew Bledsoe has never been lost on any fan dissatisfied with their team's starter. Losman's step forward last season seems to have stepped back again this year, and Trent Edwards covered for an injured Losman only to produce a win.

2.Trent Green (MiamiDolphins): Green was only ever meant to be a stop–gap solution while they found the next generation, and John Beck is the next generation. If Green keeps throwing interceptions and the losses keep mounting, there's little point not having the rookie out there doing much the same and gaining some experience.

3. Chad Pennington (New York Jets): Pennington barely lost this past week, and won the week before, but who were those games against? See 1 and 2 above. Pennington is safe for the short term, but Kellen Clemons has shown sparks, and it is only ever a matter of WHEN not IF Pennington gets hurt before we see Clemons again. Realistically, Pennington should be the obvious choice still, but the New York media could yet force a controversy out of this.

4. Jake Delhomme (Carolina Panthers): There's a possibility David Carr could start against two struggling rivals, the Falcons and Saints, before a bye week. After that, Delhomme will certainly be back from an elbow niggle. David Carr has a narrow window within which to showcase his talents for the future.

5. Joey Harrington (Atlanta Falcons): Harrington beat Matt Schaub for the Falcons' first win of the season, and that alone is worth another month in the job. If he can keep the Falcons off the bottom of the NFC South, he could keep Byron Leftwich at arm's length for a while.

6. Derek Anderson (Cleveland Browns): We all know Brady Quinn is waiting in the wings, but Derek Anderson is making a contender of a Browns team that was a joke in Week 1. Anybody who remembers Heath Shuler and Gus Frerotte being drafted by the Redskins will know that there's no guarantee, even for first round picks.

7. Brian Griese (Chicago Bears): Yes, some Chicago fans were calling for Kyle Orton this week. Careful what you wish for, Bears fans – once that carousel starts spinning, you'll be back around to Grossman before you know it.

8. Steve McNair (Baltimore Ravens): Kyle Boller is still highly–regarded in Baltimore, where they have no fears about Boller taking over for McNair when necessary, or even reassuming the starting role when the tread is finally off McNair's tires.

9. Daunte Culpepper (Oakland Raiders): The Raiders have just about conceded what I had already stated on this list last month – that Culpepper is ahead of McCown. But Daunte still has to prove he has the arm for a season–long tenure.

10. Alex Smith (San Francisco 49ers): No, Trent Dilfer isn't going to unseat Smith, even with a spell as an injury replacement, but if Dilfer gets more out of the 49ers than Smith does, the younger passer could eventually come under scrutiny as the default future.

Not appearing: Tarvaris Jackson (Minnesota) – I said he'd get spelled during the season, but I didn't think it would happen quite this quickly; Matt Leinart (Arizona) – I love that Coach Whisenhunt has given Leinart a wake–up call, and despite the throng of commentators questioning the 2–QB system, the Cardinals look good with it; Don't let Gus Frerotte distract you, Marc Bulger will be the guy for the Rams for years to come.

Complicating Week 5 are a group of retread QBs who have passed their 'franchise' days, but who are being asked to come in and use their experience and 'manage' some wins – Dilfer, Frerotte, Warner now joining Culpepper and Green under the category of 'previously owned'. It's hard to predict the whole rust/experience balance, but what is being asked of these QBs will define their success. In the case of Dilfer, he was a 'manage, don't lose' type of QB in his superbowl year, so he should be fine for the 49ers. In the case of Warner, he was a big numbers guy in his heyday, but he is only being asked to play in patches here, so if he gets in trouble, the Cardinals can relieve the reliever and put Leinhart back into play.

It's Frerotte I pity. When he goes up against the Leihart/Warner Cardinals this weekend, he has to do so without Stephen Jackson in the backfield and without Orlando Pace on the line. Frerotte may be asked to put up some fantasy yardage. Dilfer certainly won't against his former team, Baltimore, and will have to rely on RB Frank Gore putting up numbers from his '06 vintage rather than '07.

Which brings us back to the runningbacks. Do you know who the three rushing leaders in the NFL are, according to yardage? Of course, it's supposed to be something like Larry Johnson, LaDainian Tomlinson, Frank Gore if fantasy predictions meant anything. Instead it's Travis Henry of Denver (now under the shadow of drug suspension rumors), Lamont Jordan of Oakland (liable to be affected by the return from suspension of Dominic Rhodes), and Joseph Addai of Indianapolis. With LJ and LT at 17th and 18th respectively, and the likes of unheralded Derrick Ward and resurgent Edgerrin James in the top 10, it's turning into a strange season, especially for fantasy owners.

Predictions: I try not to get involved in these pick–the–winners things. Yeah, we all do it, but after the first 100 or so columnists giving their opinions, I'm not sure anybody is going to use mine as the basis for a 'flutter' down the 'bookies'. Doesn't stop me from picking a handful of hunches, though:

– The only reason the Rams won't be the first team to 0–5 is because the Dolphins will run the ball more and finish their game against the Texans quicker. It is entirely possible the Dolphins stay winless beyond their visit to London.

– San Diego is at Denver, which reads much the same as Chargers @ Meltdown, if the Chargers don't turn things around right here and now. The Chargers may only be one game behind the leaders in the AFC West, but they're category–by–category dismal and a visit to the thin air of Mile High isn't going to help.

– At some point, teams that keep winning have to lose one, no matter the trend. It isn't going to be the Patriots at home against the Browns. And it isn't going to be the Cowboys, even on the road in Buffalo. Despite Favre going for the unenviable career interceptions record against the Bears, it's the Buccaneers visit to Indianapolis which intrigues me this weekend.

– If the Seahawks can cross the country and beat the Steelers at Heinz Field, we may all have to start considering Seattle a playoff lock in the NFC. Ain't gonna happen, though.

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