Sunday, September 7, 2003

Curnutte: Around the NFL

First game means a lot if the goal is playoffs

Ask Mark
Winning the opener does matter. Since the schedule expanded to 16 games in 1978 - not counting strike-abbreviated 1982 - teams starting 1-0 are more than twice as likely to make the playoffs.

Of the 346 teams that won openers, 182 went to the playoffs (100 won division titles). Of the 346 losers, 82 went to the playoffs, and 45 won division titles.

RUNNING WILD: The draft class of 2001 might go down as one of the best for running backs. It already has yielded six runners with 1,000-yard rushing seasons: Deuce McAllister, Saints; LaDainian Tomlinson, Chargers; Anthony Thomas, Bears; Michael Bennett, Vikings; Travis Henry, Bills; and Dominic Rhodes, Colts.

JUST WIN, BABY: Of active quarterbacks with at least 25 starts, the Rams' Kurt Warner has the best winning percentage (71.4), followed by Miami's Jay Fiedler (69.0), New England's Tom Brady (66.7) and Green Bay's Brett Favre (66.5).

UNPLUGGED: Prolific Colts passer Peyton Manning has played backing guitar in about 20 concerts for his good buddy, country singer Kenny Chesney.

Manning is unplugged because he can't play and says he stays far enough away from the microphone when doing vocals to not be heard.

HOLD ON: Vikings quarterback Daunte Culpepper, who threw 23 interceptions and lost nine of 23 fumbles in 2002, made it through the preseason without a turnover.

YOUNG WINGS: The Eagles have six undrafted rookie free agents on their 53-man roster. That's unheard of, especially for a team coming off two straight NFC championship games and planning to make a Super Bowl run.

ALL-STAR 'D': The Dolphins sent a league-best six defensive players to the Pro Bowl last season. With the additions of linebacker Junior Seau (Chargers) and strong safety Sammy Knight (Saints), that makes eight players on the Miami defense with a combined 28 Pro Bowls.

BIG BUCKS: The Redskins led Forbes' rankings of most valuable sports franchises at $952 million, up 57 percent during Daniel Snyder's four years as owner. The Cowboys were second at $851 million. No NBA or NHL club was worth more than the lowest-rated NFL franchise, Arizona ($505 million).

SILVER AND GRAY: Titans rookie wide receiver Tyrone Calico was 4 years old when Raiders wide receiver Jerry Rice played in his first NFL game and 7 when Tim Brown made his pro debut.

BEST FRIENDS: They spend time in the offseason working out and playing basketball in Phoenix.

But on the field, Bucs defensive end Simeon Rice has shown Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb little mercy. In eight games against McNabb, Rice has 11 sacks, 40 tackles and seven forced fumbles.

NICE TO MEET YOU: Safety Lawyer Milloy, signed Wednesday by Buffalo, won't start in the Bills' opener. When he does, Milloy will join linebackers Takeo Spikes and Jeff Posey, defensive tackle Sam Adams and defensive end Ryan Denney as new starters on the Bills' defense.

BIG CHEESES: Green Bay unveiled 50-foot statues of Vince Lombardi and Curly Lambeau and a new Packers hall of fame last week to christen the 72,000-seat, renovated Lambeau Field.

AFC NORTH: Butch Davis has had 23 draft picks in three years as Browns coach; 21 are on the 2003 roster. Exceptions: linebacker Jeremiah Pharms (fifth round, 2001), whose rights were rescinded when he was involved in a drug-related arrest, and running back Lee Suggs (fourth round, 2003), who is recovering from rotator cuff surgery. ... New Browns starting quarterback Kelly Holcomb already has a line of condiments available in Cleveland called Holcomb's Hometown Barbecue Sauce.

Steelers coach Bill Cowher is 4-7 in season openers, a 36.4 winning percentage that pales compared to his overall 61.0 winning percentage. Pittsburgh has lost its last three openers by a combined 67-17 score.

Terrell Suggs, the Ravens' second first-round pick, won't start against the Steelers. The defensive end has had trouble learning his new role as a linebacker and will be used only as a pass-rushing end early on.


Compiled from notes submitted by NFL beat writers.

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This & that

The NFL kicks off from the parking lot
Curnutte: Around the NFL
NFL Week One: Best bets
Curnutte's Power Rankings

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Geiger dismisses criticism
UK, Lorenzen air it out, top Murray State
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Berlin thwarts Gators once again
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Pickett rebounds against Hoosiers
Fighting Irish 'fortunate'
Boilermakers unable to make crucial plays
Top 25 roundup: Southern Cal fends off BYU
Scores, how Top 25 fared
Small college roundup

Sunday's Game: Cardinals 9, Reds 0
Saturday's Game: Cardinals 13, Reds 6
Notes: Shoulder problem bothers Graves
Clock starts now for trade evaluations
Reds chatter
Reds Q&A

MLB power rankings
Notes: Glavine satisfied being a Met
NL games: Giants maintain NL West lead
AL games: Boston tees off on Clemens, Yankees

Roger Bacon weathers Holy Cross bid at upset
Saturday's other games
Football finals stay north
Numbers shouldn't dictate athletes
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Prep sports results

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Kroger scores, matchups

For Roddick fans, glass is half full
Henin-Hardenne topples Clijsters

Newman survives late restarts; captures sixth win

McNick product finds place at UC
That rainy day feelin'
Page Two power rankings

Sports on TV, radio

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