When Baltimore, the No. 1-ranked defense (of course), goes to Lambeau Field on Sunday, it will find (surprise!) the No. 2 ranked defense, which belongs to the Packers.
More important, it will find Brett Favre, just the kind of improvisational quarterback who could cause problems for what since last season has been the ultimate immovable object.
''He's definitely one of the greatest quarterbacks, by far. But when you talk about our defense, I don't think that one man can beat us,'' says Ray Lewis, the best of many notable Baltimore defenders. ''I think it's really going to be a benchmark for him to see how he compares against us.''
Still, Favre is one of the few quarterbacks who can give Baltimore trouble in this game between two of the NFL's nine teams with a 3-1 record. No one -- not Ray Lewis, not even Favre himself -- can predict what he'll do on a given play.
The Packers' defensive version of Favre is second-year-man Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, who has nine sacks in four games, a pace that would give him 36 for the season, 14 more than the record set by Mark Gastineau in 1984. Gbaja-Biamila doesn't start -- he's a situational pass rusher.
Since being upset in Cincinnati, the Ravens have bounced back with victories in Denver and at home against Tennessee -- two teams supposedly in the way of a trip back to the Super Bowl.
So the cockiness is back.
''We don't believe people are capable of driving the ball on us,'' says defensive end Mike McCrary. ''We believe we can shut out any team.''
But any quarterback?
Probably not Brett Favre.
Washington (0-4) at Dallas (0-4) (Monday night)
The worst matchup (by records) in the history of Monday night games will probably be more competitive than at least two of the first four Monday nighters. Green Bay and St. Louis romped over Washington and Detroit by a combined 72-0.
These are the worst teams in the NFL because owners Dan ''The Fan'' Snyder and Jerry Jones think they are coaches and GMs. Thus the demise of two teams with eight Super Bowl titles between them.
The Redskins, who have scored one touchdown in four games, are so bad they were enthused by a two-touchdown loss to the Giants.
''It's not the same gloomy faces around here,'' says defensive tackle Dan Wilkinson. ''Guys fought and guys were competitive and the spirit was there.''
Jones' anointed quarterback, rookie Quincy Carter, will be out from 4-to-6 weeks with a groin injury after passing for just 38 yards in three starts (an infinitesimal 14.6 quarterback rating). Anthony Wright, who can occasionally get the ball downfield, replaces him.
New York Giants (3-1) at St. Louis (4-0)
Despite all the hype in St. Louis, the NFL's only remaining unbeaten team WILL lose this season. But this probably won't be the spot.
The Giants have allowed just 25 points and one touchdown in their last three games, but they've never matched up with the Rams' 400-meter relay team. Speedy cornerbacks Will Allen and Will Peterson could help, but they're rookies. And consider that the Rams won 38-24 at the Meadowlands last year without Kurt Warner and Marshall Faulk.
''You don't want to make the assumption that we are going to try and get into a track meet with them at their place,'' says Jim Fassel. ''Hopefully our defense will play well, but they have taken some pretty good defenses to task with that offense.''
It almost sounds like a concession speech.
Tampa Bay (2-1) at Tennessee (0-3)
Despite the gloom and doom, the Titans WILL win a game this season. But this may not be the spot.
Tennessee is averaging just 12 points a game, a figure not likely to get better against the Bucs. Worse, what was supposed to be one of the NFL's best defensive fronts allowed Baltimore's previously inept running game to get 207 yards last week.
If the Titans lose, it will give them one more loss than in each of the past two seasons. What's gone wrong? Injuries, free-agent losses, a bad trade (Kevin Carter).
Oakland (3-1) at Indianapolis (2-1)
The Monday night game might not be much, but this should be fun on Sunday night. Last season in Indy, the Colts had leads of 21-0 and 24-7, but the Raiders won 38-31.
Both teams are coming off bad games. Oakland jumped to a 28-7 lead over Dallas, then turned sloppy and lethargic and had to hang on to win 28-21. The Colts, off last week, were shocked 44-13 in New England two weeks ago.
The Raiders will get back defensive tackle Darrell Russell, who sat out four games for a substance abuse violation and dropped from 340 pounds to 318.
Miami (3-1) at New York Jets (2-2)
Another game that had a huge turnaround last season. On Monday night, the Dolphins led 30-7 after three quarters and ended up losing 40-37 in overtime.
''I looked at that tape for the first time and I had the video guy cut it up, but I did not show it to our team,'' Miami coach Dave Wannstedt said. ''I didn't need to hang that over their head.''
The Jets have beaten Miami six straight times. But this year there's the Lamar Smith over/under factor, which is at least 150 yards. The Jets allowed 162 yards rushing last week in Buffalo and 233 the week before against the 49ers -- neither great running teams.
Smith ran for 144 against New England last Sunday.
Denver (3-1) at Seattle (2-2)
This game could be troublesome for the Broncos, whose offense has sputtered in its last two games, a loss to Baltimore and a 20-6 win over Kansas City.
One problem is the season-ending injury to Ed McCaffrey. Although he was hurt in the third quarter of the opener, McCaffrey is still tied for third in receptions on the team with six, two more than Eddie Kennison, his replacement, has in four games. Rod Smith leads the NFL with 36 and tight end Desmond Clark is a distant second on the Broncos with 10.
Arizona (1-2) at Chicago (2-1)
The Bears are one of the NFL's pleasant surprises. Their defense has carried them, but Jim Miller has come on for Shane Matthews at quarterback and helped win a few games.
A couple of bonds between the Bears and Cardinals, who shocked the Eagles last week:
1, Forty-odd years and two stops ago, this was a crosstown rivalry -- the Cardinals started in Chicago.
2, Dave McGinnis, the Arizona coach, was ''announced'' as the Bears coach three years ago. He heard about it while driving to a job interview and turned down the job.
Cleveland (3-1) at Cincinnati (2-2)
The Browns are another surprising 3-1 team, but this is a bigger game for the Bengals, almost a must if they are to avoid sliding into their yearly abyss. Cincinnati has lost to San Diego and Pittsburgh since upsetting Baltimore.
Motivation? Cleveland beat the Bengals last season in the opening of Paul Brown Stadium.
New Orleans (2-1) at Carolina (1-3)
If New Orleans has hopes of staying with the Rams in the NFC West, it has to win games like this. It's a good matchup for the Saints, who are second in the league with 16 sacks and first in sacks per game at 5.3. The Panthers' QB is the immobile Chris Weinke.
San Francisco (3-1) at Atlanta (2-2)
The 49ers came back from a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit to win in overtime in the season opener against the Falcons. They have legitimate playoff hopes now with an easy schedule coming up.
San Diego (3-1) at New England (1-3)
Doug Flutie returns to his roots after his first loss as San Diego's quarterback, a game he characteristically nearly pulled out in Cleveland.
Pittsburgh (2-1) at Kansas City (1-3)
The Chiefs aren't as bad as their record -- their losses are to the Raiders, Giants and Broncos, all 3-1. They've scored a total of 33 points in those three games, but had 45 in their only victory, against the Redskins.
Detroit (0-3) at Minnesota (1-3)
Two teams in trouble, although the Lions at least have the excuse that they're starting over.
Minnesota's demise stems from a weakened offensive line and the absence of Robert Smith. Michael Bennett, his designated successor, has run for just 168 yards in four games. That's allowed teams to double-team Randy Moss and Cris Carter.
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