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It’s Early, so Where Did Everybody Go?

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TIMES STAFF WRITER

Week 2, and this week’s list of questions:

1. Has the NFL been reduced to Green Bay versus San Francisco during the regular season, and then Green Bay versus San Francisco in the playoffs?

2. Will Dallas become the ninth team in NFL history to win the Super Bowl and then, a year later, miss the playoffs?

3. What happened to the teams that were going to break through this season?

4. Are there any surprise teams?

5. How many teams went 2-0 at the start of last season, and then moved on to the playoffs?

And the Week 2 answers:

1. If the Packers don’t put on a show Monday night against the Eagles, NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue is going to need a painkiller. The early collapse of the Cowboys, complete with Michael Irvin’s sordid life, has muzzled some of the game’s greatest stars. The NFL needs a storybook comeback by Brett Favre and a reminder that some of their players can be good citizens, such as Reggie White. That Green Bay at San Francisco game, by the way, is also on a Monday night, Oct. 14.

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2. The Cowboys began this season believing it started with the sixth game and the return of Irvin and possibly an injured Jay Novacek. This mind-set makes them even vulnerable to getting whacked by the New York Giants. A soft NFC East, however, might be enough to get them into the playoffs if chaos rules early on.

3. Seattle, Cincinnati, New England, the New York Jets, Washington, New Orleans and St. Louis were being touted as big surprises this season. Here’s the big surprise: The Rams were the only team to answer the bell.

4. Miami. The popular opinion was that Jimmy Johnson was Superman and could lift the Dolphins on his will and move them into the playoffs. The experts, who make their livings detailing this stuff, said Miami lost too much talent. So far the fans know it all.

5. Five--Kansas City, Miami, San Francisco and the Super Bowl teams, Pittsburgh and Dallas. St. Louis, Cincinnati and Oakland went 2-0 and then played themselves out of contention.

ON TV:

* BUDDY BOWL: MARCUS & AL

Oakland (0-1) at Kansas City (1-0), 10 a.m., Channel 4: So everybody makes mistakes, Al Davis, but treating Marcus Allen that way, then letting him go, and then having to sit there and watch him grind your lads into the turf--yikes, Al, don’t you ever just want to yell, “Uncle?” Allen needs two touchdowns to move past Walter Payton and Jim Brown into second place on the scoring list. You don’t think they will give him the ball at the goal line, do you?

--Say what? Billy Joe Hobert wasn’t bad. He was five for eight for 45 yards on third down with one touchdown against the Ravens, and if Tim Brown makes the right adjustment and rookie tight end Rickey Dudley brings his hands to Baltimore, the Raiders win.

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--Player to watch: Jeff Hostetler. If he doesn’t play, and now there are some who think the Raiders don’t want him to crowd Hobert, count the evil looks he throws at Coach Mike White--especially on third down.

--Finally: Davis has been tabbed to replace Kurt Russell in New York-Los Angeles sequel: Escape From Oakland.

* TAKE THE TOUR NOW

Chicago (1-0) at Washington (0-1), 10 a.m., Channel 11: Giddy Bear fans already have their heroes meeting the president next February after the Super Bowl. One suggestion: They may want to take the White House tour now--just in case someone besides their wide receiver or punter is asked to throw a touchdown pass.

--Say what? Running back Raymont Harris has more touchdown catches than wide receiver Curtis Conway, who has more touchdown passes than quarterback Erik Kramer.

--Player to watch: Wide receiver Michael Westbrook, who has had a knee injury. Leslie Shepherd replaced the Redskins’ injured deep threat last week. Would you feel threatened by a guy named Leslie?

--Edge to Washington: The Bears have lost the second game of the season in Dave Wannstedt’s three previous seasons at the helm.

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* SACRIFICIAL LAMBS

St. Louis (1-0) at San Francisco (1-0), 1 p.m., Channel 11: Coach Rich Brooks was 5-0 in the month of September. The Rams have lost 11 in a row to 49ers, including being outscored in two games last season, 85-23.

--Say what? The NFL has denied quarterback Steve Young’s petition to play the Rams every week. In 13 games against them, Young has completed 67% of his passes for 20 touchdowns with four interceptions.

--Player to watch: Sean Landeta. The Ram punter could be busy.

--Edge to San Francisco: The Rams have the No. 1 NFC rushing defense, but the 49ers figure to pass.

* MORE AIR TIME FOR J.J.

Miami (1-0) at Arizona (0-1), 5 p.m., TNT: Hasn’t Jimmy Johnson had his 15 minutes of fame by now? Check this out: Rookie Karim Abdul-Jabbar ran the ball more times last Sunday than Dan Marino threw it.

--Say what? With last week’s opening-day victory, Johnson has 31 consecutive victories in Florida, extending back to 1985 when he was coaching at the University of Miami.

--Player to watch: Marino. In two previous showings against the Cardinals, Marino threw for five touchdowns, while averaging 317 yards passing a game. So does J.J. have him handing off again?

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--Edge to Arizona: Last chance for the Cardinals to appear on national TV unless some wacko takes the entire team hostage.

MAKE OR BREAK

Minnesota (1-0) at Atlanta (0-1): The Falcons gagged against Carolina, and the Vikings are looking for their first 2-0 start since 1987. Warren Moon has two sore ankles, so backup quarterback Brad Johnson will make his first start.

--Say what? Johnson didn’t start his senior season at Florida State, but then Florida State would have been favored by five over the Falcons.

--Player to watch: Atlanta’s Jamal Anderson. Injury to running back Craig Heyward leaves him free to chow down on Twinkies.

--Edge to Atlanta: Falcons are 20-60 on the road since 1986. Falcons are not on the road this week.

Cincinnati (0-1) at San Diego (1-0): Once a doormat always a doormat? The Bengals flopped big time against the Rams because Ki-Jana Carter was running behind an offensive line that looked as if it was trying to get Garrison Hearst into the game.

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--Say what? Carl Pickens leads the AFC with five catches for 75 yards on third downs. Would you want to hand it to Carter?

--Player to watch: John Carney. Carney, otherwise known as the Chargers’ offense, kicked five field goals last week.

--Edge to San Diego: Chargers are 23-3 under Coach Bobby Ross when opponent scores 15 or fewer points. If Bengals get 18, Chargers lose.

New England (0-1) at Buffalo (1-0): A significant division confrontation. The Patriots won six games last year, two against the Bills with running back Curtis Martin averaging 137 yards a game. Well, good, anything to keep Drew Bledsoe from throwing the ball.

--Say what? Buffalo Coach Marv Levy will be enshrined on the team’s Wall of Fame before the game. Why not make him win a Super Bowl first?

--Player to watch: Buffalo quarterback Jim Kelly has been sacked a career-high 49 times by New England and has 26 touchdown passes with 24 interceptions.

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--Edge to New England: It isn’t snowing yet in Buffalo.

Denver (1-0) at Seattle (0-1): Just like New England, Seattle didn’t live up to expectations, and Denver fans have already made hotel reservations in New Orleans for Super Bowl XXXI.

--Say what? You’re old, man. You probably remember when quarterback John Elway was a kid. He plays in his 192nd game--most ever by a Bronco.

--Player to watch: Seattle’s Chris Warren has gained more yards against Denver than he has against any other team.

--Edge to Seattle: Denver’s Mike Shanahan is 17-20 as a head coach, 0-5 against the Seahawks.

Baltimore (1-0) at Pittsburgh (0-1): The Steelers were in the Super Bowl a year ago and now look as if they might not win another game. Did Neil O’Donnell mean that much to them?

--Say what? Pittsburgh and Cleveland combined for 53 yards in a tussle seven years ago, and that game did not feature Vinny Testaverde versus Mike Tomczak.

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--Player to watch: Matt Stover. The Ravens’ kicker has made 51 of his last 55 field goal tries.

--Edge to Pittsburgh: Who needs Greg Lloyd to tackle Earnest Byner? The Steelers are a week away from feeling the loss of their best defender.

MAKE OR REALLY BREAK

Tampa (0-1) at Detroit (1-0): The Lions tied Atlanta and Green Bay last season for the best home record in the NFC with a 7-1 mark, but Wayne Fontes--the man who takes Barry Sanders out at the goal line--is still Detroit’s coach.

--Say what? Lion quarterback Scott Mitchell threw 11 of his 12 interceptions on the road last season.

--Player to watch: Mitchell has thrown eight interceptions in his last two games, and he just rejected a $25-million contract.

--Edge to Detroit: The Buccaneers have won 48 games since 1986.

New York Giants (0-1) at Dallas (0-1): The Giants are talking like a team that thinks it can win this week, and talk about the ruckus surrounding who shot J.R.? Who’s going to pick Jerry Jones off the floor?

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--Say what? “There’s a little bit of a lack of urgency with this ball club,” said Dallas’ Troy Aikman.

--Player to watch: No wonder running back Emmitt Smith wants to play so badly against the Giants. He has averaged 102.4 yards and more than a touchdown a game.

--Edge to Dallas: Get real.

EXPANSION FLASHES

Carolina (1-0) at New Orleans (0-1): The Panthers have won eight of 12 games and the Saints feature 11 new starters. Now which is the expansion team here?

--Say what? Panther receiver Mark Carrier had his best day against the Saints with 212 yards--in 1987.

--Player to watch: Jim Everett. A year ago he threw four passes to Carolina defenders. So uncharacteristic.

Edge to New Orleans: Carolina is staying 20 miles out of town to avoid Bourbon Street, which means players lose that much more sleep in cab ride back to hotel.

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Houston (0-1) at Jacksonville (1-0): The Oilers eked out a seven-point victory over the Jaguars and then lost to them last year, indicating to the folks in Nashville that they are really getting an expansion-like franchise.

--Say what? Houston quarterback Chris Chandler threw 47 passes against the Jaguars last October. Would you want Chandler throwing 47 passes? The Oilers lost.

--Player to watch: Jaguar running back James Stewart. Any other suggestions?

--Edge to Houston: Oilers play four of the next five on the road and management has threatened to take away in-room movies if the team loses.

DOG DAY AFTERNOON

Indianapolis (1-0) at New York Jets (0-1): Is there anything worse than having to be a Jet fan in recent years? Well, the Colts haven’t started a season 2-0 since 1977.

--Say what? The Jets’ woes continue with a season-ending knee injury to defensive tackle Erik Howard.

--Players to watch: Return of two starting offensive tackles or Jets remain a farce.

--Edge to New York: Wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson becomes a star.

NFL Notes

St. Louis offensive lineman Jesse James was suspended for four games Saturday for violating the NFL’s drug policy.

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