9:52 PM CDT, September 30, 2013
Peyton Manning doesn't face Dallas too often, but the Denver quarterback isn't likely to be surprised by what he sees Sunday from Cowboys defenders.
"Peyton practiced against it for seven years," said Tony Dungy, Manning's former head coach in Indianapolis who is now an NBC analyst.
Let's back up. Dungy and Monte Kiffin worked together for years, first in Minnesota and then with Tampa Bay, where they popularized the Tampa-2 scheme. Dungy eventually brought a version of that to Indianapolis, where Manning would see it on a daily basis.
Kiffin is now defensive coordinator in Dallas, and he will have to be pretty creative to present Manning with something he hasn't seen.
"A lot of the calls haven't changed, a lot of the principles and the tenets," Dungy said by phone Monday. "Peyton has just got a memory that's unbelievable. So day after day after day for seven years, he was practicing against it, knowing the looks and everything.
"As far as fooling him or doing things different than he's going to expect, I'd be surprised."
The Cowboys will have to patch some holes to avoid Manning picking them apart on their home turf. Their defense ranks 27th against the pass, allowing an average of 304.5 yards per game, and surrendered a total of 506 yards in Sunday's loss at San Diego. Though the New York Giants are winless, Eli Manning threw for 450 yards and four touchdowns against the Cowboys in a season opener.
Peyton Manning has the hottest hand in the NFL, with 16 touchdown passes and no interceptions. That ties Cleveland quarterback Milt Plum for the most passing scores in a season without an interception, a feat Plum accomplished in 1960.
Broncos Coach John Fox was careful to keep Sunday's 52-20 victory over Philadelphia in perspective, even though his team set a franchise record for scoring in a game.
"We're one quarter into the race," Fox said Monday. "Our goals are high, make no mistake about it. It felt like we had that opportunity a year ago and let it slip through our hands. I think, as I mentioned even after that, there should be a fire in everyone's belly to work hard to improve on that."
After the game, Eagles Coach Chip Kelly was asked whether, as an offensive-minded coach, he had a special appreciation for what Manning is doing.
"I think you have an appreciation," Kelly said, "but I wasn't sitting there saying, 'Hey, that was a really cool play by Peyton.' He frustrates you. Maybe at the end of the season we'll go back and break down the Broncos tape and kind of look at what he does.
"But when you talk about the great quarterbacks in the history of the game — there's been a lot of them — but I think he's right up there with the best that have ever played, and he's proving that right now. I know he's setting records for the start of a season. He's a great football player."
Seattle is 4-0 for the first time in franchise history, and the Seahawks are coming off a huge comeback victory at Houston in which they shut out the Texans after halftime and wound up winning in overtime, 23-20. Another big test awaits, as they play at Indianapolis on Sunday.
The Colts, led by quarterback Andrew Luck, are returning home after consecutive road victories in which they outscored San Francisco and Jacksonville by a combined 64-10.
So far, so good for Brian Hoyer. The Browns quarterback has been named the starter for Thursday night's game against Buffalo, but Cleveland Coach Rob Chudzinski has yet to name the promoted third-stringer the permanent No. 1 quarterback. The Browns are 2-0 with Hoyer at the helm and have averaged 24 points per game, triple what the team averaged in two games with Brandon Weeden at quarterback.
Two decades of pain
Next up for Detroit, ending the Wisconsin whammy. The Lions haven't won in that state since 1991 and are owners of an NFL-record 22-game road losing streak against the Packers. It isn't just a Lambeau Field jinx, either, as some of the games in the early 1990s were played in Milwaukee.
Detroit is in the unfamiliar spot of being atop the NFC North after four weeks with a 3-1 record. Chicago is 3-1 too, but the Bears are coming off a 40-32 loss to the Lions, who are 2-0 in the division.
In an unusual scheduling twist, both Bay Area teams will play host to Sunday night games.
San Francisco will be hosting Houston, originally the only night game on the schedule, and now Oakland will also be hosting San Diego. The Chargers-Raiders game was moved to an 8:35 p.m. kickoff so there will be ample time to switch O.co Coliseum from baseball to football configuration. The Oakland Athletics are playing a postseason baseball game there Saturday night.
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