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Newton Joins Brady as NFL Offenses Portend No Passing Fancy

Football Player Tom Brady
Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots looks for an open man against the San Diego Chargers in the second half at Gillette Stadium on Sept. 18, 2011 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. Photographer: Jim Rogash/Getty Images

Tom Brady of the New England Patriots has helped fuel a record start by National Football League quarterbacks and may make more history this weekend.

Brady, a two-time NFL Most Valuable Player, and Cam Newton, the league’s No. 1 draft pick this year by the Carolina Panthers, can become the first players to pass for more than 400 yards in three consecutive games. They already are among just seven quarterbacks who have thrown for 400 yards in back-to-back starts and the first duo to do it in the same season.

The NFL’s 15,711 passing yards are the most through the first two weeks of a season, and teams have scored a record 1,502 points and 172 touchdowns.

“Offense is about everybody really being on the same page,” Brady, 34, who will lead the Patriots against the Buffalo Bills in a battle of unbeaten teams, told reporters on Sept. 21. “We’ve had a lot of good years here, but ultimately it comes down to winning games and that’s the best part of it: We’re 2-0.”

Brian Billick, the Super Bowl-winning former coach of the Baltimore Ravens and now an analyst for Fox Sports and the NFL Network, said that the unprecedented offensive numbers are the result of more quarterback talent and the residue of the league lockout that shortened preseason practice.

“We always talk about offenses lagging a little bit with the lack of offseason and training camp, but defenses are very complex now,” Billick, 57, said in a telephone interview. “I’ve never seen so many guys so wide open. That’s rare and I think that will diminish.”

Unbeaten Bills

Brady has thrown for 940 yards and seven touchdowns in season-opening wins against the Miami Dolphins and San Diego Chargers. The Patriots, three-time Super Bowl winners with Brady as quarterback, are favorites to win the title among oddsmakers. They face the Bills, who are 2-0 for the second time in eight years, in Orchard Park, New York, on Sept. 25.

The Patriots-Bills matchup showcases two of the league’s top three scoring offenses as well as a pair of the NFL’s seven unbeaten teams. Buffalo has averaged an NFL-high 39.5 points in wins against Kansas City and Oakland, while New England has averaged 36.5 points.

The Patriots have surrendered an average of 479 yards in their first two games, the second most in the NFL. The Bills’ offense is led by former Harvard University quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, whose seven touchdown passes are tied with Brady and Detroit’s Matthew Stafford for the league high.

“We’re a team full of guys looking to make a name for ourselves and make a name for our team,” Fitzpatrick said on a conference call this week. “For us it’s keeping that confidence and the swagger we have right now.”

Patriots’ Streak

New England has won 15 in a row against its American Football Conference East division rival, dating back to the opening game of the 2003 season. Ten of those games were decided by 10 or more points and the Patriots are 8 1/2-point favorites this week.

The only two Week 3 games with bigger point spreads involve 0-2 teams who lost significant players to injury.

The Kansas City Chiefs are 14 1/2-point underdogs against San Diego after losing Jamaal Charles, who was second in the NFL in rushing yards last year, to a season-ending knee injury. The Indianapolis Colts, who are without four-time MVP quarterback Peyton Manning following neck surgery, are 10 1/2-point underdogs against Pittsburgh.

Losers’ Turnaround

The Bills haven’t made the playoffs since 1999 and are one of three teams not to qualify for the postseason since the league’s realignment in 2002. All three -- Buffalo, Detroit and Houston -- are 2-0 this season.

“They’re playing good football,” Brady said of the Bills. “They’re good in all phases and Buffalo is always a tough place to play.”

Brady averaged 300 passing yards a game in 2007, when he finished with 4,806 yards -- the fourth-highest total in NFL history -- and a record 50 touchdown passes. He started this season by throwing for 517 yards against Miami and followed with 423 yards against San Diego.

“You couldn’t even get on the video game right now and put up those kinds of numbers,” Matthew Slater, a Patriots receiver and special teams captain, told reporters this week. “But anyone around here will tell you, we have to worry about this week. He doesn’t get caught up about what he did last week, he’s focused on this week.”

Dan Fouts, Dan Marino, Phil Simms, Billy Volek and Matt Cassel were the only quarterbacks to pass for more than 400 yards in consecutive games before this season.

Week 3 Drop

Marino was the only one to top 300 yards in his next game, with 340 during the 1984 season. Simms, Volek and Cassel all had less than 200 passing yards in their next starts.

Newton, 22, started with 422 passing yards in a loss to Arizona, the most by a player in his NFL debut. He threw for 432 yards in a loss to the defending Super Bowl-champion Green Bay Packers last week.

The Panthers are 3 1/2-point favorites at home this week against the Jacksonville Jaguars, who have allowed the fifth-fewest yards in the league.

Favorite          Spread      Underdog
BENGALS          -2 1/2       49ers
Patriots         -8 1/2       BILLS
SAINTS           -4           Texans
Giants           off          EAGLES+
BROWNS           -2 1/2       Dolphins
TITANS           -7           Broncos
Lions            -3 1/2       VIKINGS
PANTHERS         -3 1/2       Jaguars
CHARGERS         -14 1/2      Chiefs
Jets             -3 1/2       RAIDERS
Ravens           -3 1/2       RAMS
BUCCANEERS       -1 1/2       Falcons
Cardinals        -3 1/2       SEAHAWKS
Packers          -3 1/2       BEARS
Steelers         -10 1/2      COLTS
Washington       off          DALLAS+

Courtesy of Las Vegas Sports Consultants.
Home teams in CAPS.
+ = No betting line because of injuries to Eagles quarterback
Michael Vick and Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo.

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