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St. Petersburg Times staff writer Tom Jones looks back at the weekend in the NFL and ahead to this weekend.

Three best performances

RB Adrian Peterson, Vikings

Just because the Vikings picked up QB Brett Favre doesn't mean they've forgotten where their bread is buttered. The one-man Purple People Eater ate up 180 yards on the ground and scored three touchdowns, including one on a 64-yard highlight-reel run that sealed a 34-20 victory against the Browns. With Peterson going crazy, the Vikings needed only a serviceable game from Favre, who was 14-of-21 for 110 yards.

QB Mark Sanchez, Jets

Let's hear it for the boy. Other quarterbacks put up fatter numbers, but the kid from USC became the fourth rookie to win an opening-day start on the road since 1970. Inspired by a pregame pep talk from legend Joe Namath, Sanchez threw for 272 yards and a touchdown in the Jets' 24-7 victory against the Texans.

QB Drew Brees, Saints

We're only a week into the season and we're already wondering if Brees can break the record for touchdown passes in a season. He is on pace to throw 96; Tom Brady threw 50 in 2007. Okay, Brees is not going to throw six a game like he did Sunday in a 45-27 win over Detroit, and he won't face the hapless Lions every week. Still, six TDs and 358 yards is impressive against anybody.

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Three worst performances

QB Jay Cutler, Bears

Wait, wasn't Cutler supposed to solve all the Bears' offensive woes? Wasn't he supposed to be Chicago's best quarterback in, like, 50 years? Instead, he looked like Kyle Orton, Bob Avellini, Shane Matthews and all the other quarterbacks who have gone through Chicago's revolving door. Cutler completed fewer than half of his passes and threw four interceptions (he's lucky he didn't throw seven or eight) as the Bears dropped their opener to the Packers 21-15.

QB Jake Delhomme, Panthers

In the past two games - last year's playoff loss to Arizona and Sunday's 38-10 loss to the Eagles - Delhomme has turned the ball over 11 times. Sunday he was 7-of-17 for 73 yards, with four interceptions and a fumble lost. For now, Panthers coach John Fox says he is sticking with the 34-year-old, but unless these games are a fluke, we could be seeing the beginning of the end for Delhomme.

Steelers' running game

Over the past 30-some years, the Steelers have been known for their blue-collar, smash-mouth football: a punishing defense and an equally punishing ground game. But last season, the Steelers finished 23rd in rushing, and they started this season with 36 yards on 23 carries. They won because of QB Ben Roethlisberger, but we get the feeling Willie Parker, above, and the Steelers' rushing attack will have to get better if they are going to repeat as Super Bowl champions.

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Three significant injuries

C Jeff Faine, Bucs

One of the pleasant, and few, surprises in Tampa Bay's 34-21 loss to Cowboys was the Bucs rushing for 174 yards. But now they will be without a key force up front. Faine will miss four to six weeks with what the Bucs are calling a left triceps strain. The scary part is the Bucs aren't sure who is going to replace Faine in the starting lineup.

S Troy Polamalu, Steelers

NBC analyst Cris Collinsworth asked during Thursday night's Steelers-Titans game if it was possible that Polamalu could make the Pro Bowl after one quarter. That's how much of an impact he was having. But one of the Steelers' best players and leaders is out three to six weeks after suffering a left knee injury.

LB Brian Urlacher, Bears

Optimism was so high in Chicago this season because for the first time in two years, defensive madman Urlacher was finally healthy. Now he's gone for the season after dislocating his right wrist in Sunday night's loss to archrival Green Bay. You simply don't pull a guy off the bench or pluck someone off the street to fill the shoes of a player such as Urlacher.

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Three teams on the rise

Philadelphia Eagles

You never know how to feel about the Eagles, who seem to go through tremendous mood swings every season. But they're off to a grand start by blowing out the Panthers in Charlotte 38-10. There's a slight concern with QB Donovan McNabb, left, suffering a cracked rib, but Kevin Kolb or even Jeff Garcia should be okay until McNabb is healthy or Michael Vick is ready to step in.

Baltimore Ravens

Don't be fooled by the Ravens being tied with the Chiefs in the fourth quarter and scoring two late touchdowns for a 38-24 victory. Look at the statistics. The Ravens outgained the Chiefs offensively 501 yards to 188, had 32 first downs to Kansas City's 11 and just about doubled Kansas City in time of possession. This Ravens team is as good as ever.

Minnesota Vikings

It's hard to make too big of a deal of Minnesota, considering it played the lowly Browns. But good teams handily win games on the road against inferior opponents, and that's what the Vikings did Sunday in their 34-20 victory. They ran the ball, played solid defense and looked more impressive than any other team in what figures to be the highly competitive NFC North.

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Three teams on the decline

Arizona Cardinals

The big question coming into the season was whether the defending NFC champs are that good or if they just got on a hot streak in January. The answer is still very much in doubt after a 20-16 loss at home to division rival San Francisco. What makes the loss so bad is that QB Kurt Warner, left, and the Cards' high-octane offense were held to one touchdown.

Miami Dolphins

Another surprise team from 2008 started inauspiciously. Miami went 11-5 last season and made the playoffs but is 0-1 after a rather disheartening 19-7 loss at Atlanta on Sunday. The Falcons are good, so no disgrace in losing. But Miami's offense produced 259 yards, and the score could've been worse had Atlanta not missed two field-goal attempts.

Detroit Lions

Poor Detroit. It had a smidgen of hope with a new quarterback (Matt Stafford) and a fresh start to erase last season's 0-16 wreck of a year. That didn't last long. The Lions were down 14-0 less than 51/2minutes into their game against the Saints and 28-10 by the half. Stafford was picked off three times, and the Lions' losing streak reached 18 games.

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Three big games this weekend

Saints at Eagles

New Orleans is an intriguing team because of its explosive offense, but QB Drew Brees, left, and the Saints won't be playing a patsy, like they did Sunday, and won't be able to roll up the score like they did on the Lions. The Eagles hope QB Donovan McNabb can play. This is a good early test for both teams.

Ravens at Chargers

One of the better offenses in football (the Chargers') goes against one of the better defenses (the Ravens'). It's way too early to be thinking ahead to the playoffs, but more than a few have picked these teams to make it to the AFC Championship Game.

Giants at Cowboys

It's a Sunday night game between two NFC East rivals who looked impressive in their season debuts. In this division, home games are crucial, so the game is probably more important for the Cowboys than the Giants. Bonus feature: the first regular-season game in the Cowboys' new stadium.