Steve Hutchinson returns to Seattle, Steve Smith hopes to make a case for best receiver and a quarterback rivalry could be born in tomorrow's NFL games.
Three-time Pro Bowl guard Hutchinson returns to Seattle but he will not be protecting quarterback Matt Hasselbeck or blocking for Shaun Alexander.
Instead, Hutchinson will pass protect for Brad Johnson and block for Chester Taylor when the Minnesota Vikings visit to play the Seattle Seahawks.
The Seahawks are 4-1 without Hutchinson. But his absence on the left side of the line next to Pro Bowl tackle Walter Jones has been felt by Seattle.
Hasselbeck has been sacked 17 times in five games after getting dumped just 27 times last season.
The pass rush is causing Hasselbeck to get rid of the ball quicker than he would like, resulting in seven interceptions. He had nine all of last season.
The absence of Hutchinson was never more evident that in a 37-6 loss at Chicago on Oct. 1.
With him, the Seahawks would have had a better chance against the Bears' pass rush.
Defensive tackle Tommie Harris recorded two sacks in his matchup against Spencer, who was a center in college before he shifted to guard for Seattle.
"There's no doubt it's a tough loss, but I think it's one we'll overcome," Hasselbeck said of losing Hutchinson.
Likeable wiseguy Terrell Owens gets all the publicity, but Steve Smith has stated his case as the best wide receiver in the NFL.
Smith and the Carolina Panthers visit the Cincinnati Bengals, who have a Pro Bowl wide receiver of their own.
Smith led the NFL with 1,563 receiving yards and tied for first with 103 receptions and 12 touchdown catches last season.
Then in the playoffs, he added 27 more receptions for 335 yards and three touchdowns.
Smith's value was never more apparent than this season when he missed the first two games with a hamstring injury and the Panthers scored a total of 19 points in losses to Atlanta and Minnesota.
Four in a row
Since his return, the Panthers have won four in a row and scored a total of 90 points in those games. Smith has been largely responsible for that with 31 catches for 450 yards and two touchdowns.
The Bengals will be without left tackle Levi Jones, who will require arthroscopic surgery on his left knee.
Rookie Andrew Whitworth, a second-round pick out of LSU, is expected to replace Jones in the lineup and will line up against right end Mike Rucker, who has yet to record a sack after compiling 7 1/2 last season.
Cincinnati already has been without starting centre Rich Braham, who suffered a knee injury in week two.
The Panthers are playing their third straight game against an AFC North opponent.
The fastest quarterback in the NFL faces the youngest one to win a Super Bowl tomorrow when the Atlanta Falcons host the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Michael Vick has proved to be more dangerous with his legs than his arm in his six seasons with the Falcons.
Ben Roethlisberger won a Super Bowl in his second season with the Steelers and owns a record of 28-7, including playoffs.
The two will duel for the first time tomorrow at the Georgia Dome.
Vick faced the Steelers just once before in a game that ended in a 34-34 tie at Pittsburgh on Nov. 10, 2002. He threw for 294 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 38 yards and a score.
The Falcons yielded 185 rushing yards to Tiki Barber in last week's 27-14 loss to the New York Giants.