The Indianapolis Colts (2-1) look to be back near the top of the AFC and receiver Austin Collie was one of the stars from Week 3 of the 2010 NFL Season
As the NFL inched closer to the first quarter pole of the 2010 NFL season, summer has moved out the door and autumn has returned. Week 3, which I dubbed “Separation Sunday”, definitely helped continue the 12-week process of sorting out which teams are contenders and pretenders before November and December’s playoff push.
This week had the NFL’s usual boatload of Injuries (Lions RB Jahvid Best – Toe, Ravens RB Ray Rice – knee, Chargers LB Shawn Merriman – calf and others); Upsets (St. Louis Rams over Redskins and Falcons over Saints); Comebacks (Eagles QB Michael Vick and Lovie Smith’s Chicago Bears); and Kickers driving you nuts (Saints former SB hero Garrett Hartley missing a “chippy” in OT and Raiders power-leg Sebastian Janikowski missing a short potential game-winner). But I have to caution a lot of fans who are starting to hit the “Panic” button and making season-long assertions about their teams, it is way too early to go jumping off a bridge.
Is it just me… or does everyone else feel like every NFL team has a record of 2-1 or 1-2 (24 teams)? After three weeks of play, “parity” is all over America’s game as shown by the current team standings. League standings show that there are three (3-0) teams (Chiefs, Steelers, and Bears) – “The Have’s” ; fifteen (2-1) teams (Eagles, Packers, Texans, Bengals, Patriots, Colts, Ravens, Bucs, Saints, Dolphins, NY Jets, Cardinals, Seahawks, Falcons, and Titans) – “The Contenders’”; nine (1-2) teams (Cowboys, Vikings, Rams, NY Giants, Redskins, Jaguars, Chargers, Broncos and Raiders) – “Still Sorting this out” teams; and five lowly (0-3) “Have Not” teams – Bills, Browns, Lions, Panthers, and Niners.
However whether your team is 3-0, 2-1, 1-2 or 0-3, it doesn’t matter as everyone still has a chance to make a playoff run — “Yes” even the hapless Buffalo Bills and Cleveland Browns who both were scrappy in Week 3, but lost again. The NFL’s three undefeated (3-0) teams should be feeling good as since 1990 approximately 75% of teams that reach that mark have made the playoffs. But (3-0) is no guarantee as 8 of the last 10 seasons have seen at least one (3-0) team miss the playoffs – last year it was New York Giants and Denver Broncos.
Four of the past nine Super Bowl champions began their seasons with a 1-2 record including the 2007 Super Bowl Champion New York Giants. Plus half of last year’s 12 NFL playoff teams started at 1-2 before righting themselves. History has shown that 1-2 teams can advance to the playoffs — since 1990, 22 teams have started 1-2 and still qualified for the postseason, including three teams in 2008 – Miami Dolphins (won NFC North), Minnesota Vikings and San Diego Chargers (won AFC West). There have even been three 0-3 teams that have made the playoffs since 1990 — 1992 San Diego Chargers, 1998 Buffalo Bills, and 1998 Detroit Lions.
Everyone needs to understand that an NFL regular season is a 17-week marathon and should be taken increments. Being on top this early in the NFL season is a good thing, but teams can’t get caught up in thinking things are going to be biscuits and gravy throughout the entire season –- the 2009 New York Giants started 5-0 only to limp home to a 8-8 record and missed the playoffs.
Trust me every team, including almost Super Bowl winning team, has experienced some form of adversity at one time or another during their season – remember last season the Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints lost at home to the desperate Cowboys in Week 15, then to the Bucs in Week 16, and the Panthers in Week 17. The main thing right now is for teams to focus on their opponents week-in and week-out, because things can change very quickly in the topsy-turvy NFL. Teams can no longer just mail-it-in as shown by the formerly winless St. Louis Rams’ unexpected 30-16 victory over the heavily favored Washing Redskins in a Week 3 “Trap Game”.
There are only three unbeaten teams remaining (Pittsburgh Steelers, Chicago Bears, and Kansas City Chiefs) all of which most people would describe as “unlikely”. You have to start with the AFC West leading and undefeated Kansas City Chiefs (3-0). The Chiefs, who after making the playoffs in ’07 had only 10 wins in the last three years, now could be the NFL’s Cinderella story of 2010. Kansas City dominated the equally surprising – for the wrong reasons – Niners by a score of 31-10 at renovated Arrowhead Stadium. It was a battle of two teams headed in the wrong direction. The Chiefs now hold a two-game lead over the Chargers, Raiders, and Broncos.
The AFC North is looking like the NFL’s best division with the Steelers (3-0), Baltimore Ravens (2-1), and Cincinnati Bengals (2-1) all bunched near the top. But to the surprise of experts –including yours truly –- it is the Steelers who are currently undefeated even though their starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is serving a 4-game suspension. Fueled by veteran quarterback Charlie Batch’s three touchdown passes, the Steelers annihilated the formerly undefeated Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-1) by a score of 38-13 in Tampa. And they are doing it the “Steelers Way”. Running back Rashard Mendenhall is averaging over 100 yards a game and their defense led by safety Troy Polamalu has allowed an NFL-best 11 pts per game. Now everything will point to a Week 4 battle between the Ravens and Steelers. Plus you can’t sleep on Ochocinco and T.O as their Bengals who are quietly picking up wins too.
The last undefeated team to discuss are the Chicago Bears (3-0). The Bears, who many predicted would finished 3rd or 4th in the NFC North, have pulled to together in an effort to save head coach Lovie Smith’s job. This is a new Chicago team who seem intent on changing a downward spiral that has plagued this team since losing in the Super Bowl in 2006. They have a ton of offensive weapons (QB Jay Cutler, RB Matt Forte, and others), a defense that looks to have their teeth back (have allowed an average of 17 points per game through 3 weeks) and good special teams (blocked field goal and returned a punt for a touchdown in win over Packers). On Monday Night Football, the Bears showed that they were the “Beast of the NFC North” by beating the formerly undefeated Green Packers by a score of 20-17. However this division should get interesting as I don’t expect the Packers to be so sloppy in the future and the Vikings picked up a big win over the Detroit Lions.
So with Bye Weeks about to start there is much football to be played in this parity laden league -– or mess as some analysts are saying. Trust me… NFL fans and media are both scratching their collective heads when trying to predict which teams have what it takes to go the distance.
The unexpected surprises of the undefeated Kansas Chiefs and the Roethlisberger-less Pittsburgh Steelers plus the revival of the Michael Vick Experience so far show that nothing is a given in the NFL. And “Any Given Sunday” still reigns supreme.
NFL is a Passing League First…But — To Fantasy Footballers dreams, last year there were an NFL record 10 quarterbacks who passed for over 4,000 yards in a season. And so far in 2010, five quarterbacks have passed for over 400 yards in a game. But this week showd passing is not everything. The Top 5 passing quarterbacks in terms of yardage all lost — including Broncos QB Kyle Orton, 476 yds in loss to the Colts. Ironically four out of five of the week’s Top Rushers’ teams won their games (led by Minnesota RB Adrian Peterson’s 160 yards in a win over Detroit)
1972 Dolphins must be feeling good – The champagne will be flowing soon in Miami as the only team to have an undefeated Super Bowl season will be celebrating in the near future. There are only 3 undefeated teams left in the NFL this season (Chiefs, Steelers, and Bears) and in this parity-filled league, I am certain none of them will go past Week 8 without a loss. Hard to believe in 2009, the 1972 Dolphins had to wait until Week 16 for the Colts (14-0 at the time) to finally lose a game.
Rookies making their mark at a surprisingly early rate – Following in the footsteps of several 2009 rookie stars (Clay Matthews, Brian Orakpo, Jeremy Maclin, Austin Collie and others) many rookies this season have stepped into the spotlight. No longer “redshirting” takes place in the NFL as teams need rookies to help right away. Already several outstanding rookies have made an impact including Eagles FS Nate Allen, Chiefs RB/WR/KR Dexter McCluster, Lions RB Jahvid Best, Bucs RB LeGarrette Blount, Chiefs TE Tony Moeaki, Patriots TE Aaron Hernandez and others.
Coaches on the Hot Seat – With most of the coaches on our Hot Seat List starting with either a 1-2 or 0-3 record, the heat is on. Some of coaches feeling a little uncomfortable include the Cowboys Wade Phillips, Giants Tom Coughlin, Panthers John Fox, Jaguars Jack Del Rio, Niners Mike Singletary, Raiders Tom Cable, Browns Eric Mangini and some other coaches that might even know it .
Game Ball Winners
Philadelphia Eagles QB Michael Vick — The catalyst for the NFC East leading Philadelphia Eagles (2-1) has been incredible as he has produced a 110 quarterback rating. Vick has gone from Public Enemy No. 1 to the leading candidate for NFL Comeback Player of the Year. The former 3-time Pro Bowl player in his first game as the Birds anointed starter passed for 291 yards and 3 TDs in a dominating 28-3 win over the reeling Jacksonville Jaguars. The real fun will come next week when Vick and rising Eagles host former Philadelphia and current Redskins quarterback Donovan McNabb. However the Skins and Eagles can’t get too comfortable as the Cowboys (1-2) are still lurking and they should get even better after a Week 4 bye.
Honorable Mention: Minnesota Vikings RB Adrian Peterson, Baltimore Ravens WR Anquan Boldin, Kansas City Chiefs rookie WR/KR Dexter McCluster, Green Bay Packers CB Charles Woodson, Philadelphia Eagles DE Trent Cole, Cleveland Browns RB Peyton Hillis, Seattle Seahawks RB/KR Leon Washington, Chicago Bears LB Brian Urlacher and Chicago Bears WR/KR Devon Hester
New Orleans Saints K Garrett Hartley – Less than one year after Hartley skyrocketed to fame by connecting on a 40-yard game-winning field goal to send the New Orleans Saints to their first Super Bowl, he may be looking for a job. The Saint erratic kicker missed 29-yarder – a kick any high school kicker could make — in overtime that could have kept the defending Super Bowl Champs undefeated. Of course after the big miss the Falcons kicked their own game-winner, a 46-yard field goal by Matt Bryant.. After the game, you could clearly see that Saints quarterback Drew Brees was not happy about Hartley’s miss and the team started auditioning new kickers on Tuesday.
Dishonorable Mention: NY Giants (3 personal foul penalties, a safety called on a penalty in the endzone and overall sloppy play), Green Bay Packers (franchise record 18 penalties), Jacksonville Jaguars QB David Garrard, Raiders kicker Sebastian Janikowski, Dolphins RB Ricky Williams and Carolina Panthers head coach John Fox
2010 NFL Week 3 Results
Sunday, Sep 26
Chiefs (3-0) over Niners (0-3), 31-10 — The NFL most surprising undefeated team rolls to 3-0 with a dominating win over the reeling Niners…Singletary in trouble??…Niners allowed 457 yards in total offense to the Chiefs…How About Chiefs RB/KR Dexter McClusters who is an explosive player
Bengals (2-1) over Panthers (0-3), 20-7 — Chad Ochocinco and the Bengals take a layup against an awful Carolina team…rookie QB Claussen now sees the NFL is not NCAA football… John Fox on the hot seat
Ravens (2-1) over Browns (0-3), 27-20 — Welcome to the Charm City, WR Anquan Boldin… Flacco and Boldin abuse Browns CB Eric Wright for 3 TDs…The Browns and QB Seneca Wallace are scrappy… You have to take your hat off to RB Peyton Hillis who ran for 144 yards and 1 TD against the Ravens tough defense
Vikings (1-2) over Lions (0-3), 24-10 — It was a “win”, but Favre (6 INTs in ’10) and the Vikings were a little sloppy in beating the lowly Lions…Huge day for RB Adrian Peterson who ran both long and short in the win (23 carries, 160 yards, and 2 TDs including an electric 80-yard run)
Titans (2-1) over NY Giants (1-2), 29-10 — Head coach Tom Coughlin’s team is an undisciplined mess (5 personal foul penalties)..V.Y does just enough but it was the CJ2K show (32 Rush, 125 yds, 2 TDs) in NYC…Titans defense is opportunistic against a careless Eli Manning
Steelers (3-0) over Bucs (2-1), 38-3 — Honestly, Did anybody expect a different story? P-Burgh is now 3-0 w/o Roethlisberger and Batch looked great in his first start in awhile…The Steelers D and RB Mendenhall were consistently good again
Falcons (2-1) over Saints (2-1), 27-24 in OT — K Garrett Hartley (missed 29-yarder in the extra period) goes from Super Bowl hero to goat as the Saints lose in OT….The Falcons ran the ball with extreme toughness (202 yards) and their defense did just enough.. Lance Moore filled in nicely for injured RB Reggie Bush (broken fibula)
Patriots (2-1) over Bills (0-3), 38-30 — Pats won their 14th straight over the Bills… Brady (252 yards w/ 3 TDs) and Moss hooked up 2 times…Bills have something in CJ Spiller (2TDs)…Pats rushed for 200 yards
Cowboys (1-2) over Texans (2-1), 27-13 — The Battle for Texas ended early with Dallas throwing the ball downfield to WR Roy Williams (117 yards and 2 TDs) and running it too…Romo was back to his old self including not throwing any interceptions..Cowboys go into a bye week with some momentum
Rams (1-2) over Redskins (1-2), 30-16, — Maybe I was too premature in saying the Skins were much better with McNabb and Shanahan… Washington was out scored 16-3 in the 2nd half after trailing by 3 points at halftime…Redskins were 1 for 10 on 3rd downs…Where is the Skins running game (115 yards but 25 of them were McNabb)…Jackson leaves with a groin injury.. Redskins had 9 penalties and 2 costly turnovers
Eagles(2-1) over Jaguars (1-2), 28-3 — The Michael Vick experience is back in the NFL after a long hiatus — 17-31, 291 yds, 3 TDs and 30 yards rushing w/ 1 TD in the win. The former first overall pick in 2001 — Vick now 40-28-1 as an NFL starter — definitely seems to have a firm grasp of the Birds scheme and is a dual-candidate for both MVP and Comeback Player of the Year… The Eagles defense sacked Jags struggling QB David Garrard six times..Jack Del Rio better get his resume ready
Seahawks (2-1) over Chargers (1-2) — An old AFC West rivalry game where San Diego played catch-up the entire game…No Ryan Matthew meant no running game for San Diego. Seattle comebacking RB/KR Leon Washington had 2 kickoff return touchdowns
Colts (2-1) over Broncos (1-2), 27-13 — Robo-quarterback Peyton Manning was on the money the entire game (27-43, 325 yds, 3 TDs)…2nd year receiver Austin Collie had 12 catches for 171 yards and 2 TDs in the unexpected easy win. Despite 476 passing yards by QB Kyle Orton, the Broncos couldn’t hang with the resurgent Colts. Denver failed to get into the end zone on five trips inside the 20-yard line (settled for 2 FGs and turned the ball over on downs 3 times)
Cardinals (2-1) over Raiders (1-2), 24-23 — The Cardinals are tied w/ the Seahawks at the top of the NFC West at 2-1…This was a gift victory as Raiders kicker Sebastian Janikowski was 3 for 6 on FG attempts including missing a 32-yard kick at the buzzer.
NY Jets (2-1) over Dolphins (2-1), 31-23 — Miami falls from the ranks of the unbeatens after a SNF loss to the battle tested AFC East leading NY Jets… After serving a 1-quarter team imposed penalty for his DUI during the week, WR Braylon Edwards responded by producing the game’s biggest play, a 67-yard touchdown catch. Jason Taylor got a Gatorade bath in his victorious return to South Florida
Monday, Sep 27
Chicago Bears (3-0) over Green Bay Packers (2-1), 20-17 — A back-and-forth Monday Night Football game as the Bears and Packers met for the 180th time…The Packers shot themselves in the foot over and over (franchise record 18 penalties, 1 blocked FG, Punt Return for a touchdown, 2 turnovers and only 63 rushing yards)..Former NFL #1 return guy, Devin Hester, was back as he scored on a 62-yd punt return (first since Dec. 30, 2007)