The horses have set the pace in the AFC. After five weeks of NFL action, the Denver Broncos and Indianapolis Colts sit atop the conference with identical 5-0 records. Not to be outdone, the Cardiac Cats of Cincinnati downed another division rival and are in hot pursuit of the AFC studs (pun intended).
The Colts put the nail in the 2009 Tennessee Titan’s coffin on Sunday night. Peyton Manning is on a torrid pace and the Colts enter their bye week as the most consistent and formidable contender in the AFC. The Colts success, while maybe not to this extent, was expected. On the other hand, the Broncos were not supposed to be here. Their success this season is not predicated on a flashy, high powered offense. Instead, the offense and defense play within their respective means. They play smart, quick, and aggressive football. They challenge their opponents to keep up while they force them into mistakes. Mistakes the Broncos do not make (at least for now). Coach Josh McDaniels also has his squad playing inspired football. The next few weeks will go a long way in determining how deep the Broncos can go in the playoffs (if at all). Their next four weeks: @Charges, BYE, @Ravens, Steelers. Yeeeesh. Speaking of the AFC North, neither the Ravens nor the Steelers currently lead the division. No sir. That honor would belong to those Cincinnati Bengals. If I had to choose right now between the Broncos and Bengals, I would choose the Bengals as the more legitimate contender. The Bengals had the Broncos beat until Brandon Stolely’s miraculous finish. They’ve also played, and beaten, tougher opponents than the Broncos. It’s still too early to schedule any of these three teams for the AFC championship, but they’ll certainly play a significant role in fashioning the playoff picture.
Speaking of those Bengals. Who would have thought the Steelers and Ravens would be looking up at Cincinnati after five weeks? With their win over the Steelers, and road victories over the Packers and Ravens, this team is legit. Today’s victory over division rival Baltimore was actually not as close as the score showed. The Bengals controlled the game from start to finish. The defense forced Joe Flacco into some poor decisions, held the Ravens under 100 yards rushing, and only allowed 3/11 third down conversions. On the other side of the ball, Carson Palmer and the offense established the running game and moved the ball consistently. With the exception of two turnovers, the Bengals offense played a perfect game. It also doesn’t hurt that Carson Palmer is a cold blooded assassin at the end of games. For the third consecutive week he lead his team on the game winning drive and scored with less than 2 minutes remaining. In fact, the victories over Pittsburgh and Baltimore were nearly identical. The underrated Bengals defense kept them in both games and the offense took advantage of the opportunities they were given. This is exactly how teams learn to win. Of course, the Bengals will be unable to surprise their division foes the second time through, so they’ll need to steadily improve in order to remain on top.
Last week I mentioned how the tight end position is making a comeback. This week, wide receivers went wild. Nine receivers recorded multiple touchdowns today. Defenses league wide fell victim to poor tackling as receivers ran unchecked through the second and third levels of their opponent’s defense. While coaches hate to deal with the headaches that receivers cause, they proved today that their athleticism and talent can be even more of a headache for opposing coordinators. Here’s the list of receivers that went off today.
-Miles Austin (Cowboys) 10 REC, 250 YDS, 2 TD
-Nate Burleson (Seahawks) 6 REC, 98 YDS, 2 TD
-Austin Collie (Colts) 8 REC, 97 YDS, 2 TD
-Larry Fitzgerald (Cardinals) 5 REC, 79 YDS, 2 TD
-T.J. Houshmandzadeh (Seahawks) 5 REC, 77 YDS, 2 TD
-Andre Johnson (Texans) 8 REC, 101 YDS, 2 TD
-Jeremy Maclin (Eagles) 6 REC, 142 YDS, 2 TD
-Brandon Marshall (Broncos) 8 REC, 64 YDS, 2 TD
-Roddy White (Falcons) 8 REC, 210 YDS, 2 TD
That was impressive…
- Donovan McNabb’s second pass after missing two and a half games: A 51 yard touchdown to WR Jeremy Maclin.
- FOX commentator Brian Billick. Probably the most unbiased, insightful color guy I’ve heard all season.
- Vikings DE Jared Allen doesn’t stop, ever. Is it the mullet that powers him?
- Great touch on Eli Manning’s 2nd quarter touchdown pass to Mario Manningham. I’m certainly nervous. He plays more like Peyton every week.
- Redskins DE Brian Orakpo had some rookie mental lapses, but he looks like a legit pass rusher.
- Gus Johnson calling my game of the week. This increased my excitement level 274%.
- Eagles TE Brent Celek leaping Buccaneers CB Rhonde Barber
- Parents decision to name their son Captain Munnerlyn (Panthers CB)
- Steelers LB James Harrison; three sacks today
- Cowboys 2nd half performance. After looking disinterested and sloppy in the 1st half, the Cowboys played inspired football.
- Bengals RB Cedric Benson deserves some recognition. He leads the NFL in rushing, and today he was the first RB to rush for more than 100 yards against the Ravens defense in 39 games.
- It may have been the Eagles defense that made him look so good, but Kellen Winslow is one talented player.
- Ravens RB Ray Rice’s 49 yard TD reception. Rice can scoot.
- Texans WR Andre Johnson outmuscling three Cardinal defenders for a touchdown after catching the ball at the four yard line.
- Panthers QB Jake Delhomme’s naked bootleg sealed the Panthers first win of the season. Delhomme met Redskins CB DeAngelo Hall four yards short of the first down marker and simply would not be denied the first down. Gutsy call. Gutsier effort by Delhomme.
- Broncos QB Kyle Orton outplaying Tom Brady. Orton’s play right now is what allows Denver fans to forget about Jay Cutler.
- Peyton Manning outplaying everyone.
- QB Matt Hasselbeck torched the Jaguars defense in his return to the Seahawks. They’re clearly a different team with him under center. That race in the NFC West just got a lot more crowded.
Not so much…
- Does Albert Haynesworth go down with some sort of injury every week?
- Eagles penalties today: 10 for 111 yards (won’t beat the Giants like that)
- Cowboys penalties today: 13 for 90 yards (won’t beat the Giants like that)
- Buccaneers WR had four drops in the first 17 minutes.
- That’s what happens when you stare down a receiver against Ed Reed, Carson Palmer (52 YD INT for TD)
- Carolina FB Brad Hoover fumbling at the goal line on 4th and goal
- Derek Anderson. Really? He’s better than Brady Quinn?
- Must be a bad slate of games on FOX when Buck/Aikman team is Calling Cowboys at Chiefs
- My Vikings at Rams pick. If you didn’t do so, read my week 5 picks and see how badly I whiffed. Seven minutes in, the Vikings led 14-0.
- The Redskins calling a lateral running play from their own three yard line (resulted in a safety). “You don’t move laterally on your own goal line,” said FOX commentator Brian Billick.
- Cowboys WR Sam Hurd dropping a sure touchdown pass from QB Tony Romo in the 2nd quarter.
- JaMarcus Russell. Three fumbles today. CBS commentator, Dan Dierdorf’s take: “It’s been a while since I’ve seen a QB that just didn’t seem to have any idea when someone is that close to him and about to make a play on the football.” We might need a stimulus package for poor JaMarcus.
- A good 15 seconds after Eagles CB Sheldon Brown’s interception, FOX commentator, Tim Ryan says, “He’s lucky that wasn’t intercepted by Sheldon Brown.” Uhhh, can someone please flag Mr. Ryan. I believe he’s had enough to drink. Thank you.
- Tom Brady missing a wide open Randy Moss on what would have been a 1st quarter TD pass.
- Cardinals giving up a huge kick return after regaining the lead on a pick six.
- Cardinals defense in the 2nd half; 21points in less than 12 minutes of game time.
- Titans DE Kyle Vanden Bosch celebrating a sack in the final minute of the 1st half. Only, it wasn’t a sack. It was a three yard pass to Colts RB Joseph Addai.
- Jaguars. Enough said.
- 49ers. Enough said.
- Titans aiding the Colts two minute offense with not one, but two roughing the passer penalties. Frustration from their inability to sack Manning was certainly to blame.
- The pitching duel in Buffalo between the Browns and Bills.
Take that man to Chic-Fil-A
QB Matt Hasselbeck: 241 YDS, 4 TD (Did not play in 4th quarter)
RB Michael Turner: 22 Carries, 97 YDS, 3 TD
WR Miles Austin: 10 Rec, 250 YDS, 2 TD
WR Roddy White: 8 Rec, 210 YDS, 2 TD
TE Kellen Winslow: 9 Rec, 102 YDS, 2 TD
D Bengals: 10 Offensive Points Allowed, 2 Turnovers, 2 Sacks, 257 YDS Allowed
Probably should have stayed in bed
QB Derek Anderson: 2/17 23 YDS, 1 INT (Will alternate this spot with JaMarcus Russell)
RB Cadillac Williams: 10 Carries, 8 YDS
WR Any Cleveland Brown or Oakland Raider WR: 2 Rec, 18 YDS, 0 TD TOTAL
WR Mike Sims-Walker: Benched less than an hour before kickoff due to violation of team rules.
TE Chris Cooley: 0 Rec, 0 YDS, 0 TD
D 49ers: 477 YDS Allowed, Surrendered 45 Points (35 in first half)
Remember last week when I mentioned how opponents should keep the ball from Peyton Manning at the closing of either half? Well, the Titans clearly don’t read my blog. Peyton struck again Sunday. He orchestrated a 93 yard scoring drive on 6 plays in only 47 seconds. His line for the drive: 5/5, 59 YDS, TD.
The Buffalo Bills made sure to get WR Terrell Owens involved in the offense early. He had 3 receptions for 31 yards in the first quarter. Unfortunately, he had only one catch for 13 yards from then on.
Hollis Thomas sighting today. Some players never leave the NFL.
Gus Johnson call of the day: After a Ravens receiver (I don’t remember which one) held onto a ball thrown behind him, Gus said, “Ball was behind him, but he makes chicken salad!” No, I have no idea what that means. Gus is the man.
It’s getting harder to not laugh at Redskins coach Jim Zorn. Based upon his facial expressions throughout the game, you’d think his play chart was written in Mandarin.
Steam alert! Players’ breath was visible in Denver today. The NFL is kicking into full gear.
Sean Considine doesn’t even play for the Eagles anymore and he’s still getting called for penalties. It’s possible the referees got the number wrong, but I’m sticking to my original analysis.
I sure hope a safety doesn’t count against my offensive player in fantasy football
Great graphic shown by CBS during the Texans/Cardinals contest: QB ratings this season when… No pressure: Schaub 117.2, Warner 108.8. Under pressure: Schaub 39.6, Warner 2.8. News flash! Pressuring the QB will lead to decreased productivity.
Welcome back, UPS whiteboard guy. I thought I’d seen the last of you.
Buccaneers coach Raheem Morris may not have a job long. He passed up way too many early field goals against the Eagles. In a seven point game, in the 1st half, you kick the field goal.
Randy Moss first half statistics: 0 REC, 0 YDS, 1 INT
Cowboys WR Miles Austin is still running around Chiefs defenders. Tackle. Please tackle.
Temperature for Eagles game today was 65°F. Temperature for Phillies game tonight was 31°F
Excuse me, Mr. Bill Belichick. Your eight-year old neighbor called, he would like his snow hat back.
Titans TE Alge Crumpler’s fumble tonight brought back memories of his costly fumble in the divisional round of the 2008 playoffs against the Baltimore Ravens. Does he fumble as often as I think he does?
Disclaimer: I’m a little color blind. With that out of the way, I loved the Broncos uniforms tonight. Any team with bright, obnoxious jerseys is fine by me.
Tom Brady is still not right. He missed Wes Welker and Randy Moss a number of times today. The Patriots aren’t good enough to contend unless he returns to Tom Brady version 2007.
For the second time in the last three weeks, the Houston Texans failed to tie a game from the one yard line. Against Jacksonville in week three, RB Chris Brown fumbled the ball away. On Sunday, Chris Brown and the Texans O-line couldn’t punch it in.
We’re nearly through five weeks of the NFL season. Raise your hand if you thought the top three in the AFC would read Broncos, Colts, and Bengals. The great thing about the NFL is that those standings will probably change, drastically.
Baseball playoffs haven’t provided lengthy series’ but they’ve been exciting. I’ll have more baseball content coming this week. Stay tuned.
It’s 3:06AM ET. This is the earliest I’ve gotten this weekly post up yet.