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In Case You Missed It. NFL Week 3 Recap

Sunday night was full of suspense, drama, controversy, and entertainment. And I didn’t even watch the Emmys. No, I was glued to Torrey Smith and the Ravens battling the Patriots in a captivating affair. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Soooooo…. Sunday was a lousy day for us Eagle fans. To lift my spirits, I headed to McDonalds at halftime of the Patriots/Ravens game for some Dollar Menu therapy. Two hours later, I was in a fast food coma. In other words, this will be short today because I fell asleep on the couch and didn’t get a darn thing done.

Week One Headlines

Ravens storm back to defeat Patriots
Though there were three overtime games on Sunday, and five more that were decided on the final possession, I think the best game of the day was the nightcap in Baltimore. As I sat there watching, I kept thinking to myself, “I wish this were an eight quarter game.” It’ll probably be the best game we see all year until the playoffs.

As I predicted, the intensity matched a playoff game, not the third game of the season. The best players (Brady, Rice, Lloyd, Flacco) all were at or near the top of their game. The coaches were pissed off. The teams continually traded punches both on and off the scoreboard. The crowd was amazing. Even the announcers were all in, aiding viewers at home in berating the replacement refs. At not point in the game could you sit back and think, “Yeh, the Ravens got this.” Or, “The Pats have it in the bag.” Two great teams going back and forth until the final whistle blew, leaving us with a winner, and even then there was controversy.

Ultimately, it came down to the Raven defense getting a key stop and the New England defense unable to do the same. But if anyone stood out in such a stellar game, it was Torrey Smith.

What a night for Smith. I was rooting for an entertaining contest and I certainly got it, but it was nice to see Smith come out on top after such a trying day. He was Baltimore’s best weapon. Despite double teams and a safety over the top, Smith continued to slash the Patriots with big plays. I don’t know if Baltimore made it a point to force the ball to Smith to keep his head in the game, but they should continue that trend in the future. In Weeks 1 and 2 Smith was targeted a total of eight times. On Sunday night, Joe Flacco threw to Smith on 10 occasions. Outside of Flacco, I can’t think of another Raven player that contributed more to the win.

NFL’s Elite?
After watching hours upon hours of the early games, I went into the Patriots/Ravens showdown believing there were no elite teams this season and only a few really good teams (Texans, Giants, Packers, Falcons). After Sunday night, I’d consider both New England and Baltimore as “elite.” Of course, you’re sitting there thinking, “How could a 1-2 or even a 2-1 team be considered elite?” Allow me.

First of all, what other team in the NFL could you see competing in Sunday night’s matchup? That slugfest required a certain pedigree. Only the Giants could have hung with those teams playing at that level. The Giants are 2-1, so why don’t I consider them elite while the Patriots are 1-2? Because barely beating a lousy Tampa Bay team and then demolishing Carolina isn’t enough to convince me. We haven’t seen the Giants play to the level the Patriots and Ravens were at on Sunday night. I’m not saying the Giants (or Packers or Texans or Falcons or anyone else) can’t or won’t get there, but as of today, with Week 3 nearly in the books, we haven’t seen a team play as well as the Patriots and Ravens did Sunday night.

In other words, I’m not judging teams by their records right now. The records usually even out to match the quality of the team at some point. Some records are currently inflated while others are deflated. For example, the Eagles are 2-1, but their play classifies them among the “deplete,” not the “elite.”

Someone take them to Chick-fil-A (NFL’s top 5)

1. Texans – Not that the Broncos are anything special, but the Texans dominated that game (despite what the score indicates). At no point before the final minutes did Denver threaten the Texans. If it weren’t for a careless Ben Tate fumble while the Texans were running out the clock, Houston would have won by double digits… easy.
2. Packers – Tonight’s tough matchup in Seattle will tell us a lot about the Packers. 2010 or 2011 Aaron Rodgers torches the Seahawks, so it’ll be interesting to see how Rodgers performs tonight after a sluggish start to the 2012 season.
3. Falcons – Atlanta is 3-0 and has mostly dominated each of their three opponents thus far. Did they all reside in the weak AFC West? Sure, but winning is still winning. And winning on the road by 20+ points in two of your first three outings is impressive.
4. Cardinals – That Arizona defense is a force. Leave it to the Eagles to remind the NFL how good Larry Fitzgerald is. Though Kevin Kolb wasn’t outstanding, he played well enough to buy another week as Arizona’s starting quarterback.
5. Ravens/Patriots – As I mentioned above, I think the Patriots and Ravens are the only two teams to prove they’re elite thus far, but if I ranked them above the above teams I’d hear about it for days.
(Last Week: SF, GB, HOU, ATL, AZ.)

Hardly Ramen Noodle worthy (NFL’s bottom 5)

28. Panters – Indy is on deck here but for now this spot goes to Carolina because 1. They’ve looked horrendous in both of their losses 2. I forget who, but a TV analyst said Cam Newton is more worried about Cam Newton than the Panthers, and I happen to think he’s right. And 3. The Carolina defense got thrashed by a backup running back and a 4th receiver on Thursday night. 
29.
Jaguars – Yeah, congratulations, you won a game. You still stink.  
30. Buccaneers
– Greg Schiano better work on his victory formation defense because his Bucs will be seeing plenty of it throughout the 2012 season.
31.
Browns – From a talent perspective, the Browns just can’t hang with most teams. They fight and often keep it respectable, but they’re equivalent to the AAAA team called up to replace the Astros. (Ok, that didn’t happen, but it should.)
32. Saints
– Quick, what do Brandon Weeden and Drew Brees have in common? They’re both 0-3!! Few things bring me more pleasure as a fan than the Saints flailing.
(Last Week: NO, JAC, TENN, OAK, KC.)

Stock rising (but not in top 5, yet)

Vikings – The NFC North is worse than many expected. The Packers have stumbled out of the gates, the Bears offense is again flawed, and the Lions seem destined for seven wins. Who’s to say the Vikings can’t hang around and make a playoff push?
Bengals – The Steelers look more vulnerable now than at any point in recent years. Outside of New England, Baltimore, and Houston, the AFC playoff field is wide open. Andy Dalton continues to impress and the offense, not the defense, is what paces Cincinnati.
Raiders/Chiefs – Both Oakland and Kansas City avoided an 0-3 start and now sit a game outside the division lead. Better yet, Oakland looked like the best team in the division yesterday while Kansas City finally set Jamaal Charles free.

Stock falling (but not in bottom 5, yet)

Eagles – Winning masks a lot of things. After Sunday’s thrashing at the hands of the Cardinals, it’s now clear the Eagles truly stink.
Lions – If it weren’t for a game-winning touchdown in the final seconds of Week 1, Detroit would be 0-3 right now. A lousy defense and poor special teams play continue to haunt the Lions. Getting back to the playoffs is often harder than getting there the first time.
Broncos – No running game has made Peyton Manning’s return difficult. For the second consecutive week Manning failed to find a rhythm until late in the game with his team down multiple scores. Thankfully, the division isn’t running away from them.

Things I thought and would’ve said on TV if someone paid me…
  • I’ll obviously have more to say about the Eagles later in the week, but good gracious are they awful.
  • Speaking of awful, though not as awful as the Eagles, the Cowboys were really, really bad in their victory over the Buccaneers, which is really, really, really bad news for Bucs fans. That’s two lousy outings in a row for the Cowboy offense with the physical Chicago defense coming to town next week.
  • Troy Aikman’s reaction to the Buccaneers offense on Sunday was extremely entertaining. Aikman huffed and puffed and criticized the Tampa offense and its coaching staff constantly. You could tell he really wanted to yell, “What the h*** are you doing?!?!?!” And you know what, Aikman was exactly right. It was embarrassing. Josh Freeman was/is awful, Vincent Jackson was worthless and the Bucs couldn’t/can’t run the football. My favorite play call was on 3rd and 9 with about two minutes to go and the Bucs down two scores. 99.9% of the time teams throw in that situation. Not the Bucs. Oh no, not the Bucs. Tampa ran the ball for a loss of two yards. Aikman nearly threw himself from the broadcast booth.
  • One of the more shocking losses of the day belonged to the Colts. Before his game-winning 80 yard touchdown pass, Blaine Gabbert had thrown for only 75 yards. How the Colts blew that game is beyond me.
  • I picked the Titans to win but I’m still not sure they’re any good. Two special teams touchdowns and a defensive score aided the victory and the defense (outside of the TD return) was brutal, giving up two touchdowns in the final 20 seconds of regulation. Again, how bad is the AFC South outside of Houston?
  • With the Patriots and Ravens aside, the Texans looked the best on Sunday. Yes, they shut it down a little early in Denver, but between their balanced offense, aggressive defense, and cake-walk of a division, the Texans will be the frontrunners for the AFC’s top seed.
  • If I’m a Patriots fan, I feel really good about Sunday’s game even though New England lost. That was by far Tom Brady’s best game of the year and he did it without Aaron Hernandez and mostly without Rob Gronkowski.
  • I never should have wavered from my “The 49ers aren’t as good as everyone believes” position. All offseason and even after Week 1 I wasn’t a believer. Then I folded after Week 2. Clearly, the San Francisco receiving corps is still far from spectacular and Alex Smith, while a solid NFL quarterback, isn’t going to lead your team back from a 2nd half deficit.
  • Drew Brees should stop talking about the Saints getting things right and start doing it. For the 3rd straight week the Saints looked flat. And for the 3rd straight week Brees’ post game press conference was about his belief in this team bouncing back and competing. When? 2013?
  • The Jets dodged a bullet Sunday when Reggie Bush left the game with an injury in the 1st half. The Jets are bad, and with Darrelle Revis likely out for the year, they’re about to get worse.
  • Sorry, Atlanta. I was wrong about you coming up short in San Diego. Sorry, San Diego. I was wrong about you not sucking.
  • He doesn’t get too much attention because he’s not a diva and he plays in Cincinnati, but AJ Green is the league’s next great receiver. If you don’t believe me, ask DeAngelo Hall, who helplessly chased Green all over FedEx Field on Sunday.
  • Ben Roethlisberger threw for 384 yards, 4 TDs and 0 INTs, and still the Steelers lost to the Raiders. Why? Because Pittsburgh again struggled (to put it nicely) on the ground, averaging 2.7 yards per carry. The defense also failed to get a stop whenever the team needed it most.
  • Buffalo’s chances of delivering a devastating blow to the Patriots next week took a big hit when CJ Spiller left with injury in the first half. From that point on the offense struggled to find big plays and score points. Even a relatively healthy Fred Jackson can’t replace what Spiller gives the Buffalo offense.
  • Jay Cutler has no idea does he? Whenever he takes a hit in the pocket, he immediately stares holes into his offensive line. Michael Vick is a lousy quarterback right now, but at least he’s a good teammate. Vick never publicly humiliates his O-line and he takes more hits than Cutler does on Sundays, if you can believe that’s possible.
  • Of all the first year starters at quarterback, has anyone been as overlooked or as reliable as Christian Ponder? Add the Vikings to the list of 13 NFC teams that could make the playoffs.
  • I guess I should say something nice about the Cardinals here but I’m still a little shell-shocked. What a defense. Also, who do the Eagles have to trade to get Daryl Washington? DeSean Jackson? Jeremy Maclin? Reid? Vick? McNabb?
Things I never thought and would not say this week, even if you paid me…
  • I think Sam Bradford is back on track. He’ll be a top 10 quarterback before the season is over. (Oh crap, I actually said this three days ago.)
  • Andy Reid had his team ready to go on Sunday. (Darn it, I said this, too.)
  • Christian Ponder really struggled against the 49er defense, just as everyone predicted. (What? I predicted that? Ugh.)
  • The replacement officials should be elevated to keeper status. I don’t even notice they’re out there anymore. (Whew. Safe on this one.)
Fantasy Nightmare Football update of the week…
  • Finally started CJ Spiller this week and sure enough, he doesn’t make it out of the 2nd quarter. Sorry, CJ. Sorry, Buffalo. I didn’t mean to jinx anything. (You’re welcome, Fred Jackson.)

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