We’re three weeks in and we have yet to see a truly elite team. What gives? Around the league, the NFC East is suffering and the Dolphins missed an opportunity to move into first place in the AFC East.
Week Two Headlines
Where are the Elite teams?
Usually by week three we have a decent idea of who will be the elite teams in the league. Right now, there are only two undefeated teams with three wins (there will be another after Monday night). One of those 3-0 teams is the Kansas City Chiefs. The other is the Steelers who are missing their starting quarterback. The Chiefs are not an elite team, regardless of their record. The Steelers, on the other hand, are the best team in the league right now and will only improve once Ben Roethlisberger returns. After Pittsburgh, the field is wide open. The Ravens and Patriots did little to improve their status today by struggling to close out the Browns and Bills, respectively. The Texans fell at home to a desperate Cowboys team and the Saints have been lackluster in 2010. No team in the NFC East is even in the elite team conversation. That leaves us with the Colts and Jets. With Peyton Manning, the Colts are always contenders for a title. The Jets have rebounded from an ugly opening loss to Baltimore and now stand at 2-1. With Darrelle Revis, New York’s defense is right there with Pittsburgh’s, and Mark Sanchez has the offense playing well. Still, we haven’t seen that one team, or handful of teams, that are clearly in a league of their own. In my opinion, the Steelers are close with the Jets and Colts knocking on the door. Maybe others will show up in the coming weeks.
What Happened to the NFC East?
Heading into the season, the NFC East was crowned the NFL’s toughest division. It’s still early, but the Michael Vick led Philadelphia Eagles sit atop the division as the only team with a winning record, and the Eagles aren’t even that good. The Eagles have an awful offensive line and a defense that looks mediocre at best. In New York, the Giants have surrendered 67 points in the last two weeks. The offense isn’t much better as Eli Manning has been mostly ineffective since the first week against Carolina. Regardless, if the Giants don’t figure out their defensive woes soon, they’ll find themselves out of the playoff hunt sooner than later. Things are just as bad in Washington D.C. The Redskins defense allowed a rookie quarterback to drive up and down the field on Sunday while their offense has been wildly inconsistent. Poor Mike Shanahan needs a running back while Donovan McNabb needs another receiver, and maybe a hug too. The Cowboys are feeling good after Sunday’s upset over the Texans. However, the Cowboys still can’t run the ball and seem to be missing that big play potential they had in 2009. Obviously, it’s too early to say the division won’t rebound, but right now the NFC East boasts four teams that aren’t even in the top 10 teams in the league.
Dolphins Blew It
For those of you who were asleep in bed, the Miami Dolphins were down by eight with less than a minute remaining and the ball on New York’s eleven yard line with four attempts to punch it in. On first down, Miami threw a fade to Brandon Marshall. Normally, I would agree with this call. However, running a fade to a guy who just sprinted for a 30 yard completion the play before isn’t the best idea. Give him a chance to breath and get his legs back. Oh, and making a decent throw would be good too. On second down, quarterback Chad Henne panicked and scrambled for a yard. On third down, Henne threw a worthless pass out in the flat to running back Ronnie Brown for 5 yards. On fourth down, Henne threw into a crowd and the pass fell to the ground. Game over. I have no idea why the Dolphins didn’t run the ball at least once to get within five yards of the end zone. Trying to score from the ten is often the most difficult. Miami had two timeouts, so running the ball once or twice would have made Henne’s job easier. Knowing Miami wouldn’t run the ball, the Jets dropped nine defenders into coverage and crowded the passing lanes. I’ll never understand why coaches abandon the run in the red zone as the clock winds down. Having timeouts available makes the ground game an option. Not running the ball plays into the defense and makes completing a pass in a tight area without the help of play-action nearly impossible.
Someone take them to Chic-Fil-A (NFL’s top 5)
1. Steelers – They’re 3-0 without their Pro-Bowl, two-time Superbowl champion quarterback. You can’t say they haven’t beaten anyone decent either. All three of their wins came against teams that are currently 2-1. If you’re thinking to yourself, “hey, that means the Steelers were the only loss for all three of those teams,” you’d be right.
2. Colts – I don’t care what anyone says, Peyton Manning is the best player in the NFL. In the first three weeks, Manning has already thrown nine touchdowns and racked up 1,000 yards, all while completing nearly 70% of his passes. The Indy defense may be suspect, but you still need to out-duel Manning to win. Good luck with that.
3. Packers – Monday’s NFC North showdown with Chicago will be a nice test. The Vikings got off the schneid on Sunday, so the division could be shaping up as a three horse race.
4. Jets – The defense looked a little sloppy on Sunday night but I have them here because their offense is clicking. When Darrelle Revis returns, the defense will be fine. If Mark Sanchez can maintain this level of play, the Jets will be tough to beat.
5. Texans – I can’t drop the Texans out of the top five because Dallas was uber-desperate, and really, who else are you going to put here? The Chiefs? The Saints? The Ravens? The Patriots? Maybe later. For now, the Texans hold on.
(Last Week: NO, PITT, HOU, GB, IND)
Not even worthy of Ramen Noodle (NFL’s bottom 5)
28. Browns – Eric Mangini’s squad is 0-3 but has yet to lose by more than one score. In other words, they stink enough to lose, but they’re good enough to make it interesting. Whenever he feels pressure from the Cleveland fans, Mangini should burn a LeBron James jersey on the sidelines. The fans will get behind him quickly after that.
29. Lions – They’re better than this, but with Shaun Hill at quarterback and an 0-3 record, they’ll have to prove it to us.
30. 49ers – I thought the 49ers were a lock for the playoffs? Have they forgotten about Vernon Davis?
31. Panthers – They compete and the Carolina defense is good. However, when you have a rookie quarterback under center, the run pass ratio should be around 2:1, not 1:1.5. John Fox is already on vacation.
32. Bills – Buffalo finally found some offense on Sunday. Maybe now C.J. Spiller will see some more touches.
(Last Week: AZ, CAR, CLE, STL, BUF)
Stock rising (but not in top 5, yet)
Bears – The Bear’s stock is holding until Monday night. After that we’ll know a little bit more about how good (or average) they really are.
Falcons – Knocking off the defending champs was no fluke. Atlanta is one of the better teams in the NFC.
Chiefs – Kansas City is now 3-0, but until they beat someone of note, I can’t include them in my top five. They beat the Chargers with help from a monsoon, the Browns are bad, and the 49ers were destined to lose on the road this week after last Monday’s heart-wrenching defeat. I like what the Chiefs are building, though.
Stock falling (but not in bottom 5, yet)
Giants – That’s two embarrassing losses in a row. Sunday’s thrashing came in front of their home crowd too. The Giants look old, slow, and confused. The end of the Tom Coughlin era may be near.
Redskins – Surrendering 20 unanswered points in the last 20 minutes to lose to the Texans was embarrassing. Losing to the St. Louis Rams by two touchdowns is humiliating. The NFC East is sinking faster than the Titanic.
49ers – At 0-3, the 49ers look ripe for a coaching change. Whether it’s Alex Smith or the offensive coordinator, someone needs to kick that offense into gear. There are too many weapoons there for that unit to play this poorly.
Things I thought and would’ve said, but my son is only 3 months old and wouldn’t understand…
- At one point of Sunday’s loss to the Rams, Donovan McNabb was 10/14 with a TD. He completed only 4 of his next 11 attempts and threw an interception. Up until garbage time, McNabb couldn’t throw a stone in the ocean. Football fans in our nation’s capital are getting a taste of what drove Eagle fans crazy for more than a decade.
- Great work by Cris Collinsworth and Al Michaels in pointing out that a New York special teamer clearly faked an injury to buy some much needed time for his exhausted defense.
- I’m not often right, so I would like to revel in the glory of being exactly right about the Dallas/Houston game on Sunday. Ok, thanks. That was fun.
- Minnesota beat Detroit on Sunday by a score of 24-10 while Detroit defeated Minnesota 5-1 on Sunday. Figure that one out.
- With two kickoffs returned for touchdowns in the second half, Leon Washington single-handedly put the Seahawks atop the miserable NFC West.
- While they both remain winless, the Browns and Bills stayed within arms reach of the Ravens and Patriots, respectively for a full 60 minutes. Hopefully they can build on that momentum.
- Drew Brees threw for 365 yards, Eli Manning, 386, Philip Rivers, 455, and Kyle Orton, 476. They all lost too.
- In week one I had Arian Foster sitting on my fantasy football bench. In week three, Mike Wallace sat on my bench while he hauled in two touchdown passes of 40+ yards. I’m quite confident that I’m the worst fantasy owner ever.
- Peyton Manning is insanely good.
- The Chargers are digging their annual early season hole in the AFC West. Two interceptions, three lost fumbles, and 11 penalties were a major factor in San Diego’s ugly loss to the lowly Seattle Seahawks.
- Asante Samuel still whiffs on more tackles than anyone else in the NFL. Does he sleep when they review game film or does he just pretend it doesn’t happen? I know I get embarrassed watching.
- Other than the NFC South battle in New Orleans between the Falcons and Saints, there weren’t many games to get excited about today.
- Sebastian Janikowski and Garret Hartley missed game-winning field goals of 32 yards on Sunday. Ouch.
- He was far from perfect, but Brett Favre is slowly working off the rust that comes with sitting on a ranch in Mississippi for eight months out of the year.
- Roy Williams of the Dallas Cowboys had a nice day with two touchdown receptions. More importantly, Tony Romo appears to trust him again.
- It’s fun to watch Tom Brady and Randy Moss. Brady does not hesitate to give Moss a chance at a free ball, even if he’s throwing into triple coverage. It normally pays off anyway.
- James Laurinaitis is going to be good. Actually, he’s good now, but he’s going to be really good. He and the St. Louis defense bottled up McNabb and the Redskin offense for much of the afternoon.
- Michael Vick looked good on Sunday, but why has the Eagles offense mostly ignored Brent Celek this season?
- The Steelers are going to welcome back Ben Roethlisberger at 4-0 or 3-1. That’s bad news for the rest of the AFC.
- Carson Palmer gets worse every week. It’ll be a miracle if Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens don’t have him kidnapped before midseason.
- I think Joe Flacco figured out that Anquan Boldin will make his job a lot easier.
- And finally, why can’t kickers take down returners? I understand kickers aren’t the most athletic guys on the field, but all they have to do is go stand in the returner’s way. That’s it. Nate Kaeding looked like a blind man chasing a plastic bag in the wind on Sunday as Leon Washington raced by him… twice. If he makes Washington run through him, 14 points come off the board and San Diego most likely wins.