Tom Brady outdueled Peyton Manning in a battle for AFC Supremacy. The Texans continue to find ways to lose and the Eagles rise to the top of the NFC East.
Week Two Headlines
Patriots reign supreme
Despite nearly squandering another double digit 4th quarter lead to Peyton Manning, the Patriots established themselves as the team to beat in the AFC on Sunday. I foolishly jumped off the Tom Brady wagon two weeks ago. Clearly, I was wrong. While Brady isn’t stuffing the stat sheet as in recent years, he’s spreading the ball around in a similar fashion to New England’s Superbowl years, and relying on a patch work running tandem of BennJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead to balance the offense. With Brady at quarterback, the New England defense doesn’t need to be perfect, which works well for a unit that is suspect at times. The most telling sign that the Patriots are indeed the best team in the conference is their record, and more importantly, the teams they’ve beaten. Currently, there are four legitimate Superbowl contenders in the AFC other than the Patriots; the Jets, Ravens, Steelers, and Colts. New England has played all four and beaten all but the Jets. If you wanted to go further, the Patriots have also defeated the Chargers, who many believe will win the AFC West (myself included). Therefore, if the Colts and Chargers do in fact win their respective divisions and New England knocks off the Jets in two weeks, the Patriots will have played and beaten every potential AFC playoff opponent. New England’s 8-2 record is impressive, but the wins they’ve accumulated to get to 8-2 are what make them the best team in the AFC.
Eagles on top of NFC East
While it wasn’t nearly as convincing or pleasing to the eye as last week’s victory over Washington, the Eagles beat the Giants to climb into first place in the division. As an Eagles fan, it’s my job to panic and find something to make me lose sleep, even after a victory. But before we get there, let’s praise the Eagle defense for bailing out an offense that dropped, fumbled, and staggered its way through a game they should have closed out early in the 3rd quarter. Rookie Nate Allen has vastly improved a free safety position that plagued the Eagles throughout the entire 2009 season. The linebackers continue to improve and have made running the ball against Philadelphia a daunting task. More importantly, Sean McDermott may finally be settling in as defensive coordinator. I’ve been open about the defense’s poor play under his brief tenure, so I should dole out the praise when McDermott comes through. Now onto the scary stuff. I’ve watched Michael Vick since he entered the NFL with Atlanta. What I witnessed last night was more similar to his Falcon days, and that’s unsettling. Vick couldn’t read a blitz, looked antsy in the pocket, and failed to find his hot read over and over and again. The NFL is a copycat league, so it’s a foregone conclusion that opponents will continually blitz Vick. To discourage and slow the blitz, the Eagles will need to either lean on their ground game or Vick will need to work on reading and reacting to the blitz. With Andy Reid as head coach, we all know resorting to the ground game isn’t an option, so Vick must improve. I know it’s a little ridiculous that I’m worried about a quarterback that just completed 63% of his passes and threw for 250 yards and zero interceptions against one of the NFL’s most ferocious defenses. But as an Eagles fan, that’s what I do. I want the Philadelphia Michael Vick under center, not the Atlanta one. This is why I laugh when analysts and TV personalities try to sell Vick on the same level with Manning, Brady, and Brees. None of the latter beat a blitz by scrambling away from it. Instead, they punish the defense by locating the open man. The sooner Vick realizes it’s his arm and not his feet that beat the blitz, the sooner I can dream of a parade down Broad Street.
Someone take them to Chic-Fil-A (NFL’s top 5)
1. Patriots – On paper, they aren’t the best team in the NFL. On the field, they are.
2. Packers – Brett Favre’s season, and ultimately, his career, were laid to rest on Sunday. Fittingly, Aaron Rodgers was the undertaker. Now that Favre is an afterthought, Rodgers can concentrate on doing what Favre failed to do over the last decade of his career in Green Bay; win an NFC title and get to the Superbowl.
3. Ravens – Beating the Carolina Panthers doesn’t mean much, so we’ll wait until after next week’s game against Tampa Bay to gauge how Baltimore is doing.
4. Steelers – Pittsburgh just polished off the Oakland Raiders. The Jets are in the midst of a three game winning streak. So, why did I boot the Jets from my top five? Because if the Jets and Steelers went head to head today, I’d put my money on the Steelers.
5. Falcons – A showdown with the Packers next week will go a long way in determining playoff positioning. Atlanta already has a loss to Philadelphia. A second loss to an NFC playoff contender would be costly come tiebreaker time.
(Last Week: NE, NYJ, GB, BAL, ATL)
Not even Ramen Noodle worthy (NFL’s bottom 5)
28. 49ers – With the opportunity to move within a game of first place in the division, San Fran got shut out at home. Maybe Troy Smith wasn’t the right Smith after all.
29. Lions – Young teams like the Lions are supposed to improve each week. Detroit appears to be getting worse.
30. Bengals – Terrell Owens called the Bengals “terrible,” and for the first time ever, all of America nodded in agreement. 35 unanswered points …in the 3rd and 4th quarter alone…at home…while surrendering a 21 point lead… is inexcusable. Heads should roll in Cincy.
31. Cardinals – For the first time all season, Arizona didn’t commit a turnover. Baby steps. Baby steps.
32. Panthers – John Fox can cross out “bringing a QB out of retirement to make first NFL start” off his “possible ways to improve the team” list. Carolina should just fire Fox now. He obviously doesn’t care and his players are beginning to notice. If something isn’t done, Steve Smith may clock Fox at practice.
(Last Week: CIN, BUF, DET, AZ, CAR)
Stock rising (but not in top 5, yet)
Saints – The Saints are lurking right outside my top five. With their cupcake schedule down the stretch, it appears inevitable that the road to the Superbowl in the NFC will once again go through ‘Nawlins.
Bills – Two wins in a row! Buffalo’s remaining schedule is rough, so 2-14 will have to suffice. The downside? 0-16 or 1-15 may have gotten Chan Gailey fired. Two wins might keep him around for another season. If I’m a Bills fan, Gailey isn’t the one I want rebuilding my team.
Buccaneers – The Bucs are rolling right now, winning four of their last five. At 7-3, they’re in the mix for the NFC South title and an NFC playoff berth. The next three weeks will make or break Tampa’s season. At Baltimore, host Atlanta, and visit Washington D.C. They’ll need to win at least one of those games to remain in contention.
Stock falling (but not in bottom 5, yet)
Dolphins – No quarterback + no offense = no postseason. Anyone know what happened to Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams?
Colts – Indianapolis has lost two of three and subsequently allowed the Jacksonville Jaguars to slip into first place in the AFC South. The Colts could use another bye week to get some bodies off of the injury report.
Giants – Two straight losses, within the division nonetheless, leave the Giants with an uphill climb down the stretch. Eli Manning can’t get Steve Smith back soon enough.
Things I thought and would’ve said, but my son is only 5 months old and wouldn’t understand…
[Limited this week due to the Giants/Eagles nightcap. Sorry]
- I’m not sure how the officials in the Detroit/Dallas game confused the Lions tackling Marion Barber by his dreads with a horse collar tackle, but they did. If the officials can’t determine the difference, players should be required to put excessive hair in their jersey or helmet.
- Funniest moment of the day: Ben Roethlisberger got slapped across the face by Richard Seymour. Women all over the country cheered excessively for Seymour. In fact, I’m sure Seymour could collect enough money from such women to pay his forthcoming fine.
- Peyton Manning’s 2nd quarter touchdown pass to Reggie Wayne with four seconds remaining in the half was one of the nicest passes you’ll ever see. With tight coverage and a safety closing, Manning dropped the ball where only Wayne could make the catch.
- Jim Nantz and Phil Sims repeatedly talked about players dealing with the short week due to the Thanksgiving holiday. Forget the players, it will take a hundred cups of tea and honey for Sims’ voice to recover before Thursday’s game.
- I don’t know where the Titans would be if they didn’t pick up Randy Moss. He’s been a huge factor. In two games, Moss has 1 catch for 26 yards. (Bill Belichick wins again.)
- The NFC West went 0-4 today. At what point do we just start referring to the NFC West as the UFL?
- Eli and Peyton Manning combined for seven turnovers on Sunday. Unless Cooper gets fired this week, he can finally brag about his week at Thanksgiving dinner.
- The Jacksonville Jaguars are in first place in the AFC South. Just in case you’re wondering, that means the Colts, Titans, and Texans all trail Jack Del Rio’s bunch.
- Dear Michael Vick, when a screen is called, you don’t absolutely have to throw it. For example, if the running back is surrounded by five defenders, it’s a probably a good idea to abort the screen. Just a thought.
- You know you’re not a legitimate playoff team when;
**Your quarterback fumbles when sliding, despite going untouched. (Giants)
**You surrender a game winning drive of 72 yards in just 45 seconds to a team with no timeouts. (Texans)
**You start Vince Young, and later hand the opponent an overtime win thanks to two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties on the decisive drive. (Titans)
**You get shutout at home, in front of a national TV audience, or at 4PM on Sunday (Dolphins, 49ers)
**You’re the Seattle Seahawks. (Uh, Seahawks)