What have we learned in the first four weeks of this NFL season other than we’re damn glad football is finally back? We know there are a number of quality teams that are playing some really good football. Then there are those teams you wouldn’t bring home to mother.
Picking a Super Bowl winner at this point is near impossible. For example, football odds list the Ravens, Colts, Vikings, Patriots, Saints, Giants, Eagles, Steelers and Chargers all between five and ten to one to win. It’s uncommon to see that many teams all bunched together at the top of the pack of NFL betting, but the league wanted parity and that’s what it got.
In addition to those nine, there are a number of middle of the pack teams that still have time to make a push. And then there are the teams we can make fun of.
Ladies and gentlemen, sportschump.net hereby presents… the Good, the Bad and the Fugly.
I’m going to stop calling the NFC East the best division in football. Not that it’s bad, it’s just that the Giants (4-0) appear to have the division in control. That is assuming Eli Manning’s plantar fasciitis is manageable for the rest of the season. Years ago, fans were calling for Tom Coughlin’s head, saying he was too hard on his players. One Super Bowl later, he’s a genius. Funny how that works. Although it helps to have a little talent on your roster, which the Giants clearly do. Not only that, it’s young talent so the Giants should be around for a while. It wouldn’t surprise anyone to see the GEEEEE-Men hoisting up another Lombardi Trophy by season’s end.
What more can be said about the Vikings (4-0)? Brett Favre turned a lot of heads on Monday Night Football by defeating his former team. 24-for-31 for 271 yards and three touchdowns? And they call Tim Tebow ‘Superman.’ Favre couldn’t have scripted Monday night’s contest any better. He loves playing with Adrian Peterson as well as Percy Harvin, who already has 14 catches and two touchdowns. If their defense plays as well as they did against Green Bay, they’ll be very tough to beat. It remains to be seen how Favre’s body will hold up after seventeen weeks.
New Orleans (4-0) has even the most skeptical Saints fans believing. Drew Brees is continuing where he left off last year. He has the Saints averaging over 35 points per game. They should continue to roll in NFC South as they still have Carolina and Tampa Bay on their schedule twice more. Be sure to watch them host the Giants in Week Six.
Marvin and Tony who? Peyton Manning is once again proving he’s one of the best quarterbacks in league history as his Colts (4-0) sit atop the AFC South. With Houston, Jacksonville and Tennessee all struggling, Indy should roll through this division and reach double-digit wins fairly easily.
Only months ago, Josh McDaniels looked like he was in for some trouble. The Broncos (4-0) traded away Jay Cutler, ushered in a new quarterback and were dealing with a disgruntled Brandon Marshall. What a difference a month, and four wins, make. Denver is undefeated, Kyle Orton is blending in just fine and McDaniels and Marshall are feeling the love. We’ll find out whether the Broncos are for real in the coming weeks as they play New England, then travel to San Diego and Baltimore.
The Eagles (2-1) are pretty good, we think. Their only loss is to the undefeated Saints. A Week Five home win over the hapless Buccaneers still won’t tell us much. We do know Donovan McNabb is healthy again and ready to start after bruising his ribs in Week One. We might not know much about the Eagles until they start division play in Weeks 7, 8 and 9. By then we may be seeing a little more Michael Vick sprinkled into their offense.
The Bears (3-1) appear to be adjusting to life without Brian Urlacher, as much as that’s possible. Jay Cutler looks like he’s becoming more comfortable with the offense, although not necessarily as much as Kyle Orton in Denver. After a bye week, the Bears have two difficult road tests in Atlanta and Cincinnati. 5-1 might mean playoffs while 3-3 might spell doom.
We knew the Patriots (3-1) would be good. They always are. Their only loss came to a fired up Jets team looking to make a statement. The Pats bounced back from that loss with consecutive home victories over Baltimore and Atlanta. The Pats, as always, are right where they need to be.
The Falcons (2-1) will likely battle New Orleans for the NFC South crown. Their schedule is about to get difficult, though, as they travel to San Francisco, Dallas and New Orleans three of the next four weeks. Atlanta is currently getting it done with their defense. They’ll have to put some points on the board if they want to be considered serious contenders.
Mike Singletary wanted winners and that’s what he got. The 49ers’ (3-1) start is surprising to everyone outside of that locker room. They finally found stability in the quarterback position in Shaun Hill. Frank Gore is again proving he’s one of the best backs in the league, although he’ll need to nurse his sore right ankle if San Fran wants to seriously sniff the post-season come December.
The Jets (3-1) are making things interesting in the AFC East. With their early victory over the Pats, they sit atop the division that New England was supposed to own. Their defense is among the best in the league. Three of their next four games are against division rivals, including this Monday in Miami. The Jets will need those wins if they want to keep pace.
Joe Flacco and the two-headed monster of Ray Rice and Willis McGahee mean the Ravens (3-1) are no longer just a defensive team. The battle for the AFC North between Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati should become very interesting by season’s end. It might be time to start calling the AFC North the best division in football.
Speaking of Cincinnati (3-1), Chad Ochocinco is finally starting to walk the walk. We always knew that the Ochocinco-Carson Palmer combination could be dangerous when in sync. Now we’re seeing it. And we can finally stop talking about Marvin Lewis on the hot seat… for now.
The Steelers (2-2) are dangerously close to becoming an average football team but only because we hold them to a much higher standard. After all, they are the defending Super Bowl champions. That being said, they cannot afford to cake walk through the division where the Bengals and Ravens are both improved. Troy Polamalu’s return should shore up their recent defensive woes.
Even though they only lost by seven, last Monday’s football game made it look like there’s a world of difference between the Vikings and the Packers (2-2). Green Bay gets their shot at revenge when the Vikes head to Lambeau Field on November 1. The Pack’s playoff hopes are still alive and well, although they have to travel to Chicago, Pittsburgh and Arizona in the final month of the season. That stretch could make or break their post-season hopes.
That’s right, Cowboys (2-2) fans. No T.O., no Jessica and your team is still underachieving. Former Cowboy great Tony Dorsett blasted Tony Romo, who has passed for only four touchdowns in four games. Dallas will to have to tighten things up if they want to compete in their division and silence those who keep bringing up that they’ve gone thirteen years without a playoff win.
The loser of the Super Bowl traditionally struggles the following year. This year’s Cardinals (1-2) are no exception. It’s still early and there’s no need to panic just yet as the AFC West appears wide open, but the Cards are going to have to kick things into high gear soon if they aspire to match last year’s accolades.
Losing Chad Pennington for the season did not help the Dolphins’ (1-3) post-season hopes but at least now they’ll get the chance to see if Chad Henne is their quarterback of the future. He looked good against Buffalo but I’d expect the Fish to continue to rely on their running game moving forward. If there were ever a must win in Week Five, it might be the Dolphins hosting the Jets on Monday Night Football. A win would keep them in the division mix. A loss might dig them a hole they can’t crawl out of.
People were calling for Jack Del Rio’s head before Jacksonville’s (2-2) consecutive division wins over Houston and Tennessee. Their next four games are against sub-.500 teams so the Jags have a chance to make a mid-season push to keep their division hopes alive.
If you weren’t a Texans (2-2) fan or a fan of the team playing them, would you ever actually watch them play a game? Matt Schaub is putting up PlayStation type numbers but they haven’t translated into quality wins. Their two victories have come against Oakland and Tennessee, who are a combined 0-8. Four of Houston’s next five games are on the road, a stretch which could define their season.
I asked not long ago if San Diego (2-2) fans heard a sound, which was the Chargers’ window of opportunity slamming shut. This team still cannot get it together. LaDainian Tomlinson has only 20 carries on the season and may have hit his career wall. The Chargers have allowed more points than they’ve scored this season which is a bad thing considering they’re supposed to be an offensive team. It’s not too late to turn things around, unless the Broncos continue to prove they’re for real.
The good news is that the Lions (1-3) finally won a game. They’re far from the worst team in the league. Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson have shown they’re on the path to eventually becoming contenders. Key word: eventually.
Does anyone really think Seneca Wallace is the missing piece to the Seahawks’ (1-3) puzzle when the 34-year old Matt Hasselbeck goes down? I can easily see Sam Bradford, Colt McCoy or Tony Pike in their near future. Seattle’s competing against the Cardinals and newly rejuvenated 49ers for the NFC West but they’re not doing a very good job at it. Julius Jones can only do so much and TJ Houshmandzadeh has yet to get on track.
I was tempted to put the Buccaneers (0-4) into the Bad and not the Fugly section. After all, they did play their hearts out in Washington. Aqib Talib tied a team record with three interceptions against Jason Campbell. But that and 25 cents will buy them a cup of coffee. The Bucs have allowed twice as many points as they’ve scored. And they haven’t even played the Saints or Falcons yet. They swear this is not a rebuilding year.
If Washington Redskins (2-2) owner Daniel Snyder could buy himself a championship, he would. He’s definitely tried. Even at .500, I fail to see how this team can compete with the big boys of the NFC. The Redskins have a tendency to play up or down to their opponents. Their first four games have been decided by a total of sixteen points. While they gave the Giants everything they wanted, they also only beat the Rams 9-7. Washington will need more consistency if they hope to reach the playoffs.
The good news for the Panthers (0-3) is that they still get to play the Bucs twice this year. The bad news is that they’ve only scored 37 points this season. The Saints average that many per game. Jake Delhomme has thrown two touchdowns and seven interceptions. This could be a long year for Panthers fans.
It wasn’t long ago that we were calling the Rams (0-4) the ‘Greatest Show on Turf.’ Behind Kurt Warner, Marshall Faulk, Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce, these Rams of old would score 24 points a half. The 2009 Rams have scored 24 points ALL SEASON. They’re unwatchable and likely the worst team in the league. They still have to play Minnesota and Indianapolis in the next three weeks. Rams fans, get your paper bags ready.
LeBron James is becoming more and more like Michael Jordan every day. Remember when the Bobcats drafted Brandan Wright in 2007? During an interview, he told reporters he could probably take Jordan 1-on-1. Hours later, he was traded to Golden State. Coincidence or not? Outside a nightclub this week, Browns (0-4) wide receiver Braylon Edwards punched a friend of LeBron James. Edwards was instantly traded to the Jets for two players and two draft picks. The Browns are probably happy to be rid of the disgruntled Edwards and his antics, but that still won’t help them win any time soon. Only LeBron might.
Remember the Titans (0-4)? Last year, they had the NFL’s best regular season record. This year, they don’t. While they’re probably the best 0-4 team in the league but that’s like being the prettiest girl in an ugly contest. They’re already behind the 8-ball with the Colts sitting at 4-0 so they’ll likely be gunning for a wild card at best…. or a high draft pick.
The Raiders (1-3) remain a franchise in turmoil. It is becoming more and more obvious that their 2007 number one draft pick, JaMarcus Russell, is not who they thought he was. He’s passed for one touchdown all season and can’t seem to throw it in the ocean. The other piece to their offensive master plan, Darren McFadden, also has only one touchdown and is now out a month with a torn right meniscus. Not that his production will be missed.
How long have the Chiefs (0-4) sucked now? Can anyone remember when they were good? Was Joe Montana still their quarterback? Their former coach Herm Edwards once said “You play to win the game.” I’m not so sure they got that memo. They’ve invested heavily in their future quarterback, Matt Cassell, but they have a lot more work to do if they ever hope to contend.