I realize after the first three weeks of the season that what I thought I knew, I don’t know, but there some things I know that I know, at least I think so this week.
What I Thought I Knew
I was ready to anoint the Green Bay Packers one of the top teams in football going into the week and I thought Mike McCarthy was a good coach. The horribly sloppy play and penalties against the Chicago Bears and questionable decisions by McCarthy lost the game for the Packers.
I thought the Ravens had one of the best defenses in the NFL. Who would have thought they wouldn’t be able to stop the run, against the Cleveland Browns of all teams? Luckily for them the offense woke out of its slumber for a win.
I thought the San Francisco 49’ers were an up and coming team despite their losses, but they proved me wrong Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs.
I thought the Houston Texans might be the best team in the AFC but they got punked by Dallas’s defense.
And while I knew the St. Louis Rams would be better this year than last, I didn’t expect them to completely handle the Washington Redskins the way they did.
And finally, I have never been a big believer in Michael Vick coming back to be an effective every down quarterback. I guess he has proven me wrong, so far.
What I Think I Know
Pittsburgh has the best defense in the league and they just keep proving it. It is scary that they are 3-0 without Big Ben. Very scary.
The New England Patriots young defense is terrible, mostly in the secondary. I sure hope Bill Belichick gets that squad straightened out, soon.
Clinton Portis has seen his better days.
Philip Rivers is a whiney punk and San Diego has once again started off slowly. I’d love to see them lose the rest of their games. I am tired of Philip Rivers.
Baltimore’s offense could be one of the best in the league once Joe Flacco starts playing well. Even though he played well against the Browns, I still didn’t like his jittery feet and mechanics.
The Super Bowl is totally up for grabs this year. So far, there are no clearly dominant teams in the NFL.
GAMES I WATCHED
New England Patriots over Buffalo Bills 38-30 (On NFL Game Rewind)
What is going on with the New England Patriots defense?! Giving up 23 points to the Buffalo Bills is simply not acceptable (I am not counting the kickoff return for a touchdown by C.J. Spiller). The young rookie defensive backs are struggling mightily. Hopefully they will improve over the course the season. Otherwise we are in big trouble.
Thankfully, the offense looked great. Tom Brady had a terrific game and spread the ball around to a variety of receivers. The one huge concern I have is the lack of commitment to the running game. Even without a marquee running back, it is imperative to have a rushing attack to slow down pass rushers and keep defenses a little more off guard. Otherwise teams will just catch up with our passing attack.
Ryan Fitzpatrick obviously had a great day at quarterback as well and you can understand why the Bills jettisoned Trent Edwards who was just not working out. It will be interesting to see what kind of success the Bills can muster when they face tougher defensive backs.
MVP: Tom Brady, QB
Baltimore Ravens over Cleveland Browns, 24-17
I was absolutely shocked watching the Cleveland Browns and Peyton Hillis run all over the Ravens defense. Hillis ended up with 144 yards against what I thought was one of the toughest run defenses in the league.
Luckily for the Ravens the offense woke up after two disappointing weeks with Flacco hitting Anquan Boldin for three touchdowns. Despite having a better game I still though Flacco sometimes looked sketchy in the pocket. No quarterback has a lot of time to throw in the NFL but when Flacco gets what I consider normal pressure, he seems to get happy feet and throw off his back foot or make mental errors. It was less pronounced this week than last but there are still some issues there.
And what can you say about the acquisition of Anquan Boldin? He has been one of the most consistent offensive performers in the league and the bright spot on offense for the Ravens the past three weeks.
For Cleveland this should be a game to build on. If they can play that well against this defense, they should be able to notch up a few wins this season. And I wonder if Jake Delhomme will get his starting job back? Seneca Wallace looked awfully good in this game. Of course he was getting a lot of support in the running game.
MVP: Anquan Boldin, WR
St. Louis Ram over Washington Redskins, 30-16
Despite some miscues and not taking full advantage of some of their opportunities, the St. Louis Rams looked like a good football team against the Washington Redskins! I was extremely impressed with the team on both sides of the ball.
I was most impressed that after taking a 14-0 lead, the Washington Redskins came back to take the lead 16-14 early in the third quarter but the Rams didn’t falter. This is when bad teams fall apart and get spanked. Instead, the Rams stayed calm and retook the lead with a nice touchdown drive and never looked back. While I think Sam Bradford has a lot of work to do, his calm leadership and solid play showed that he can eventually be top flight starter in the NFL if he stays healthy. And the defense shut the Redskins out the rest of the game thanks to linebacker Bill Laurinaitis being all over the field and the play of free safety Oshiomogho Atogwe before leaving the game with an injury.
On the Redskins side of the ball, they absolutely could not get a running game going. Without a running game they just could not do much in the second half. It would appear Santana Moss is getting too old be a receiver that can carry the load and Joey Galloway is even worse. I am surprised the Redskins didn’t go to tight end Chris Cooley more than they did.
The most bizarre play was when Clinton Portis broke off a long run and then simply fell to the ground himself. Later in the week it was reported he told Coach Shanahan it was because of his wrist injury and concern about ball security. While I think Portis is one of the biggest whiners and malcontents in the league, he has been a tough player so I give him the benefit of the doubt on this one.
This game reminded me a lot of the Detroit Lions game last year in the third game of the season where the Redskins lost in a poorly played game and Portis got into an argument with Jim Zorn on the sideline after taking himself out of the game. To me, that game marked the day the wheels came off for the Redskins in the 2009 season. Again, in the third week, they lost to a team most would think they should beat, and didn’t look great in the process. Will the wheels come off again or will Shanahan keep this team rolling forward and improving? With a weakened offensive line, no running game, and a questionable corps of receivers, it might be tough. Donovan McNabb can’t do it all on his own.
MVP: Bill Laurinaitis, LB
New York Jets over Miami Dolphins, 31-23
Mark Sanchez had a great game against the Dolphins. Is this his breakout game or will he revert back to the poor play we saw in the first game of the season? Time will tell. But I will say, I am not a believer.
I also think if the off field incidents like Braylon Edwards’ DUI continue, it will become a distraction for this team. He did catch a long touchdown pass to help redeem himself. The key to this game, to me though, was the ability of the Jets to run the ball with LaDanian Tomlinson, helping out the passing game.
Miami hung tough and tried to come back but to no avail, even with Brandon Marshall catching 10 passes for 166 yards and a touchdown.
MVP: Mark Sanchez, QB
Chicago Bears over Green Bay Packers, 20-17
Green Bay outplayed the Bears but their 18 penalties for 152 yards killed them. Holding penalties thwarting the offense and a stupid roughing the passer penalty negating a Green Bay interception really did the Packers in. Punter Tim Masthay was horrible, having the kind of game that should get him cut. A short low kick allowed an easy punt return for a touchdown by Devin Hester that put the Bears ahead in the fourth quarter and was really the key play in the game.
And then Mike McCarthy challenged a fumble that was clearly a fumble in the fourth quarter costing the team a timeout. That was a really stupid move on his part. There is no way that play was getting overturned.
The Bears are now 3-0, the only undefeated team in the NFC, and have knocked off two good teams in Dallas and Green Bay. Frankly, they just don’t look like a 3-0 team to me.
MVP: Devin Hester, WR/KR
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
Offensive Player: Austin Collie, WR, Indianapolis Colts
Defensive Player: Bill Laurinaitis, LB, St. Louis Rams
Offensive Lineman: Adam Goldberg, G, St. Louis Rams
Special Teams: Leon Washington, RB/KR, Seattle Seahawks
Rookie of the Week: C.J. Spiller, RB/KR, Buffalo Bills