BUFFALO BILLS 34, NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS 31: Like I was saying: don’t sleep on the Bills. Pretty please. Any further questions? Yes, you in the back? (Exasperated sigh.) Alright. One more time. No, this isn’t a fluke. Yes, the Bills are good now. Yes, we’re all somewhat surprised it’s happening like this. No, it’s not totally out of the blue. Chan Gailey has always been around prolific offenses, and it’s no accident. Ryan Fitzpatrick and Fred Jackson and Stevie Johnson all showed us signs of this last year. Add a couple of strong draft picks, luck into some free agent production and get a fortuitous bounce or two? Voila! You’re 3-0 and the darlings of the AFC. Now is when it gets interesting. As for the Patriots? They’ll be back. My question on them, though: are they giving up so much yardage as acceptable collateral damage from the decision that Tom Brady and the offense are their best chance to win most weeks? Because if it’s the other thing, I have a few more questions.
GREEN BAY PACKERS 27, CHICAGO BEARS 17: This game showed me a couple of things. One, I take it all back. The Bears are exactly who I thought they were. I can’t believe I let myself be fooled by the season-opening win against the Falcons (who evidently have problems of their own). Two, Jermichael Finley is a huge distinction between the Packers and everyone else. Still, Chicago: Feel free to at least try to cover him. The Packers are 3-0 and on their way once again. The Bears are reeling, and if they’re not, they absolutely should be. I’ll just keep beating the drum here: you must protect your quarterback much better than that to have any hope of winning what matters. I’ll wait.
CLEVELAND BROWNS 17, MIAMI DOLPHINS 16: The Dolphins dominated time of possession 37:51 to 22:09, but it was the last 3:23 that proved the difference. Colt McCoy led an exciting 80-yard drive that erased his own rough performance and any hopes the Dolphins had of kidding themselves into believing they were a playoff contender. McCoy missed some big throws and made some ill-advised ones, but appeared calm and collected down the stretch, dropping an absolute dime to Mohammed Massaquoi to win it. The Browns’ D kicked in with another five sacks (they’re now 2nd in the NFL. I know!) I don’t know whether Chad Henne is that bad, but I do think he and Brandon Marshall don’t see the field the same way. It’s interfering with the offense because you absolutely have to try to get the ball to Marshall, and Henne seems unable to do so with any consistency. Either that, or there is a pattern building with former Browns and new Dolphins offensive coordinator Brian Daboll. Not sure yet. All in good time.
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS 13, CINCINNATI BENGALS 8: Evidently it was not Jim Harbaugh’s plan to Suck for Luck. Let’s not forget the Niners play in the division that just saw Sickness division favorite Arizona lose at Seattle 13-10, so a 2-1 start is equal parts good fortune and fool’s gold. I don’t think the Bengals are this bad, but they’re doing a lousy job proving it. Aside: I kind of hope Mike Brown doesn’t get a chance to ruin Andrew Luck.
TENNESSEE TITANS 17, DENVER BRONCOS 14: Tennessee is showing a stronger defense than I anticipated, and Matt Hasselbeck (300 yards for the second straight game) is showing that he can still play and has the fire to do so. Unfortunately for the Titans, they were gut-punched by the injury gnome, who took the hatchet to budding superstar wide receiver Kenny Britt’s ACL. Expect more of Jared Cook, but that’s a not an easily-absorbed loss. Still, they can be buoyed by the fact that they have not yet unleashed Chris Johnson. Let’s hope he regains his freakiness, because he looks hesitant to me so far this season. Meanwhile, the issue in Denver remains what it is. We’re sure Tebow can’t go 24/39 for 173 and 2 TD’s, right? (I’m kidding. I think.)
SAINTS 40, TEXANS 33: Yep, that sounds about right. I think it’s safe to say that the Houston Texans can put that coffee down now (coffee is for closers, after all). Big win for the Saints at home in a barnburner that played out pretty much like we called it last week.
DETROIT LIONS 26, MINNESOTA VIKINGS 23: Those following along know I fired Leslie Frazier via Twitter before the game was over. And I’m serious. Some things are just as obvious as this to me: You do not give the ball to Toby Gerhart on a critical, game-clinching 4th and 1. You give it to Adrian Peterson. Furthermore, Adrian Peterson does not carry the ball a mere 17 times in any game you lead, at any time, by a score of 20-0. He carries it 27, at the absolute least. Were I Zygi Wilf (alas, Vikings fans, I am not), I would have proceeded to the field of play immediately, demanded Mr. Frazier’s headset and keys, and had the Viking ride him out of that dome on his Harley. That simply cannot happen at the NFL level, and the Minnesota media was rightly all over it. Frazier was appropriately contrite, but come on, man. That’s three games in a row you’ve lost a double-digit lead. You have the most devastating runner in the game. Make them beat him. Detroit? Still ballin’. All systems go. Plenty of room for growth, but 3-0 has to feel awfully good in the Motor City.
CAROLINA PANTHERS 16, JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS 10: Parts of this game were played in monsoon-like conditions, the Jags’ lone touchdown came on a clever but desperate heave from midfield, and Cam Newton gets his first win as a starter. That’s all I have to say about that.
NEW YORK GIANTS 29, PHILADELPHIA EAGLES 16: …And so the hype train found itself derailed. Questions and criticisms abound this week in Philly, starting with: “What will be done to protect the quarterback?” Michael Vick took shot after shot again, and though his post-game criticisms sounded like they were about the officiating, I think our man Sen Sogah is right when he says they might just as well have been directed at the Eagles’ coaches. It wasn’t working on the other side of the ball either, as new toy Nnamdi Asomugha was beaten by Victor Cruz for a score. And this just in: if they’re isolating Brandon Jacobs on a sideline route against you, you’re the problem, Casey Matthews. Kudos to the Giants for identifying and exploiting the issues. Also, I’m again impressed with how Perry Fewell manages to create chaos and havoc for the opposing offense no matter what personnel he’s got. That dude can coach.
OAKLAND RAIDERS 34, NEW YORK JETS 24: Darren F. McFadden! 19 carries for 171 yards and 2 touchdowns reeks of explosiveness, in a good way. McFadden made short work of the noisily talented Jets defense, which couldn’t keep up with the Silver and Black all day. This version of the Raiders is talented all over the field, going six deep at receiver with young, speedy talent and mixing in just enough Michael Bush and Taiwan Jones to keep you honest. Don’t look now, but Jason Campbell is not embarrassing himself. They also have one of the nastier defensive fronts in football, with Richard Seymour still leading the way. Meanwhile, the Jets look nothing like what Rex professes to want his team to look. They can’t ground and pound it with Shonn Greene, and they’re throwing it far more than running it as a result. Mark Sanchez isn’t quite ready for that role, yet, but he’s being forced into it, and behind a patchwork offensive line that is now missing Nick Mangold. And on defense, they’re not as nasty. They’ve got some issues, but let’s also remember that the Jets finish strong. I suspect they’ll be fine.
BALTIMORE RAVENS 37, ST. LOUIS RAMS 7: We’ll be breaking out the DONE stamp for the Rams this week. The secondary is a disaster, and they clearly aren’t all on the same page in Josh McDaniels’ offense yet. What’s worse, there’s rumor-mongering afoot, with tales of dissent between GM Billy Devaney and Coach Spags. Bad things, man. The Ravens looked like the team that pasted the Steelers opening week. Torrey Smith showed off the crazy speed and caught three touchdowns for a big breakout performance. Pretty sure they didn’t need to make that Lee Evans trade. But why in the world were all the starters still in and why were the Ravens throwing deep up 30? Whatever the point was, I’m not sure it was worth it.
SAN DIEGO CHARGERS 20, KANSAS CITY CHIEFS 17: Say whatever you want about the Chargers, but remember: this is the kind of game they usually lose at this time of year, so perhaps this constitutes progress. Those in San Diego questioning Philip Rivers should have their heads examined. No, he hasn’t played lights out ball, but he’ll be fine. Rough patches happen, and they’re 2-1. Relax. And hey, since the Chiefs decided to break their perfect non-attendance streak for 2011 by actually showing up for this division matchup, a trouncing wasn’t in the cards. That’s the best I got, Chiefs fans. It’s going to be a long year.
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS 13, ARIZONA CARDINALS 10: Such is the quality of football in the NFC West that the entire division scored only nine points more than the Buffalo Bills this weekend. And only three more than the New Orleans Saints. And it was not a bye week for any of them.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS 16, ATLANTA FALCONS 13: Of all the teams that have surprised me thus far, none has done so in a more disappointing fashion that the Atlanta Falcons. I was so excited to watch what should be a highly explosive offense compete with the likes of New Orleans and Philadelphia for the title of “scariest NFC offensive unit,” but right now the Falcons are scary for all the wrong reasons. Granted, they’ve had a tough opening schedule travelling to the Bears and Bucs and hosting the Eagles. But it looks like the expectations or the new plan have caused them to somewhat forget who they are at heart. A team must always reflect it’s coach’s personality. The yin and yang must be in sync. Under Mike Smith, the Falcons have been a physical, pound-it-right-at-you offense led by Michael Turner’s dominant rushing and Roddy White’s unstoppable possession receiving. But the run game hasn’t been quite what we’re used to, and the pass game looks discombobulated. I wonder if they’ve hit a bit of an identity crisis as they try to absorb all the new talent and get it running together. I still think they’ll be just fine, but they’d better get their quickly because it’s a tough division they’re playing in. A point that was no doubt hammered home by a loss to the Bucs, who despite showcasing a number of flaws are now 2-1 and doing it again. Raheem Morris knows how to get the most out of his guys, and Josh Freeman is cool in the big moments. You can’t go in there lightly or you’ll learn what the Falcons just did: the Bucs will find a way.
PITTSBURGH STEELERS 23, INDIANAPOLIS COLTS 20: The Steelers definitely have issues up front on offense, as Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney harassed Big Ben all night. Even scarier for Pittsburgh, they were unable to line up and play old school Steelers football against a Colts defense that is well known for being unable to stop the run. If you can’t run the ball, and you can’t protect your quarterback, well…you’re in Barney. But, of course, they’re the Steelers, and the Pittsburgh Steelers just know how to win. And so they did. Winning, meanwhile, is something the Colts may struggle to do even once this season. Evidently, without Peyton Manning the whole thing just goes completely to crap. They’re built to build leads on his brain and arm and protect it with the pass defense. They won’t build any leads with Kerry Collisn or Curtis Painter, or Brody Croyle or anyone else they bring in to work out. This is going to get ugly. Frankly, I’m just excited to see whether they’re willing to pass on Andrew Luck. (Hint: They shouldn’t be.)