Week 3 was time for some teams that had underachieved early to wake up and set the tone for the rest of the season, and also time for brave pretenders to be knocked
down a few pegs. We had a few beatdowns, some battle royales, and even a Roy Williams sighting. Thanks to modern technology, I’ve seen most of every game, and can confirm that we’ve reached the portion of the season where we truly start separating the men from the boys. Let’s take a spin around the week that was in the NFL.
DALLAS COWBOYS 27, HOUSTON TEXANS 13: The Cowboys are the impetus for the first half of this week’s title. It’s about time, boys. I picked the Texans because I was impressed with their ability to win two different styles of football game. But I also picked the Texans because I was thoroughly unimpressed with the Cowboys in weeks one and two. They were playing flat, they weren’t sustaining drives on offense, they appeared to have completely forgotten about the running game, and, of course, they were losing. A better team showed up on Sunday and showed, even in an imperfect performance, that they are loaded. Look, a lot of teams are comfortable leaving a defensive back 1-on-1 on your third wide receiver. But, as much as we can harp on Princess Roy’s bust factor, he’s still going to toast your nickel guy in single coverage frequently- as he did twice against Houston. Speaking of which, the Texans need to get a handle on the pass defense, pronto, or all of Matt Schaub’s newfound confidence and grittiness will be for naught. They just faced a desperate Cowboys team that absolutely handled them. Next, off to the Black Hole to face a desperate Raiders team that lost a game because of their kicker this week. Uh-oh.
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS 31, SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS 10: And the Niners are the impetus for the second half of this week’s title. At 0-3, they’re fortunate to be in the worst division in the NFL and therefore still in it. But they fired Offensive Coordinator Jimmy Raye this morning, their quarterback apparently refuses to put two consecutive solid performances together, and they just got rolled on the road by an opponent that three weeks ago the entire football world outside of Kansas City believed was inferior. The Chiefs stuffed the Niners offense all day, and San Francisco’s allegedly elite defense gave up a bunch of points to an offense that had not been sustaining drives. As impressed as I was by the Monday Night game (sans turnovers) against New Orleans, it all just got cancelled out. These guys are probably done, and with all the chaos at Candlestick, I know more than one Niners fan who hopes Mike Singletary’s tenure at the helm is, as well. Meanwhile, I owe the Kansas City Chiefs an apology. They clearly have a game plan (strangely devoid of Jamaal Charles though it has been), buy-in from the team, and execution of an increasingly effective kind. I still have plenty of questions, but the direction is undeniable. The Chiefs now have my full attention.
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS 27, SAN DIEGO CHARGERS 20: Yes, as a matter of fact, I will take instant credit for calling this one. I was even close on the score, having predicted a 23-21 Seahawks victory. My reasoning was that the Seahawks had things that the Chiefs already proved the Chargers struggled with, and the Chargers proved me dead right. Someday, I assume they will do so again by replacing Norv Turner, the NFL’s Mr. October. How many times can a team come out flat in September and awkwardly fold in January before someone notices a pattern around here? Just awful. Meanwhile, Pete Carroll is winning over his players and the Seahawks still have the baddest 12th Man in the NFL. Leon Washington’s two kickoff returns covered some warts on offense and defense, but it’s a three-phase game, folks. I like what I’m seeing in the “find a way to win” department. The Seahawks are 2-1 and are going to be heard from in an even-weaker-than-I-thought NFC West.
NEW YORK JETS 31, MIAMI DOLPHINS 23: What a game. In what I can only assume was a preview of fantastic battles for years to come, Mark Sanchez and Chad Henne went head to head with two fantastic defenses and performed like seasoned pros. This was a fun one to watch, and reaffirmed that the AFC East is going to be a wide-open battle all season long with three playoff quality teams. Sanchez’s maturation is one of the stories of the year, because let’s face it: if THAT defense has an offense to match, they’re just going to be tough to beat. That Dolphins team is no slouch, and the Jets went to their house and won in prime time. He’s still going to have some ugly moments (like that pathetic hand off to a defensive lineman who saved his hide by dropping it), but Sanchez is coming along. And apparently, so is the chemistry between Chad Henne and Brandon Marshall, who diced up the Jets’ Revisless secondary for a 10-166-1 line. Adding a top 5 wide receiver to a team with quality secondary receiving options and a strong run game makes a big difference. Miami can play with anybody.
CHICAGO BEARS 20, GREEN BAY PACKERS 17: SlopFest 2010. This game did not change my opinion about either of these teams, with one exception: the Packers need to upgrade the backfield depth, because Brandon Jackson and John Kuhn aren’t going to cut it. In short, Marshawn Lynch needs to be a Packer before the deadline. But I’m not at all impressed with the Bears’ victory, mostly because I view it more as a Packers loss. The Bears’ defense was solid, and Julius Peppers is an
animal. But Jay Cutler still throws up total garbage far too regularly, their receivers just aren’t difference-makers (aside from tight end Greg Olsen), and the Packers committed just over 7 million penalties to simply hand the game over. Well, that, and…who the hell punts to Devin Hester? More importantly, who does it again after he breaks a long one on his first opportunity? You lost the game by three lousy points. Probably would’ve helped to kick that out of bounds and hold them to a FG or less, don’t you think?
MINNESOTA VIKINGS 24, DETROIT LIONS 10: That unusually strong breeze you noticed was the entire state of Minnesota exhaling. They looked a little better, but I’m still not seeing a championship team here. The Lions are off to a tough start despite being obviously superior to the team they were running out there last year. Hang in there, Motor City.
BALTIMORE RAVENS 24, CLEVELAND BROWNS 17: I’ll say this for the Browns- they never cease to amaze me with their ability to find new and infuriating ways to lose. Eric Wright decided to employ the “I’m not really interested in being within 10 yards of Anquan Boldin” defense, which turned out to be ineffective. Q had three scores. Peyton Hillis and the gaping holes he ran through were the bright spot for the Browns. You have to wonder what a more dynamic back would’ve done with such room, but it’s impressive against a strong Ravens’ D, nonetheless. Meanwhile, Joe Flacco must’ve thoroughly enjoyed seeing Boldin running around free all day, and had his first big game of the season. But the Ravens still haven’t had a “put it all together” game, and they need one, but it’s not likely to come this Sunday at Heinz. Buckle up, Joe.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS 38, BUFFALO BILLS 30: The Bills have now committed to Not Trent Edwards as their starting quarterback, and appear to have noticed that CJ Spiller is on the roster. The electric rookie scored two touchdowns, one as a wideout and one as a returner. What say we get him the ball a few more times, Chan? The Bills hung tough but simply don’t have the horses to run a full sixty with the New England Patriots. The Pats offense is fine, but that defense is not up to Belichickian standards. There are some talented young players on that unit, but their inexperience still outweighs their talent often enough that it has to be concerning to the Hoodie.
ATLANTA FALCONS 27, NEW ORLEANS SAINTS 24: Scott Fujita’s favorite “fat punk kicker” blows a 29-yard chippie in overtime and the Falcons take advantage. This one was a battle throughout, though, and the Falcons served notice that they have no intention of simply conceding the NFC South to the defending Super Bowl Champs. Atlanta is physical and well coordinated on defense, and starting to show better balance on the offensive side of the ball. The Saints, on the other hand, still don’t really look right, and Reggie Bush’s injury is a big deal to that offense. How long does the average Super Bowl hangover last? Can’t wait for the rematch in the ATL.
TENNESSE TITANS 29, NEW YORK GIANTS 10: Here’s another one that merely confirmed for me what I already believed about the combatants. The Titans are a playoff contender and the Giants are talented at the skill positions on offense but lack their traditional dominance in the trenches on both sides of the ball, having grown older and slower. Not a good combination. Bad Eli showed up, and given that I think the Giants’ best chance to win is to chuck it around, it comes as no surprise to me that Bad Eli means a twenty-point loss for the G-Men. It’s going to be a long year for Big Blue. The Titans, however, have things to look forward to as long as #28 is in the backfield. Chris Johnson got back to business after a tough outing in Pittsburgh week 2, going for 125 yards and two scores.
PITTSBURGH STEELERS 38, TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS 13: The Pittsburgh Steelers have the best defense in the NFL. What a surprise. See, Tampa, that’s why you didn’t want to get too excited about your 2-0 start after wins over Cleveland and Carolina. That team you saw this weekend is what an NFL program is supposed to look like, and what you learned, if you’re paying attetion, is that you’ve got a long way to go.
CINCINNATI BENGALS 20, CAROLINA PANTHERS 7: This game was U-G-L-Y. Carson Palmer has simply never been the same guy since he got rolled up in the playoffs a few years back, and despite weapons all over the field the offense still looks out of rhythm. They’re not pounding it as effectively on the ground as they did a year ago, and the defense is on the field too much. But they’re still 2-1 and right in the hunt, so they have the opportunity to turn it up a notch. The 0-3 Panthers are already playing out the string. They just don’t know it yet.
ST. LOUIS RAMS 30, WASHINGTON REDSKINS 16: Sam Bradford gets his first win, which is good, but Steven Jackson got hurt, which isn’t. Jackson tweeted that it was just a sprain Sunday night, so hopefully he’s not out for too long. The Rams need him to have any chance to win games. The Redskins looked flat after a tough come-from-ahead loss against the Houston Texans week 2. They’d better get it together fast, because next up is a trip to Philly, where we will all be riveted to The Return of Donovan.
PHILADELPHIA EAGLES 28, JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS 3: So, apparently going with Michael Vick was the right decision. Vick handled every situation beautifully, made multiple unbelievable throws, and put the cherry on top with a 17-yard vintage Vick touchdown scamper. DeSean Jackson caught a touchdown, Jeremy Maclin caught two more, and the Eagles’ D shut down a Jacksonville attack largely devoid of talent, imagination, and attitude. But other than that they should be fine. I will say this for the Jags, however: Tyson Alualu was a fantastic draft choice at the number 10 slot, alleged pre-draft value be damned. The rookie D-lineman out of Cal is strong in both run and pass sets and is one of the few Jacksonville players who leaps off the screen.
INDIANAPOLIS COLTS 27, DENVER BRONCOS 13: Peyton Manning can throw it 57 times for 476 yards and have it be a good thing for his team. Kyle Orton can’t.
ARIZONA CARDINALS 24, OAKLAND RAIDERS 23: This one hurt for Raiders fans. If you draft a kicker in the first round and pay him a bajillion dollars, you expect him to make more than three of his six field goal tries on the day. And you damn sure expect him to make the 32-yarder at the gun. The Raiders have another tough one with the Texans coming to town this weekend, and a loss effectively ends their season. Houston can expect their best shot. Meanwhile, Arizona continues to prove that the decision to ignore better quarterbacking alternatives to Matt Leinart and Derek Anderson was also a self-sentence to irrelevance. Miraculously, they’re 2-1, and thanks to a miserable division they still have a shot at a playoff spot. Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good.