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WHAT IN THE WORLD?!? NFL Week 7 In Review

Another week of NFL madness almost in the books, with only an NFC East Monday Night battle between the ultra-desperate Dallas Cowboys and the better-than-we-thought New York Giants left to unfold. This week started off crazier than most. The Bills got up big early on the Ravens before succumbing to superiority, the Browns hammered the defending Super Bowl Champion Saints into submission, #4 brought out some magic but couldn’t get it done in what we can only assume will be his final trip to Lambeau, and the Steelers got the rulebook bounce to eeek out a win in Miami. Let’s bounce around the league for a few notes and observations from each game.

The Eagles didn't want to cover Kenny Britt.

TENNESSEE TITANS 37, PHILADELPHIA EAGLES 19: Anyone else starting to think the NFC has no hope whatsoever of winning the Super Bowl this year? The Eagles looked on point a week ago in a thrashing of the Falcons. This week, they looked disinterested and lost, failing to make obvious adjustments in an ugly loss to the apparently dangerous Titans. Kenny Britt shook off his mid-week barfight benching to score three TD’s as the Titans beat a good team easily without a big Chris Johnson performance. This should tell us something. This team is legit.

GREEN BAY PACKERS 28, MINNESOTA VIKINGS 24: Too soon to have Wikipedia change the entry for “Regret” to include a big picture of Brett Favre? The ankle got hammered again and looks like it’s back to how it was in March, Favre can’t stop throwing bad INT’s, and there is a silicone-infested pox on his house. Things aren’t going well for the Ol’ Gunslinger. Tonight he looked like Cap Rooney trying to come back- he had happy feet and threw panic garbage up into the blue. This swan song ain’t going the way he envisioned it when the boys came down to the ranch to get him. The Pack needed this one to get back on track, and now have control in that division. (No, I don’t care that the Bears have the same number of wins.) Still plenty to iron out, and they obviously miss their injured stars, but they’re going to compete in the NFC just like we thought they were.

CLEVELAND BROWNS 30,  NEW ORLEANS SAINTS 17: Hang on, I’ll be right back. I’m just checking for frogs falling from the sky. And locusts. I expect both momentarily.

PITTSBURGH STEELERS 23, MIAMI DOLPHINS 22: Hmmmmm. Awfully nice break they got there. But a win is a win, and the Steelers did it again. There’s no “deserve” column in the standings. This isn’t the BCS.

ATLANTA FALCONS 39, CINCINNATI BENGALS 32: Carson Palmer threw for over 400 yards. Great. They were down 17-0. Am I supposed to be impressed that he then was able to chuck it around after it meant little? And hey, Bengals: Roddy White is still open. How is it that NFL teams haven’t figured this out yet? Cover him. With 2 guys. All the time. Matt Ryan barely even bothers to look at anyone else. 12 catches, 201 yards, 2 TD’s and a 2-point conversion that made him look like a 7th-grader playing with 2nd-graders. The Bengals, well…they pretty much just reek. Ced Benson once again couldn’t do much, the defense played horrible football all the way around, and the Bengals were down early and thus out of it by halftime. Forget the score. The Mouthy Twins made plays all day, but it wasn’t nearly enough. Most NFL teams aren’t good enough to spot a playoff contender 17 points and have any hope of winning. And the Bengals aren’t as good as most NFL teams. True story.

WASHINGTON REDSKINS 17, CHICAGO BEARS 14: I’d like to thank the Bears and Redskins for three hours of hideously unwatchable football. Four picks for DeAngelo Hall and the Redskins get a W (As in, “Wow. We really get a win for that?”) Who here has seen Jay Cutler and Jeff George in the same place before? Can I get one of those neat Camaro n’ mullet mustaches superimposed on a picture of Cutler just to be sure? I think we may have a Finkle-and-Einhorn kind of thing going on here. The Bears are just awful on offense. It’s like Cutler is in a race with the offensive line to see which happens first: he throws the final backbreaking pick, or they chaperone some pleasantly-surprised defensive lineman in to finally break Cutler’s back.

Darren McFadden looked like a former #1 overall pick in Denver on Sunday.

OAKLAND RAIDERS 59, DENVER BRONCOS 14: There are some really gross things happening in the Davis Estates this evening, I fear. Really gross. Look, if Darren McFadden plays like that, the Raiders aren’t losing another game. But I’m guessing we’re likely to see a lot of big days against that Broncos’ run defense. Small, weak and slow is no way to go through life in the NFL, boys. Also, it was nice to see Kyle Orton remember that he is, in fact, Kyle Orton. Change is scary, and that one was freaking me the hell out.

BALTIMORE RAVENS 37, BUFFALO BILLS 34: To say that the Ravens almost choked is the obvious observation here, but the fact of the matter is that the Buffalo Bills played one hell of a football game and were simply constrained by their limitations, most notably a dearth quality NFL players. But Lee Evans and Steve Johnson are certainly 2 of them, and Ryan Fitzpatrick at least played one on TV this weekend. The Bills just missed getting a huge first win, and if not for a questionable non-whistle on the clinching Ray Lewis strip of Shawn Nelson, they might have pulled it out in overtime. Tough way to go out. Despite the frightening adventure, the Ravens can take pride in coming back from way down.

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS 23, SAN DIEGO CHARGERS 20: Personally, I think that classic song from The Wizard of Oz said it best: “Turnovers and penalties and brain farts, oh my!” I’ll ask it again, though it appears to be largely for the benefit of my sanity: Why does Norv Turner still have this (or any) head coaching job in the NFL? I don’t get it. Offensive coordinators make good money too, Norv. Good cross-country win for the Patriots, who are now 2-0 After Randy. Just saying. If they keep winning, Mr. Brady needs to be in the MVP conversation.

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS 22, ARIZONA CARDINALS 10: Nobody goes into the Seahawks’ house and gets a win. Nobody! That defense is really turning into something. They’re extremely stout against the run, and opportunistic in the passing game, with rookie safety and Sickness favorite Earl Thomas getting yet another pick in this one. Meanwhile, they started to work Marshawn Lynch a bit more, and Big Mike Williams caught 11 balls and a score. I like what I’m seeing in Seattle.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS 18, ST. LOUIS RAMS 17. Josh Freeman does it again in the 4th quarter. This kid has that thing, believe you me. He also has Mike Williams, who made more than one fantastic bail-out catch to save Freeman’s bacon. The defense did enough, and Cadillac Williams got open for the winning score from Freeman, who has now done this 5 times in his brief NFL career. In related news, who the hell is going to want that Panthers’ job when they fire John Fox? Atlanta, New Orleans and now the Bucs look to be a team on the rise…that division is a quiet monster. A tough loss for the Rams, but no reason to hang their heads. A young football team is going to lose games like that, especially on the road.

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS 42, JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS 20. The Jaguars lost by more than 22 points for the fourth time this season. That’s not good. The Chiefs are, though. They’re using Dexter McCluster and Jamaal Charles more, Dwayne Bowe is coming to life, and Matt Cassel even looks vaguely comfortable running the offense. The defense and special teams are making plays, and the schedule sets up nicely. The Chiefs have the inside track on the Raiders in the AFC West.

CAROLINA PANTHERS 23, SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS 20: We’re sending the Broncos and Niners over to London this week? I’m not even sure which joke to use. Is it (1) “We want them to like NFL football, right?” Or, perhaps (2) “Payback for the whole ‘Boston Massacre’ thing, is it?” Or maybe (3) “What, did the Queen run out of knitting associates for tea and crumpets next week?” Whatever. David Gettis became this week’s Danario Alexander, Alex Smith fell down and got a boo-boo, and the Niners lost to a previously winless Panthers team that sucks. Real bad. The Niners are clearly on the Andrew Luck plan at this point.

THESE TEAMS LOOKED AMAZING ON BYE: NEW YORK JETS, HOUSTON TEXANS, DETROIT LIONS, INDIANAPOLIS COLTS

THEY JUST KNOW HOW TO WIN: NFL POWER RANKINGS

1.  PITTSBURGH STEELERS: That was all I needed to see to know they’d be undefeated if Ben had been playing all year.

Mike Tomlin has the Steelers looking and feeling good.

2. NEW YORK JETS: 5-1 going into the bye is a good start, but considering the bar they set for themselves, it doesn’t mean much yet. It wasn’t pretty in Denver, but they found a way to win.

3. BALTIMORE RAVENS: I still think they’re better than the Pats, but that’s a game they should have won and they didn’t. Why should we believe it’ll be different under the January pressure?

4. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS: That was a great win for a team that probably has some guys who needed to know they could do it without Randy Moss. Belichick and Brady ride again.

5. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES: OK, now what? Andy’s right- it’s a good problem to have.

6. NEW YORK GIANTS: It doesn’t sound fancy, but a touchdown per quarter will get you a lot of wins.

7. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS: Losers of two straight and I don’t care. They’re dangerous.

8. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS: That was very nearly a loss. This team is not what it once was, and it is losing guys. If Peyton gets anywhere deep with this squad, it will be one of his best performances yet.

9. ATLANTA FALCONS: That was a disconcerting loss to the Eagles, but let’s see how they rebound. The Eagles were hitting on all cylinders. These things happen.

10. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS: A beatdown of the Bucs should have them back on the right track. Helps that the Browns are coming into town.

11. TENNESSEE TITANS: A good “take care of business” win over the helpless Jags.

12. MIAMI DOLPHINS: I’m not sure what to make of a victory over the depleted Packers. But I think the Dolphins have a shot to jump up

13. HOUSTON TEXANS: I tiptoe, with extreme caution, back in.

14. WASHINGTON REDSKINS: Apparently Mike Shanahan packed the smoke and mirrors. Good thing he found Brian Orakpo waiting in DC.

15. GREEN BAY PACKERS: My, how the mighty have fallen. And it’s super-tenuous.

16. MINNESOTA VIKINGS: They’ll fight it out for NFC North supremacy in the latest episode of the Favre Bowl.

17. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS: They get a boost based on Marshawn Lynch, the New and Improved Big Fat Mike Williams, and a defense that gets it.

18. TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS: I’m excusing the blowout loss to the Saints. Let’s see how they handle it.

19. ARIZONA CARDINALS: I’m assuming they’ll get it together coming off the bye. If they don’t, they’ll drop plenty.

I have seen the future, and it's name is Sam.

20. ST. LOUIS RAMS: Say whatever you want. That team is 3-3, has a good quarterback and a decent defense.

21. CHICAGO BEARS: Consider this a compliment.

22. DALLAS COWBOYS: What? Win a game. Seriously.

23. SAN DIEGO CHARGERS: This is me waiting!…this is me waiting.

24. DENVER BRONCOS: Need some TD’s, fellas.

25. CLEVELAND BROWNS: Colt McCoy has my full attention.

26. CINCINNATI BENGALS: Yyyyyup. Still here.

27. SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS: Nope. Not remotely impressed.

28. OAKLAND RAIDERS: I give up.

29. DETROIT LIONS: Just not good enough yet to match up with the better teams in the NFL.

30. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS: Thaaaat’s more like it.

31. CAROLINA PANTHERS: Back to Matt Moore. That should help.

32. BUFFALO BILLS: Unlikely to see 31 in 2010.

SWEATING BULLETS AND SPINNING: Week 7 NFL Picks & Preview

Now or never, boys. And maybe never regardless.

I think the good doctor said it best in “Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas,” when he said “what’s the score here? what’s next?” Having watched things unfold these past few weeks in the NFL, I feel like I just walked into a horribly-carpeted, sensory assault and battery of a casino room, and the combination of the mescaline and acid is really starting to mess with my mind. I can’t tell who’s real and who’s a figment of my imagination, everything I see seems to be moving and growing and slithering and disappearing, and frankly, I’m starting to freak out a little bit. Are the Giants and Chiefs really this good? Are the Cowboys really this bad? Did the Browns really complete forward passes last week? At least the Bills and Steelers continue to provide some reality, assuring me that things really remain as they’ve always been. Aw, man, homey…my mind’s playin’ tricks on me.

THE FOOTBALLSICKNESS.COM GAME OF THE WEEK FOUR PACK

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES AT TENNESSEE TITANS: The Eagles last week showed that on their good days, they are ready to compete with anyone. Kevin Kolb was smooth and efficient but this time found his big play mojo, and LeSean McCoy continued to provide an explosive and stabilizing presence as Philly ran the Falcons off the Linc field. Of course, Kolb also threw DeSean Jackson into an oncoming train, so there are things to work on. The Titans had an even easier win, blowing out the pathetic Jaguars on Monday Night Football (what the hell happened there, ESPN? You’ve gotten the MNF matchups pretty right-on, but who green-lit the Jaguars for prime time? Bad call.) It should be an interesting contrast of styles between the pass-happy Eagles offense and the strong Tennessee pass D. On the flip, Chris Johnson is no doubt licking his chops to see an Eagles’ D that ranks 22nd against the run. Looking forward to this one. EAGLES 24, TITANS 20.

NEW YORK GIANTS AT DALLAS COWBOYS: I remember this matchup from last year vividly, because I watched it with my dad, brother and a couple friends in the sports book at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. We stopped the plane in Vegas for a little dinner on our way home from the Broncos-Browns tilt in Denver during week 2.  (Yes, as a matter of fact, we do have that.) The Sunday Night battle between the Giants and Cowboys went back and forth, we caught a glimpse of Charles Barkley heading to dinner, and New York won a nail-biter 33-31. Which actually sounds about right to me for this one. The Giants are playing sound football and making quality adjustments. The Cowboys are as desperate as it gets, and even though they’re already done in my book, they’ll be done in everyone’s if they lose this one. They would be awfully, awfully good if they could just stop shooting themselves in the face. But they can’t. GIANTS 33, COWBOYS 31.

PITTSBURGH STEELERS AT MIAMI DOLPHINS: This should be a good one between two physical, old school teams led by 3-4 defenses that get after the opposing quarterback.  Cameron Wake is making a name for himself as the new Dolphin sack monster, and Brandon Marshall has added a dimension to that offense that renders them complete. The Steelers, though, are playing dominant defense. They’ll let Marshall get some of his, but ultimately they’re just too strong on defense. Big Ben’s return takes them to a whole other level, one that most NFL teams in 2010 just can’t reach. That includes the Dolphins. STEELERS 23, DOLPHINS 17.

MINNESOTA VIKINGS AT GREEN BAY PACKERS: Should be fascinating to see how the Lambeau set treats the latest Favrian drama unfolding in Minnesota. Both teams simply gotta have this one, so it should be a fun, old school battle between two of the old guard. The Packers have been beset on all sides with key injuries, with Jermichael Finley, Nick Barnett, and Ryan Grant among others down for the year. They need to get things stabilized before this season is set adrift on the Sea of 9-7. The Vikings, meanwhile, have an opportunity here to take back the division they won last year and appeared to have summarily conceded with their losing ways to open 2010. But the Packers’ misfortune, the Lions’ rebuilding project, and the Bears’ dearth of offensive lineman who block people means the Vikings are still very much in it. And now they have Randy Moss and Sidney Rice might be coming back in a couple weeks. They’re stacked. The only question now is if they can flip the switch. I think Moss has his first big game back with the Vikes against a team he has always enjoyed dominating. VIKINGS 24, PACKERS 23.

THE OTHER STUFF

CLEVELAND BROWNS AT NEW ORLEANS SAINTS: Colt McCoy was poised and accurate in his debut at Pittsburgh against Dick LeBeau’s blitz-happy, confusing defense. His reward? A trip to the Superdome to face Gregg Williams’ quarterback mauling turnover machine featuring The Jon Vilma Bruise Explosion. The Browns will try to control the ball on the ground and with the quick passing game in order to protect both McCoy and their defense. Speaking of which, I wonder how long it took Drew Brees to find Eric Wright’s #21 on film. The Surgeon is going to come out and just pick the Browns apart. I can already see this one. They couldn’t cover anybody when they played Tampa, so I have no reason to believe the Saints machine will even feel the bump as they speed over the Browns along their road back to the playoffs.  SAINTS 27, BROWNS 17.

CINCINNATI BENGALS AT ATLANTA FALCONS: Is there a bigger paper tiger in the league right now than the Bengals? Aside from Dallas, nobody is doing less with more right now. The chemistry experiment has thus far led to a disappointing fizzle, and if they keep losing, things will get unstable. In that event, best to get as far from northern Kentucky as possible. The Falcons are looking to bounce back after the Eagles were less than hospitable on Sunday, and get to return home to the Georgia Dome where Matt Ryan has been significantly better than on the road thus far in his career. I think the Bengals play well out of the bye, but the Falcons are the better team playing at home. FALCONS 27, BENGALS 20.

WASHINGTON REDSKINS AT CHICAGO BEARS: If you’ve been following along, you know I don’t think the Bears are any good. They can beat you up on defense but since they’ve made the strategic decision to send 10 guys into the pattern on offense they’ve been having trouble keeping Jay Cutler upright. The Redskins are a much more complete team. They’re not particularly outstanding at any one thing and they lack playmakers on offense, but they’re tough, physical, experienced and well coached. It’s a tough game going into Soldier Field, but if Brian Orakpo doesn’t eat Jay Cutler’s face like a wolverine, the Bears need to consider that a victory. REDSKINS 23, BEARS 20.

OAKLAND RAIDERS AT DENVER BRONCOS: This traditionally heated rivalry will contain all the hatred but none of the juice this year, as both teams are struggling to establish a rhythm. The Raiders haven’t gotten much ‘up’ from their quarterback upgrade, and the Broncos can throw it around for all kinds of yards but have trouble scoring touchdowns. Which, for you newcomers, can be a problem if your goal is to win football games. I’m no at all sure what to expect here in a division matchup that tends to render records less relevant. I continue to expect the Raiders to play better consistently but they haven’t done it. The Broncos are at home, and they seem to play reasonably well for longer stretches than the Raiders, so I guess I’ll take them. Yuck. BRONCOS 27, RAIDERS 24.

BUFFALO BILLS AT BALTIMORE RAVENS: Is there a mercy rule in the NFL? RAVENS 31, BILLS 10.

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS AT SAN DIEGO CHARGERS: If you missed it, let’s just say I’ve been somewhat critical of Norv Turner as head coach of the Super Chargers. That isn’t likely to change this week, as the Pats should dominate a disheveled Bolts squad. Show me something, Chargers, and then maybe you’ll get some respect here. Until then, however, it’s PATRIOTS 31, CHARGERS 21.

ARIZONA CARDINALS AT SEATTLE SEAHAWKS: Suddenly, this is a battle between the two best teams in the NFC West. Which admittedly is like being the two tallest munchkins, but a division title is a division title. Or at least, that’s what one of those two teams will be saying to convince themselves they can win that opening round playoff game. I think the Seahawks are the better team at the moment, and I know they have the biggest advantage in this game: the 12th Man of Qwest Field. SEAHAWKS 24, CARDINALS 23.

ST. LOUIS RAMS AT TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS: If you didn’t know this was the Bucs and the Rams, this would be a fascinating matchup, so just pretend it’s someone else and check this one out. There’s a lot to watch. Two young quarterbacks on the rise with intriguing young receivers. The Bucs have the better record, but there are reasons they need to be concerned about this game. The beast that is Steven Jackson should feast on the 31st-ranked Bucs run defense, and Sam Bradford appears to have found a new friend in Danario Alexander, who whether you’ve heard of him or not is still big and fast.  The Bucs got lambasted by the Saints last week, so this will be a good test. Can they get back up for a team that will not roll over but should probably be a win at home for Tampa? The Rams haven’t played well on the road yet, and the Bucs need this one. I’ll take the home team. BUCS 20, RAMS 17.

JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS AT KANSAS CITY CHIEFS: The Jags are bad, they’re on a short week, they’re going on the road to Arrowhead Stadium, one of the toughest challenges in the NFL, and the Chiefs are really pretty damn good. This is the beat-down the Chiefs have been laying in the weeds waiting to drop on someone. CHIEFS 34, JAGUARS 16.

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS at CAROLINA PANTHERS: If you want to see a game dominated by stagnant offense caused by atrocious quarterback play, this is the contest for you. NINERS 23, PANTHERS 16.

ON BYE: DETROIT LIONS, HOUSTON TEXANS, INDIANAPOLIS COLTS, NEW YORK JETS

CLEAR!! (Beep…beep…beep…) NFL Week 6 In Review

FOOTBALLSICKNESS.COM NFL GAME OF THE WEEK

You didn't really think these guys didn't have a plan for life after Moss, did you?

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS 23, BALTIMORE RAVENS 20. Well, that went about as I expected, having predicted a 27-24 Pats victory. The Patriots came out and went ball control with their passing game, with Handsome Tom distributing efficiently to his rookie tight ends, Wes Welker and the Welkerettes, and re-addition Deion Branch announced his return with authority and a touchdown.  The Ravens didn’t play their best game, bottom line, and they probably still should have won it. I would pick them on a neutral field. But I think Tom Brady said it best Monday morning when he said, “they talk an awful lot for beating us one time in nine years.”

HOUSTON TEXANS 35, KANSAS CITY CHIEFS 31: For the second straight week, I came away more impressed with the Chiefs after a game that they lost. I’m off the fence- this team is for real, and I think they’re going to win that AFC West division in a walk. They are dominating in the running game, falling 7 Jamaal Charles rushing yards from having two backs with 100 each against the Texans. Matt Cassel played a little better, and Dwayne Bowe caught the ball for a change. I still think Charles needs to see more touches, but it’s hard to argue with a formula that’s working. Add another good draft or two and avoid big injuries, and we could be looking at one of the best teams of the new decade.  The Texans, meanwhile, came back in the fourth quarter impressively to win one they absolutely had to have. That’s the sign of a good team. But they’re not exactly repeating that opening performance against the Colts on a weekly basis, either. They’ve been a good team for awhile. Are they any better in 2010? That’s still the question.

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES 31, ATLANTA FALCONS 17: Evidently we got a tad ahead of ourselves with the whole “the Falcons are the best team in the NFC and the Eagles haven’t put it all together” thing. Philly put it all together this week, with Kevin Kolb doing everything possible to throw the Eagles back into a quarterback controversy. The guy played a near perfect game. How this all plays out for the rest of 2010 and where they end up in 2011 is a fascinating storyline. But for now, the Eagles have a real nice problem on their hands. The Falcons laid a bit of an egg on the road, but they really just ran into a Philly team ready to dominate. A good first game back for Michael Jenkins but it didn’t appear to help the offensive cohesiveness.

MINNESOTA VIKINGS 24, DALLAS COWBOYS 21. The downward spiral continues for the Cowboys, and if you saw the video of Tony Romo after the game with his head in his hands, you know they’re gripping hard down there in Dallas. The Cowboys are 1-4, and barring a perfect storm of miracles, they’re already done for 2010. They’re not irrelevant, because they are still a team full of talent capable of spoiling things for any of the contenders. But make no mistake- that’s now their role. This team ain’t winning 9 of their next 11. The Vikings, meanwhile, now have a chance to rise from the grave like Night of the Living Dead. Their division is full of holes, with the Packers suffering a rash of season-ending injuries to key players, the Lions still rebuilding, and the Bears only fielding a defense each week. They need to string some wins together, but they’re back in the game for now. Will the Favre drama derail the comeback or fuel it?

NEW YORK JETS 24, DENVER BRONCOS 20: Not a particularly impressive performance by the J-E-T-S, and Sanchez finally threw his picks. But they’re 5-1 going into their bye, and just like Rex wanted, they lead the league in “F*$%’in WINS!” As best I can tell (and this may be diplomatic), the Broncos are the definition of a middle-of-the-pack team. They’re not deep enough anywhere other than wide receiver to be a real factor over the long haul.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS 31, TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS 6: See, Bucs fans? That’s why I didn’t bump you up too high in the power rankings despite the nice early season record. You’re just not that good yet. Some nice young pieces, but that’s all it is. The Saints are a powerhouse even if they haven’t really shown it in 2010. This was a little more like it. They’re clearly missing Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas, so it says a lot that they can still go dominate a division rival in a must-win game.

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS  27, WASHINGTON REDSKINS 24: That’s a BIG win for the Colts. They went on the road and beat a more physical team in a game they needed. It sure helps to have #18 back there doing his thing. The Redskins got a big performance from longtime Shanahan project Ryan Torain, who may have played Clinton Portis out of a starting job, and Anthony Armstrong continued to develop his chemistry with DMac5. But they couldn’t stop the Colts when it mattered most and Pierre Garcon toasted that suspect secondary for a big play at the outset that turned out to be the difference in the game.

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS 17, OAKLAND RAIDERS 9: I should’ve seen this one coming because nobody was more desperate than the Niners. I thought the Raiders had figured some things out in that win over the Chargers, but clearly they’re just not that good. They don’t seem to have a consistent plan on offense, or if they do, their players aren’t doing much of a job of execution. I can’t really put my finger on the problem, but I assume it means Tom Cable is hating life right about now. The Niners finally made it to the party! Of course, not unlike Milton Waddams, they’ve already missed out on all the cake and festivities. The only thing they can do now is set the building on fire and head for the tropics with an envelope full of cash.

MIAMI DOLPHINS 23, AT GREEN BAY PACKERS 20: The Dolphins get a quality win against a tough (if badly depleted by injury) NFC opponent. I think this is one of those teams that is better than most of us realize, because they’re always going to play 3rd ESPN fiddle to the Pats and Jets. Criticize Chad Henne’s play all you want…they’re winning, and he’s making use of their weapons. In related news, I think we can now safely dispense with the myth that somehow Brandon Marshall isn’t the same 100-catch Beast just because Miami considers the power run game the foundation of the offense. (I already judged those who bought that particular myth suspicious, anyway.)  The Packers seem to be intent on emulating their division mates in Chicago when it comes to pass protection, which seems to me a rather unsound plan. They’re still good, but it’s going to be awfully tough to absorb the losses that are mounting up. It’s getting ugly out there.

ST. LOUIS RAMS 20, SAN DIEGO CHARGERS 17: Norv Turner, ladies and gentlemen. “I am Jack’s complete lack of surprise.” Congratulations to the Rams on the Sam Bradford selection, which has instantly transformed their franchise from horrible garbage to dangerous sleeper. The guy just produces no matter who they put out there to catch the ball. This week, it was Danario Alexander, a physical prototype of the outside threat who happens to be just off the practice squad. The Rams’ practice squad, mind you. And Sam Bradford made him look like an All-Pro. Just like he did previously with Laurent Robinson and Mark Clayton. Are we seeing the inception of a “Bradford Aura?”

Colt McCoy got the start against the Steelers and ran with it.

PITTSBURGH STEELERS 28, CLEVELAND BROWNS 10. I was close- called it 27-13, Steelers. But what I will remember about this game was, of course, Colt McCoy performing admirably, if at times like the rookie he is, against an outstanding and intimidating Steelers defense that was fresh coming out of a bye. McCoy outplayed both veterans who began the season above him on the depth chart, and the Browns need to give him the ball and not look back. Your’e 1-5. Find out what you have so you know whether you need to make a run at some Luck in April. The Steelers are really, really good, because they played a mediocre game and it was never in doubt. The Sausage King of Pittsburgh looked rusty at times but still made the big plays that have become his trademark over the years. These guys can win it all.

NEW YORK GIANTS 28, DETROIT LIONS 20. The Giants have put together three nice wins in a row and are making noise. Rumors of their demise appear to have been somewhat exaggerated. Of course, they were playing the Lions. We at the Sickness like the Lions’ direction, but we’ve said it a lot: they’re just not there yet. And if they’re going to get there, they really need to figure out how to protect their QB. Having lost Matthew Stafford to a mauling just like last year, this week they lost backup Shaun Hill to a big hit that looked like it destroyed his knee but only smashed his wrist as he fell. Down to #3 Drew Stanton until Stafford returns, this needs to be priority #1 for the Lions.

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS 23, CHICAGO BEARS 20: I got the score right, just in reverse. Regardless, I assume all the whining I’ve been hearing from Bears fans about how I’m underrating them will now cease and desist. Just accept it: the Bears aren’t very good, particularly on offense. When you can’t control the ball, even a dominant defense can look ordinary. Meanwhile, the Seahawks are quietly putting together more consistent performances and seem to be finding their stride, at least as such things go among the NFC West. Marshawn Lynch is a nice addition, and I like the guts to make Big Mike Williams their #1 guy and running with it. If he’s right, he’s a problem for any defense, and the Seahawks have nice complimentary pieces if he’s that guy. This isn’t anywhere near set in stone, but I now think they’re the most likely NFC West champ.

TENNESSEE TITANS 30, JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS 3. It’s like I’ve been saying. The Titans are a playoff team, and the Jaguars suck. Real bad.

THESE TEAMS ALL LOOKED AS BAD AS EVER ON BYE: ARIZONA CARDINALS, BUFFALO BILLS, CAROLINA PANTHERS, CINCINNATI BENGALS.

NFL WEEK 4 IN REVIEW

Another week of drama in the game that never lets us down, the NFL. Kind of a strange one this time. The Eagles enjoyed a seasons’ worth of drama and turmoil in the course of a week, the lowly Jags beat the Colts on a 59-yard field goal, the Niners still can’t win, the Jets and Ravens are asserting themselves, and the NFC is wide open. Let’s have a spin around the league and I’ll tell you what I saw on Sunday as we look forward to a fun Patriots-Dolphins Monday Night Football matchup.

BALTIMORE RAVENS 17, PITTSBURGH STEELERS 14: Ravens win on a classic fourth-quarter drive led by Joe Flacco. Beautifully done. Up to that point, neither team could muster much, to nobody’s surprise. Another physical battle that lived up to its billing. The Ravens clearly missed Ray Rice a bit, and the Ravens clearly missed Big Ben in this game more than the previous three combined. I think maybe the rematch will be more enlightening, if not more exciting. One thing I’m sure of after these past two weeks: the AFC North is just going to beat itself up, all year long.

From 60 to 0 in .3 seconds.

WASHINGTON REDSKINS 17, PHILADELPHIA EAGLES 12: What a whirlwind week for the Philadelphia Eagles. After all that, Michael Vick’s starting tenure lasted a handful of plays before he got sandwiched by two Redskins defenders and suffered what must be an incredibly painful cartilage injury in his upper chest/rib area. I’m not a doctor, but that’s going to be tough to play with even if he’s able. Merrill Hoge, who had broken ribs and rib cartilage injuries suggested today that the latter were infinitely more painful and affect every aspect of your life. I wonder what throwing a football, which extends your rib cartilage to its limit, feels like? I’m thinking Kevn Kolb has his job back for awhile. And that doesn’t look like a good thing so far. The Redskins didn’t look significantly better, and Donovan McNabb didn’t look fantastic in his return to the Linc. But he won, and he enjoyed a heartwarming standing ovation from the Eagles faithful, whom I must praise for the class move. Well done. You may boo him from now on when he comes in, but that needed to happen, and it was good to see.

HOUSTON TEXANS AT OAKLAND RAIDERS: So much for all that improvement in the Bay Area I expected prior to the season. The Raiders and Niners are a combined 1-7 and playing out the string a week into October. I can’t put my finger on what’s wrong with the Raiders. Part of it is injuries, as they rarely seem to start the same lineup twice. A big part of it is quarterback play, but Bruce Gradkowski has been fine. The defense has been underwhelming but not atrocious. Whatever it is, 0-4 is 0-4, and there’s not much else to say. The Texans impressed me by putting a bad loss against the Cowboys behind them, going on the road and winning against a team they needed to beat if they consider themselves a playoff team. Arian Foster shrugged off a first quarter benching to rush for another 131 yards on just 16 carries. Dude is legit.

CLEVELAND BROWNS 23, CINCINNATI BENGALS 17: I called it 23-20 Browns, so I’m starting to feel like I know these two teams pretty well. The Browns are making it known that they’re getting off the bus running at you with Peyton Hillis and a dominant offensive line, and if you don’t stop it, neither will they. I like it.  The defense is starting to come together, made some big plays this week, and if they could find Eric Wright might really be onto something. The Bengals are not running the ball as they did a year ago, and the passing game is inconsistent. Cincinnati is a pretty good team, but the thought that their impressive 6-0 record in the division in 2009 rendered them permanently on par with the Steelers and Ravens is obvious bunk.

NEW YORK JETS 38, BUFFALO BILLS 14: The Jets are going to be ranked #1 in my power rankings this week, because nobody has impressed me as thoroughly on both sides of the ball. Look, in a league filled with mediocrity and playing down to lesser teams, the Jets went up to Buffalo and swiftly handled business. I give credit for that, because that’s what championship teams do. Quarterbacks also get credit for going a quarter of the season without throwing a single interception, as Mark Sanchez has done. Keep doubting, doubters. These guys are for real. The Bills are also for real, but in the exact opposite way.  Until CJ Spiller gets more than 5 touches per game, I refuse to take them seriously. Welcome to the NFL cellar, Buffalo.

SAN DIEGO CHARGERS 41, CARDINALS 10. Here’s what I wrote in last week’s preview before predicting a 31-17 Chargers victory: “I’d say now is about the time for the Chargers to wake up. Philip Rivers is not letting Derek Anderson come to the Q and beat him. No way, no how.”  So, yeah. The Chargers are just a vastly superior team. But Anderson also added to the fascinating narrative that is The Story of How Matt Leinart Destroyed A Super Bowl Team. Anderson continued playing not unlike Derek Anderson, and was eventually replaced by rookie Max Hall. Time to go extra run-heavy in the desert.

DENVER BRONCOS 26, TENNESSEE TITANS 20: Apparently I don’t have a good enough feel for either of these teams yet. As of now, they’re firmly in the Pete Rozelle Memorial Mediocrity Division. They look like the result of a league set up to encourage everyone to finish 8-8.  The Broncos can really throw it around, and that will keep them competitive. I watched it, but I’m still not sure how the Titans managed to lose this game. Both teams lack consistency, but both can be explosive at times and will each therefore win their share of games.

JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS 31, INDIANAPOLIS COLTS 28: I’m sticking with the “the Colts will be fine as long as they’ve got #18” story for now, but they’ve got real problems with the run defense. They can’t stop anybody. Then again, they won a Super Bowl one time while we said that about them. They’ll be fine. But 0-2 in the division means it’s not going to be as easy as in years past. The Jags win their Super Bowl on a 58-yarder gun shot by Josh Scobee after MoJo runs wild and Marcedes Lewis continued to develop as a threat with a touchdown catch. As Deion said after the game, “that’s a big man catching the football right there.”

(Sidenote: My high school, Edison High of Huntington Beach, California, played against Marcedes Lewis’ in the 2001 regional title game. A bunch of friends and I attended. Lewis was one of a number of Division I & NFL players on that Long Beach Poly team. Winston Justice, Darnell Bing, Manny Wright and a phenom called Hershel Dennis all went to SC, and the first two are NFL players. Wright was, now plays in the Arena League. Lewis played tight end and defensive end and was unstoppable at each. He went to UCLA. And you may have heard about one of their wide receivers, who also returned punts. His name was DeSean Jackson. I wonder what happened to that kid. He was impressive. Suffice it to say, Long Beach Poly won that game, with Edison keeping it a respectable 42-28 final.)

NEW YORK GIANTS 17, CHICAGO BEARS 3. To paraphrase Dennis Green, ‘The Bears are who I thought they were!” In short, they can’t block a soul on offense and that’s going to be the death of them. The Martz-Cutler combination is an interception waiting to happen in the first place, and that embarrassing sieve of an offensive line is going to make it much, much worse. And the receivers aren’t helping, because they’re not open early enough for Cutler to get rid of it. The Giants aren’t an elite defense anymore, by the way, but they ate Cutler’s face and made some good progress on Todd Collins on their way to ten sacks. You just can’t win like that, and I’ll say it again: the Bears are 1-3 in my mind. They get credit only for the Cowboys win, which was quality. And the defense is fantastic. This is all on the offense. A good must-win by the Giants, who had the perfect game plan on both sides of the ball.

GREEN BAY PACKERS 28, DETROIT LIONS 26: The poor Detroit Lions and their fans. Another heart breaking loss that they just didn’t have enough strength, stamina or time to pull out. But another high draft pick wouldn’t hurt them, especially if they keep taking good ones like Ndamukong Suh, Louis Delmas, Matthew Stafford Calvin Johnson and Jahvid Best.  The Packers are playing to the level of their competition right now. They came out firing like a Madden gamer, with Aaron Rodgers throwing three early TD’s and the Pack getting out to a big lead. But they seemed to shut it down a bit and couldn’t close it out. Again, the running game needs an upgrade with Ryan Grant, who perhaps now will be more thoroughly appreciated, gone for the season.

Sam Bradford has the St. Louis Rams believing.

ATLANTA FALCONS 16, SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS 14: Yep. That sounds about right. The Niners just can’t find anything resembling a rhythm on offense. At this rate, their defense is going to be exhausted and finished by week 9. Apparently Jimmy Raye wasn’t the only problem. The Falcons continue to look like a tough team to me, but not necessarily a strong one. They have an alarming one-track mind on offense, with Roddy White the obvious focal point, and it bogs them down for long stretches at times. Still, they’re 3-1 and in position to battle the Saints all year long, particularly if the Saints remain intent on playing sloppy football. Speaking of which…

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS 16, CAROLINA PANTHERS 14 : Give the Panthers credit- they came to play in this one. The men in teal were smacking people, and James Anderson was Mr. Everywhere They Need Him To Be, forcing a fumble, recovering two more and recording a sack. Jimmy Clausen played acceptably well for a rookie in a tough environment. The Saints’ lack of Pierre Thomas and continued general inability to put it all together on offense kept it close, but the defending champs were able to grind out a tough division win at home.

ST. LOUIS RAMS 20, SEATTLE SEAHAWKS 3: OK, I give up. I have no idea who, if anyone, is going to step up and win the NFC West with 6 wins. But I’m increasingly sure someone will. Sam Bradford looks like a number one overall pick, the defense is improved, and even a dinged-up Steven Jackson means people have to respect the run.  Meanwhile, the Seahawks laid their second road egg of the season. Just brutal. Who knew a chartered flight was the difference between a good football team and a bad one?

HAWKBLOGGER PODCAST, Week 4

On Thursday evening, FootballSickness.com’s Ryan Burns joined the HawkBlogger podcast to talk Seahawks, Rams, and NFL football. Click the link below to visit Hawk Blogger and hear the podcast.

CLICK HERE FOR HAWK BLOGGER PODCAST

FOOTBALL SICKNESS NFL POWER RANKINGS, WEEK 4

In an effort to fit in with the crowd and also as a platform for further discussion of the NFL, we decided a Football Sickness Power Rankings series was warranted. My only criteria here is what I see on the field and in the box score. This will probably shift around quite a bit over the next few weeks as teams continue to show us their true colors over a larger sample size. For now, here’s what I’ve seen so far:

FOOTBALLSICKNESS.COM NFL POWER RANKINGS, PRE WEEK 4

Troy Polamalu and the Steelers defense have held down the fort and then some in Big Ben's absence.

1. PITTSBURGH STEELERS: Best defense in the game and a 2-time Super Bowl Champion QB getting ready to come back.

2. GREEN BAY PACKERS: A potential juggernaut on both sides of the ball lead by an emerging great in Aaron Rodgers.

3. NEW YORK JETS: Well. That got better in a hurry, didn’t it?

4. BALTIMORE RAVENS: It hasn’t been anywhere near perfect, but to me that’s the scary thing.

5. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS: Wake up call for the defending champs. Let’s see how they respond.

6. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS: They still have #18. They’re fine.

7. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES: Suddenly, the Michael Vick signing looks like a stroke of genius. The McNabb trade is another story.

8. MIAMI DOLPHINS: Quietly looking like one of the more complete football teams in the NFL.

9. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS: They’ll go as far as their defense lets them.

10. ATLANTA FALCONS: I was impressed by the win at the Super Dome, in part because Matt Ryan had developed some troubling, if early, home-road splits.

11. HOUSTON TEXANS: Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice…

12. TENNESSEE TITANS: Tough D, nearly unstoppable rushing attack, occasionally brilliant athletic quarterback…dangerous.

13. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS: Their fans will complain, but I’m watching. I just need a little more convincing. The Niners win was extremely impressive, but maybe the Niners suck. The Chargers never play well. And I’m a Browns fan, so…Please. But show me something coming out of the bye at Indy. You don’t even have to win. But you have to hang.

14. CHICAGO BEARS: I’m not at all convinced, but the defense especially has me believing they’re going to be a factor. I don’t trust anybody on the offense and I despise the lack of protection, but I recognize there’s talent. Again, I need to see more.

15. DALLAS COWBOYS: I had them much higher, but Sen Dog convinced me I should be more worried about them. For now, I am.

16. SAN DIEGO CHARGERS: Standard Operating Procedure for NorvCo.

17. CINCINNATI BENGALS: So much promise, so many questions…

18. MINNESOTA VIKINGS: I still don’t see where the explosiveness is coming from outside of Adrian Peterson, and while they’ve played fine, the defense just doesn’t look as dominant.  We’ll see.

19. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS: I’m officially giving them a chance to win the NFC West. Fun to watch on defense.

20. WASHINGTON REDSKINS: I don’t think badly of the Redskins, I just don’t think they’re all that good.

21. TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS: Maybe it’s unfair, but the only real team you’ve played laid waste to your pirate ship.

22. NEW YORK GIANTS: And falling.

23. ARIZONA CARDINALS: Welcome to the Derek Anderson Show, ladies and gentlemen!

24. DENVER BRONCOS: I have no idea who these guys are. No idea where they’ll end up. But this reflects what I’ve seen so far.

25. SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS: I got sucked in by the Saints game. No more. Win a few. Convincingly.

26. OAKLAND RAIDERS: Man, what a disappointment thus far. I still think they’re a pretty good football team, but they’re still not getting good enough quarterback play. Gradkowski looks under control, but…he’s Bruce Gradkowski.

27. CLEVELAND BROWNS: Could easily be 3-0. But then, that’s the point, isn’t it?

28. ST. LOUIS RAMS: Sam Bradford = Bright future in St. Louis.

29. DETROIT LIONS: I love the way they might look in a year or two.

30. CAROLINA PANTHERS: In danger of falling off the list entirely. Already irrelevant in 2010.

31. BUFFALO BILLS: Only spared the cellar by a relatively strong performance against the Patriots last weekend.

32. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS: I haven’t seen one positive. Long year for the Jags.

ARE YOU PAYING ATTENTION?

Having caught almost all of every game so far, I’ve noticed a few things, and figured I’d pass them along. After three weeks, (Insert NFL Team Here) needs to notice that…

ARIZONA CARDINALS: …they should’ve noticed in the offseason that they had no quarterback. Because, well…that’s an issue.

ATLANTA FALCONS: …Jason Snelling is awfully good. I know you love Michael Turner. We all do, really. But wouldn’t it be nice to have him fresh for the stretch run? Use Snelling more, I say. They’ve showed a few signs but I’d be a run heavy team like the Giants of a few years ago with those two guys.

BALTIMORE RAVENS: …Joe Flacco plays better when you open it up. He’s a quarterback. Those guys like to throw. I know not everybody has Eric Wright out there, but still…I think they need to sling it around a bit more early in the season.

BUFFALO BILLS: …CJ Spiller scores touchdowns when you give him the ball. (I didn’t say these were all going to be sophisticated, now did I?)

CAROLINA PANTHERS: …I don’t know. Maybe that the season has started?

CHICAGO BEARS: …they are an extremely weak 3-0 and would not be but for technicalities and sloppy opponents. That stuff doesn’t last for 16 games.

CINCINNATI BENGALS: …Carson Palmer’s “eventual” replacement is a discussion that needs to be had sooner rather than later.

CLEVELAND BROWNS: …they would have won all three of their games with just one fewer mistake in each game.

DALLAS COWBOYS: …they have a power running game, should they simply choose to use it.

DENVER BRONCOS: …plenty of winning teams somehow manage to manage difficult but talented personalities, and it helps them win.

DETROIT LIONS: …their next high draft pick needs to be an offensive lineman of some kind. In fact, I might spend several 2011 picks on the OL if I were them.

GREEN BAY PACKERS: …Brandon Jackson and John Kuhn aren’t going to sufficiently emulate Ryan Grant. And also, Aaron Rodgers’ college teammate Marshawn Lynch is available and could be the difference between making it to Dallas in February and not.

HOUSTON TEXANS: …the NFL rulebook does indeed allow defenses to cover opposing wide receivers.

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS: …a big part of the reason they’ve struggled at inopportune moments over the past decade is because they refuse to establish a running game.

JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS: …it’s time to move on from the David Garrard Era. He’s strangely effective, but he’s not taking you anywhere.

Todd Haley needs to recognize: Jamaal Charles has crazy game.

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS: …Jamaal Charles just makes plays. Seven yards per carry, 18 yards per catch. Get him the damn ball.

MIAMI DOLPHINS: …I go to the stadium for football, not a halftime cabaret starring your franchise’s celebrity ownership conglomerate. But they should also notice that Chad Henne is ready to have the training wheels removed now that he’s got the Beast in town.

MINNESOTA VIKINGS: …they appear to be noticing it: Adrian Peterson is their only hope.

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS: …they are now the third best defense in their division. Better make a change, a move, or both.

NEW YORK GIANTS: …many teams are using the quick passing game for ball control purposes nowadays, and that they need to be one of those teams.

NEW YORK JETS: …they are an infinitely better team when Mark Sanchez is allowed freedom.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS: …2010 is not 2009. You can’t just turn it on.

OAKLAND RAIDERS: …the defense isn’t playing as well as it should. They’re plenty talented. Make the adjustment.

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES: …LeSean McCoy is still on the roster, and that much like the Colts, your struggles often stem from a lack of commitment to the run game.

PITTSBURGH STEELERS: …they’re the best team in the league right now, even without Ben Roethlisberger. Hmmm.

ST. LOUIS RAMS: …they can compete in their division soon with a couple more pieces.

SAN DIEGO CHARGERS: …playing hardball has consequences.

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS: …they are missing a golden opportunity.

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS: …they are a much better team when they use more aggressive playcalling on both sides of the ball.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS: …this is not the Tampa 2 the way I remember it just yet.

TENNESSEE TITANS: …Vince Young is their quarterback. I mean this several different ways. Let it roll around for a bit.

WASHINGTON REDSKINS: …while they are improved thanks to DMac5, he still doesn’t allow them to continue to make mistakes and win.

NFL WEEK 3 IN REVIEW: WELCOME TO THE PARTY! (NOW GO HOME.)

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.

Roy Williams helped the Cowboys get off the mat in Houston.

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

Some of the stars of Monday Night Football battle between the Packers and Bears gather for a group shot.

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.

NFL WEEK 1: FIRST IMPRESSIONS

The first Sunday of the NFL season is one of the greatest days of the year in terms of anticipation. Often, though, teams are still feeling their way around out there during the first week. Nobody has tape on anybody, some guys aren’t quite in game shape for one reason or another, and first-game jitters seem to generally hamper execution. That was certainly the case this weekend as several highly-anticipated matchups produced somewhat puzzling results. But it’s still NFL football, and it remains the best game around. Let’s take a spin around the league. Feel free to refer back to my weekly predictions for mockery fodder.

SAINTS 14, VIKINGS 9: There’s not one of you who isn’t thinking it: Brett Favre looked old. Or maybe just tired. Or was it worse- old and tired? Either that, or the

Favre looked like he'd rather be on his keester in Hattiesburg.

defending World Champs are a little tougher to just show up and defeat than the Browns and Lions of the world, against whom the Vikings opened last year. Either way, Sidney Rice’s absence is a big problem, Percy Harvin didn’t look right, and Brad Childress is apparently dead set on pushing the stupidity envelope (more on this in tomorrow’s Fantasy Sickness roundup. LOTS more.). The Saints started off hot, then fizzled out, but managed to pound out a victory the old fashioned way- ground game and defense (what do you know? It still works).

BUCS 17, BROWNS 14: Well, I was right for almost the entire first half. The Browns were rolling the Bucs, and going in for what would’ve been a dagger third touchdown and a 21-3 halftime lead. Then Jake Delhomme threw at Ronde Barber from his back and Peyton Hillis did his Adrian Peterson 2009 NFC Title Game impression, and the Bucs had themselves a nice little opening day victory. Sidenote: the Bucs got themselves a good one in Mike Williams.

DOLPHINS 15, BILLS 10: Not sure what to make of any of this game. Let’s just chalk it up to weird first week stuff and just move on.

PATRIOTS 38, BENGALS 24: If your goal is to beat the New England Patriots, you might want to consider not going down by four touchdowns. Just a thought. Here’s another: Wes Welker is incredible. Two touchdowns coming back from that knee injury in almost no time. Here’s to modern medicine, eh Pats fans?

TEXANS 34, COLTS 24: Well, well, well! Look who grew a little chest hair this offseason. The Texans scored 34 points and Matt Schaub barely eclipsed 100 yards in the air. Peyton threw for all kinds of yards, but Houston was in control most of the game. I’m duly impressed. The BoneCrusher: gridiron prophet.

JAGUARS 24, BRONCOS 17: Went almost exactly as I thought it would. Nothing particularly impressive from either team, Jags did just enough to win on a couple of TD catches by Long Beach Poly product and former Bruin Marcedes Lewis.

STEELERS 15, FALCONS 9: The Pittsburgh Steelers, ladies and gentlemen. They just know how to win.

TITANS 38, RAIDERS 13: Chris Johnson certainly looks like a guy who might be able to do it again, doesn’t he? Has he even used full speed yet? Meanwhile, the Raiders couldn’t protect Jason Campbell and he couldn’t read the blitz. Maybe it’s the jersey?

GIANTS 31, PANTHERS 18: Hey, remember when I told you that the Giants were now a passing team behind Eli Manning no matter what they said about a rededication to the running game?  I need to start charging for this stuff.

BEARS 19, LIONS 14: After further review, that’s a freaking touchdown. I know it’s not, under the present iteration of the rule. And yes, he should’ve cradled it. But that rule needs to change. Here’s why: If a running back carelessly reaches a ball over the goal line and the ground knocks it out, it’s not a fumble. In fact, it’s a touchdown. But, if a receiver catches the ball, lands on two feet (separately), effectively sits down on his butt in the end zone, puts the ball on the ground and lets go, it’s an incomplete pass. Inconsistency, thy name is the NFL rule book.

Megatron caught this, took two steps, sat down, and put the ball down. Incomplete.

CARDINALS 17, RAMS 13: The Rams apparently intend to get their money’s worth out of Sam Bradford one way or another, as the rookie dropped back to throw 55 times in his debut. Hey, no time like the present, right Spags? The Cardinals did just enough to win, but if you’re the Cardinals and you struggle to beat the Rams after where you’ve been recently, you’ve got to be gripping the wheel a little more tightly this morning. Hang on to those hats and glasses, Cards fans. Mr. Anderson’s Wild Ride can get bumpy.

PACKERS 27, EAGLES 20: Another expected shootout that somewhat disappointed me. The Packers offense never looked as smooth and in sync as it did all preseason, and Ryan Grant went down with an ugly injury. But the Packers have to be rejoicing that they’re not the Eagles. Kolb looked overmatched before going down with a concussion. They lost valuable fullback Leonard Weaver to a leg injury that came with a replay of Theismanesque ugliness. They lost their starting center indefinitely. Their starting middle backer, Stewart Bradley, also concussed. Horrible Sunday for the Eagles, and it may get worse, because the bright spot was Michael Vick’s ability to move the team. You know what that means in the city of the patient sports fan.

SEAHAWKS 31, 49ERS 6: Pete Carroll wins his debut in go-away style in front of a 12th Man that couldn’t get enough of the attack. Very impressed, Seattle. On the other hand, Alex Smith looked just awful. He couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn yesterday. It’s week 1, so I’m not yet moving my needle on any of these teams, but the Niners and Hawks gave me plenty of reasons to revisit my preseason impressions of them.

REDSKINS 13, COWBOYS 7: Garrett, Romo and Tashard all get blamed for a horrible CHOICE at the end of the first half that allowed DeAngelo Hall (of all people) to take a football right out of their hands and to the house for the game-winning touchdown. Just an awful job all the way around by the cowboys. On the other hand, Dez Bryant is going to be awesome. So they’ve got that going for them. Which is nice. I was impressed with the ‘Skins progression in the 3-4. Brian Orakpo is a monster and they’ve finally figured out that LaRon Landry is their playmaker. But, like I wrote last week, I’m not surprised the Cowboys started slow.

Only a few hours until opening weekend concludes with a brilliant doubleheader- the Ravens and Jets in Hitfest 2010, and an AFC West showdown between the Chiefs and Chargers. Good times. Enjoy, everybody, and I’ll catch you back here tomorrow.