Things we learned from Week 3:
The Falcons might finally be for real.
After several years of pretending to be legitimate contenders, it’s starting to look like the Falcons, and Matt Ryan especially, finally figured it out. Their offense looks more crisp, more consistent. Julio Jones is becoming the player the Falcons mortgaged their future for. Tony Gonzalez is Benjamin Button. Roddy White has bear-trap hands. But most importantly, their defense is playing at a championship level.
Three weeks, three very convincing wins. With the Saints playing like the Aints of old and the Panthers a couple years away from contention, the NFC South might already be wrapped up. Wow.
Peyton picked the wrong team.
What if #18 chose the Cardinals, one of the few teams he considered during his whirlwind tour, instead of Mr. Elway and the Broncos (and I won’t be swayed on this—if the patron saint of QB’ing isn’t running the Broncos, Manning doesn’t sign there)? After rolling over Vick and his Dream Team today, the Cardinals are 10-2 in their last 12 games. That sample size is getting awfully close to credible, and so too is the Cards recent resume; tough Seattle team in Week 1, followed by the Pats and Eagles, two of the more popular Super Bowl picks this season. Lest we forget, this has all happened with John Skelton and, most recently, Kevin Kolb at QB. Even if Peyton is a notch or two below what he was two years ago, isn’t that a massive upgrade over their current situation? Stupid question. What if Larry Fitzgerald had a real-life NFL QB throwing to him? Wouldn’t he be on the same pedestal as Calvin Johnson? Are the Cards the sneaky best team in their division? What if I stopped asking questions?
Don’t ever try to figure out the AFC West.
Silly me. I fancied myself an expert and paid the price. I was quickly reminded that the AFC West will always remain a mystery.
Quick recap of the first two weeks: The Chargers blow out the Raiders and Titans, looking like an AFC contender in the process. The Broncos beat the Steelers convincingly, then almost steal a win at Atlanta, nearly overcoming three first-quarter picks by Peyton in one of the toughest places to win in the entire league. The Chiefs look like an Arena League team through their first two games, giving up 75 points in two blowout losses. The Raiders look like, well...the Raiders, in losses at San Diego and Miami.
Fast forward to this afternoon. Naturally, the Chiefs go to New Orleans and pull an amazing comeback upset over a Saints team that was in the NFC Championship a few months ago. The Raiders score 13 straight points in the fourth quarter to beat the Steelers. And, in lieu of playing a football game, the Chargers opt to take a collective dump at midfield in a blowout loss at home to the Falcons. Good to see everything back in order.
Nobody is as good, or as bad, as we thought.
The 49ers got stomped by the Vikings. This game was never in doubt. From opening kickoff to final whistle, the Vikings walked all over the supposed class of the NFL. Weird, weird game.
The Dolphins, expected to be the doormat of the AFC, gave away a win against the Jets, an expected playoff team (gag).
The Titans, embarrassed by the Pats and Chargers in their two previous games, upset NFC playoff team Detroit, even after being forced into overtime on a crazy Hail Mary by the Lions.
On my 12th birthday, I got a $25 gift certificate to Dick's Sporting Goods. After a half hour or so of lukewarm perusing of Nerf footballs, rubber basketballs, eye black and batting gloves, I stumbled upon an NFL Films 1993 Buffalo Bills season recap VHS tape. It was in a blue box. I've never made a more definitive decision in my life. In all seriousness, that video became a staple of my childhood. If I had to make an accurate estimation of how many times that tape was played and rewound over the next few years, I'd set the over/under at 75. The camera angles, rare footage, behind the scenes soundbites, and most of all, the narration and music, made Steve Sabol's videos truly one of a kind. It felt like you were watching the game from the sidelines, and I'd like to believe that's exactly what Mr. Sabol wanted.
So to a true legend of sports and sports entertainment, RIP, Steve Sabol. I know my insane passion for football is at least partly your doing. Thank you for making all of us more of a fan than we possibly could have been without your work.