MYTH: I couldn’t find a quote this week to disagree with. Instead, I’m going to address the general consensus that the Giants belong at the top of everybody’s “Power Rankings” this week.
FACTS: The Giants beat the Cowboys, but didn’t look like a Super Bowl team in the process. Instead, they almost played down to the level of the Cowboys on Sunday night.
Before I receive a thousand comments saying that the Cowboys are Super Bowl contenders since they got rid of Terrell Owens, I’d like to ask you, the readers, to think for a minute.
Lately, the Cowboys have gotten into a pattern of winning in September and October, then slowly sliding until they eventually crash and burn completely toward the end of the season.
Despite that pattern, Cowboys fans say “This is the year!” just because the Cowboys got rid of their best—and loudest—receiver. They’ve started off the season with a win and an incredibly close loss, yet Cowboys fans are still hopeful because the team has opened up strong yet again.
As a former Cowboy, Eagle, and 49er would say, “If it looks like a rat, and smells like a rat, by golly it is a rat.” I don’t see how anyone can claim to be surprised yet again when the Cowboys falter at the end of the season.
Between facing the Eagles, Giants, and Redskins two times each this year, the Cowboys are going to have to play their best all year long if they even want a chance to get into the playoffs as a wild-card team.
Though the Giants should be OK in the long term, they had a shaky outing against the Cowboys. The normally punishing Big Blue defense executed poorly on Sunday: they failed to wrap up the ball-carrier very well and, as a result, Marion Barber and Felix Jones dominated on the ground.
On offense, the good news for the Giants is that Eli Manning outplayed Tony Romo. The bad news is, that comparison is similar to saying someone is the prettiest girl in a bearded-lady competition.
I’m just not convinced that either Eli Manning or Tony Romo live up to their billing. Neither leaves a good impression on me, and I just don’t think either of them will ever be mentioned in the same breath as modern-day greats such as Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, and Drew Brees.
Eli Manning was inconsistent throughout the entire game, and was bailed out several times by a big night from both Steve Smith and Mario Manningham. Manning never looked away from his primary receiver, and it was obvious that he wasn’t even scanning the field. There were several times where he forced the ball to a receiver who wasn’t in position to make a play, while another receiver was wide open.
Eli Manning has been hyped too much since entering the NFL. Thanks to his last name, there have always been high expectations for him as an NFL quarterback. Though he shows flashes of brilliance at times, those moments only serve to make it even more frustrating when he makes bad plays.
There’s always going to be the argument that Eli Manning was good enough to win a Super Bowl, so he is therefore a top-notch quarterback. However, as Dan Marino can attest, a Super Bowl ring is a team accomplishment and is not always a reflection on a single player.
I think part of the problem might be the play-calling. Eli Manning, while definitely not a scrambler, is not exactly a pure pocket quarterback either. His lack of comfort in the pocket sometimes seems to pressure him into making bad throws, hurting the Giants on 3rd-and-long situations.
To fully maximize Manning’s potential, the Giants should use a lot more bootlegs, allowing him to play in a style similar to that of Jay Cutler or a younger Jeff Garcia. I think this gives the Giants the best way to make their quarterback a true weapon.
What is wrong with Tony Romo? I don’t even know. Despite the wealth of talent around him, he seems to always fall just short of winning the games that matter. His performance against the Giants was just flat-out sloppy, missing his receivers and throwing interceptions that led to points for the Giants. In a game as close as this one, turnovers are deadly.
Though overall Sunday night’s game was really good, the rematch will be better if both quarterbacks step their game up.
— Two games into the season, there is talk of Adrian Peterson deserving the MVP award, and Matthew Stafford deserving to be benched. Both discussions are probably true, but a little premature. Stafford and the Lions were clearly overmatched against the Saints and Vikings, and Peterson has yet to play against a great NFL run defense. We’ll see where this leads.
— Cincinnati upset Green Bay. A bit surprising, but not too much. The Bengals are capable of putting together a pretty strong offensive attack, and the Packers’ defense is better than last year—but still nowhere near the NFL’s elite.
— Miami came REALLY close to upsetting the Colts. A strong running game—bolstered by the Wildcat formation—put the Colts to the test, and a second Monday night game this year was decided by a play as the clock ran out. Indianapolis might be 2-0, but both of those wins were really hard-fought.
— Denver beat Cleveland. I don’t think Denver will be as terrible as people are predicting. They’re a much different team than last year, but different doesn’t always translate to bad.
Cleveland, on the other hand, is in for another long season. For an offense that struggled enough last year, trading away elite tight end Kellen Winslow was a bad move. Whoever starts at quarterback deserves a chance to win. If I were Eric Mangini, I’d start coaching former QB Josh Cribbs as a full-time quarterback, hoping his mobility will help to compensate for how behind his development as a passer is.
— The Cardinals beat the Jaguars solidly, and Kurt Warner had an incredible game. Just because they were upset by the 49ers in week one doesn’t mean you should write off the Cardinals just yet. They are still the defending NFC champions.
Don’t write off the Jaguars yet, either. They ought to be pretty good when they draft Tim Tebow in 2010. I’m being a little facetious, but I like the idea. Jacksonville isn’t looking like a team that will draft very late, and a local college hero could help boost ticket sales for an NFL team that has had a hard time generating interest.
Also, having Tim Tebow and Vince Young in the same division could become very interesting a few years into the future. I’ll get into more about that, and mobile quarterbacks, a little later in this column.
— The 49ers beat the Seahawks, winning yet another intra-divisional game and showing that the return of healthy receivers didn’t automatically make the Seahawks competitive again. I’m still thinking the 49ers have all the right components to be successful not just this year, but in the long term. Mike Singletary is getting off to a great start as a full-time head coach.
— After pushing the Chargers to the brink in week one, the Raiders spoiled Matt Cassell’s debut as a Chief. Though I don’t know if they have the tools to supplant the Chargers as champions of the AFC West, I don’t think the Raiders will be as bad as they were predicted to be this year.
— The Chargers almost made a great comeback against the Ravens, but then Ray Lewis had his say. The Chargers shouldn’t worry, though, because their offense is capable of carrying them despite their defense, which is struggling.
With the return of Shawne “Lights Out” Merriman and the drafting of Larry English, the Chargers’ defense was supposed to be one of the best this year. While it hasn’t been terrible, it isn’t what it was made out to be. However, QB Phillip Rivers is even more than he was made out to be. If he keeps it up, he can become one of the top QBs in the league.
— I don’t think I was taken seriously last week when I said the Steelers looked less than impressive in their opener. After being upset by Chicago in week two, maybe Steelers fans will recognize that the Black and Gold still have some work to do.
— I also said the Titans were underperforming. They didn’t exactly prove me wrong. The new defensive coordinator needs to seriously look at why his team allowed 34 points against the Texans the week after being shredded through the air by Ben Roethlisberger.
Matt Schaub had four touchdown passes against the Titans. You know your defense is struggling when it allows the opposing quarterback to throw more TDs than Drew Brees throws that week.
Also, Kerry Collins shot himself in the foot by fumbling with a minute and a half left. He’s not helping dispel the belief that he isn’t capable of winning games for the Titans. After his first two performances this season, he’s going to be under intense scrutiny if the Titans fall to 0-3 against the Jets. Remember, Vince Young was benched in 2008 for off-the-field issues. Kerry Collins was benched in 2006 in favor of a rookie because he wasn’t winning games.
Young had his ups and downs in the preseason after shaking off some serious rust in the Hall of Fame game, and his good moments were extremely impressive. He’s shown that he understands what it means to be a true dual-threat quarterback, using his legs to buy time and get his receivers open, and running if nobody’s open.
A true dual-threat quarterback is unstoppable, especially in the red zone. If Collins continues to regress, I don’t see how Jeff Fisher can keep his former first-round pick on the bench for much longer.
— Everybody’s talking about how “poorly” the Patriots played against the Jets. Give Rex Ryan his due. He has the Jets playing incredible defense, giving the offense a lot more of a margin for error. Also, rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez is getting the job done the way it needs to be done. I think the Jets are going to surprise a lot of people this year.
— The Redskins got booed at home after WINNING a game. It was that bad. A score of 9-7 leaves nobody happy. The Redskins really played down to the level of their competition, and should rebound a little bit as the year progresses. That being said, I see them fighting the Cowboys for third place in the NFC East.
— The Eagles have a conundrum at quarterback. There is an NFL rule that says if your No. 3 quarterback enters the game, the other two quarterbacks are not allowed back in the game. As a result, the Eagles don’t know who to put as their No. 2 quarterback this week against the Chiefs.
If Kevin Kolb plays poorly and gets hurt, the Eagles have to choose between Michael Vick and Jeff Garcia. My suspicions are that the Eagles will lean towards Vick. They ran nine plays out of their version of the Wildcat against the Saints. They alternated with Brian Westbrook, Jeremy Maclin, and DeSean Jackson taking the snaps.
With Vick, a player custom-made for the Wildcat (which favors a left-handed passer taking the snaps), the Eagles should run all over the Chiefs with a Wildcat-style package. However, if the Eagles thought Michael Vick was ready to play again in the NFL, would they have signed Jeff Garcia when Donovan McNabb got hurt?
— The Falcons beat the Panthers 28-20, giving themselves a two-game lead over the defending division champions. I can seriously envision Atlanta going deep in the playoffs. Two seasons after the loss of Michael Vick tore apart the Falcons, they are ready to compete for a Super Bowl.
— The Bills pounded on the Buccaneers. Terrell Owens and Lee Evans form one of the top 10 receiving tandems in the league, which causes defenses to focus on them. As a result, not as many men can rush the passer or defend the run.
The Bills can surprise everyone this year with a newfound high-octane offense. They’re going to be happy they signed Terrell Owens.
As for the Buccaneers, they’re not as bad as people predicted. However, they have to play six games against the Panthers, Falcons, and Saints in a brutal NFC South. I don’t see them making the playoffs this year.
Week 3 picks:
Baltimore beats Cleveland, Houston beats Jacksonville, New York Giants beat Tampa Bay, Washington beats Detroit, Green Bay beats Saint Louis, Chicago beats Seattle, Carolina beats Dallas, Philadelphia beats Kansas City, Miami beats San Diego, Arizona beats Indianapolis, Chicago beats Seattle.
Some harder picks: New York Jets beat Tennessee, Minnesota beats San Francisco, Oakland beats Denver, New England beats Atlanta.
I'll also pick an upset that I have no factual basis for choosing, I'd just REALLY like to see it happen. This week's Crazy Upset Pick will be Cincinnati beating Pittsburgh.