It is still pretty early in the season, but we learned a few very important things this past weekend. Reports of the New England Patriots' demise were greatly exaggerated. The San Francisco 49ers are for real. The Cincinnati Bengals have matured a lot over the past year. Here are some more observations from around the league:
Detroit (1-2) def. Washington (1-2), 19-14: It finally happened. For the first time in 20 games, the Detroit Lions have won and may be the happiest 1-2 team in NFL history. They did it by playing hard and refusing to be beaten again. On the other side, I don't know if there has ever been another team to lose a game, come out with the same record as the winning team, and feel worse than the 'Skins do right now. With everything that has gone on this year, Jim Zorn could be in trouble.
Green Bay (2-1) def. St. Louis (0-3), 36-17: Not too much to say about this game. This was one of those where the Rams stayed relatively close throughout, but you never got a sense that the Packers felt at all threatened or that anyone thought the Rams would pull out a victory. Now the Pack have a huge game against the Brett Favre-led Minnesota Vikings.
Minnesota (3-0) def. San Francisco (2-1), 27-24: There are no moral victories in sports, but this is about as close as you can get to it. The Niners proved that they will be around in December. They would have won if not for an amazing pass by the aforementioned Favre and a miraculous catch by the recently cut Greg Lewis. This was a pretty entertaining game between two pretty good teams. One of the few negatives for San Fran was Frank Gore's ankle injury.
New England (2-1) def. Atlanta (2-1), 26-10: The Pats really took over in the second half and won this game behind a surprisingly strong running attack. Tom Brady still looked a bit off, but probably the best he's looked all season. These are the types of games that Atlanta still has not learned to win and they will not be a championship team until they do.
New York Jets (3-0) def. Tennessee (0-3), 24-17: Who would have thought that the Titans would have already equaled their 2008 loss total by Week Three? It is one thing to lose when you are playing bad, but it has to be excruciating when you know you're a good team and you're playing well enough to win. However, when the quarterback's last thirteen passes fall harmlessly to the turf, something's not working. The Jets continue to play great defense and decent offense as they keep on rolling.
Philadelphia (2-1) def. Kansas City (0-3), 34-14: Kansas City's offense just looks completely lost at times. Philly put up far too many points for Kansas City to keep up because the Chiefs don't have any DeSean Jacksons or LeSean McCoys. Kevin Kolb once again played pretty well in relief and now that Philly has their bye week coming up, they can rest up some nagging injuries and Donovan McNabb should be back under center in Week Five.
New York Giants (3-0) def. Tampa Bay (0-3), 24-0: This was like a college game where the obviously better team gets called off by the coaches, so as to not embarrass the inferior team. This was domination in every sense of the word. I've said for weeks now how bad Tampa's secondary is, but on Sunday the G-Men shredded them on the ground going for over 200 yards. Nothing much to see here.
Baltimore (3-0) def. Cleveland (0-3), 34-3: You can pretty much copy and paste everything I wrote from the Giants-Tampa game and just replace Giants with Ravens and Tampa Bay with Cleveland. The Browns are horrible and the Ravens are really, really good. Again, nothing to see here.
Jacksonville (1-2) def. Houston (1-2), 31-24: Houston has to be the most schizophrenic team in the entire NFL. I am fully aware that these two teams always play each other pretty close, but Houston was coming off of a big win and, with their next few games, had a good shot to go into the middle of the season with one or two losses. Jacksonville came in and capitalized on Houston's mistakes and picked up a much needed victory.
New Orleans (3-0) def. Buffalo (1-2), 27-7: This game was actually a lot closer than the score indicated as Buffalo's defense played very well for most of the game. Their teammates on offense didn't. Trent Edwards missed a couple of deep balls and they were just pretty stagnant all day. Drew Brees & co. picked it up towards the end of the game, although they didn't explode as they had in Weeks One and Two.
Chicago (2-1) def. Seattle (1-2), 25-19: First of all, whoever thought it was a good idea for Seattle to wear those HORRIBLE jerseys should be fired and banished from the league. Secondly, I thought that Jim Mora Jr.'s little rant on his kicker Olindo Mare was ridiculous. Nobody is perfect. Kickers are going to miss sometimes. Yes he should have made the kicks, but Mora Jr. just completely threw his kicker under the bus and it just really bothered me.
As for the actual game, Seneca Wallace played pretty well in relief but made the bad under pressure-pass that was intercepted deep in his own territory. Other than that Seattle played well enough to win, but Jay Cutler and Devin Hester stepped up in the end.
Cincinnati (2-1) def. Pittsburgh (1-2), 23-20: Right now, the Steelers have two big problems. They have moved the ball pretty well all year, but they are having problems putting the ball in the paint when they get into the redzone. They should have had a much larger halftime lead than they did. The other is Troy Polamalu's injury in late game situations. Pittsburgh is having trouble stopping teams late in the game.
As far as Cincy goes, they deserve a ton of credit. They couldn't do anything for the first 29 minutes of this game. They kept their composure against a team that has had their number for years and won the game. Huge win for the Bengals.
Denver (3-0) def. Oakland (1-2), 23-3: It's time to give Denver credit. Regardless of how good anyone thinks they are or who they've played, they are now 3-0, which is more than most teams can currently say. They just destroyed Oakland as the Raiders continued to show their ineptness.
San Diego (2-1) def. Miami (0-3), 23-13: This one was relatively close as the Chargers let the Fins hang around for a while, but that all came crashing down (even though Chad Henne played relatively well, save for the interception) when Chad Pennington went down for the year. The Chargers again just looked alright, but they now start to get ready for a big game next week against the Steelers.
Indianapolis (3-0) def. Arizona (1-2), 31-10: Indy continued to produce the huge plays on Sunday night in the desert. The Colts also looked pretty good on defense against a great offense that has looked suspect all year. Arizona has to become more consistent on both sides of the ball if they want to make it back to where they were last year, much less the playoffs.
Dallas (2-1) def. Carolina (0-3), 21-7: This was a pretty sloppy game that was decided by turnovers, although they weren't Jake Delhomme's fault. As Dallas moves on, they really need to clean things up if they are going to be serious contenders in the ridiculously tough NFC East. For Carolina, they just desperately need a win. They get a much needed bye next week.
Top 12 Teams (last week's rankings in parenthesis)
- New York Giants (1): They keep moving along with a dominating win over a bad team.
- Baltimore Ravens (2): Again, the exact same thoughts as with the Giants.
- New York Jets (3): Picked up a pretty good win against a tough Tennessee team.
- Indianapolis Colts (9): Big move for the Colts as they put on a pretty dominant performance themselves against a good team.
- New Orleans Saints (6): Victory didn't come as easily for them as it has earlier on in the year, but these are the kind of victories that are the most valuable.
- Minnesota Vikings (7): Great victory against a very game San Fran.
- Philadelphia Eagles (10): Good bounce back game as they head into their bye to get healthy.
- New England Patriots (8): Same as Philly, except they did it against a good team.
- Pittsburgh Steelers (5): They are playing well enough to win, but their own mistakes combined with the huge bull's-eye on their back is costing them.
- San Diego Chargers (12): For one reason or another, they keep playing down to their competition.
- Green Bay Packers (NR): It seems this year, to me at least, like they are missing something. I just have no idea what it is.
- Cincinnati Bengals (NR): If not for a fluke play, they would be 3-0 right now. Think about that for a second.
That's all for right now. As always, picks will be in on Friday.