Well, another week of professional football is in the books, and like the first three weeks it did not disappoint. We learned a few things, had our eyes opened about a few things, and shook our heads on a regular basis.
All part-and-parcel of what is becoming one of the more memorable NFL seasons in recent memory.
The format has changed a little this week. I am combining another series, the Albert Haynesworth Watch 2009, into this series in the interest of brevity.
Also, instead of a litany of lessons learned, a combined list of lessons, interesting occurences and facts, and questions that tend make you go "what the...?!?" will all be provided here for your enjoyment. Some weeks will have more lessons than others, while other weeks, naturally, will have more questions.
And, of course, there will be some weeks—like this week—where points of interest, at least to me, will take center stage.
So, without further ado...enjoy!
Let's start things off with a "bang," shall we?
Albert Haynesworth Watch 2009
Apparently Big Al's injured "glute" kept his production to a minimum. He didn't show up on the stats sheet at all against Tampa Bay. Maybe he should have just sat this one out and rested. Of course, that would involve using the injured glute, but hey, he could always use a pillow.
Boy, that $100 million is really looking like a bargain. Yesiree.
Quarterback most likely to be replaced before mid-season
Either Jason Campbell of the Redskins or (audience participation moment: insert your choice for quarterback here. Please remember to provide solid justification, or I will make fun of you in front of everyone). Seriously, folks, to "squeak" out a win against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, as poorly as they are playing, is just ridiculous.
Worst 0-4 team of the week
The Tennessee Titans, without a doubt. In weeks one through three, one or two plays would have made the difference in a win or a loss. But to get utterly destroyed by the Jacksonville Jaguars, an interdivision rival, says a lot about the current character of this team.
The defense seems to have already given up, and the offense isn't far behind. Johnson and Collins are doing what they can to keep it together, but one more loss and there will have to be wholesale changes on both sides of the ball.
And possibly on the sidelines.
In a funny little ironic twist, the Titans are running their "Code Blue" promotion this week for the home game against Indianapolis. Code Blue, for those of you who don't know, is the hospital emergency code for an immediate response to an adult in need of resuscitation, usually from a heart attack.
Record most likely to never be broken
Brett Favre has now played against, and beaten, every team in the NFL.
Don't see that happening again for a loooooong time, if ever.
Smartest rookie play of the week
Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez had this to say about his performance against the high-flying New Orleans Saints: "If I have to take ownership of this loss, I'm willing to do that, because this team played well enough to win and it was my mistakes that cost us the game."
Way to go, kid. You have already figured out how to deal with the fickle Jets press. Had you NOT owned up to "your" mistakes, then the ripping would have commenced.
Instead, you stepped up, took accountability—never mind that you were playing against Darren Sharper, arguably one of the best cover safeties in the league, or that your offensive line kept putting you in a position to make throws you otherwise wouldn't have—and by doing so actually endeared yourself to the New York/New Jersey press.
Stupidest rule of the week
Some of you might think I'm going to pick on the roughing the passer ridiculousness. But you would be wrong.
Instead, I want to know what bonehead thought it would be jolly good fun to require that the only person on offense who could advance a fumble inside of two minutes is the person who fumbled the ball? Was this really an issue? Did we have an epidemic of players intentionally fumbling balls inside of two minutes in hopes that one of their teammates would be the first to pick it up and score?
Or is this just a case of them deciding we needed yet another rule to maintain the status quo?
Most unlikely division leader at 4-0
The Denver Broncos.
Kyle Orton was not supposed to be able to lead this team very far; his departure from Chicago was one of the happiest days in Chi-town since Barack Obama became president. He was supposed to be a total bust.
Instead, he has been surprisingly efficient, with nearly 1000 yards passing, five touchdowns, a 97.6 passer rating, and most importantly, no turnovers.
Not bad for the guy who was the reason for all Chicago's problems. I'm partly hoping for a Chicago-Denver Super Bowl so the issue can be put to rest as to who the real problem child is...
Most unlikely division leader NOT at 4-0
All hail the San Fransico 49ers.
Who would have thought that this team would be so solid? Yes, they lost to Minnesota. So have the other three teams that went up against the Favre Factor this year.
But Mike Singletary has done something special in San Fran, something that needed to be done for a long time. He kicked the prima donna complex out of the organization. Even erstwhile draft pick Michael Crabtree seems to have gotten the message that holding your breath and throwing a tantrum until you get your way isn't going to fly with this particular coach.
Shaun Hill is doing what he is asked to do under center, which is make smart plays and not turn the ball over. The injury to Frank Gore isn't going to help, but the way this team operates, they will pick up the ball and charge on.
Most surprising performance of the week
Pittsburgh running back Willie Parker was out due to turf toe, forcing the Steelers to rely on second-year running back Rashard Mendenhall. Up until week four, he had gained all of 45 yards this season and had a career total of 113 yards. He also had Coach Mike Tomlin in his ear telling him he better straighten up or he was most likely going to be reiding the pine for a long, long time.
Apparently he got the message: Mendenhall ripped off 165 yards with two touchdowns on the ground, and threw in an additional 26 yards receiving as he helped lead the Steelers to victory against the nemisis San Diego Chargers.
If the lesson sticks, look for Pittsburgh to be tough for the rest of the season, with or without Willie Parker.
If you can't tackle, 'em, rob 'em
An "A" for effort goes out to Jacob Hester of the Chargers and Clay Matthews of the Packers, who stripped the ball away from Stefan Logan of Pittsburgh and Adrian Peterson of Minnesota, respectively. Unfortunately, these "heads up" plays weren't enough, as both San Diego and Green Bay fell to their opponents.
Best move of the week
This is a toss-up between Hakeem Nicks of the Giants and Brandon Marshall of the Broncos.
Nicks took a short pass from Eli Manning that he turned into a 56-yard touchdown reception, thanks in part to his slamming on the brakes so hard at the two-yard line that he threw up rooster tails, and the defender pursuing him ran headlong past him out-of-bounds.
For his part, Marshall took a deep out from Kyle Orton, cut left into the middle of the field, then cut back to the outside and eluded five Cowboys defenders to score the game-winning touchdown for the Broncos.
And there you have it, folks. If things continue this way throughout the season, we are likely to see teams in the playoffs—deep in the playoffs—that haven't been there since before the AFL and NFL merged.
I'm all for it.