NFL Week 4: Donovan McNabb and Five Sunday Surprises
Four weeks into the 2010 NFL season and there’s only one thing certain: this has to be the most bipolar start to any football season ever.
We have good teams that apparently don’t know just how good they want to be, and we have bad teams that want to be bad, sometimes.
The good news is that this is fantastic for football fans because things can change from week to week without any notice.
Fantastic if you’re not a gambler, that is.
Outside of the NFC North and possibly the AFC West, no division has a clear-cut favorite, and even those have their issues.
The Green Bay Packers should take the NFC North and run away with it, but that’s nearly impossible if a team doesn’t play much defense.
Clay Matthews and Charles Woodson can’t play all 11 positions for Green Bay’s D.
A Detroit Lions team with no Matthew Stafford and a banged up Jahvid Best almost beat Green Bay—to be fair, the Packers don’t have Ryan Grant—at Lambeau on Sunday.
The Chicago Bears have the best record in that division, 3-0, entering Week 4, but their sling-it-and-pray approach doesn’t inspire much confidence.
After losing in Week 1 to the Kansas City Chiefs, the San Diego Chargers appear to have steadied their ship and look like the AFC West favorites despite not having the best record in the division.
Kansas City has been impressive, but they have yet to play anyone of high caliber except for the Chargers, who were missing All Pro left tackle Marcus McNeill during that game.
As for the rest of the divisions?
Flip a coin.
We won’t tackle all of the divisions and teams in this space, but here are five surprises from Sunday that we may not have expected.
McNabb Leads Washington Redskins Past Philadelphia Eagles
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This was not the earth-scorching performance that McNabb would have loved so much to put on the Eagles Sunday, but in his return to the city he did enough to outlast Philly and get his team a win.
And for McNabb, that surely was more than enough in a town where they ridiculed him for not winning quite enough.
McNabb threw for 125 yards with one touchdown and one interception, but that was the only turnover Washington would commit.
The Redskins ran for a total of 169 yards—39 from McNabb—and allowed Philly to hang itself via five turnovers.
If you believe in fairy tales, or at least root for them, then watching McNabb go into Lincoln Financial Field and win wouldn’t surprise you.
That was the feel-good story of the week, and it came through.
But should it have?
No, not if we are comparing football teams and looking at recent weeks to evaluate performance.
The Eagles have enjoyed Vick’s resurgence and looked like a playoff team with Vick running everywhere and throwing bullets.
LeSean McCoy has been productive at running back, and the defense has done its part.
The Redskins? They came into this game after losing to the St. Louis Rams.
Clinton Portis looked old and slow, Santana Moss can’t carry the load of a No. 1 receiver, and McNabb looked as if he were playing by himself. No help around him.
And then on Sunday the roles were reversed.
No, the ‘Skins didn’t win because they played exceptionally well. They won because the Eagles played impossibly bad.
Mix in the New York Giants and the Dallas Cowboys, and we could be seeing a theme for the NFC East this year.
Jacksonville Jaguars Take Down Peyton Manning and Indy
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Tucked quietly in the heart of Indiana and away from the national spotlight, Peyton Manning played some of the best football of his career this September.
We could put Manning down for 300-plus yards and a couple of scores every week and then forget about it.
But now as October settles in and Jacksonville’s Josh Scobee hits 59-yard field goals—like he did Sunday to beat the Colts—Indianapolis is 2-2 with both losses coming in its own division (Jags and Texans).
The Colts appear to be the best team in the AFC South, even at 2-2, but it’s clear that anybody can beat anyone here.
Houston has loads of talent with Matt Schaub, Andre Johnson and Arian Foster leading the way—and that’s just on offense—but what kind of team exactly is it?
We don’t know.
The Tennessee Titans, behind Chris Johnson, can sneak out a win if things go in their favor.
And the Jags, the team that doesn’t even know if it’s going to be in Florida in a couple of years, has two wins and Maurice Jones-Drew really hasn’t found any sort of rhythm yet.
The guess here remains that Manning will do what he always does, which is continue to push his unit to grow and get better, and the Colts will be fighting for another Super Bowl appearance come January.
But that’s only if they can dodge trap games like Sunday’s loss from here on out.
Who Are These Saints?
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The New Orleans Saints may be the most overrated 3-1 team in the entire league.
The defending champions aren’t playing anywhere near the level they were last year, and the most shocking part about it has been the lack of offensive firepower.
With Drew Brees at quarterback and a bevy of quality targets to throw to, the one thing the Saints should always be able to do is score points.
But that hasn’t been the case.
New Orleans’ highest total of the season is 25, which it scored in Week 2 to beat 0-4 San Francisco by three points on Monday Night Football.
25 points. Not even four touchdowns. That’s it.
On Sunday, the Saints needed a late field goal to beat the abominable Carolina Panthers at home.
The Panthers haven’t won a football game this year, have shown zero evidence of being capable of beating a team worth anything, and they almost had the defending champs beat on the road.
How in the world does that happen?
Luckily for New Orleans, the Atlanta Falcons—whom the Saints lost to last week—is its only real competition within the division, and the Falcons barely escaped San Francisco this week.
Tampa Bay has some young talent and a young coach that has his players believing in themselves, so that’s a dangerous group on the right day.
With the Saints bringing back all of their major players from last year’s Super Bowl run, many thought they had a good chance to be even better in 2010.
Unless Sean Payton stumbles across his old playbook in the bread aisle this week, “Who Dat?” is a legitimate question we should all be asking.
We'll See Ya Cincinnati
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The Bengals are 2-2, but they won’t be going anywhere this winter except to bed.
A loss to the Browns Sunday put the final frown on a Cincinnati team that some thought would be a big contender in the AFC with Chad Ochocinco, Terrell Owens and Cedric Benson all surrounding Carson Palmer on offense.
The surprise isn’t really that the Bengals are 2-2.
The surprise is what they’ve looked like in the process of going 2-2.
At this point, I’m not sure the Bengals won’t be looking for a quarterback in the next couple drafts.
Carson Palmer clearly isn’t the guy. He has five TDs and three interceptions through four games, but it’s not the numbers with Palmer.
Palmer, in his eighth season in the league, doesn’t only make poor throws, but the decisions he is making are so awful.
If the defense simply caught all the balls that should be picked off in the NFL, Palmer would probably have closer to 10 picks already this year.
He forces the ball into traffic like a rookie feeling his first pro pass rush.
The Pittsburgh Steelers are clearly the class of the division, at least so far, and their loss to Baltimore on Sunday doesn’t change that.
The Steelers were tremendous in the four games without Ben Roethlisberger, going 3-1 and almost beating the Ravens, too.
The AFC North will come down to those two teams with the Bengals simply providing bulletin board material come November.
What Did The Cowboys Learn by Not Playing in Week 4?
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The Cowboys, as bad and discombobulated as they looked by going 1-2 in their first three games, actually learned something by sitting and watching this week.
Dallas learned that its division is wide open.
Actually, “wide open” would be an understatement in describing the NFC East.
The Eagles and Redskins lead it at 2-2, and the Giants will have some sort of say in the matter before we turn our attention to basketball next February.
But the Cowboys should return to work Monday with the utmost confidence in the fact that their hopes of winning the division and making a Super Bowl run are as alive as ever.
Cowboys’ owner Jerry Jones would want nothing more than to see his team in the big game this year, the year that Dallas is hosting the Super Bowl.
If Dallas can figure out a way to get its running game more involved, it has a chance to make a serious run at the division, something we never would have said a couple weeks ago.
The Cowboys have the Titans and the Vikings, respectively, in the next two weeks before taking on the Giants at home on Monday Night Football.
The opportunity is there for the taking.
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