10 Things We Learned From Week 3 in the NFL
Week 3 in the NFL was full of upsets and disappointments. It's too early to start calling out who's going to the playoffs and whose season is doomed, but there are plenty of indications of where the needle is pointing for some teams.
Teams like the Buffalo Bills continue to be on the rise whereas the Indianapolis Colts are already looking forward to 2012. There also teams like the 49ers that look like they could be a sleeper to win their division.
There were plenty of lessons to be learned from this week.
Indianapolis Colts Aren't Going Anywhere Without Manning
I was incredibly surprised with how hard the Colts played Sunday night even without Peyton Manning. Kerry Collins made a few decent plays, as did Curtis Painter, but they aren't anywhere near the level of Manning.
For a while it looked like Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis were going to put the Colts team on their back and win it themselves. They absolutely destroyed Ben Roethlisberger the entire game. The Colts run defense was surprisingly good, as was the run game with Joseph Addai.
All that being said, the Colts cannot win games because none of their QBs can make a clutch play. Painter has a bad habit of throwing at receivers' feet and over their heads.
2012 is looking better and better all the time for the Colts.
Steelers Might Have the Worst Offensive Line in the NFL
To say the Steelers offensive line is bad would be an understatement. Their line looked like a jail break. They couldn't run block or pass block to save their lives. There were no holes for Rashard Mendenhall, and Big Ben was running for his life all night.
Jonathan Scott, at left tackle, looked horribly overwhelmed while trying to contain Dwight Freeney. Marcus Gilbert, at right tackle, performed reasonably well for a rookie, having to deal with a great pass rusher like Robert Mathis.
The only bright spot to this entire unit is Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey, but he looks like he's trying to block three defenders by himself on every play. This unit, especially with injuries to Doug Legursky, Marcus Gilbert and Scott, will likely have to pick up a free agent like Flozell Adams or Max Starks.
Matt Hasselbeck Isn't Washed Up Yet
The Seattle Seahawks made a major mistake by letting Matt Hasselbeck walk away in free agency. Hasselbeck is probably not as good as he was in his prime, during the Shaun Alexander years, but he sure beats Tarvaris Jackson.
Hasselbeck showed on Sunday that he can still get it done and he makes the Titans at least an 8-8 team. If the Titans can get the run game going, he could get even better.
The biggest setback for the Titans is going to be the loss of Kenny Britt for the season due to an ACL/MCL tear. It looks like they are set to sign free-agent wideout Justin Gage, who is familiar with the Titans' offensive system.
Something Is Terribly Wrong in Minnesota
Donovan McNabb in Minnesota is not the same McNabb that continually took the Philadelphia Eagles to the playoffs. The Vikes have no major weapons outside of Percy Harvin, Adrian Peterson and occasionally tight end Kyle Rudolph.
Despite those two facts, the Vikings' woes cannot be completely blamed on McNabb and the rest of the offense. The bottom line is the buck stops at the coaching.
I'm not sure if it's Leslie Frazier or offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave that's to blame, but someone on the coaching staff is responsible for the Vikings blowing three second-half leads in a row.
How can you justify not running the ball with the best running back in football when you have a 20-point lead? Why would you keep giving the ball to McNabb when he keeps giving you nothing but three-and-outs and a short field to defend?
No matter how good the defense can be, it won't matter if the offense keeps sputtering and failing.
Josh Freeman Is Clutch
It doesn't matter if the defense isn't playing stellar. It doesn't matter if the pass blocking isn't what it should be. It doesn't matter if the Bucs are down in the fourth quarter. They have Josh Freeman.
Freeman is straight-up clutch. He is the new Captain Comeback with eight fourth-quarter comebacks in 28 starts. His huge size and mobility allow him to extend the play, much like Ben Roethlisberger.
The Bucs are no better than a 6-10 or 7-9 team without Freeman, but with him they are a continual playoff contender. The arrow on this kid is most definitely pointing up.
Chan Gailey Is One of the Best Coaches in the League Right Now
When the Bills hired Chan Gailey as head coach after firing Dick Jauron and passing over Perry Fewell, it looked like a weak move. This was far from the truth. Gailey is turning an average team into a very good one.
Ryan Fitzpatrick is really coming into his own, but he fits in to Gailey's offensive system much like Drew Brees fits in to Sean Payton's. Gailey did something no other Bills coach has done since 2003: Beat the New England Patriots.
Gailey is an early candidate for Coach of the Year, but this will of course depend on him keeping the Bills on the winning path.
The New England Patriots Are Beatable
The Patriots are beatable and they were beat by the Buffalo Bills, of all teams. Really, the surprising thing was more so how they lost, not that they lost.
Many people, myself included, figured the Pats would eventually lose, but it would it be due to their horrendous defense. While the defense was bad the major reason they lost was the four interceptions thrown by Tom Brady.
This loss doesn't mean the Pats are not the best team in the AFC East, despite being behind the Bills, but it does mean they are not invincible. Look for other teams to look at this game tape for the blueprint to beat the Patriots.
The NFC West Remains the League's Worst Division
It is truly hard to watch most games involving an NFC West team. This is easily the weakest division in pro football.
The Rams looked like preseason favorites to win the division but are 0-3 and looking terrible. Part of this could be a lack of weapons for Sam Bradford, and part of the blame can be attributed to offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.
The Cardinals are much improved with Kevin Kolb, but they aren't even close to where they should be. They have the quarterback, they have one of the best receivers in the league and there is no reason they should be tied for second place in the worst division.
The Seahawks have a great defense, especially their front seven, and the addition of Sidney Rice to the lineup certainly helps the offense, but they won't win too many games with Tarvaris Jackson under center.
The San Francisco 49ers would be in third place at best in any other division but they are the clear front-runners in the NFC West despite their numerous weaknesses. Being in the NFC West certainly helps Jim Harbaugh adjust to head coaching in the NFL
Oakland Raiders Look Surprisingly Good
Darren McFadden has truly come into his own and is shredding run defenses around the league. Jason Campbell is doing enough to not lose them the game every time.
The defense is excellent despite the loss of Nnamdi Asomugha. Their front seven is exceptional, and Richard Seymour has brought a nastiness and high level of aggression to the entire defense.
Hue Jackson has got this team looking like a serious contender for the AFC West title. There is a certain chemistry and swagger on this team that will help them be in it to the end at every game.
Tony Sparano Is Heading to the Unemployment Line
Dolphins owner Stephen Ross already showed a serious lack of confidence in Tony Sparano when he tried to lure Jim Harbaugh to Miami this past offseason. Sparano has done little to instill confidence while leading the Dolphins to an 0-3 start.
Despite high hopes for the Dolphins defense and the maturation of Chad Henne as a passer and team leader, the Dolphins look bad. Henne has suffered from several mentor errors, but what's even more concerning is the defense.
Koa Misi has had little impact, Karlos Dansby looks a few steps slower and Pro Bowler Cameron Wake is having trouble getting to the passer as consistently as he did in 2010.
There is little reason to believe the Dolphins will get much better, and that means Tony Sparano is likely going to be looking for a new job after this season.