NFL Scores Week 3: Are Cowboys and Vikings Contenders or Pretenders?

RM Herold@@BR_RollinFeatured ColumnistSeptember 27, 2010

NFL Scores Week 3: Are Cowboys and Vikings Contenders or Pretenders?

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    After three weeks of the season, we are getting close to being able to separate the teams that are going to make this season interesting, and the ones that are all bark no bite.

    Unfortunately some are proving to have neither and have decided that when the big dogs are roaming the streets—they will stay on the porch.

    Here's a breakdown of the early season contenders, via a ranking of this week's winners.

15. Pretender: St. Louis Rams

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    ST. LOUIS - SEPTEMBER 26: Sam Bradford #8 of the St. Louis Rams passes against the Washington Redskins at the Edward Jones Dome on September 26, 2010 in St. Louis, Missouri.  The Rams beat the Redskins 30-16.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
    Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

    No one expected the Rams to challenge for a playoff spot while breaking in rookie quarterback Sam Bradford.

    Even though a division with Seattle, Arizona and now an 0-3 San Francisco is totally up for grabs—the Rams still feel like they are a season away.

    And if Steven Jackson is hurt for any significant length of time, then all this momentum from beating the Redskins 30-16 yesterday is going to wash away quickly.

    By the way, speaking of pretenders, after upsetting Dallas in the first week and being up double digits for most of the Houston game, and then facing off against a rookie quarterback who loses his star running back halfway through the game, shouldn't Mike Shanahan's 'Skins be 3-0 right now instead of 1-2?

14. Pretender: Arizona Cardinals

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    GLENDALE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 26:  Quarterback Derek Anderson #3 of the Arizona Cardinals throws a pass during the NFL game against the Oakland Raiders at the University of Phoenix Stadium on September 26, 2010 in Glendale, Arizona.  The Cardinals defeated the
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    There has to be no weirder place to be if you are a football team than the NFC West Division. Look at the Arizona Cardinals.

    Just by glancing at them you know they aren't a good team, but they could be a division winner.

    They are tied for the lead in the division with an equally mediocre Seattle Seahawks team.

    The Cardinals out-ugly'd (made up word alert) the Oakland Raiders yesterday 24-23, and barely beat a rookie quarterback in his first pro game ever, in which he had to throw the ball 55 times.

    No the Cardinals are not contenders for anything other than their division crown. And even that might not happen after they play the likes of: San Diego, New Orleans and the Seattle Pete Carroll's soon.

13. Contender: Kansas City Chiefs

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    KANSAS CITY, MO - SEPTEMBER 26: Matt Cassel #7 of the Kansas City Chiefs passes the ball while under pressure from Justin Smith #94 and Parys Haralson #98 of the San Francisco 49ers at Arrowhead Stadium on September 26, 2010 in Kansas City, Missouri. The
    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    This is where some might think I am crazy. But I will just deliver the facts:

    Kansas City goes into their bye week 3-0 with impressive wins over two teams picked to win their respective divisions.

    They took apart a San Francisco team, 31-10, that most people picked to make a deep playoff run. A Niners team that came into KC desperate for a win.

    They have a two game lead on all three of the teams in their division.

    Matt Cassel had flashbacks of his Patriots days with a three touchdown, 251 yard passing day.

    After facing off against the Colts and Texans in consecutive weeks after the bye week they then have winnable games against Jacksonville, Buffalo and Oakland.

    If they are 6-2 at the mid-season point and still have a two game lead, then everyone will believe right?

12. Contender: Cincinnati Bengals

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    FOXBORO, MA - SEPTEMBER 12: Cedric Benson #32 of the Cincinnati Bengals carries the ball against the New England Patriots during the NFL season opener on September 12, 2010 at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
    Elsa/Getty Images

    After losing an uneven game against New England in the first week, they have found a way to grind out two wins in a row, including a 20-7 win against Carolina yesterday.

    Cedric Benson ran 27 times for 81 yards. Not a lot of yardage but lots of time off the clock. Almost 13 minutes more than Carolina to be precise.

    Carson Palmer threw for a touchdown but was picked off twice. Both Ochocinco and TO had four catches for under 50 yards, but a win is a win.

    More importantly the Bengals face off against Cleveland and Tampa Bay the next two weeks before the schedule gets tougher.

    They should be 4-1 coming off their bye week before going through a gauntlet of Atlanta, Miami, Pittsburgh and Indianapolis.

    After those four games—we will know for sure what the Bengals are.

11. Pretender: New England Patriots

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    FOXBORO, MA - SEPTEMBER 26:  Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots celebrates with  Randy Moss #81 after Moss made a touchdown catch against the Buffalo Bills at Gillette Stadium on September 26, 2010 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Ge
    Jim Rogash/Getty Images

    While division foes Miami and the New York Jets battle like gladiators on national TV last night, earlier in the day Tom Brady and the Patriots were in a 38-30 shoot out...

    With the Buffalo Bills. No disrespect intended to the Ryan Fitzpatrick era. I am sure if their offense scores 30 points a few times this year—they will win some games.

    But that's the problem, I don't see that happening against anyone other than this Pats' defense.

    Granted the defenders are young and inexperienced, but they have given up 24, 28 and 30 points so far this season.

    Now they have to travel to Miami for a Monday Night game before the bye week. If they lose that game they most likely be in third place in the division and struggling to catch either the Dolphins or the Jets just to make a run at the wildcard.

10. Pretender: Tennessee Titans

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    EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - SEPTEMBER 26:  Vince Young #10 of the Tennessee Titans drops back against the New York Giants at New Meadowlands Stadium on September 26, 2010 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
    Andrew Burton/Getty Images

    A 29-10 beat down of the Giants makes for good headlines as well as announcing that Vince Young bounced back.

    But the Giants are a mess and pretty much beat themselves the whole game.

    The Titans are going to be fighting for a wild card spot with a lot of deserving teams and what happens when Chris Johnson doesn't get 125 yards and two touchdowns?

    Will they have to sit Young again if they fall behind?

9. Pretenders: Minnesota Vikings

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    MINNEAPOLIS - SEPTEMBER 26:  Running back Adrian Peterson #28 of the Minnesota Vikings carries the ball while being pursued by Julian Peterson #98 of the Detroit Lions during the second half at Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome on September 26, 2010 in Minneap
    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    I am convinced that Adrian Peterson is the truth.

    By running for 160 yards and two touchdowns, he is the reason the Vikings looked so dominant in a 24-10 win over the Lions.

    I'm also convinced that he has defeated his fumbling problem.

    But, am I convinced that Brett Favre and the passing game is where it needs to be?

    Well, put it this way, he has six interceptions in three games. He had seven last year in 16 games. .

    When your best receiver will be questionable going into the rest of the games this season and your other starting receiver has five receptions for 38 yards, for the season, you are a pretender.

8. Pretender: Seattle Seahawks

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    SEATTLE - SEPTEMBER 26:  Head coach Pete Carroll of the Seattle Seahawks smiles as he talks to quarterback Matt Hasselbeck #8 after a touchdown against the San Diego Chargers at Qwest Field on September 26, 2010 in Seattle, Washington. The Seahawks defeat
    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    I'm sorry. I am not sold. The Seahawks are schizophrenic.

    A great win opening day, then an ugly loss in game two, followed by an uneven 27-20 win over San Diego, made possible with a Herculean effort from back up running back and super return man Leon Washington.

    Seattle doesn't have to prove anything to me as long as they believe in themselves, which is what head coach Pete Carroll teaches.

    He is a positive thinker. And I am positive that the Seahawks are pretenders.

7. Contender: Dallas Cowboys

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    ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 19:  Wide receiver Miles Austin #19 of the Dallas Cowboys at Cowboys Stadium on September 19, 2010 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    After all the hand wringing and worrying about whether Wade Phillips was about to be out of a job, one good win makes the Cowboys a viable playoff contender again.

    They beat a high scoring Houston Texans team by shutting them down, 27-13, and now they sit just one game out of first place in an unpredictable division.

    They come out of this week's bye week with four winnable games waiting for them ( Titans, Vikings, Giants and Jaguars), although three of them are on the road.

    For now the whispers have been silenced but they start up again—after their week off.

6. Contender: Atlanta Falcons

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    NEW ORLEANS - SEPTEMBER 26:  Matt Ryan #2 of the Atlanta Falcons throws the ball against the New Orleans Saints at the Louisiana Superdome on September 26, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  The Falcons defeated the Saints 27-24.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/G
    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    After losing a defensive struggle in game one against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Falcons have reeled off two impressive wins, including yesterday in overtime against the World Champs in New Orleans.

    The game went back and forth as the two teams traded blows throughout.

    Even though Michael Turner was back after missing a game, and put up over 100 yards, his back up Jason Snelling proved his replacement duty numbers was no fluke by putting up 62 yards in relief.

    With a sound running game and Matt Ryan getting back to the form he had two years ago, the Falcons are definitely contenders.

    Maybe even for the division crown.

5. Contender: Philadelphia Eagles

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    PHILADELPHIA - AUGUST 13:  DeSean Jackson #10 of the Philadelphia Eagles against the Jacksonville Jaguars during their preseason game at Lincoln Financial Field on August 13, 2010 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
    Nick Laham/Getty Images

    So far, the debate has been whether Andy Reid was right in naming Michael Vick his starter for the foreseeable future.

    It's been covered everywhere, and to Coach Reid's credit he hasn't ducked the criticism as talking heads on Rome is Burning, Around the Horn and PTI have all chimed in.

    Meanwhile on the field, Vick is making all the right decisions and the team is putting up impressive numbers—including demolishing the Jacksonville Jaguars yesterday, 28-3.

    The next test for them? Fighting off the stress and emotions that will come with Donovan McNabb's return to Philadelphia.

    With a win next week, the Eagles will probably be favored in every their three remaining games before the bye week, (San Francisco, Atlanta, Tennessee).

    Win those games and Philly might be well on their way to a playoff berth.

4.. Contender: Pittsburgh Steelers

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    TAMPA, FL - SEPTEMBER 26:  Running back Rashard Mendenhall #34 of the Pittsburgh Steelers runs the ball against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the game at Raymond James Stadium on September 26, 2010 in Tampa, Florida. The undefeated Steelers won 38-13.
    J. Meric/Getty Images

    Pittsburgh is either going to go into their bye week at 3-1 or 4-0.

    That means they will have made it through without Ben Roethlisberger and come out with no less than a tie for first place in the division.

    After sending the Buccaneers back to earth with a 38-13 trouncing, and three touchdown passes from Charlie Batch on only 12 completions, the Steelers have to feel good about their chances of making a deep playoff run when Big Ben comes back.

    The only thing that they should be weary of is that four of the five opponents that they face when Roethlisberger returns are probably playoff contenders, and two of the games are division foes, so Big Ben better hit the ground running.

3. Contender: New York Jets

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    EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - SEPTEMBER 19:  Rex Ryan, Head Coach of the New York Jets throws passes before the game against the New England Patriots on September 19, 2010 at the New Meadowlands Stadium  in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty I
    Al Bello/Getty Images

    Rex Ryan is proving to be a really good coach. Late in the game against the Dolphins last night, Ryan challenged what most would think is a pretty silly thing: whether or not a twelfth man for Miami was able to get off the field in time, so that he could get a penalty for his team, and an extra down to kill the clock.

    Though his challenge didn't work, he proved to his team that he will do anything and everything to help them win games.

    Who wouldn't want to play for a guy like that?

    Right now the Jets are 2-1 with impressive victories against their two division foes, New England and Miami, (including a 31-23 win yesterday over the Dolphins).

    Mark Sanchez had another great game as he proves that he is an asset to the team and not a liability as most initially thought. And the defense is holding up quite well without Revis.

    Even though the off field stuff keeps them in the tabloids, as long as Coach Ryan keeps the team in control on the field, who cares, right?

2. Contender: Baltimore Ravens

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    EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - SEPTEMBER 13:  Ray Lewis #52 of the Baltimore Ravens reacts after a play against the New York Jets during the Jets home opener at the New Meadowlands Stadium on September 13, 2010 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Jim McIsaa
    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    For some reason, Baltimore can't beat Cincinnati.

    But other than them, the Ravens seems to be ready for any opponent. The wins won't be pretty—as evidenced by the victory over a gutsy Cleveland team yesterday 24-17, but they will come.

    You have to wan to get dirty if you play the Ravens, and fortunately for them, not many teams on their schedule outside of their division want do that.

    And Flacco finding his mojo doesn't hurt their cause.

1. Contender: Indianapolis Colts

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    DENVER - SEPTEMBER 26:  Quarterback Peyton Manning #18 of the Indianapolis Colts directs the offense against the Denver Broncos at INVESCO Field at Mile High on September 26, 2010 in Denver, Colorado. The Colts defeated the Broncos 27-13.  (Photo by Doug
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    You get the feeling that if right before the game, All of Peyton's receivers came down with a gut wrenching flu, that Manning could look in the stands, find three guys and make them stars.

    I have no doubt that is what he did yesterday as some guy named Blair White did his impersonation of Jerry Rice for the Colts.

    Who is he? Ask his parents but he joined a very impressive list of guys who have caught touchdowns from Peyton Manning.

    Are the Colts contenders for the playoffs, division, conference and Super Bowl crowns?


    Because of this guy.