In 1946, the NFL selected de Benneville "Bert" Bell, a former player and coach at the University of Pennsylvania, co-founder of the Philadelphia Eagles and one-time co-owner and coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers, as its fifth commissioner.
Bell is credited for many of the league's innovative ideas that are still in effect today, like starting the college draft in 1936 when he was with the Eagles, devising a revenue sharing plan to help the small-market teams stay competitive and having the league office take over the scheduling of games. However, he may be best remembered for coining the phrase, "On any given Sunday, any team can beat any other team."
On Sunday, the 50th anniversary of Bell's death, that phrase did not hold true.
When I first glanced at the schedule early in the week, I looked to see which game might provide a major upset. Would the winless Rams beat the 4-0 Vikings? Would the Raiders upset the powerful Giants? Would the Buccaneers get their first win by beating the well-rested Eagles? Would the Chiefs be able to knock of the Cowboys at home? Or would the Lions get another win and defeat the Steelers?
After five weeks, the 2009 season has shown us there are some very good teams, some very average teams and some very, very bad teams.
» The Cincinnati Bengals played with heavy hearts on Sunday, three days after defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer unexpectedly discovered his wife dead after returning home from practice. Vikki Zimmer was involved with the team, baking cookies for the players and coaches. They made her proud by beating the Ravens and extended their winning streak to four. Zimmer was awarded the game ball after the victory. Our hearts and prayers go out to the entire Zimmer family.
» Miles Austin, the pride of Monmouth College, had an incredible day. The Cowboys needed every one of his 250 yards and two touchdowns to beat the Chiefs in overtime. The Jets courted Austin in the offseason and talked about making an offer to the restricted free agent, but never did. After Sunday, I bet they wish they had.
» Falcons wideout Roddy White not only had two touchdown catches and more than 200 receiving yards, but he also forced a fumble on an interception return, which resulted in the Falcons regaining possession of the ball. White was by far the fastest player on the field and he was darn near impossible for the 49ers to cover.
» The Broncos are 5-0 and they did it once again by winning a very close game, this time beating the Patriots in overtime. Their defense, which has allowed just 43 points this season (8.6 per game), held New England scoreless in the second half as the offense rallied to send the game into OT.
» Can things get much worse in Oakland? In their previous 100 games (since the end of the 2002 season), the Raiders were 25-75. Yesterday was loss No. 76. What is most alarming about the 2009 Raiders is that they're the first team since at least 1960 to have fewer than 200 total yards of offense in four straight games.
» Browns QB Derek Anderson completed just two passes in 17 attempts for 23 yards, yet Cleveland still found a way to beat the Bills. Weather was not a reason for the bad air show from the Browns, who traded away Braylon Edwards last week; they just failed to make plays. Do you realize the Bills have lost 12 of their last 15 games?
» What has happened to running back Clinton Portis? The Redskins have failed to score at least 20 points in 12 of their last 13 games and Portis does not look like the same Pro Bowl running back. His long run was for 7 yards on Sunday against a Carolina run defense that ranked last in the league. Is it over for Portis, or are the 'Skins that bad up front? From my scouting view, a little of both.
» How does Jacksonville play so well for the past two weeks and lay a huge egg in the Pacific Northwest on Sunday? I realize the Jaguars had to travel more than 2,400 miles, but to play as bad as they did coming off a win against the Titans is very disappointing. Eight of their 11 possessions resulted in fewer than five plays.
On the lookout
» Donovan McNabb was all the way back in his return to the field after missing two games. On his first play, he ran for a cool 15 yards and then followed that up with a 51-yard touchdown pass to rookie Jeremy Maclin. He accounted for 210 of the Eagles' 219 first-half yards. As I watched the game unfold, I kept wondering why the Eagles need Michael Vick.
» The Bengals are very good overall defensively, but their corners, Leon Hall and Johnathan Joseph (watch Joseph's INT), might be headed to the Pro Bowl in Miami after the season. They have taken the best wide receivers out of the game in the first five weeks, including the last three in which their opponents' top wideout was held without a catch. On Sunday, Ravens WR Derrick Mason was thrown to only once, a second-quarter incompletion.
» The Seahawks are two different teams depending on who plays quarterback and where they play. At home with crowd noise, their defense always seems to play at a much higher level. In three home games, they have allowed a total of 25 points -- two shutouts and 25 points to Chicago in a Week 3 loss. In the two complete games QB Matt Hasselbeck has played (he was injured early in a Week 2 loss to the Niners), the Seahawks have outscored their opponents 69-0. In the three games he has either missed entirely or played sparingly, Seattle has been outscored 82-46 -- all losses.
On the lookout ... for fantasy fans
» Cedric Benson wins my vote for the most improved player. He looked bad when he played for the Bears and now looks sensational for the Bengals. He was the first back since Larry Johnson in December 2006 to rush for more than 100 yards against the Ravens. He is playing at an amazing level right now.
» With the trading deadline set for Oct. 20, Eagles wide receiver Kevin Curtis might be on the block. Curtis may be expendable because of the play of Maclin, who had more than 100 yards and two touchdowns at the half.
» Colts wide receiver Austin Collie is becoming a favorite of Manning. Collie has three touchdowns in the last two weeks, and his ability to use his quickness getting away from press coverage or running with the ball is impressive.
Off the beaten track
» The Cardinals have tried to run the ball this year, but after four games it has not worked out well. Arizona just needs to be what it is -- a great passing team. The 49ers need to play a certain style each week, which is to make very few mistakes and win with their defense. Whenever they play a good offensive team, they will struggle to keep pace, like they did on Sunday against Atlanta. Conversely, the Ravens can no longer rely on their defense to win the game. Instead, they have to rely on their offense. And when their offense struggles to produce points, you get results like they got Sunday against Cincinnati.
» The Panthers might not be as talented as they were last year, but their will to fight has not been lost. The team still responds to coach John Fox, and if the Panthers were ever going to quit, down by 15 in the third quarter against the Redskins would have been the time.
» The Eagles are not the same team on defense. Bucs second-year quarterback Josh Johnson moved the ball on them at times in the heat of the blitz. They need to play better than they did Sunday if they want to contend with the Giants. ...
» Are the Cowboys as a team closer to the Chiefs and Bucs or are they closer to the Giants and Eagles? Dallas struggled in victories at Tampa Bay and Kansas City, and got beaten by the Giants at home. I think the 'Boys aren't as good as many suspect. ...
» The Broncos have copied the 2008 Miami Dolphins formula. They know how to win close games, are comfortable playing in close games and do not beat themselves. They are very good at making the right game-time adjustments, and on Sunday they held Tom Brady to 5-of-14 in the second half for 63 yards. ...
» The Lions might only have one win, but they play hard each week and they are no longer a pushover. They do a good job of keeping the game close and as they improve their talent level, they will be successful. ...
» I really do not have any idea of who the Rams can beat this year. They are bad on both sides of the ball in terms of talent and this is going to take years to rebuild. ...
» I have a feeling Bills coach Dick Jauron won't be able to make it through the season. The Bills are a bad team and their expectations were too high coming into the year, which usually translates into the coach getting fired.