What's the logline for Week 3 in the NFL? Teams that look liked crap for most of the day came from behind, playing like a totally different group than the dudes who suited up in the first half. Every winner from Sunday's eight early games had to play catch-up, like the undefeated Lions and Bills.
Meanwhile, in one of the big afternoon matchups, Atlanta's quarterback couldn't pull off what so many of his peers did in earlier in the day. The Falcons are falling.
The NFC South as a whole is an interesting place. The league's second-best team lives in that division. The team with the biggest and most legit gripe with yours truly resides there as well (Tampa is in the top 10 now. Are we cool, Bucs fandom?) Don't forget surging Carolina, which got its first win while moving up the ladder.
The defense finally showed up. With New England's loss, there's not much debate over who's No. 1, although it's doubtful Dom Capers' unit will only allow 15 points per game in 2011 like it did in 2010.
Who is the second best team in the league? The Bill Belichicks? Detroit? How 'bout the undefeated new-look, old-look Bills? This vote goes to the Saints, whose offense just hasn't been stopped this season. Through three games, Sean Payton's attack has scored 104 points and racked up a whopping 1,200-plus yards of offense. This club deserves its ranking because it beat an explosive Texans squad Sunday, throttled the Bears last week, and fell on the last snap of the game to the top-ranked Packers.
The degree of difficulty on Calvin Johnson's catch in overtime, especially considering the game situation, was about a 10.0. The only reception that comes to mind this season of similar ilk to Megatron's is Reggie Wayne's toe-tapper from the season opener in Houston. But that was late in a blowout. Johnson is just one reason Detroit has shot up the charts. Yes, the win in Minnesota was a nail-biter, but good teams win those kinds of games.
Houston hung with the one of the NFL's top teams on the road and, because of all the other Week 3 losers in the top 10 ( Patriots, Eagles, Jets, and Bears), actually managed to move up a spot. Despite Matt Schaub being shaken up Sunday, his protection has been excellent. Since the beginning of 2009, Schaub has only been sacked 1.8 times per game. Now the key for Houston is for the defensive front to get sacks.
Wow, wow, and wow. There's a lot to like about the undefeated Bills. While Ryan Fitzpatrick gets a lot of the credit -- as he should -- has anyone noticed that Fast Freddie is averaging more than six yards per carry? But back to the quarterback situation. How far removed is this franchise from the Rob Johnson, J.P. Losman, and Trent Edwards eras?
While all the talk around the Patriots has been the record-setting productivity of Tom Brady and the "genius" of Bill Belichick, particularly after the airing of NFL Network's " A Football Life: Bill Belichick," the dirty, dark secret has been the awful secondary play. New England's corners aren't good enough to be pressing like they did Sunday in Buffalo. After three games, Belichick's defense is allowing 377 net yards per game. That's dead last in the NFL, and 66 yards more than the next closest AFC team.
Nice rebound, but I'm still left wondering who these guys are. The Ravens will go as far as Joe Flacco takes them. Baltimore is now 19-2 when he has an in-game passer rating of 100 or better. With the inconsistent and oft-injured secondary a concern, the offense will need to put up more points than in years past. Hey, 553 yards of offense and 37 points in St. Louis was a pretty good start.
New York is 2-1, but who knows what to make of the season so far for Gang Green. Mark Sanchez has two 300-yard game, but that's not this club's blueprint for success. Make no mistake, Rex Ryan and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer want to get Shonn Greene's big butt going. Through three games, he has just 134 yards and is averaging 3.3 yards per tote. That won't get it done.
The Bolts did everything they could to lose to the Chiefs -- at home, no less -- in Sunday's 20-17 win, starting with allowing a whopping 246 return yards. At least they made up for it with two untimely turnovers. The Chargers didn't drop because a win is a win, in theory. But the Bucs, Steelers, and Raiders are all nipping at their heels. The latter is San Diego's prime competition in the AFC West, but those two don't clash until Nov 10.
I apologize, Bucs nation. But before I deliver a full mea culpa, can someone please tell me where that D came from? Sunday's NFC South tilt versus the Falcons was easily the defense's best performance of this season's three-game sample size. My biggest issue with Bucs is not the Bucs, it's the division they play in. But, if Raheem Morris' group can split with New Orleans, then my "sell" status on this team needs to be rescinded.
It's easy to pick apart Pittsburgh, especially after the close call at Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday night. Don't hit the panic button yet. The Steelers lost the turnover battle en route to outgaining the Colts 408-241. Irrespective of who a team is playing, going minus-two in turnover differential almost always spells l-o-s-s. Next up, a real test: Houston's potent offense at Reliant Stadium.
Monday night's game was ridiculous. Does anyone on the Dallas offense know the playbook or snap count? The worst offender was wideout Kevin Ogletree, who kept getting lumped in with the "young players not knowing where to line up" excuse for the disorganized play. He's in his third year. Ogletree should know multiple positions (X, Z, etc.) in Jason Garrett's offense by now. Still, Tony Romo made it work with an even gutsier performance than the win over San Francisco. Rob Ryan's defense came up pretty clutch as well. Big win.
Nice. And thank God. I put myself out there a couple of weeks ago with the Raiders, and Sunday's win was an affirmation of faith in one of the league's most beleaguered franchises. Darren McFadden's explosiveness was front and center in Week 3. A defense can only bottle No. 20 up for so long. The Raiders still shoot themselves in the foot too much, with seven more penalties against the Jets.
Washington lost, and yet, moved up two spots. First, the failure in Dallas was by the thinnest of margins, as well as being on the road. Second, many of the teams ahead of Washington in the rankings lost handily on Sunday. Mike Shanahan must continue to stick with the ground attack, as it makes the play-action game quite effective. One guy who could be hell-on-wheels downfield on these kinds of plays is deep threat Anthony Armstrong. Unfortunately, Armstrong has been somewhat invisible and exited Monday night with a hamstring injury.
When Victor Cruz and three-years-past-his-prime Brandon Jacobs are scoring on long touchdowns, you kind of know it's your day. That said, the G-Men earned this one by stifling the Eagles when it mattered most. Four stops (penalty included) inside the 2-yard line -- holding Philly to a field goal -- was the key point of Sunday's win and underlined the Jekyll-and-Hyde nature of a club that looked awful two weeks ago in Washington.
How do we feel about those orange jerseys? More importantly, how do we feel about Jay Cutler throwing without his feet set, or off his back foot, or inaccurately? You can't blame all of Cutler's imperfections on the offensive line and suspect pass protection. After offensive coordinator Mike Martz fell on the sword for having such a poor run-pass ratio last week, he came back with a 40-pass, nine-run masterpiece vs. the Packers. Mike Martz is who we thought he was.
Bottom line: The starting quarterback is hurt. The standings say 1-2. Last place in the NFC East. Six turnovers in the past two weeks are the six biggest reasons this club has lost two straight, and frankly, that will sink any good team in the parity party going on in the NFL right now. Kurt Coleman, that was a terrible tackle attempt on Victor Cruz. Freaking horrific.
For all the Falcons fans that were so fired up over Atlanta's ranking last week, what say you? If this club is a championship contender, the faceoff down in Tampa is one the club has to pull out. Let's be honest about this whole deal: Matt Ryan, like Brett Favre 10 years ago, continues to be a media darling, but he has faltered in key games and situations often. He's a good player, not great. Of course, it doesn't help that the ground game was outgained 115 to 30. Back to the drawing board, Mike Smith.
Good, tough, clutch win Sunday. Man that felt like some old-school football. Classic, gut-it-out stuff in Cleveland Browns Stadium led to an optimistic 2-1 start. The offense can take some credit for this win â¦ like maybe seven percent of it. Cleveland's defense held Miami to 4 for 13 on third down, forced two turnovers, and sacked Chad Henne five times. Not bad.
After putting on an aerial circus the first two weeks, rookie coach Ron Rivera obtained his first career win the old fashioned way: With a little defense. Funny thing about the Panthers playing much better than anyone expected, or their 1-2 record suggests, is that DeAngelo Williams has played a very small role. After signing a five-year, $43 million contract, Williams has just 61 yards, and is averaging 2.3 yards per carry.
That was one fugly win in Cincinnati. Still, Jim Harbaugh's guys are two up, one down, with the one loss being in overtime. They've looked awful at times, average at others, but it's clear that defensive coordinator Vic Fangio's unit will keep this club in every game. San Francisco has not allowed a 100-yard rusher in 25 games, the longest active streak in the NFL. Are you 49ers fans concerned about Frank Gore yet? Vernon Davis, you're the offense now. The San Francisco receivers had five catches for 41 yards Sunday. Get excited.
Like them or not, the Broncos have been in every game this season. A club that was supposed to struggle mightily has indeed struggled, but not as much as the 1-2 record would lead you to believe. The offense has suffered injuries to Knowshon Moreno (big surprise there), Brandon Lloyd, and Eddie Royal, and sputtered in Tennessee. But the defense has cut last season's 32nd ranking to 16th in 2011, and has given the team a chance.
That was a bad loss in Seattle. I thought -- and still think -- the Cardinals are the favorites in the NFC West. That's what I get for having faith in this franchise. In fact, before the Kurt Warner-led miracle run in 2008, having faith in the Cardinals winning anything was like expecting a sorority girl to sing a Journey song other than "Don't Stop Believing" at the karaoke bar. Big game coming up with the hurting -- but winning -- Giants coming to the desert.
Vikings fans have surely abused their Chris Doleman Starting Lineup figure, torn down their Terry Allen Fathead, and used expletives as adverbs, adjectives and objects of prepositions over the past three weeks. Three games, three excruciating losses. It just doesn't seem fair. Jared Allen was wreaking havoc out there Sunday, but to no avail. Another 6-10 season seems imminent.
The Bengals were so ugly Sunday they couldn't even give themselves a chance on the lateral play at the end. That wasn't exactly a packed house they were playing in front of. Watching the Bengals and 49ers, I was reminded of the two offensive powerhouses that duked it out in 1987, with Jerry Rice catching the winner with seconds left at Riverfront Stadium. Except not at all.
The idea of a competitive season is pulling away from this organization quickly. Tony Sparano had to have a win in Cleveland. Yes, it was a close game. Yes, Miami had its opportunities. The Dolphins held the ball in Cleveland for 37:51, yet couldn't capitalize. And thus, 0-3 is oh-and-three.
Jacksonville is doing its best to hang on before the Jack Del Rio watch starts. A week ago, the Luke McCown-led offense got hammered by the Jets, who are a pretty good team. This time, the winless Panthers, and the worst club in the NFL in 2010, beat the Jags at home. I can't recall a rookie quarterback ever making a debut in worse conditions than Blaine Gabbert did. Forget reading defenses, it was hard to grip the ball in that sloppy mess.
It had to be nice for the organization as a whole to get its first win, especially considering the embarrassing manner in which the Seahawks lost their first two games. The offense is still anemic, although Marshawn Lynch and the ground attack showed some signs of life. Tarvaris Jackson is averaging just 5.4 yards per attempt, 30th in the NFL. Hopefully Sidney Rice's return (eight receptions, 109 yards on Sunday) will ramp Jackson's numbers to respectability.
The Rams made Ravens rookie Torrey Smith look like Randy Moss. What a terrible rebound game for a team most people thought were the favorite in the NFC West. Playing without Danny Amendola and Steven Jackson hurt the offense, no doubt. Still, Steve Spagnuolo has to find ways to create a pass rush and mix coverages effectively, or this team goes 5-11.
Solid effort Sunday night, but the Colts still have a zero in the win column. Now it looks as though Peyton Manning is gone for the season. Is it time to blow the thing up in Indy? This franchise is clearly too dependent on one guy. Meanwhile, Curtis Painter isn't showing anything more than flashes. He does resemble the lovechild of Jay Mohr and Kevin Greene, however.
If the Chiefs are going to win five games, then they certainly needed that victory in SoCal. It seemed as though Matt Cassel never saw Eric Weddle on the ill-fated interception that sealed a loss to the Chargers. With Jamaal Charles, Tony Moeaki, and Eric Berry out for the season, Cassel can't afford a whole heckuva lot of ill-fated throws. The Chiefs could get their first win this week at home against the 0-3 Vikings, who are almost as snake-bitten as they are.