Manly House of Football: Bad things come in threes

Show of hands -- how many fantasy football owners had Ronnie Brown on their bench? Okay, I admit that was a cheap shot. If it's any consolation, on various teams last week I benched Steve Slaton, the Eagle D and Matt Forte, so it's not like I have the world's greatest crystal ball …

Or do I?

In the world of comedy writing, one of the oldest laws is the rule of three: Any time you're making a funny analogy, using three examples is money.

I know three French words: bonjour, merci, and surrender…

The rule of three also applies to fantasy football: My wife says I play fantasy football like I make love: childish, selfish, and in the end there's a whole lot of crying …

The number three also means a lot for real, honest to God NFL teams, because when it comes to realizing a playoff-caliber campaign, one thing is certain: Losing your first three games is a historical kiss of death to any postseason dreams.

That's why last week was so interesting. We saw a number of teams staring down the ugly barrel of 0-3. Their backs were against the wall. It was do… or die and start looking ahead to the draft. Adding to the intensity of Week 3 is the hope that can thrive if you manage to go 1-2: Remember, the Giants looked bad early last year -- 0-2 before beating the Redskins in Week 3. As we all know, the season turned out pretty good.

So who answered the bell? Let's start with the JAGUARS:

Coming off their impressive run last year and the emergence of David Garrard, I was among the many who had them as a chic yet slightly gutsy pick to get to the Super Bowl.

Thud.

Sprinkle that dream with two tough losses to the now-we-know-they're-really-good Titans and Bills, and all of a sudden traveling to Indy with a line that was so banged up they were forced to sign players off the street looked like a catastrophic 0-3 start waiting to happen. I mean, if the Jags can't run the ball, the whole machine falls apart.

That's where this team showed its heart. They didn't make excuses; they simply rededicated themselves to the remarkable one-two punch of Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew, and boom goes the dynamite! The running game grew stronger and stronger until we saw both backs top the century mark, and Jax controlled the ball for 70 percent of the fourth quarter! A true return to form as they gut out a patient, physical game… except for one thing: They left Peyton Manning with time for one more drive, and a TD wins it. Admit it, you know this is what Peyton does -- he toys with your heart, then engineers a winning drive as the clock ticks away any chance of an answer-score.

Something told me things were different when the Jags D laid out Dallas Clark at the start of the drive. Alas, Manning does the unthinkable. He lubes up that bursa sac (that sounds dirty, but I swear it's all technical jargon!) and actually runs for a long first down! The rest is the same as it ever was. Like a surgeon, Manning drives the Colts down to the Jags' 2-yard line. First down: pass batted down. Second down: he throws one away. Third down: He hands off to Joseph Addai, who punches it in … ballgame. Too much field, not enough time, right?

Wrong! Reggie Williams manages to set a pick and draw an interference call. The next pass is complete to … Montel Owens! Who?! Yikes, the Jags have a first down at midfield with 20 seconds to go! Next pass complete to … Mike Walker! Again, who?! First catch as a Jag. Eight second left, time out, here comes Josh Scobee to attempt the 51-yarder. Freeze the kicker, give him some time to text his mom for support … slump buster on the road? Yes!

And just like that, Jacksonville is back to looking like a viable team. Next week they should be able to handle Houston, then lookout -- here come the Steelers and the Broncos. A playoff team finds a way to make that 3-2, a pretender doesn't.

Elsewhere in 1-2ville

The VIKINGS were another trendy playoff pick that dug a pretty deep hole in Weeks 1 and 2, albeit against quality opponents like the Packers and Colts. Regardless, you have to doff your cap at the switch from Tarvaris Jackson to Gus Frerotte at QB. He led them to a win over the suddenly-resurgent Carolina Panthers, and the train is back on the tracks. Their next three games are against the Titans, Saints, and Lions. A team that's truly on the upswing runs that table, because the Titans are the only team that pose a big threat. Beating the Lions is a three-foot putt, and alas, the Saints without Marques Colston and Jeremy Shockey have been reduced to a five-foot putt.

The SEAHAWKS also got off the schneid, but let's face it … they beat the Rams -- the NFL's dreamiest slump buster since the 2007 Dolphins, and a team that looks like it would have a hard time beating a solid WAC squad.

The CHARGERS got robbed, then got on the good foot by posting an arena league number on the Jets. Then again, the Merriman-less D has yet to inspire, so they've got some stuff to prove. With Oakland, Miami, and New England coming up, they have no excuse not to land at 4-2. Yeah I said it, that means they handle the Pats!

Speaking of the DOLPHINS, this list also has to include the improbable jail-pounding the Fins threw down against the Patriots to also avoid the dreaded 0-3 start. 38-13?! In New England?! 16-0 versus 1-15 a year ago, and I am still rubbing my eyes in disbelief. After hearing endless platitudinous treacle about the magnificence of Bill Belichick and the heart of this team, all of a sudden they look like pouting front-runners who haven't got a clue how to suck it up and deal with adversity. The big question now is what this loss says about the team's confidence in Matt Cassel?

Wait … what's that I hear … Vinny Testaverde uncapping the Bengay and warming up the old howitzer? Or is that Daunte Culpepper? What's that you say -- Steve Grogan?! I know one thing -- all three of 'em could manage to get the long ball to Randy Moss. Don't let the post-game press conference fool you -- a few more 4-catch, 25-yard Sundays and Moss' mindset is off to Tom Walsh land.

The Pats may be 2-1, but I expect an 0-2 effort next week! What's that you say -- they have a bye week? Hmmm … maybe that's all the time Daryle Lamonica needs to learn the system.

The only things uglier than your stock portfolio …

…are the sorry teams that now find themselves sitting at 0-3. Where do I begin?

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The good people of K.C. deserve a lot better than this CHEIFS mess. Sure, they started a quarterback named Tyler Thigpen, a man I had never heard of before last week. But let's look at the big picture here: Since Herm Edwards came to town, this team has gotten worse every year, to the point where they may be longing for the four wins they scraped together in '07. One more time, riddle me that Jared Allen trade?

The BENGALS are the one team here that looked good in their third defeat of the season -- pushing the mighty New York Giants into overtime and finally waking up on offense. So what does that mean … they have a shot at going 8-8? It's hard to remember there was a time not too long ago when this team seemed to be a decent defense away from greatness.

Sam Wyche may have scolded the Cincinnati crowd by grabbing a P.A. mic and yelling the infamous words, "You don't live in Cleveland!" but at this point, what's the diff? I was definitely one of the nay-sayers when the BROWNS were mentioned as a team ready to make a big step -- my opinion was based entirely on their brutal schedule. I had no idea they'd look this horrid. A shame. Brady Quinn better be pounding down some Tylenol with his Myoplex, 'cuz there's zero reason not to give him a start.

I already weighed in on the RAMS, who are so bad it feels cruel to go into detail. They are giving up an average of 38.6 points per game! On the bright side, you know which team to start your fantasy players against> But again, was it really that necessary to run Mike Martz out of town, folks?

Speaking of those who cast Martz aside, I will show no such mercy for the LIONS. Long before I read William Ford Jr.'s comments about wishing he had the power to fire the GM, I had Matt Millen on the brain Sunday. Getting smacked by Martz and former Lions QB J.T. O'Sullivan is more proof that Millen wouldn't know talent on the field or the sidelines if it walked up to him and demanded he take a pay cut … or at least a sabbatical to go study under Bill Polian, or anyone who knows how to succeed at the task of building a winner.

Look, in a sport where teams regularly cut great veteran players once they've lost a step without even blinking, it was about time they told Millen he should try his hand at running something a little easier, like one of those mall kiosks where you can buy shiny cases for your cell phone.

Say, didn't Millen have a shot at keeping Dick Jauron, too? You know, head coach of the 3-0 Buffalo Bills? Sorry, but I had to gloat -- it's been a long time. Hopefully you long-suffering Lion fans get to do the same thing in the near future now that Millen is gone.

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