Six from Sunday: QB carousel refusing to slow down

Week 3 is the last week with 16 games on the schedule until mid-November, as the byes kick in over the next seven weeks.

It was an interesting full slate of games in which a number of things jumped out at me as I sat and watched them all with Bill Cowher, Dan Marino, Boomer Esiason and Shannon Sharpe. Here are six observations I took away from Sunday:

1. Next man up

The big story in the NFL last week was the quarterback carousel that was in full spin cycle. The Panthers, Raiders and Bills all switched starters and the Jaguars probably would have joined the other three if they didn't lose backup Josh McCown on the last play of their Week 2 loss to the Chargers.

The switches at QB still didn't produce a victory in Week 3, but I do think Bruce Gradkowski is an upgrade in Oakland. Jimmy Clausen demonstrated he's not ready to change the fortunes of the Panthers, but I do think Ryan Fitzpatrick will make the Bills slightly more competitive.

In Jacksonville, it appears David Garrard is far from out of the woods. "I don't want to speak for David, but he was largely ineffective," coach Jack Del Rio said after the Jaguars' 28-3 home loss to Philadelphia. Problem is, Del Rio could have trouble finding a replacement on his roster.

Keep your eye on Arizona, San Francisco and maybe even Seattle over the next few weeks for possibly more changes. Coaches and front office executives seem to be so much more ready to pull a quarterback early than ever before, and the numbers bear it out: Seven teams have changed starting quarterbacks this season, tied for the most through the first three weeks of a non-strike season since 1970.

2. Special teams not so special

I said two weeks ago that special teams could get worse before they get better. There are way too many inexperienced players on coverage units and all aspects of special teams are, at best, a work in progress.

Make no mistake about it, teams are losing games because of problems on special teams. Just ask the Chargers, who have allowed three long touchdown returns in their two losses, including two on kickoffs to Seattle on Sunday.

But the Chargers aren't alone. In total, there were four kickoff return scores on Sunday, nine missed field goals (two directly leading to losses), five muffed punts, a blocked kick and punt, and a number of punt returns of more than 40 yards.

There are wins to be had for the teams that can improve quickly in the special teams area.

3. Calamitous 0-3, confident 3-0

There are five teams without a victory: Buffalo, Cleveland, San Francisco, San Francisco, Detroit and Carolina. The cold reality for those teams is this: Since 1990, only three percent of teams in that situation have dug their way out and made the playoffs.

It's not that other teams are so far away from them in the standings but rather the emotional stress and pressure is becoming hard to manage. We've already seen that stress play out in San Francisco, where Mike Singletaryfired offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye on Monday, a day after his team just mustered 251 yards of offense (43 rushing) in a 31-10 loss at Kansas City.

The 3-0 teams, on the other hand, have a good foothold on a much brighter future. Since 1990, 75 percent of the teams that started 3-0 made the playoffs. As Cowher said, "Confidence and momentum can make a football team feel like it is better than it really is." Kansas City officially became a dangerous team this weekend.

4. Vick's real tests upcoming

Michael Vick has thrown 102 passes without an interception this season. He has done a great job of getting the young stars on offense involved in the offense with Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson combining to grab three touchdown passes on Sunday.

Even though Vick has already been sacked 12 times, there is little doubt he is covering up some of the issues on the Eagles' offensive line. Most importantly, Andy Reid did the right thing by handing the starting job to the guy who already won over the locker room.

Donovan McNabb and the Redskins are up next for the Eagles, and that will be a much bigger test for Vick than the Lions or Jaguars offered the past two weeks.

5. Hail the Redskins: Rookie QBs do

It was Week 3 last year, in a victory over Washington, when Matthew Stafford brought so much hope to Lions fans, who realized they finally had a quarterback of the future. Well, the Redskins once again launched the career of a rookie quarterback, as well as the dreams of the St. Louis fans.

Sam Bradford got his first win as a pro on Sunday, and he did it by playing the second half without Steven Jackson in the backfield. On top of that, he was 7-for-16 on third downs. Bradford is only being sacked once every 20 pass attempts, which is impressive at this early point in his career.

If Bradford can keep up the production he has delivered to date, he could wind up with 3,500 yards and 21 touchdowns by season's end. It was just a few months ago when many Rams fans were criticizing the selection of Bradford in the draft. I suspect I will not hear from any disgruntled fans on my Sirius radio show this week.

Meanwhile, keep a close eye on Jackson's injury status this week and the possibility of the Rams signing Larry Johnson, who was recently released by Washington.

6. Recognizing the good coaching jobs

Here are four coaches that put a great plan together last week, taught it to the players and got great execution on game day:

Bruce Arians, offensive coordinator, Steelers: Arians has been just holding down the fort as the defense dominated opponents, but this week the offense was outstanding. Charlie Batch came off the bench to throw three touchdown passes, and the running game produced 201 yards and 31 points.

Charlie Weis, offensive coordinator, Chiefs: Weis has done a good job of developing Matt Cassel, who had a three-touchdown passing game on Sunday, and the running game produced 207 yards against a 49ers defense that came into the season with a reputation of being one of the better units in the league.

Wade Phillips, head coach, Cowboys: Phillips serves as defensive coordinator of the Cowboys, who went on the road to confront an in-state rival and high-powered offense in the Houston Texans. When the game was over, Houston had 13 offensive points, Matt Schaub was sacked four times, picked off twice and lost the time-of-possession battle. Phillips came into the game with rumors swirling that he could be fired if the Cowboys lost to the Texans and started 0-3. I would be surprised if Jerry Jones wants to fire his head coach and his defensive coordinator in one shot.

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