Another week in the NFL that makes us realize how much we love the game, how much we hate when our team sucks, and how much much we think we know after less than a quarter of the season. There is a line drawn in the proverbial sand when a team faces the prospect of going 0-2 or 2-0, but the line becomes even more visible after week 3. Getting that first win keeps realistic playoff hope alive, but facing 0-3 means you must do what only 3 teams have done in the salary cap era in making the playoffs. The 3-0 teams can begin their delusions about cake-walking into Tampa, and for teams that have not been 3-0 in awhile, fans can get excited about the possibilities. The separation of the 1-2 and 2-1 teams seem to be clowns to the left of them(Al Davis), jokers to the right(Joey Porter) and here they are stuck in the middle with 2(losses or wins). Let's take a look at the separation from this week that is causing the anxiety.
Zorn to be Wild (WSH 24, ARI 17)
The outlook has changed in the DC area after the Redskins produced another quality win n Sunday. Yes, Arizona is a quality win now. The Redskins head to Dallas this week so it should be interesting to see how they fair against the best in their division. The Cardinals should in no way panic yet. Any loss where they are in it at the end is a good loss for continuing to change the culture in Arizona, but they can't let it become a habit. From what we have seen from the rest of the NFC West, they still should come out on top of this division.
Blue Suede Shoes (ATL 38, KC 14)
Atlanta may have gotten a reality check last week but the reality is that they can beat bad teams, and beat them soundly. That makes the Falcons a mediocre team, which nobody thought they would be this year. Even with the stands almost empty, they are playing hard, and Ryan is showing he has the stuff to get it done in the league. It is very possible the Falcons could sneak by the befuddled Panthers and take the lead in the division. Herm Edwards was not exactly handed a full deck this year, but if the Chiefs don't start competing he may be playing to keep his job at the end of the year.
Take to the air (TB 27, CHI 24 OT)
Brian Griese threw the ball a lot, and usually when your team throws over 60 times a game and only scores 27 points, you lose. But Kyle Orton had another so-so performance, including an interception returned by DL Gaines Adams (Sick on the stick!) to keep Tampa in the game. In the overtime Charles Tillman retaliated for some after the whistle bumping by Tampa and got caught by the refs giving the Bucs and automatic first down from which they would turn into the game-winning field goal.
The Bucs have been less than impressive but are still in the suddenly highly competitive NFC South. Chicago still has a solid team but unless they hold at home against the Eagles this week they will be staring at 1-3.
Everyone on the Gus Bus (MIN 20, CAR 10)
The Panthers had complete control until right before halftime Jake Delhomme got hit from his non-blind side and fumbled away a TD. Once the Panthers got behind and were forced to pass, the front four for the Vikings pinned their ears back and caused havoc in the Carolina backfield. Steve Smith did not get the ball enough and Frerrote made the throws in the second half that Tavaris Jackson has not proved he can make. Minnesota had great ball control in the second half and the Panthers looked unprepared and unconfident after looking the opposite their first two games.
Manning among men (NYG 26, CIN 23 OT)
There is no doubt Eli Manning has become a more confident quarterback and has established himself as one of the better ones in the league since the beginning playoff run of last year. However, I think a lot of credit has to go to the Giants offensive line. Late in the game yesterday on all the big throws it was the time Eli had in the pocket that allowed him to hit those big passes to Burress and Toomer. The Giants are doing well, but I am not totally convinced of their greatness until they go through their games in the NFC East. The Bengals get the good effort award for the past week, which means you didn't win. The Bengals must put themselves back together or simply do another mail-it-in season, I'm voting on the latter.
Dolphins gone wild (MIA 38, NE 13)
It's been a long time they say since New England got pummeled like this. Hey, I was in college when the Pats used to get pummeled like this, they're not that old are they? The Dolphins were emotionally invested in this game and they wanted it bad. Not to vindicate Joey Porter, who did prove right on his prediction this week but has fallen flat on many more others, rather to show that their days as a doormat were over. I don't think they are a good team yet, but Tony Sporano had them playing inspired and they were able to use their execution on wild hog formation to perfection. Cassel looked very bad, no other way to say it, and New England has work to do, but I do not think it is doomsday for the Patriots as all the media has been hyping. There is no guarantee for the Patriots going forward, that is the most telling thing from this game.
Barometer measurement on the Seahawks: Still some life in them yet, thanks St. Louis (SEA 37, STL 13)
Mile High scoring (DEN 34, NO 32)
Oh, how I missed the painful expression of Martin Grammatica. Denver showed it has the goods to score with anyone, but the defense needs some work when they get a lead. The Broncos have the opportunity to stay ahead of San Diego for at least a couple weeks. New Orleans finds itself looking up at Atlanta, Tampa Bay, and Carolina. The Saints found the key to using Reggie Bush, but he doeswn't play defense.
Burning the Oil Field (JAC 23, IND 21)
The Colts are 0-2 at Lucas Oil field and are lucky to not be 0-3. Obviously with Bob Sanders out (again) they are worse off on defense, but the offense has not looked at all like the high-powered, well-oiled (pun intended) machine it was in years past. It appears this system is not one where you can just plug in anyone and still be effective. Harrison looking old, Clark with a tweaked knee, and Anthony Gonzalez inserted new into the offense and they still have the big play ability, but cannot move the chains like they did in past seasons. The Jags would rather not be 1-2, but to get the win in Indy after so many failed opportunities it must feel good.
The Brady Quinn rumors continue to grow (BAL 28, CLE 10)
It seemed like old times for the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday. Their QB throwing 2 INTs, but it not mattering. The Ravens defense may be old at certain spots, but they are just fine at others and flying all over the field. Ed Reid is back patrolling the backfield again and the front four is getting pressure, the question is can they keep it up? Cleveland is in a freefall and Romeo is discussing getting Brady reps. The Browns need more than a change at QB, they need a change of attitude and I don't think Quinn can do that for the defense which has zero pass rush ability.
The Quakers wouldn't have liked this one (PHI 15, PIT 6)
An extremely hard-hitting affair in Philidelphia Sunday afternoon that left Westbrook limping, McNabb wincing, and Big Ben hugging the ground. The Philly D sacked Roethlisberger 9 times. McNabb came out at one point but did return, and Buckhalter picked up the slack for the missing Westbrook. It didn't take long for the Eagles to get one or both McNabb and Westbrook injured, it just seems inevitable each year. The O-line for the Steelers wilted in the face of Jim Johnson, who wanted some vindication after allowing Dallas to put 41 on them the week before. The Steelers will be hobbling around the last 5 weeks of the season unless they get some protection pronto.
Not so fast my young friend (DAL 27, GB 16)
Aaron Rodgers is not where Tony Romo is or where he should be. Romo made mistakes as Rodgers did but he also made key plays when the Cowboys needed it. The Cowboys offense just looks like it has too many answers for opposing defenses. If these two meet again down the road, the Packers should be more seasoned by then.
We own the night (SD 48, NYJ 29)
It should not be suprising that a hungry, desperate, and talented team like the Chargers put the hurt on the Jets. I was at a bar with Catfish watching the game so I was lucky enough not to hear the commentary, but I doubt even Tony could deny how old Favre looked. The plays that he sometimes makes (against Seattle last year underhanded) are fun to watch but contrastly the vain attempts (limp ball roll last night while going down) to salvage a play make him look every bit the legend who held on too long. I still think the Jets are at least a 9-7 team, but performances like this lead one to think that's all they are and nothing more. Number 4 doesn't look able to weather 12 straight weeks of games after their bye week in week 5. The Chargers were expected to come out with intensity, but they really lit it up and got everyone involved. The question is will we see this kind of urgency in weeks when their playoff life may not blatantly hang in the balance?