NFL Week 3 breakdown
Sunday, September 27, 2009 | Author: Mad Typist
Let's start this post off with a quote from one of my favorite movies:
Every newspaper in the country has picked us to finish last. The local press seems to think we'd save everyone a lot of time and trouble if we just went out and shot ourselves. Me, I'm for wasting sports writers' time. So, I'd like to hang around and see if we can give 'em all a nice big sh**burger to eat.
With that in mind, let's talk about which teams' local media should get their ketchup ready.

Oh my god, they actually won. No team exemplifies this quote more than the lowly Detroit Lions. Losers of 19 straight games, they hadn't won since December 2007. Well, luckily the Washington Redskins were accommodating enough to help the Lions break their losing streak. It was a pretty exciting game that had me on the edge of my seat. The Lions defense, normally porous, particularly in the secondary, managed to buckle down for once when the going got tough. The rookie QB Matthew Stafford had his first interception-free performance, and looked like he was actually having fun for once. RB Kevin Smith turned in his first 100+ yard rushing performance of the season as well, despite leaving the game with an injury in the second half.

In the locker room after the game, head coach Jim Schwartz remarked that people seemed awfully excited about winning a game that they expected to win. And while it's understandable that the Lions are relieved to have this 900 pound monkey off their backs, on the other hand, he's totally right - this was a game that many expected the Lions to win.

The difference between bad, mediocre, and good teams is this: bad teams lose games they should win, mediocre teams win the games they're supposed to and lose the ones they're supposed to (see also: Bills, Buffalo), and good teams win games that they aren't supposed to. Up till now, the Lions have been a bad team, imploding when the chips were down, losing to teams they had in their sights (rare as that was, there were a few last season). Now, the Lions can count themselves as a mediocre team. Surprisingly, that's okay. A 3-12 season would be something to build on (and looking at their schedule, they should only be expected to be 2 of the teams listed there).

With those definitions in mind, it's a bit early to be certain, but it sure looks like the Cincinnati Bengals (long mocked as "The Bungles" by the press) are in danger of being classified as a good team. They've now won two games in a row that no one expected them to (and really, their loss to the Broncos was a total fluke, so I'm giving them a pass on that). True, the wins weren't pretty, but on the other hand I attribute part of that to Carson Palmer being rusty coming off his recent injuries. If he gets into a groove, I predict Cincinnati might get even better on offense. I'm also shocked that Cedric Benson, a dud for so long, actually looks like the real deal this year. Looking at their schedule, I count 5 games they should win (CLE twice, DET, OAK, KC), which leaves them about 3 games against opponents that are challenging, but not impossible (SD, CHI, HOU). That would put them at 10 wins, which would position them well for a wild card spot.

In any case, even if they suck the rest of the year, that was still an exciting victory over their hated divisional rivals. Palmer started the game shaky, but showed real poise and leadership in the fourth quarter. Their final drive was a real nail-biter that included not one, but TWO 4th down conversions to keep the drive alive. I'd also like to note that on the final Hail Mary heave by Rothelisberger, the Cincinnati DBs went out of their way to make sure they batted the ball DOWN this time. That gave me a good chuckle.

If at first you don't succeed, failure may be your style. Meanwhile, there are several teams lined up to take over where the Lions left off as Kings of Loserville. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers used to be a power house on defense, but so far this season they've looked like a sure thing for offenses who need to get a boost in their stats. Not that the Tampa Bay offense is much better - this week they post 86 yards of total offense (54 of which came late in the 4th when the Giants had the game well under control), converting 0 of 9 third downs and scoring no points. You've got to think that the floundering Washington Redskins can't wait to play Tampa Bay next week.

Meanwhile, the Cleveland QBs seem to be in a competition to see who can play worse. Brady Quinn had his big chance to shine this year as the starting QB, but instead played poorly enough that he was yanked for Derek Anderson - who promptly threw 3 INTs yesterday. Cleveland.com's website cleverly labeled the game "Carnage on the Chesapeake". Consider that it could have been even worse if the Ravens hadn't pulled their starters in the fourth quarter out of mercy.

The Miami Dolphins aren't a bad team, but they're not that good of a team either, and they have a pretty tough schedule this year. While I think they'll win some games this year, they really need to start considering looking at Chad Henne to see if he can really be their QB for the future. I love Chad Pennington, but having no big passing game is really killing the Dolphins right now. Imagine how good Ronnie Brown might be if there was an actual passing threat teams had to guard against.

Vick who? For all the hullabaloo about Michael Vick and where he might fit in the Eagles organization after this year, the real story has been the performance of young QB Kevin Kolb these past few games. Kolb was drafted to be the quarterback of the future after aging starter Donovan McNabb leaves, and he's definitely given the Philly faithful a reason to be optimistic moving forward. Of course, we'll still have to see how he performs one day in a game that is actually close - he threw INTs against the Saints, but that's going to happen when you play from so far behind, and you don't exactly get a prize for beating up on the Chiefs. Last year's meltdown was against the Ravens, and frankly you can't blame him for that one - the Ravens made a lot of otherwise good QBs look terrible last year.

Vick was pretty much a non-entity in the game: he only got 10 plays or so, and he wasn't even the best Wildcat QB out there - rookie RB LeSean McCoy did a better job running plays out of that formation. At this point, you have to wonder if Vick might only be the 4th best QB on that roster right now. Also, with the way Kolb has played and the way JaMarcus Russell has played, do you think maybe Jeff Garcia might be regretting asking to leave Oakland so early?

Random quick thoughts. I get a lot of complaints from people in the comments section that I don't give their favorite team enough love each week, so here are some quicky bites on some other teams that played this week:

- I think the Falcons needed to put a lot more pressure on Tom Brady this week. That's why they lost: he had too much time in the pocket to think about how he wanted to destroy them. The Falcons also need to find a way to get the Michael Turner bus rolling again.

- The Chargers look pretty good, but I'm a little unsure about their run game right now. Luckily Philip Rivers is willing to throw the hell out of the ball while they work that out.

- I thought Houston spent the past few years drafting high profile defenders to improve. This year they seem hell-bent on awarding fantasy football glory to every opponent they face.

- Arizona has serious offensive line issues. That's why they can't run and that's why Kurt Warner was rushed most of the game yesterday.

- I think there might be something seriously wrong with the Seattle Seahawks conditioning program, as the program is riddled with injuries for the second season in a row early in the year. Also, WHAT THE FUCK IS UP WITH THESE JERSEYS?

Seriously. Maybe players were faking injuries this week so they wouldn't have the embarrassment of playing in these jerseys. Between this and the horrific jerseys the University of Oregon sports, it's clear that the West Coast has some kind of weird fashion dementia.

Studs of the week. Call me crazy, but the HBO series Hard Knocks has converted me into a closet Bengals fan. And the series also helped inspire my love for some of the role players on the team, like Brian Leonard. This week he awarded my love with an amazing effort on 4th down to keep the final drive alive, plus he caught the 2-point conversion that ensured that a Steelers FG could only tie the game.

Peyton Manning is a beast (24/35, 379 yards, 4 TDs). I also love the way Joe Flacco has become a big game QB this year, posting his best effort yet for yardage (25/35, 342 yards, 1 TD), and continuing to lead a shockingly potent Baltimore offense. Imagine what he could do with a true #1 WR that could run down passes thrown by that huge arm of his. However, it's not like the ageless Derrick Mason isn't pulling his share of the offensive load (118 yards, 1 TD).

Good for you, Maurice Jones-Drew for having a huge game (118 yards, 3 TDs). But could you please try to do it next time on a week when I'm NOT playing your owner in fantasy football?

Lastly, Brett Favre still has a little magic left in his seemingly bottomless bag of pixie dust. Did you see that throw on the final play of the game? Just awesome. I'm not even going to quote his stats for the day, because that's not why Minnesota was so eager to sign him - single plays like the toss to Greg Lewis are why they signed him. If there were hints of a schism in the locker room, I'd say it's safe to assume all the boys in purple are squarely behind him for now.

Duds of the week. My god, just when you think JaMarcus Russell can't get any worse, he turns in an even worse performance the next week. How long can the Raiders continue to justify starting a QB that goes 12/21 for only 61 yards, 2 INTs, and takes 3 sacks? He has thrown for a TOTAL of 378 yards in the past 3 weeks - which you'll note is 1 yard fewer than Peyton Manning threw for in a single game.

Teams I like this week. The NY Jets look mighty fine. So do the New Orleans Saints. So I guess it's lucky for us football fans that they meet up next week to decide if the Jets have what it takes to contain the Saints offense. Despite their heartbreaking loss to the Vikings, the 49ers are still the real deal and I still like what I'm seeing out of that program. Lastly, if the defense tightens up a bit, the best team in the AFC (or perhaps the whole NFL) might be the Baltimore Ravens.

Teams I don't like this week. The Oakland Raiders' conduct both on the field and off the field (read this bizarre story about them attempting to ban Rich Gannon from their facility) continues to be an embarrassment. The way the Washington Redskins are playing, I think Jim Zorn might be fired in their bye week, barring some kind of miraculous turn around before then. Their division is just too competitive for them to lose to teams like Detroit (and nearly to the lowly Rams the week before).

**photo credits (all images borrowed from AP/ESPN, ohgoddon'tsueme)
Matthew Stafford image by AP Photo/Paul Sancya
Cleveland Browns image by AP Photo/Gail Burton
Seattle's horrible uniforms image by AP Photo/John Froschauer
Kevin Kolb image by AP Photo/Michael Perez
JaMarcus Russell image by AP Photo/Ben Margot

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