Welcome to Week Three of the NFL season and let me just say what the hell is going on? The Lions and Bills are really good. The Vikings and Colts are extremely bad. Maybe the Jets and Falcons aren't who we thought they were. Maybe Tom Brady isn't as flawless as his hair is. One thing is for sure, not only am I completely unsure about every pick em pick I make on a weekly basis, but I'm excited as I have ever been to see what the NFL season has in store for me. As usual, these are my surprises and disappointments of Week 3 in the National Football League.
5. Seattle Seahawks- Honestly, I guess I shouldn't be surprised when anyone beats the Arizona Cardinals, but I honestly thought there were college teams that could beat this Seahawks team. Can anyone name five good players on this team? Pete Carroll should have stayed at US.....oh yeah all those sanctions, I forgot. Well Tavaris Jackson survived a constant booing and chanting for backup Charlie Whitehurst from the "12th man" in Seattle to come up with a divisional victory. Say what you will, but Jackson did not lose this game for Seattle which is what needs to happen every week. If he can just do what is minimally needed of him every week the Seahawks can win. If he doesn't try to win games for them and put all the pressure on himself, I think he will make less of those crazy mistakes we're so used to from Tavaris Jackson. This team is still not good, but at least they are no longer win less, and now we know their defense didn't allow them to lose by more than two scores like they did the first two games. Let us just see if this will be their one win on their way to trust their future services with Andrew Luck.
4. Tennessee Titans- Don't get me wrong, I think that the Titans are good enough to beat the Broncos on any day, but after losing their second best player (and when Chris Johnson is the best, second place isn't all that bad) its miraculous they didn't lose any steam from watching that injury happen. You have to applaud what Matt Hasselbeck is doing over in Nashville. His rushing attack, lead by apparently former monster Johnson, ran for a whopping 38 yards, oh and their punter counted for twenty-one of those yards, same amount as Johnson. All Hasselbeck did was throw for over three hundred yards and for two scores. Hasselbeck threw to ten different receivers not named Kenny Britt. Things looked quite bleak for the Titans when Britt went down, but never underestimate a grizzled veteran quarterback in the NFL. Look for Tennessee to give the Houston Texans a run for the AFC South or maybe even a wild-card this year. It just looks like between this teams defense, Matt Hasselbeck running a good offensive game plan, and the fact that you have to believe that Chris Johnson will eventually get it going and be the beast we know he can be, the Titans will be an upset special come the end of the 2011 season.
3. Oakland Raiders- This is the Darren McFadden the Raiders thought they were getting when they drafted him in 2008. McFadden ran for 171 yards and two scores against a stout New York Jets defense. That is more than forty yards more than any other person has in the three years that Rex Ryan has been head coach of the Jets. This looks like a team that will do what the Jets have lived off of lately. They will pound you, beat you, tire you out with their running game and control the clock until you look up and the Raiders have more points than you. Being down at one point by ten points, the Raiders never gave up on the running game, and it proved dividends. Jason Campbell did a great job of controlling the game and not making any mistakes. The Raiders look like a viable contender to take down the mighty San Diego Chargers to take this years AFC West crown. If Oakland plays like this every week, then they are going to be able to go toe to toe with any team in this years NFL.
2. New York Giants- Dream Team? Apparently nobody in New York got the memo about a Dream Team. The Giants made sure they kept their record better than their friends down in Philadelphia. New York played a brand of smash mouth football necessary to take the Eagles offensive stars out quickly, including breaking the hand of star quarterback Michael Vick. Eli Manning may have played his best game as a Giant since their magical run to Super Bowl XLII. He threw for four touchdown passes on 254 passing yards. The biggest number here is zero, as in turnovers they committed compared to three for the Eagles. The common knowledge around the NFL is if you win the turnover battle there is a good chance you win the game. If New York can continue to play the way they did in the game then they will continue to add numbers to their win column. The Giants played a complete game against this Eagles team and Philadelphia looked just plain overwhelmed on both sides of the ball. If this Giants defense plays this type of football all year they could sneak in and steal a wide open NFC East. No one knows really what is wrong with the Eagles, but they cannot win against teams like this when they are forced to make as many mistakes as they did.
1. Buffalo Bills- It is finally over. The Bills won their first game against Tom Brady and the Patriots since the infamous Lawyer Milloy game. That is a streak of fifteen games in which the Bills could not defeat their foes from New England. That is completely unheard of in the disparity of the NFL these days. The Bills made Tom Brady look, dare i say it, normal. Tom Brady threw for four interceptions on Sunday, Brady also threw for four interceptions in 2010. The Bills never quit even though they started the game being down twenty-one to nothing to start the game. The Bills kept on chipping at that lead and eventually the game was tied at twenty-four. I don't want to say that the Patriots took their foot off the gas pedal, but I am going to say that the Bills took advantage of it. Show me anyone who would have predicted that the Buffalo Bills would be the last team in the AFC to be undefeated. Is there anyone? I'm pretty sure people in Buffalo wouldn't have even predicted that, they know better. Well guess what? They are, and I don't think they are going anywhere any time soon.
5. Chicago Bears- In a rematch of last years NFC Championship game, the results were just the same. Jay Cutler finished this game at least even though he was his usual Jekyll and Hyde self. Aaron Rodgers saw that the Bears didn't know how to stop Jermichael Finley, and he took complete advantage of that by hitting him for three touchdown passes. The Bears looked like they had a chance to make a comeback towards the end when Brian Urlacher intercepted a Rodgers pass, but that drive was negated by two stupid penalties. A holding by Chris Spencer and an inexcusable unnecessary roughness by a hotheaded Devin Hester. Those single handily buried the Bears. Not to mention the fact that their running back ran for two, that's right TWO, yards on the game. There is no team in the league you can beat when your best offensive weapon gets a total of two yards on the ground. Granted he was a big part of the passing game with eighty yards, but the run game is what keeps great defenses like the Packers honest. Especially since lately it isn't looking good to put the game in the shaky hands of Jay Cutler. This was an all around bad performance by Chicago, and for a team we once thought could maybe contend in the NFC this season things are starting to look quite bleak.
4. New York Jets- Was this a case of a really good game by the Raiders or a really bad game by the Jets? The performance of New York was about as ugly as Mark Sanchez's bloody nose. A defense that prides itself on stopping the run let Darren McFadden run wild with 171 yards running as the Jets defense allowed thirty-four points to this up-and-coming Raiders team. Yes seventy yards of that did come on one touchdown run, but this kind of defense cannot let those kind of big plays kill them. The sad part is the offense looked pretty darn good in this game. Mark Sanchez threw for almost 370 yards and had a ninety-six quarterback rating. LaDainian Tomlinson was an absolute beast and showed he still had some life in those legs with 116 yards receiving and a 6.3 yards per carry average. Oakland was just more precise. Turnovers will kill you in this league, and the Raiders didn't commit one. If the Jets want to make a third straight AFC Championship game, then this game has to be a fluke instead of a standard. The Jets are still two and one. They're only one game back in the division and there is still plenty of football to play, but the truth is that they cannot play games like this again. The defense has to be back where they had it last year or Rex Ryan will only be predicting an early draft pick.
3. Atlanta Falcons- Want to know the quickest way to beat the Falcons? Stop Michael Turner, period. As good as everyone thinks Matt Ryan is, he just is not ready to take a team on his back and win through the air. When you hold Turner to only twenty rushing yards for the game, you win. Just to put it in perspective, Matty Ice ran one time and had eight yards less than Turner. Atlanta's defense came to play. They picked off Josh Freeman twice and held the Bucs to a twenty-five percent execution in the red zone. They even held them to under 300 yards of total offense. Then you see that the Falcons scored only three points in the first three quarters of the game. If that is how your offense plays, you are going to be in a hole going into the fourth quarter. Although Ryan did bring Atlanta back in the game, it just wasn't enough. Divisional games in the NFC South are going to be exponentially important. I don't care if its Week 3, one loss can mean the difference between being in the playoffs or sitting at home in January. I have a feeling this loss is going to come back to bite the Falcons in the butt come the end of the season. This is one of those losses that will be hard to swallow.
2. New England Patriots- Was I watching the right team here? Did someone kidnap Tom Brady and steal his uniform? I say it time and time again, turnovers lose games. When arguably the best quarterback of this generation throws four interceptions, it is going to be hard to win even if he also throws four touchdowns. This game looked over in the second quarter when Brady threw his third touchdown pass and the Pats rolled to a twenty-one zip lead. Boy were we all wrong. The Bills immediately started to chip away and the Patriots just looked like they didn't have that "put this team away" killer instinct we are all used to. Do you think that 2007 Patriots team would have been happy with twenty-one to nothing? They wouldn't have been happy until it was fifty-six to nothing. That is the thing about this team, it has no identity. Are they young and up-and-coming? Are they a Super Bowl Contender? Are they believing their own hype? (Which by the way is a complete team killer.) We knew who the New England Patriots were up until three years ago. Now I know to expect a good team, but asking more than that makes me wonder if I really should.
1. Philadelphia Eagles- This is far from what we expected out of the 2011 Philadelphia Eagles. The "Dream Team" is not looking so hot. I understand it is hard to win when you are playing your third string quarterback, just ask the Colts. Yet to think that a collection of three of the best cornerbacks playing in the game let Eli Manning of all people throw for four touchdowns against you is completely indefensible. Victor Cruz (who?) had over a hundred yards receiving with two touchdowns. The Giants beat down Michael Vick until he couldn't even come back into the game. Andy Reid needs to get this team together. They look confused. The offensive line doesn't look like they can stop a soul let alone an NFL defensive line. Reid still has no idea how to manage the game clock. The Giants intercepted a pass on the final two drives of the game. The Eagles got to the one yard line twice and were forced to kick field goals. There is no urgency for execution in Philadelphia. Maybe this team believed the hype and now feel like they're owed wins. Like teams will be too intimidated by the build up as this team is just expected to walk into the Super Bowl with ease. News Flash, noone will step down to a challenge in the NFL. Playing the Eagles is like playing the Heat in the NBA, everyone wants to be the one to take down the Eagles. Everyone in Philly needs to realize this and get up just like their competition is, or not only will they not go to the Super Bowl they will not even see a playoff game in the City of Brotherly Love.