In Week 4, the NFL is starting to look normal again. The teams that are supposed to win are winning, the teams we thought were bad are exactly that, and the Dream Team motto is still biting the Eagles right where the sun don't shine. There are only two undefeated teams left, and both of them are sitting atop the NFC North. There are four teams that still don't have a win, and it doesn't look like any of them look remotely ready to put a notch in the win column. This means that twenty-six teams in the league are making up that middle ground. It is going to be a crazy couple of weeks to see how these divisional races seem to shape up. For now, let's go over the surprises and disappointments in Week 4 of NFL football.
5. New England Patriots- I am going to start this off by saying that Week 4 wasn't nearly as surprising as the prior three weeks in the NFL season thus far. Do I honestly think that coming off a bad loss, Tom Brady would be anything short than spectacular? Of course I didn't think that. Brady came back from a dismal four interception performance against the Bills to throw for no turnovers and two touchdowns against a stout Oakland Raiders team. The Raiders seemed to be a little antsy at this game, especially former Pats star Richard Seymour who committed two personal fouls in the game. The Patriots did what they did best, made minimal mistakes and capitalized on all the ones the Raiders made. It looked bleak at the end of the first half with Oakland down by four and saddled on the New England six. That is when the Pats got an early holiday present from Jason Campbell via an interception straight into Patrick Chung. The jury is still out on what kind of team the Patriots are going to be in 2011, but from the looks of things it won't be too disappointing for fans in New England.
4. Baltimore Ravens- Who's defense is getting old? In Rex Ryan's return to Baltimore after taking the head coaching job with the New York Jets, he watched the defense he created completely tear him apart. Don't look at the score if you want to know how these offenses did, because both sides were absolutely terrible. Turns out the Jets were just that much worse. Mark Sanchez was a part of three touchdowns on the night, too bad they were all Ravens players scoring them. Between the two teams there was one offensive touchdown, a run in by Ray Rice from the three yard line. Joe Flacco and Sanchez combined for six turnovers. This was abysmal, the Ravens offense needs to buy the entire defensive unit a steak dinner for making them look serviceable and taking all this heat off of them for at least a week. I warn you, however, the defense cannot score all the points for you if you want to be a top dog in the top heavy AFC this year. Flacco needs to get it together or this team may just be on the downside.
3. Houston Texans- Now this would look really good if the Texans had their best offensive weapon on the field for the entire game, but the Texans beating the defending AFC champs without Andre Johnson is certainly a feat. Arian Foster ran all over a Pittsburgh defense that every week seems to look like its aging five years. The Texans defense harassed Ben Roethlisberger for five sacks behind the depleted Steelers offensive line. The Texans needed to bring their A game to give their home town fans a treat. If they can get Johnson back at full strength and if this is how Foster is going to play the rest of the year then the Texans will be in the driver's seat to take a stranglehold on the AFC South and possibly could get a first round bye. Maybe this is finally Houston's year, I feel like I hear the luck of the Texans imploding as i say that. Whoops.
2. Cincinnati Bengals- I really thought this Cincinnati team was on a one way ticket to 0 and 16. Instead they ended up taking out the last undefeated team in the AFC. Who would have thought this band of misfits could win with two rookies and Cedric Benson as their main offensive weapons? Funny how the Bengals beat the Bills the same exact way the Bills beat the Patriots the week before. Down by two touchdowns early in the third quarter the Bengals started to mount their comeback, scoring ten points in that quarter. After a Rian Lindell field goal, Andy Dalton ran in a score with 4:09 left on the clock. After the Bengals defense held the prolific Bills offense to only one first down on the next drive, Dalton started his first career game winning drive. He took the Bengals 56 yards down the field to ensure an easy field goal for Mike Nugent as time expired. Maybe this isn't going to be Cincinnati's year but the Bengals definitely have plenty to look forward to in the future, especially with the Steelers and Ravens looking older than usual in the past couple weeks. Cincinnatti fans will finally be feeling like they got theirs and the luck has turned around for their franchise, and it couldn't have happened at a more surprising time. Maybe Marvin Lewis wasn't doomed from the start this year.
1. San Francisco 49ers- One team in this game had all the hype. They were picked to win the Super Bowl by many, many analysts. They picked up the biggest free agents. The looked completely stacked. The other team was supposed to be dead set on first round pick Andrew Luck. They're better days were supposed to be in the future. Now, one of these teams pulled off a crazy comeback victory to go into first place in their division, the other is in dead last looking up at everyone else. Can you guess which one is which? Surprisingly the 49ers are the former and the Eagles are the latter. This game looked completely over when the Eagles took a twenty point lead in the second half. The only people who didn't think it was over were Jim Harbaugh and his 49er players. Thanks to two missed field goals and a fumble on the Eagles last three possessions, the Niners were able to steal one from the free falling Philadelphia Eagles. Dream Team no more, Alex Smith was able to have three touchdown drives of over seventy-five yards in the last eighteen minutes of play. I will say that again, Alex Smith had three comeback game winning drives on a team that was supposed to maul them completely. What is happening to the world when Alex Smith is a serviceable NFL quarterback for a first place team? I don't know, but I think I like it.
5. Buffalo Bills- After such an euphoric win over the formerly unbeatable New England Patriots, the Bills lose the same exact way they won the week before. Being up by two touchdowns at halftime, it looked like a lock that the Bills would remain the only team left in the AFC undefeated, but the Bengals still had some life left in their young gun legs. Even though Buffalo left the half with a big lead, they picked off the opposing rookie quarterback twice in as many possessions in the second quarter, and their defense looked as if it was up to the rookie challenge that Cincinnati had before them. Too bad the offense didn't tell them that they were taking the second half off. The Bills had the ball for all of three minutes and forty-seven seconds in the fourth quarter, letting the Bengals control the tempo at the end of the game. This ended up shooting them in the foot. The Bengals seemed to take advantage of a tired Bills defense and score twenty points in the second half against the Bills three. It has been a long time since we could say that the Bills were in a position to underestimate an opponent, but this was a case of that. Buffalo isn't coming out of left field anymore and they have to play up to everyone if they want to keep this roll alive.
4. Cleveland Browns- Well there goes all those thoughts that the Browns were going to be one of those teams to come out great after the lockout. Cleveland looked bad from the start, giving up three first quarter touchdowns to the man prolonging Jake Locker's NFL debut, I mean Matt Hasselbeck. The most telling stat is Colt McCoy threw the ball sixty-one times, seriously SIXTY-ONE. Now McCoy didn't look horrible, but that number says how bad the defense played and how nonexistent Madden cover boy Peyton Hillis and the Browns running game was, with the longest run of the day going for only ten yards. The only touchdown Cleveland scored was in garbage time in the fourth quarter on a pass to Benjamin Watson. The Titans were also without top receiver Kenny Britt. Their top receiver for the game was Jared Cook. (Who?) Chris Johnson, for once since signing his monster contract, finally had a game of over one hundred yards, but it doesn't look like that is much to brag about against this defense. The Browns looked like they did all decade, just plain bad. This will be a trend this season. Things just don't seem to ever go Cleveland's way lately.
3. Dallas Cowboys- Up twenty-seven to three in the second half, they have this game in the bad, right? Okay so now well just run the ball and we will be okay. Oh wait, we let Tony Romo throw the ball. Now he threw it to the Lions twice and both times they returned it for a touch down. In a matter of minutes the Cowboys lead went from twenty-four to ten. I guess that is what happens when you put your faith in Romo. Is it time for the Cowboys to move on from the legacy of Tony Romo? Ever since he blew the hold on the field goal against the Seattle Seahawks he just hasn't been remotely clutch. I also want to point to the guile in general of this Cowboys team. When you are up by two scores going into the fourth quarter, your defense cannot just fold like it did and allow Stafford to throw all over you. The Cowboys do not look like the team we thought was going to come in and fight with the Eagles for the division and number one seed in the playoffs. Speaking of the Eagles....
2. Philadelphia Eagles- Wow, just wow. One and three? Isn't this supposed to be the dream team? I am pretty sure a dream team could hold down a twenty point third quarter lead, but that is just my opinion. When you get into field goal range three times in the fourth quarter and you don't get any points out of it you have a formula for a losing football team. It just isn't there for this Eagles team. They have one win this season and it was against a still win less Rams team. The Eagles have not played a complete football team yet, and there is too much parody in today's NFL for anyone to win like that. Inconsistency will completely kill the Eagles if they expect to be a playoff team, let alone a Super Bowl winning team. You cannot fumble the ball with less than two minutes left, period. Even if you are winning a fumble may be one of the biggest momentum changers in the game. Fumbles should not happen, and the Eagles did it twice this day. Jeremy Maclin has to worry more about ball security than worrying how he is going to juke the guy in front of him. There are eleven guys playing defense, and they are all coming after you. Don't have tunnel vision and worry only about the guy in front of you. To be brutally honest, the Eagles need to grow a pair if they want to go anywhere this year and they want to play any more games under Andy Reid, because if they don't they will be asking for his head.
1. New York Jets- That was just plain terrible. I am speechless of how bad of an offensive performance I witnessed here. The worst part is this was on national television. There is no way that this is what Rex Ryan wanted everyone to see when literally EVERYONE was watching. Sunday Night Football is not the place to have everyone of your flaws to be exposed at once. Your team got a special teams touchdown and a defensive score...and you lost considerably. Mark Sanchez threw three touchdowns, only problem was that the people he threw them to were wearing black and purple. Don't get me wrong, the Jets played a great defensive game, but literally the exact opposite on offense. Sanchez completed eleven passes and threw thirty-five. The running game got a whopping thirty-eight yards on the ground. The Jets looked plain sad on Sunday night. Rex Ryan needs to stop making predictions and just put his money where his coaching is. If he wants to make outlandish predictions all the time I am sure that ESPN would be glad to have him as an analyst.