Last Week’s Record: 8-6 (Down 1 in Win and Loss Column)
Season Record: 32-30
At the risk of sounding cliché, the first quarter is over. The focus for each NFL team now is to reflect on what was done right, what mistakes were made in the early going, and taking appropriate measures to either maintain or improve their standing for the next 13 weeks. At this time, I plan to systematically break down and analyze where each team stands with a collective quarterly evaluation on a record-based grade scale:
The A’s: For the time being, only the Kansas City Chiefs fall into this category. No one could have possibly suspected that the Chiefs would be the last undefeated team left standing one month into the season. Yet here we are; entering Week Five the 3-0 Chiefs are the last team with an unblemished record. This isn’t to say that all of Kansas City’s wins have been impressive; certainly victories over Cleveland and San Francisco aren’t something to get thrilled over. While the Chiefs have been graded as an A, bear in mind that it’s an A-. But the victory in Week One over San Diego and the offense finally joining the party last week show glimmers of hope. Remember, it wasn’t until the super team of Weis and Crennel at offensive and defensive coordinator pursued other ventures (Weis with Notre Dame, Crennel with the Cleveland Browns) that Peyton Manning really started to gain a foothold against Tom Brady and the Belichick-led Patriots. With that said, The Indianapolis Colts have been struggling early. Already 0-2 against division rivals, who’s to say that Manning still won’t struggle against the Weis-Crennel collaboration. Kansas City’s defense has been solid in three outings and the offense finally looks like it’s ready to contribute. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a mild upset this weekend in Indianapolis.
Pittsburgh Steelers (3-1): I think The Steelers have surpassed just about everyone’s expectations. Charlie Batch has looked phenomenal in his replacement role. If this is what Pittsburgh is capable of with three back-up quarterbacks, what will they look like with Roethlisberger in the mix this week?
Baltimore Ravens (3-1): For yet another season, Ray Lewis is anchoring one of the best defenses in the league. Among teams that have played all four weeks, Baltimore has allowed 55 points; third only to Pittsburgh (50) and surprisingly, the St. Louis Rams (52). Now that Joe Flacco has weapons, I expect the Ravens to look more like a complete team than in previous years.
New England Patriots (3-1): Barring a surprise loss to the Jets in Week Three, the Patriots look like they did in 2004. The special teams’ effort in last night’s game against Miami was extraordinary.
New York Jets (3-1): What more can be said? The Jets have already beat all three division rivals in relatively short order. They’ve played respectably on offense and defense and lead the AFC East because of it.
Atlanta Falcons (3-1): Despite an early, unexpected overtime loss to Pittsburgh (go figure), the Falcons have followed up with a victory over the defending Super Bowl champions, a victory over former division rival San Francisco and an absolute embarrassment of the Arizona Cardinals. I stand by my earlier claim that the Falcons may be the team to beat in the NFC South.
Green Bay Packers (3-1): The Packers are still my favorite to win the NFC North, but the defense needs better discipline than what we’ve seen in the last two games. A record 17 penalties in one game and a near loss after a 28-14 lead in another is not the way to do it.
Houston Texans (3-1): Don’t look now, but the Houston Texans…once the laughing stock of the AFC South, now lead the division. Will they win the South this year? I’m not prepared to say that yet, but fans are definitely starting to take notice.
New Orleans Saints (3-1): Don’t get me wrong, the Saints are still the defending champions. They are still very much alive in the chase for the NFC South crown this season. However, the Saints three victories came in relatively low-scoring games that shouldn’t have been as close as they were. There’s no cause for concern just yet, but it’s clearly not the same team.
Chicago Bears (3-1): I was tempted to put the Bears in the upper echelon this week, but after the train wreck on Sunday night that followed both Jay Cutler and back-up quarterback Todd Collins going down with concussions, how effective can the Bears be this season?
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-1): After two misleading victories over Cleveland and Carolina, many fans, myself included, got the Tampa Bay Bucs we expected this season against the surprising Steelers. Despite the quick start, it’s going to be another long year for quarterback Josh Freeman.
Philadelphia Eagles (2-2): Maybe now Kevin Kolb has gained a little insight into why he’s been riding the bench for the last two weeks. As long as Vick isn’t on the injured list too long, The Eagles should be all right.
Washington Redskins (2-2): As I predicted; so long as McNabb stays healthy, The Redskins have a shot at a playoff spot in what is now a wide open NFC East. The minute he goes down though, they’re done.
Miami Dolphins (2-2): The Dolphins can still compete for the AFC East lead, but after Monday night, it looks like special teams coverage is going to be the main focus at practice this week. They actually fired the special teams coach after Monday night’s debacle.
Indianapolis Colts (2-2): Both losses came against division rivals. This is definitely cause for concern for the injury-plagued Colts. As always, Peyton Manning is doing all he can, but he can’t do it by himself.
Cincinnati Bengals (2-2): Did they actually just lose to the Cleveland Browns? Looks like the two-man ego trip of Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco isn’t paying the dividends they expected it to. Each only has one touchdown through four games.
Jacksonville Jaguars (2-2): They unseated the Colts, but I’m still not convinced. Any team that loses 38-6 against the Chargers is not without its flaws.
San Diego Chargers (2-2): The wins have been decisive. The fashion in which they lose is nothing short of disappointing.
Denver Broncos (2-2): Kyle Orton and the Broncos have fielded a formidable team this season, but a reality check comes this week against the Ravens.
St. Louis Rams (2-2): The Rams already have twice as many victories as last season. Sam Bradford has been impressive in the last couple weeks.
Tennessee Titans (2-2): See San Diego Chargers. Both Titans losses have been by eight points or less.
New York Giants (2-2): They won Sunday night against the Bears and opening day against the Panthers. Don’t get your hopes up.
Seattle Seahawks (2-2): It’s hard to get a good read on Seattle when they only win on alternate weeks. If I pick against them, they win. If I pick them to win, well…
Arizona Cardinals (2-2): Worst. 2-2 franchise. Ever.
Dallas Cowboys (1-2): Another team that doesn’t need to hit the panic button just yet. Dallas always starts slow. Give them a couple of weeks and they’ll be in the running for the NFC East lead again.
Cleveland Browns (1-3): Seneca Wallace…quarterback of the future? He did help them pick up an unlikely victory against Cincinnati. I think it’s time for Jake Delhomme to retire.
Minnesota Vikings (1-2): They picked up an encouraging win before going to their bye week, but unlike the situation in Cleveland. I’ve known for years that it’s time for Brett Favre to retire. His struggles are a tremendous portion of the reason they’re 1-2 right now instead of 3-0.
Oakland Raiders (1-3): Same old, same old. Quite possibly the worst perennial franchise in the NFL since 2003.
Detroit Lions (0-4): They’ve been very competitive in each game they’ve lost; they just can’t push the extra step to the win column.
San Francisco 49ers (0-4): The early start against Atlanta last week shows that they’re not ready to quit. Just wait and see what they do when they realize that there’s actually two halves to every game…Finishing strong is key, coach Singletary.
Carolina Panthers (0-4): Jimmy Clausen looked okay against the Saints. They won’t be going anywhere this offseason, but the potential is there.
Buffalo Bills (0-4): Dreadful. Just pack it in for the season now.
This week’s picks:
Jacksonville Jaguars (2-2) over Buffalo Bills (0-4), 30-13
Baltimore Ravens (3-1) over Denver Broncos (2-2), 20-16
Upset Pick: Kansas City Chiefs (3-0) over Indianapolis Colts (2-2), 28-24
Wild Card Pick:
Green Bay Packers (3-1) over Washington Redskins (2-2), 34-31 (OT)
Detroit Lions (0-4) over St. Louis Rams (2-2), 23-17
Chicago Bears (3-1) over Carolina Panthers (0-4), 21-17
Cincinnati Bengals (2-2) over Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-1), 24-13
Atlanta Falcons (3-1) over Cleveland Browns (1-3), 26-10
Houston Texans (3-1) over New York Giants (2-2), 27-20
New Orleans Saints (3-1) over Arizona Cardinals (2-2), 45-13
Dallas Cowboys (1-2) over Tennessee Titans (2-2), 23-19
San Diego Chargers (2-2) over Oakland Raiders (1-3), 38-14
Philadelphia Eagles (2-2) over San Francisco 49ers (0-4), 19-7
New York Jets (3-1) over Minnesota Vikings (1-2), 24-9
The Tampa Bay Rays def. The Texas Rangers (TB wins series 3-1)
The New York Yankees def. The Minnesota Twins (NYY wins series 3-2)
The Cincinnati Reds def. The Philadelphia Phillies (CIN wins series 3-0)
The Atlanta Braves def. The San Francisco Giants (ATL wins series 3-2)
That’ll do it for this week, readers. Tune in for a much shorter edition next week…