With just the Monday Night Football game between the undefeated Denver Broncos and the San Diego Chargers left on tap for this week's action, I'd like to share some of my thoughts about the rest of the league.
Just because they are playing tonight, let me start with the Denver Broncos. You have to tip your cap to them for their 5-0 start. Not too many people saw that coming. Let me be the first to say though that this won't last. In fact, I'll go so far as to say that I'd be surprised if the Broncos make the playoffs. Blasphemy you say? Well, check out their upcoming slate of games beginning tonight: @ San Diego, @ Baltimore, Pittsburgh, @ Washington, San Diego, New York Giants.
I'd be shocked if they win more than one of those games. They then travel to Indianapolis after playing at Kansas City. Frankly, I don't see them getting past 9 wins, and honestly, I wouldn't bet a red cent they even get that ninth win. You heard it here first.
* It was hard not to be impressed with the Baltimore Ravens after three weeks, but I certainly didn't agree with Steelers fans that were already talking about how the division was already out of reach. I never got around to fleshing it out, but I'm sure our good friend MrMalor remembers me saying this summer that I didn't think Baltimore would match their win total from a year ago. At 3-3, they've got an uphill climb, that's for sure. To their credit, they've scrapped and hung tough the past three weeks - all losses. But their defense just isn't the intimidating force it once was. And as good as Joe Flacco has been, I still question whether he has enough playmakers to put up enough points to keep Baltimore as competitive as they might like. Baltimore now enters their BYE week to try to straighten a few things out defensively and to get healthy. When they return in two weeks, we'll quickly learn if they're pretenders or contenders. They host Denver, then travel on consecutive weeks to play divisional games at Cincinnati and at Cleveland. Three straight wins and they're back in the mix.
* I wouldn't write Cincinnati off just yet. They had no answer for Matt Schaub and the Houston Texans offense yesterday, but frankly, when the Texans' offense is clicking, they're as good as anybody in football. The Bengals host the Bears next week in a huuuuuge game for them prior to their BYE week. Losing Antwan Odom for the year hurts the Bengals chances defensively, but I still think the Cincinnati offense will be better than it has been for most of this year.
* Wow, a Jamarcus Russell sighting out in Oakland. The former #1 overall draft pick was hardly brilliant in yesterday's victory over the Philadelphia Eagles, but the athletic specimen finally showed some aplomb in the pocket and with his decision making. By the way, how bad a loss is that for Philly? I mean, there's nobody who preaches how hard it is to win on the road in this league consistently more than I do, but these kinds of losses are the ones that really diminish a team's chances at making the playoffs. The NFC is too deep to hand away games, even in October. Finally, an interesting comparison in Peter King's MMQ column this week between Andy Reid and Bill Cowher through their first 11 years. Check it out.
* The Curse lives on. Poooooooooooor Titans. How freakin' embarrassing. I wrote three weeks ago in my weekly NFL musings column that the Titans were cooked and that this might be the year the Jeff Fisher era comes to an end in Nashville:
Tennessee is done. At 0-3, they're in a huge hole considering they haven't faced Indy yet. All three losses have come against AFC teams too, meaning it's highly unlikely they'll be able to win a tiebreaker for a Wild Card. They also play at Jacksonville, then host Indianapolis, and travel to New England before their BYE Week. 0-6 is a distinct possibility. Time to move on from Kerry Collins, that's for sure.
I thought Pittsburgh's loss at Philadelphia last year was embarrassing. Well, I can't even imagine what it's like to have watched that game as a Titans fan yesterday. That team's a mess. And the toll it's taking on the Titans fanbase is pretty comical as well.
* Jim Zorn's got to be out in D.C., right? We'll see, you never know with Dan Snyder, but if not now, certainly by season's end unless the miraculous occurs. It won't though, particularly if Zorn makes unbelievably unconscionable decisions like pulling Jason Campbell in the 1st half with the team sitting at 2-3. Can you imagine if Big Ben had been yanked during the 2006 season? You just don't do that at 2-3. And Campbell's not even really been the main culprit.
Here are his stats through 6 games: 107 of 163 (65.5%), 1197 yards, 6 touchdowns, 6 interceptions, 84.3 QB rating
Excuse me? Why is this not getting talked about? You're going to pull you're starting quarterback 6 games in to his fourth professional season for performing like that? And you're backup is Todd Collins?!? WOW. The problem is the offensive line, building your entire offense around a running back who's no longer capable of shouldering that kind of responsibility, and frankly, play calling - which mind you Zorn was asked to give up after Sunday's loss by executive Vinny Cerrato.
Speaking of Vinny Cerrato. A friend of mine was in his office for a job interview and said that he could barely look the guy in the eye. Said he was just one of those really dubious, sleazy types of guys that you not only don't trust but want no part of in general. Anyway, the 'Skins are institutionally broken and there will be no quick fix. But they might as well can Zorn because they sure as hell aren't going anywhere with him at the helm.
* The St. Louis Rams are the new Detroit Lions. They've lost 16 games in a row now dating back to last season. Poor Steve Spagnola (previous defensive coordinator of NYG). He should have taken one look at that roster and realized this team has the least amount of talent on it in the NFL. Patience, good sir, patience. You perhaps could have had the 'Skins job if you had waited just one year.
* You all know my love for Drew Brees knows no limits. For the record though to those who are newer readers, this dates way back to childhood days in Austin, Texas watching him do things 12 year olds aren't supposed to be able to do. Brees was back at it Sunday after consecutive weeks without throwing a touchdown pass. He had 4 on Sunday and made the previous top rated Giants defense look helpless in the process. A little anecdote that many don't know, even in New Orleans, is that Brees is performing this well to start the 2009 season despite recently dealing with the tragic death of his mother, who he had previously had public spats with regarding her being his agent and during her recent run for political office. This is of course a very touchy subject, but my contacts in Austin tell me the death was in fact a suicide. Tough stuff to deal with for anybody. Hats off to him for internalizing the grief and finding refuge in the game of football.
* Anybody who whines about New England 'running up the score' should toughen up. After that, they should think about how New England and Tom Brady have performed for much of this year. That would be in a word: inconsistent. Against the Titans yesterday, they finally had everything going on and decided to hold on to what was working and build up a little confidence and swagger for the future. What's the problem? Maybe if the Patriots had won their previous five games 59-0 it would be excessive, but they most certainly had not.
* More Brett Favre magic. I want to say 'yuck, go away' but it's hard not to smile and appreciate what he's doing out there on the football field. I guess this is why he struggles so much each offseason with his decision to stay retired or not. Dude can still play - at least when conditions are favorable. Which leads us to next week when Minnesota travels to Heinz Field. This will be only the 2nd game this year that Minnesota hasn't played in a dome. The other would be Week 1 at Cleveland when the weather was still nice. Even if the conditions are fairly calm at Heinz on Sunday, it's still a different animal throwing outside rather than in climate controlled conditions in doors. The weather stuff might matter later in the year, but it shouldn't much on Sunday. The real question is can the Steelers cornerbacks be left all alone for the most part so that the rest of the unit can focus on slowing down the game's best running back, Adrian Peterson. We shall see! Can't wait!
Much more on the huge matchup with the Vikings throughout the week.