The third week is over. Well, not quite, but no matter who wins tonight, it won't be an upset big enough to warrant mention in my book. So why not go ahead and delve into our beloved rivals a little earlier? It certainly was an interesting week for both the AFC North and the league in general, so writers rejoice because it will give you plenty topics to analyze. From upsets by seemingly inferior teams to the resurgence of some old powers and the demise of some others, this week had it.
One more thing about last week's edition, I thoroughly enjoyed the off-topic discussion. Some might not, but I am always happy to talk about only marginally related topics - and I think a deep discussion about German Shepherds in a thread about a division of football is so creative, it deserves a shout out. Well done! Of course, if you have any suggestions left for this post, don't hesitate to let me know in the comments. I am Always willing to change it up and whip out something new (cue Arn). Long story made short: Have fun!
The Game: 24-17 at home against the Cleveland Browns
The Standout: Anquan Boldin: 8 receptions, 142 yards, 17.8 avg., 3 TD
Promising: Dawan Landry (SS): 9 tackles (7 solo), 1 sack, 1 quarterback hurry
Look the other way: Rush Defense: Allowed 173 yards on 29 carries, an average of 6 y/c.
What happened: Remember that time when I said the Ravens needed to blow out the Ravens to warrant their hype? Well, that didn't happen. Sure, the Offense put up 24 points and the unibrow threw 3 TDs on his way to a 128.7 QB rating. Whoop-dee-doo. That's expected against the Browns. Boldin looks like a scary-good addition to this offense, having his 2nd monster game in just three games. On the other hand, Douchemanzadeh has been abysmal. Through 3 games, he has all of 2 receptions. I know, getting used to an offense and all that, but the Raven's passing attack seems to be pretty focused on Boldin and resurgent Todd Heap right now. Not that I'd complain. And then there is the Defense. You know, the one that according to pundits rivals Pittsburgh as the best in the league. Wait, check that, I mean the one that gave up 144 yards to Peyton Hillis on just 22 carries and recorded only two sacks against the Browns. With two minutes to go, the poop stains could drive to send the game into overtime. Need I say more? Well, anyways, they won. Good for them.
Team Temperature: The leaves are falling... But it's still warm enough for T-Shirts, I guess
Highlight Reel: Ravens vs. Browns
Next Week's opponent: Coming to Heinz Field. Let's poor some ketchup on them!
What to look for: Call me crazy, but I was breathing a sigh of relief when the Ravens closed out the game against the Browns. I do not want to be their opponent the week after they fall to such a lowly team. Because to quote a legendary movie: "I hate them, from the bottom of my heart. But boy, do I respect them." What we can look for, a hard hitting football game in which no inch will not be fought for. This is arguably the best rivalry in the NFL right now. Don't expect much offense, that's not how these games are won. It's the way we like it - All Defense, all day.
The Name: Cleveland Browns
The Standout: Peyton Hillis - 22 carries, 144 yards, 6.5 y/c, 1 TD. Most notably: This Run. Also 7 receptions, 36 yards
Promising: Joshua Cribbs: 5 receptions, 58 yards, 11.6 average. 2 Rush, 20 yards, 10y/c. He's getting utilized.
Look the other way: Browns' Defense: No sacks, no turnovers, no tackles for loss, allowed 365 net yards
What happened: Remember that time, way back when, I blasted the Ravens for not blowing out the Browns? Well, turns out, as much as I hate to do it, our lovely Cleveland neighbors deserve some credit too. For the first time this season, they showed they can be a solid (though far away from spectacular) football team. Is Peyton Hillis a keeper or what? After two solid weeks as a backup, he got the start and blew apart a Baltimore Defense that prides itself against the run. No small accomplishment. The passing game, while being less than stellar, also was mainly mistake free and Seneca Wallace might have Mangini reconsider putting interception-machine Delhomme back in there once he's healthy. The Defense of course needs the most work, as Boldin was blatantly left open for at least half of his catches (the other half are all him being good). Nevertheless, this might be a game the Browns can build on.
Temperature: So you built those igloos, huh? Too bad, they melted. At least you can have fun with your newly acquired puppy.
Highlight Reel: Ravens vs. Browns
Next Week: At home against the Cincinnati Bengals
What to look for: Am I the only one that starts to seriously feel bad for Browns fans? Maybe I just haven't been a Steelers fan (or football fan, for that matter) long enough, but they just can't catch a break. After losing because of terrible coaching and QB decisions against weak teams the previous weeks, they play good enough to stick with the Ravens and still end up losing. I say the same will happen against Cincinnati, even though playing at home might be just enough for them to edge out the win. Their solid effort this week would certainly warrant some reward.
The Name: Cincinnati Bengals
The Standout: Please help me with this one. I can't find one person that stood out over the others
Promising: Jermaine Gresham: 4 receptions, 59 yards, 14.8 avg.
Look the other way: Deja-vu: Carson Palmer (19/37, 51%, 195 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT
What happened: Ummm, yeah. Great offense they have over there with the Bungles. Their quarterback sure does look elite now with all the weapons surrounding him. Excuse my irritation, it's just a way of getting back at all these predictions about how great the Cinci offense will be. No Sir. Instead, they can thank Jesus and their Defense that they are 2-1, because their running game (Benson has 3.1 y/c this season) and passing game (Palmer's QB rating is 71.3) surely isn't the reason. They played an abysmal Panthers team that started a rookie at quarterback, so this was a must win. But can't it at least be a little pretty? The oh-so-great defense had just one sack the entire game, but at least recorded 2 turnovers. Cincinnati needs to get better if they want to catch up to the Steelers and defend the division title, but I don't see it happening
Team Temperature: Right now it feels like 1-week-old leftovers in the fridge to me
Highlight Reel: Bengals vs. Panthers
Next Week: At the Cleveland Browns
What to look for: What better opponent to get your offense going than the Cleveland Browns? The in-state rivals fought admirably against the Ravens, but still came up short. But even in that fight, they made a unibrow look good (has that ever happened in this world?) and allowed Boldin to go crazy. If the Bungles expect a win, they need Palmer to finally show up and make some plays. Let's see how it goes.
The Standout: Leon Washington: 4 kickoff returns, 252 yards, 63 avg., 2 TD
Promising: Rookie Safety Earl Thomas: 6 tackles, 2 interceptions
Look the other way: Maybe the pass defense? gave up 455 yards and 2 TD to Philip Rivers, but also snagged 2 Interceptions
What happened: Man, so much to pick from this week. Kansas City over San Francisco? Atlanta over New Orleans? St. Louis over Washington? I went with Seattle, mainly because San Diego is hailed super bowl favorite each year and the Seagulls seemed to have an absolutely horrible team last year. Then again, the Bolts already lost another upset to Kansas City, so maybe my pick should have been different... Well, I picked it, so deal with it. In seriousness though, what great pickups by new coach Pete Carroll. Leon Washington only returned 2 kicks for TDs, and rookie Earl Thomas, whom I would have named standout in almost any other game, had two crucial picks on Rivers. What does it matter that the defense gave up over 500 yards to San Diego? Sure, it might be a concern, but a win is a win. My respect goes over to Seattle, who seem to have found a balanced passing attack. 2-1, let's see if they can keep this up!
Temperature: Uncharacteristically warm and cozy
Highlight Reel: Seahawks vs. Chargers
Next Week: At the the St. Louis Rams
What to look for: The battle of this week's upsets. Let's see who can keep up the momentum, and who goes back to their old ways. I am particularly interested in checking out young stud Sam Bradford does against this less-than-stellar pass defense, particularly with Draft-class companion and ballhawk Earl Thomas roaming around. I never thought I would say this last year, but I am excited for this game!
German Word of the Day: ueberraschung (say: uber-rush-ung) - surprise