The first quarter of the NFL season is finished with everyone having played at least four games and it’s time for a look at how things are going. My preseason picks were up and down; I knew the Bengals were going to be pretty good, but I also said the Jets and the Broncos were going to suck. While I pegged Tennessee as a last place team, I also suggested the Giants would be, too. And my San Diego-Arizona Superbowl’s not looking very likely at this point, but there’s still a long way to go.
Tom Brady hasn’t gotten hurt yet, but he hasn’t had to for New England to come back to the pack. The Jets have been much better than I expected to this point, but Mark Sanchez has come back to Earth a bit after a very nice start. Buffalo is dead in the water. The team to watch for here is the Miami Dolphins. Losing Chad Pennington for the year could be the best thing to happen to them as Chad Henne looks like the real thing. A ball control offense that controls big chunks of the clock is exactly the kind of team that goes deep in the playoffs. The only question is, after an 0-3 start, can they get there?
Even after winning two in a row, it is pretty clear that these are not the same Pittsburgh Steelers who have won two of the last three Superbowls. Getting Troy Polamalu back will help, but the injuries keep mounting. The Ravens offense has been startlingly good. Unfortunately, the defense looks like a hollow shell of the long-time dominant unit and that may be what kills them in the end. Cincinnati is for real and may just win this division. As for Cleveland, who cares?
How far has Vince Young fallen that even with Kerry Collins playing horribly, he can’t sniff the field for Tennessee? There’s always next year, I suppose. Houston is too schizophrenic to get any momentum going, and Jacksonville looked like they might have turned a corner before getting stomped by a mediocre Seattle team. For a division that looked pretty competitive in the preseason, Indianapolis is going to walk to another 12 win, division title season. Ho hum.
San Diego has been surprisingly (or not, looking at recent history) mediocre. And Denver has been shockingly good. Back to back wins over Dallas and New England look more impressive than they really are as both of those teams are fighting for the league’s most over-rated title. They’re best win still might be the week one shocker of Cincinnati. Kansas City is going nowhere fast. My question is how long before people realize that Tyler Thigpen might give them a better chance to win than the anointed one Matt Cassel? The Raiders are horrible. Not to pile on, but JaMarcus Russell may be the worst quarterback in league history. He’s that bad. Still, I have a feeling that this is going to be another season where Denver jumps out to a big lead only to be run down at the end by the Chargers.
Okay, so the Giants are pretty good. I didn’t expect their wide receivers to answer the bell as they have. Can they keep it up? Philadelphia is pretty good, too, by the way. With the way Kevin Kolb filled in, however, does anyone else believe this is Donovan McNabb’s farewell tour for the Eagles? Dallas is a mess, possibly the worst 3-2 team in the league. Tony Romo is looking more and more like a flash in the pan. Their big question is who will be the next coach of America’s (underperforming) Team? And how bad exactly is Washington? With arguably the weakest schedule in league history to open a season, they can’t even top .500. Big changes are coming to D.C.
Does anyone out there still think Brett Favre doesn’t make the Vikings a better team? And Adrian Peterson hasn’t even really gotten on track yet. If Favre stays healthy (and sane), Minnesota can definitely win the trophy. The Bears may be the most underrated team in the league. It seems like, after Brian Urlacher went down, Chicago was written off as a serious contender. Don’t be surprised if they’re playing for the conference title at the end. If Green Bay loses again to Favre in Lambeau and the Vikings go on to postseason success, will Ted Thompson or Mike McCarthy get fired first? I’m rooting for the Packers, though. I really want to see a Favre against Green Bay playoff game. Detroit has made some progress, but they’re still pretty much irrelevant until they beat a good team late in the season.
This is a two-horse race between New Orleans and Atlanta. Tampa Bay is better off ignored, and Carolina made a horrible mistake sticking with Jake Delhomme. By all reports, he’s a damned nice guy who refuses to blame anyone else for his troubles, which is a rarity in this league. It’s a shame he’s completely lost the ability to play quarterback. I’m thinking this division is going to be decided late in the season. Atlanta is just going to get better and better. If the Saints defense can hold up playing as it has, they can hold on. If not, the Falcons will take it.
San Francisco has been surprising to this point, Arizona and Seattle have been disappointing, and St. Louis just plain sucks. This has all the earmarks of another 9-7 division winner. Matt Hasselbeck can’t hold up long enough for Seattle to get there, so I’m thinking this is another two-team race. The 49ers have been playing a bit over there head prior to the serious stomping they just received at the hands of Atlanta. They have talent, but not quite enough to be a serious contender yet. The Cardinals, on the other hand, have enough to get back to the Superbowl if they can get themselves on the ball. Unfortunately for them, Superbowl losers have a tendency of getting hit with a rash of injuries and other bad luck. If they can avoid that, they can get back into the playoffs and with Kurt Warner and Larry Fitzgerald, anything’s possible.