After three weeks of NFL games, we still have a lot to figure out. Who is contending, and who is pretending? There are three teams still undefeated, and five teams still looking for that first win. With a few divisional matchups this week, and a lot of teams that we expected to lead their division to the playoffs not looking their best, there is lots to go over in this week’s rewind.
The Carolina Panthers were able to pull off their first win of the year with what has been Cam Newton’s worst game statistically. I am still trying to dry off from this one, since half of the game was played in a torrential down pour. This one was ugly for most of the game, and with Newton looking clearly out of sync early on, the defense was able to keep Carolina in the game. Greg Olsen’s late touchdown and two point conversion in the fourth quarter was enough to give the Panthers their first win of the season.
The Buffalo Bills are 3-0 and leading the AFC East. That’s right, the Bills. New England went up early 21-0, but after four Tom Brady interceptions, Buffalo was able to capitalize and pull out the win with a late field goal, 34-31. I don’t think it’s time for New England to panic or anything, but one has to wonder how a defense that is giving up an average of 26 points a game is going to fair in January. I seriously think that Belichick tells the defense, “Look, just don’t give up thirty and we can win.”
Speaking of undefeated, the Detroit Lions are still flawless on the year. The Lions were able to rally late, and they scored 13 points in the fourth quarter to tie it up at the end of regulation before kicking a game-winning field goal in overtime. Next week Matthew Stafford and company head into Dallas in what should be a very interesting matchup. I really like to think Detroit will be 4-0 after next week. The Vikings continue to be terrible and give up leads late in the game. I think we may have finally seen the end of Donovan McNabb. In related news, they have changed their team slogan at Mall of America Field to “Minnesota, where quarterbacks come to die.”
The Baltimore Ravens absolutely lit up the St. Louis Rams, and the Pittsburgh Steelers barely squeaked by the Indianapolis Colts. I put these two games together because I really don’t know what to make of any of these four teams. St. Louis, the preseason pick to win the NFC West and make the playoffs, is now sitting at 0-3 with their backs against the wall. They still have a chance to win that division simply due to the fact that it is so weak, but they aren’t making a great case for themselves. Pittsburgh is another team I thought should win their division pretty easily, but after watching them on Sunday night they looked inept. I think the Steelers lost more offensive lineman than there were commercial breaks in the game, and Roethlisberger was under constant pressure from an Indianapolis Colts team that I had pretty much put a fork in after week two. The Steelers may be having a Super Bowl loser hangover, but if they don’t get it together soon they could be facing an early exit in January to some of the up-and-coming AFC teams. The Ravens, who could very well be one of those up-and-coming teams, continue to confuse me. Week one they blow out the Steelers, week two they lose to a Tennessee team that is still trying to find its identity, and week three they blow out the Rams. These four teams are still huge question marks in my book, and we probably won’t have them figured out for a few more weeks.
From what I can tell, there is still no clear-cut favorite in the NFC East. The Dream Team Eagles lost to the New York Giants in a game that the Giants pretty much had control of the entire time. Michael Vick was injured for the second week in a row, making one wonder if the dream for the Eagles is the team or the playoffs. Another ugly NFC East game happened Monday night, where the Cowboys, who looked absolutely confused on offense, were able to squeak by the Washington Redskins, despite not being able to score a touchdown all game. The Cowboys botched three snaps from shotgun, and at times Tony Romo literally had to tell players where to line up. On the other side of the ball, Washington basically gave this one away and could not capitalize on any of Dallas’ sloppy play, making the difference in the game a missed field goal.
Shifting to the NFC South, in my opinion this division is still up for grabs. Tampa was able to hold off Atlanta in a close one, thus putting both Tampa Bay and New Orleans at 2-1 with Carolina and Atlanta sitting at 1-2. This conference very rarely has the same division winner two years in a row, and we are still waiting to see who emerges.
The two other games of note involve the Raiders and Jets and the Chargers and Chiefs. I am really starting to believe that Oakland is a playoff team this year. They ran the ball very well against the New York Jets, who have one of the toughest defenses in the league under Rex Ryan. They will have a huge test next week against New England, especially with the Patriots coming off a loss, but it will be a good measuring stick of how far the Raiders can go. Staying in the AFC West, I was surprised to see how close that San Diego and Kansas City game was. San Diego should have handled the reeling Chiefs easily, which is just another reason for me to think Oakland will win that division.