Tuesday, September 29, 2009

NFL Winners and Losers -- Week 3

Week 3 was yet another exciting mix of games, including some incredible finishes that you only really get to see in the NFL. Here are my thoughts on the biggest winners and losers of Week 3, once again in no particular order:


1. Brett Favre and the Vikings. Wow!! I know I wrote here just a few weeks ago that, despite Favre's obvious self-centeredness, I had given up being annoyed by it and was just looking forward to his play during the season with excitement. And this week was exactly why. That last-second mini-hail mary pass that Favre completed to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat at the hands of the upstart San Francisco 49ers was the stuff of legends, and lord knows that Vikings fans across the land all had to change their boxer shorts within seconds of the incredible, Favre-led comeback win. Now lord knows it's not all going to be jumping around and carrying Favre off the field on the team's shoulders all through this season -- Favre is 85 years old now, and let us not forget that he threw six touchdowns for the Jets in a game early in the season last year -- but for now that was as big of a play as the Vikes could ever have expected in that spot, and it took excitement to a whole new level. Cue the Packers on Monday Night Football next week for Favre as he finally gets his chance to shine in what really is Favre's Superbowl this year.

2. The 49ers and coach Mike Singletary. Even in the loss to the Vikings this weekend, the 49ers seemed to cement their arrival as the team to beat in the NFC West and a force to be reckoned with for any team in the NFC this year. Second-year head coach Mike Singletary gave perhaps the best post-loss interview I can recall in some time after the game, which saw his team fight through the loss of star runningback Frank Gore on his very first play of the day to take a 4-point lead into the final seconds of the game before Favre's miracle pass to win it, with Singletary encouraging his team to accept the early-season loss, "chew it up and spit it out", and to remember what it feels like and get better from the experience, but just watching him speak one is reminded of the same guy who used to patrol the field for the Bears back on those incredible 80's Bears defenses.

3. The Jets. What can you say that hasn't already been said about Mark Sanchez and the Jets as one of the two undefeated teams in New York right now? After a very hot start, Sanchez got absolutely rolled in the second quarter against the desperate Tennessee Titans. But first-year head coach Rex Ryan -- son of Buddy Ryan who coached Mike Singletary et al on the Bears' defense in the mid-1980's -- must've said something right during halftime, and Sanchez came out and led his team to a come-from-behind 24-17 victory and the team's hottest start in years. This sets the stage for a huge game next Sunday in New Orleans between two of the league's undefeated teams and arguably the best offense in the NFL matching up against the league's stingiest defense. Can't wait for that one.

4. The Giants and Tom Coughlin. Now I know they were playing the Buccaneers, but shit the Giants just rolled that team like they were playing a bunch of girls in pads on Sunday afternoon. It was about as complete of an ass-kicking on both sides of the ball as you'll ever see in one game, including just 81 yards of total offense for the Bucs on the day. The Giants' running game is on fire once again, its young receivers are stepping up and Eli Manning continues to lead his team to the promised land week in and week out. The Giants have clearly established themselves as the favorites in the NFC East with their 3-0 hot start on both offense and defense, and head coach Tom Coughlin is deserving of the highest praise as the team's head coach. Year in and year out, much of the key personnel on both sides of the ball changes (Tiki Barber, Amani Toomer, Ike Hilliard, Plax Burress on offense, Michael Strahan, Dahani Jones, Osi Yumenora and others as well on defense), but the Giants have consistently been at the top of the NFL's toughest division during the past several years under Coughlin's leadership and tutelage.

5. The Colts. Here is a team that I have picked against in two of the first three games of this season, and I have been wrong every time. Dead wrong. Even with a weakened runningback position and a whole slate of new wide receivers, reigning NFL MVP Peyton Manning has proven this year's version of the Colts to be far and away the league's greatest quick-strike offense, with six touchdown drives already in three games that lasted six plays or fewer. That is a sick stat right there, just as sick as actually watching a Colts game, seeing the team only have the ball for 15 or 20 minutes and yet somehow still amass 28 or more points in the game. The Colts are not looking to be having the down year I had predicted earlier for them, and it's going to be fun seeing how teams combat the incredible pass offense in Indy going forward.

6. The Lions. No list of Week 3's winners could be made without mentioning the Detroit Lions, who grabbed their first win in 20 games by edging out the Washington Redskins 19-14 on Sunday afternoon. Sure it's just one win, and obviously Detroit has a ton of work to do in order to actually stop sucking, but you gotta start somewhere, and that somewhere is with the team's first win in more than a full season. The Buccaneers and their historical 0-26 streak in the 80s will also now remain intact, and the focus among current teams can now shift to the St. Louis Rams, who have now lost 13 straight games after getting punched by 19 points by the Packers this weekend.

7. Kevin Kolb. Eagles' backup quarterback Kevin Kolb had to step in starting in Week 2 when starter Donovan McNabb suffered broken ribs after a cheap-shot hit in the end zone a week ago, and just the name alone made Eagles fans think the team was in big trouble during McNabb's absence. Instead, Kolb has been nothing short of magical -- albeit against not strong defensive squads in both New Orleans and now this weekend with Kansas City -- but he has crushed both defenses just as one might expect a viable NFL quarterback to do. In two games, Kolb has thrown for 724 yards and 5 touchdowns, becoming the first rookie quarterback in NFL history to surpass 300 yards passing in each of his first two starts. With the Eagles on a bye week next week, it seems likely that D-Mac is back at the helm at qb for the Eagles' October 11 matchup with the Buccaneers, but Kolb filled in more than merely sufficiently in McNabb's absence and has really won over a ton of Eagles fans in Philly and elsewhere, this "humble" blogger included.


1. The Redskins. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.!

2. TO. For the second straight week, TO appears on the "losers" list because, well, he is playing like an abject loser. After dropping two key touchdown passes and amassing just five receptions for under a hundred yards over his first two games in Buffalo, Terrell Owens followed that up with a 0-catch performance in Week 3, breaking TO's league-longest streak of consecutive games with at least one reception at 185. Plus, I saw at least one more dropped pass from TO on the day, plus two other longballs thrown his way where he clearly gave up on trying for them. One was a deep crossing route where TO pulled up and pulled in his arms instead of stretching out to catch the ball because the safety was right nearby fixing to land a big hit if he laid out to catch it, and the other was just a long pass where TO had beaten his defender down the sidelines, looked up, and I guess just decided he couldn't reach the ball, at which point he simply looked down at the ground and stopped running his route, allowing the ball to land incomplete about five yards beyond his position. In all, it is as obvious as the day is long that TO's frustrations are starting to boil over in Buffalo, and unfortunately for TO, this time it's not after one or two seasons of stellar performance and good relations with his quarterback at his new location. It's gonna be a long season for TO fans in Buffalo this year me thinks.

3. Eric Mangini. Boy has this guy funked up his life over the past year. First he agreed to take on Brett Favre with the Jets in 2008, which was a public disaster and eventually led to his firing after just three seasons in New York. Then Mangini jumped to take the head coaching job at the hapless Cleveland Browns, where his tenure has started off about as bad as could possibly be, going 0-3 and giving rise to the worst kind of quarterback controversy as well. After refusing for some ridiculous reason to name his starter until just days before the team's Week 1 game, Mangini finally benched Brady Quinn due to his poor performance after the first half on Sunday. Derek Anderson, who had started a number of games to relatively strong results over the past couple of seasons, promptly came in for the second half and threw not one, not two but three picks in yet another ugly loss for the Browns. Combine this performance with Mangini managing to rankle just about everyone in the organization with his inexplicable insistence on managing all information leaving the team and his strict control over all the players' actions during games and in between, and Eric Mangini's days could be real short in Cleveland after this year.

4. The Miami Dolphins. The Dolphins' season went from bad to worse on Sunday, as the 0-2 Dolphins lost their third game in a row to start their defense to winning the 2008 AFC East title, and they also lost quarterback Chad Pennington in the process. Pennington, whose claim to fame includes that he has never failed to lead his team to the playoffs in any season where he starts at least 10 games, will be able to continue to make this claim as he appears to be out for the season with yet another shoulder injury. Having already had two major surgeries on this same shoulder in the latter part of his career, I would guess at this point that returning to the NFL may be a pipe dream for Pennington, who will then retire as one of the under-appreciated, but over-efficient, quarterbacks of the past decade or so in the NFL.

5. Jamarcus Russell. I wrote about this guy in this exact same spot last week, after the Raiders' "quarterback" (and I don't think we should be allowed to refer to him as that without the quotation marks, given his performance so far in the NFL) had won a game while completing under 40% of his passes for 70 total yards through the air, but this week saw the Raiders get thumped 23-3 by a far less than strong offensive Denver Broncos team. On Sunday Russell went 12-for-21 -- a significant improvement in his completion percentage for the season, sadly -- for 61 yards and no touchdowns. In an entire game. 12 completions for just 61 yards means the guy cannot throw the ball downfield -- at all -- and that he is basically just being used as a glorified handoffer as is often the case with a poorly-executed West Coast offense. Jamarcus Russell is not an NFL quarterback, and his numbers week in and week out continue to broadcast this fact to the public for anyone who is willing and able to listen and discern the truth from NFL statistics.

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