By Anthony McClean, Editor In Chief Emeritus NEW HAVEN (BASN) —...
BASN’s Week Four NFL Review
PHILADELPHIA — The 2008 NFL season has reached the quarter marker and the only thing that we really do know, is that “No One Knows” what is going to happen next in sports most entertaining league.
Everyone thought that the Dallas Cowboys after scoring an incredible 96 points in three early season wins were the cream of the NFL.
Well someone forgot to send the memo to the Washington Redskins as upstart head coach Jim Zorn led his team into Dallas with little fear and it showed.
The ‘Skins playing without big off-season acquisition defensive end Jason Taylor (calf), decided that they were not going to just fold in the Texas sun to America’s Team as they slugged their way to a hard fought 26-24 victory. The Redskins improbable win showed that no team in the NFL is invincible and that games are won on the field, not in pre-game hype.
The win also left some questions looming about the mighty Cowboys as they only ran for 44 yards not utilizing ram-tough running back Marion Barber and allowing quarterback Tony Romo to throw the ball an alarming 47 times — 17 of Romo’s throws were in the direction of receiver Terrell Owens, that wasn’t enough for the primadonna receiver (more in Lloyd’s Lackey section).
All of the uncertainty and “Any Given Sunday” mentality around the NFL is fueled by Injuries (we talk about them every week and this week’s biggest lost-for-the-season player was Steelers rookie running back Rashard Mendenhall — broken shoulder vs. the Ravens), Urgency (teams, quarterbacks, and head coaches trying to stay afloat in unforgiving waters where everyone from owners to fans wants to win now), and Turnovers (these are game changers and defenses are always looking for them…Just ask the 4-0 Tennessee Titans who have an NFL-high 12 takeaways).
In looking at the standings, there are only three unbeaten teams left (Giants: 3-0 after a bye week, Bills: 4-0 after coming from behind again this time against the Rams, and the Titans: 4-0 after thrashing the reeling Vikings into submission after scoring 30 points again). With so few teams left in the unbeaten ranks, it really has to make you appreciate how well the 2007 New Patriots played in going a perfect 16-0 in the regular season.
I fully expect the unbeaten teams to dwindle further and by the season’s halfway point in Week Eight that every team will have a blemish on their record — if any team does have a chance to make it to the halfway mark undefeated it is the Giants as their schedule is light coming up Seattle at home, @ Cleveland, and San Francisco at home.
After the unbeaten teams there are six teams at (3-1) – Steelers, Cowboys, Broncos, Redskins, Buccaneers, and Panthers; two teams at (2-1) Ravens and Patriots; a glut of 10 teams at .500 (2-2) – Eagles, Bears, Jaguars, Saints, 49ers, Falcons, Cardinals, Chargers, Packers, and Jets (of this group expect the Saints and Chargers to breakout); three (1-2) teams coming off a bye week in must-win situations – Colts, Dolphins, and Seahawks; four (1-3) teams, who are all hoping to be this year’s 2007 Chargers (started 1-3, but finished 11-5 winning the AFC West on the way to the AFC Championship game) – Raiders, Chiefs, Vikings, and Browns; The last set of teams is the winless bunch of the Texans (0-3), Bengal (0-4), Rams (0-4), and Lions (0-4) who all reek of desperations as they are on their way to seeing who gets the number one pick come this April.
My advice to all the teams no matter where they currently stand in the NFL rankings is to just keep playing, as you never know what can happen in the NFL.
Just ask the former (0-3) Kansas City, who had lost a franchise record 12 straight games before dismantling the previously undefeated Denver Broncos 33-19 this past week.
Some tidbits from this week:
Titans are the NFL’s best team – Surprisingly even without former franchise player V.Y, the Titans keep marching throw everyone. This week they pasted a 30-17 dismantling of the Vikings. The Titans now have a 4-0 record for the first time in franchise history. They are 2.5 games ahead of AFC South favorite Indianapolis and I don’t know if even Peyton will be able to close the game. The Titans lead the NFL with 12 takeaways, which efficient quarterback Kerry Collins and mercurial rookie running back Chris Johnson have turned into score after score — produced 30 points in consecutive games for the first time since 2004.
Welcome back Deuce – I have been saying all season that the Saints need to find a way to lessen running back Reggie Bush’s touches by getting Deuce McAllister involve. After a slow start in the Saints first three games, McAllister shook off the rust — had two knee injuries since 2005 – from the past by rushing 20 times for 73 yards and touchdown plus catching a 10-yard pass in the Saints 31-17 over the Niners. McAllister’s touchdown was his first touchdown since 2006.
Rickey just says “No” — Dolphins running back Ricky Williams told the Miami Herald that he was tempted to smoke marijuana during the team’s bye last week, but held off because he knows he is on his final chance with the NFL.”I just thought about what I have to lose and it was easy,” he said. “The urge didn’t last very long.” If Williams had another violation he would probably mean a permanent ban from the league. Good for you Rickey, now it is time to get back to work improving the Dolphins record from 1-2.
Before we go on to the Game Balls, I would like to send out my thoughts and prayers to Jacksonville Jaguars O-lineman Richard Collier. You may remember that right before the start of the season, Collier was shot 14 times by a still unnamed assailant in a targeted attack. The good news is that Collier has regained consciousness and he will be going home soon, however unfortunately his gunshot injuries have left him paralyzed and he also had his left leg amputated.
Kansas City Chiefs Running back Larry Johnson – After only 12 rushes for 22 yards in a bad loss in week 2 to the Raiders, several people were whispering LJ was done. Those critics were put aside in week 3 as the big back went for 121 yards. But it was this week’s bust-out 198-yard and 2 TD rushing performance in the Chiefs surprising 33-19 win over the Broncos that told Johnson’s critics to put a sock in it. LJ ran hard inside and outside as the Chiefs rolled up 214 yards and held the ball for 33:23 minutes. LJ also showed a burst that had not been seen in awhile as he had a 65-yard run in the first quarter that helped set up a Kansas City first field goal.
New York Jets QB Brett Favre - In the graybeard’s storied 17-year career, Favre set numerous NFL records, but on Sunday he tied fellow legend Joe Namath’s franchise record by throwing an amazing six touchdowns in the Jets 56- 35 win over the Cardinals. Favre (24-34, 289, 6 TDs, 1 INT) found his new favorite receiver Laverneus Coles for 3 of the touchdowns.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers LB Derrick Brooks – At 35-years old many people thought that one of last links from the Bucs’ Super Bowl champion team was finished. Well they were wrong as Brooks looks like he is Pro Bowl bound. In the Bucs tough 31-20 win over the Packers, Brooks seemed to be everywhere. He produced 3 TKLS, 1 INT, and forced a fumble that was returned for a pivotal touchdown by CB Jermaine Phillips.
Tampa Buccaneers kicker Matt Bryant – You know that I am not a “kicker-guy”, but I was truly touched and mesmerized by Bryant’s performance in the win over the Packers. The Bucs kicker played with the heaviest heart imaginable as one day after burying his three-month-old son, Matthew Tryson Bryant, Daddy came through. Bryant accounted for 12 points (3/3 FG, 36 L, 3/3 XPs) including a go-ahead 24-yarder with 2:26 remaining.
Others honorees: Redskins WR Santana Moss (third consecutive 100-yard game in a win over the Cowboys), Chargers RB LaDainian Tomlinson (20 rushes 106 yds, 2TDs including 41-yd TD closer), Titans DT Albert Haynesworth (6 TKLS and 2 sacks in win over the Vikings), Jaguars QB David Garrard (23-32, 236 yds, 1 TD, 0 INT and 41 rushing yards w/ 1 TD in win over the Texans) and Steelers LB James Harrison (10 TKLS, 2.5 sacks, and 1 FF in MNF win over the Ravens).
Cardinals QB Kurt Warner- I guess the return to the Meadowlands made Warner feel like his 2004 self when he played for the Giants (In 9 starts for the G-Men, Warner had 12 fumbles (losing 4) and 4 INT). Despite throwing for 472 yards, this Sunday again proved that Giants Stadium is a house of horrors for the Cardinals veteran signal caller. Warner finally looked like his former turnover prone self producing 6 turnovers (3 INTs with one returned for a touchdown by Darrell Revis and 3 lost fumbles) in the Jets 56-35 shellacking the supposedly rejuvenated Cardinals.
Cowboys WR Terrell Owens – Can someone please tell me how in the world Owens could be complaining after he had 17 passes thrown his way. Sure the Cowboys lost to the Redskins 26-24, but poor T.O thought that 7 catches for 72 yards and a touchdown were not enough. Owens said after the game, “There is no secret, when I get the ball, things move, we move the chains”. He added, “If not, you see the (stagnation) in our offense.” Enough already T.O, your team is 3-1 and has a chance to do something special this year, but you are acting like your spoiled self. Now we will see if “Players’ Coach” Wade Wilson is ready to lay down the law and bring the “Boys back together after their first defeat. Anyway the real problem is the fact that Romo threw 47 times and the Cowboys only had 44 rushing yards.
New York Jets safety Eric Smith (unnecessary helmet-to-helmet hit on Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Anquan Boldin), Niners TE Vernon Davis (only one catch in the loss to the Saints), Eagles head coach Andy Reid (four straight running plays in that didn’t score during a crucial goal-line stand and didn’t challenge some bad calls) and Cowboys safety Pat Watkins (had a crucial 12-men on the field penalty nullifying an important third down stop).