A Quarter Pole Update On The NFL

By Lloyd Vance
Updated: October 2, 2008

PHILADELPHIA — As we have reached the quarter pole of the NFL season, I thought it was time to issue my team report cards for the NFL’s first four weeks.

Not surprisingly the NFL once again is filled with parity as there are only three unbeaten teams left with the majority of teams (21) having a record of .500 or better. As we move into October and November before winding toward the playoffs in December, there will be much more jockeying for playoffs.

But the NFL maybe seeing the changing of the guard after four weeks of action as five of the eight current division-leading teams (AFC North: Bills, AFC South: Titans, NFC South: Panthers, NFC East: Giants, and AFC West: Broncos) are different from their respective division’s 2007 champions (AFC East: Patriots, NFC South: Buccaneers, NFC East: Cowboys, and AFC West: Chargers).

It is still too early in my opinion to make season-long assumptions based on three or four games played, but in the “Win, Now” NFL some owners had seen enough as the Raiders firing head coach Lane Kiffin (replaced on an interim basis by Tom Cable) and the Rams giving head coach Scott Linehan his walking papers.

I am sure more wackiness will unfold in the next four weeks as we reach the mid-season mark, but the NFL sure is must-see for everyone.

Some trends from the first four weeks of NFL Action

Veteran quarterbacks getting starts over younger guys – I guess NFL head coaches are more worried than ever about turnovers and getting an ugly win rather than a loss. We have already seen four teams this season bench young hotshots (SF 49ers Alex Smith, Vikings Tarvaris Jackson, Chiefs Brodie Croyle/Tyler Thigpen and Titans Vince Young) for veteran game managers (SF 49ers JT O’Sullivan, Vikings Gus Frerotte, Chiefs Damon Huard and the Titans Kerry Collins), who know the playbook and minimize mistakes.

Key players lost for significant amounts of time – Patriots QB Tom Brady (I/R – knee), Chargers OLB Shawne Merriman (I/R – knee), Steelers first-round draft pick running back Rashard Mendenhall (I/R – broken shoulder), Chiefs QB Brodie Croyle (shoulder), Panthers rookie LB Dan Connor (I/R – knee), Steelers starting guard Kendell Simmons (I/R – Achilles), Saints TE Jeremy Shockey (sports hernia), and Jaguars O-linemen Vince Manuwai (I/R – knee), Chris Naoele (I/R – knee), and Maurice Williams (triceps). Unfortunately this list could fill this page as every week, the NFL is a game of attrition.

Rookies making their mark - It will be a great race for the NFL’s Rookie of the Year award as several rookies have given immediate dividends. The long list includes Titans RB Chris Johnson, Falcons QB Matt Ryan, Bears RB Matt Forte, Eagles WR DeSean Jackson, Raiders RB Darren McFadden, Rams DL Chris Long, Broncos WR Eddie Royal, and Chiefs DB’s Brandon Flowers and Brandon Carr plus a host of other outstanding NFL freshmen.

NFC East is the NFL’s Best Division – Four weeks into the season and the NFC East is off to a flying start! “I believe the NFC East is the best division in the league right now,” says NFL Network analyst Steve Marucci. All four teams – New York Giants (3-0), Washington (3-1), Dallas (3-1) and the Philadelphia (2-2) – boast a .500 or better record. This season, NFC East teams are a combined 11-4 (.733), with the only loss outside of the divisin coming from the Eagles recent close loss to the Bears. It should be a race to the end int he NFC East to see who gets in the playoffs – remember last year 3 teams made it from the dvision. Conversely the NFC West is the NFL’s worst with a combined record of 5-10 (.333) — Niners (2-2), Cardinals (2-2), Seahawks (1-2), and the Rams (0-4).

NFL Coaches and GM’s on the Hot Seat – Through four weeks, the NFL has already issued “pink slips” to Lions GM Matt Millen (replaced interimly by Martin Mayhew), Raiders head coach Lane Kiffin (replaced interimly by Tom Cable), and Rams head coach Scott Linehan (replaced interimly by Jim Haslett). Other Coaches and GM that better pick-up or they maybe joining the NFL’s unemployed ranks include: Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis, Chiefs GM Carl Peterson, Chiefs head coach Herman Edwards, Niners head coach Mike Nolan, Lions head coach Rod Marinelli, Browns head coach Romeo Crennel, and Vikings head coach Brad Childress. You have to think former Steelers Super Bowl winning head coach and current CBS analyst Bill Cowher will be waiting with baited breath to take any of these jobs.

On to my First Quarter Grades

A+ Bills, Titans, and Giants

A Cowboys, Steelers, Redskins, and Buccaneers

B+ Panthers, Ravens, and Patriots

B Broncos, Saints, Jets, Eagles, Chargers, and Packers

B – 49ers, Cardinals, Jags, and Bears

C+ Falcons and Seahawks

C Colts and Dolphins

C- Vikings

D Raiders, Browns, Chiefs, and Texans

F Bengals, Rams, and Lions.