Before I begin my team-by-team breakdown, I’ve got to point out that the parity in the NFL this season is remarkable, and oftentimes unbelievable. Powerhouses aren’t powerhouses right now, and cellar-dwellers are playing like division champions…
New York Jets (3-1) – The Jets played dreadfully against the Ravens, trying to run and avoiding the pass at all costs. Since then (when putting the ball in Sanchez’ hands) the Jets have dominated teams left and right. Revis is still nursing his sore pride… err… hamstring, but the defense is stout. Braylon Edwards is playing as though he returned to Pro Bowl form. And speaking of returning to form, LaDanian Tomlinson may very well be every bit the back we know and love (AJ Smith sure knows how to get rid of ‘em).
New England Patriots (3-1) – As of today, Randy Moss’ future with the organization appears to be in question; but the Patriots walked all over division foe Miami 41-10 without Moss getting a single catch. Needless to say, they probably don’t need him. They’ve looked incredible for what I was expecting out of them this season.
Miami Dolphins (2-2) – The run game baffles me; Ronnie Brown returns, but it appears this time, the injury has taken its toll on him. Henne to Marshall has been okay, but they’ve still got some timing issues. Defensively, the really are missing the outside rush of both Porter and Taylor.
Buffalo Bills (0-4) – The Bills traded Marshawn Lynch to the Seahawks; they’re letting guys go… this team is clearly rebuilding and apparently Chan Gailey has a hard-on for Jake Locker (who won’t be anything special if you ask me) in next year’s draft at #1 overall.
Baltimore Ravens (3-1) – With a win over the Steelers, the Ravens have found themselves atop their division. The run game is struggling a bit but Boldin has been every bit one of the top 3 receivers in the league this season. Defensively, they’ve held up to their end of the bargain yet again. Something about Baltimore just ensures the defense will be successful.
Pittsburgh Steelers (3-1) – The Steelers weren’t expected to be anywhere near where they are right now; and no thanks to Roethlisberger. The offense hasn’t been awe-inspiring, but they’ve protected the ball and run well. The defense has played lights out and they look like a #1 overall defense again. They get Ben back heading into their 5th game, and it’s going to be a huge storyline win or lose…
Cincinnati Bengals (2-2) – The Bengals may be one of my biggest surprises this season… granted the Steelers and Ravens are returning to form and staying healthy; the Bengals (Carson Palmer) haven’t played well at all. The defense hasn’t exactly tried to stop anyone either.
Cleveland Browns (1-3) – The Browns are clearly rebuilding, and Mangini has abandoned one of his best players (Jerome Harrison) for (albeit successful) Peyton Hillis. Defensively, they’re definitely worse than they had been the last several seasons (though they actually had some good units).
Houston Texans (3-1) – The Texans have remained impressive on offense (especially with the sudden explosion of relatively unknown Arian Foster); but they’re ranked dead last in overall defense. They’ll start to right that wrong with the return of Cushing.
Jacksonville Jaguars (2-2) – The Jaguars, I don’t know what to make of this team. They play sloppy so often, and Garrard is so hit and miss it’s unbelievable. Defensively they don’t have anything that really strikes any fear, but they find a way to remain in games.
Indianapolis Colts (2-2) – The Colts defense is a problem… for them. They’re struggling to cover and even more to tackle. Peyton Manning is playing well enough to wrap up his 5th MVP Award, but I’m sure he’d rather be 4-0 right now, and not 0-2 in the division.
Tennessee Titans (2-2) – Gameplans have hurt the Titans, that’s for sure. They still want to run, but they haven’t established what kind of running team they are (not hard to do with CJ2K) and they’re not letting Vince Young play to his strengths. Defensively they’ve blown coverage and containment too often, and they need to fix these problems fast.
Kansas City Chiefs (3-0) – Huge surprise here; the Chiefs have played very sound football. Jamaal Charles and Dexter McCluster have been two of the most explosive players in the league this season (McCluster is my favorite for Rookie of the Year). Cassel is starting to come around, and the team is finding ways to make plays in all phases of the game. Probably not making the ’72 Dolphins sweat though.
San Diego Chargers (2-2) – The Chargers just slaughtered the Cardinals, but I’m not sold on anything with this team outside of Antonio Gates. Granted, this team always starts slow… but that’s a huge problem… as they finish slow as well.
Denver Broncos (2-2) – I didn’t even think they’d be this far along at this point to be honest… but the Broncos have found a way to keep themselves in games and force opposing teams to stay honest, and they’ve covered well without Champ Bailey… yeah.
Oakland Raiders (1-3) – They’ve been abused, used, and left battered and bruised – the silver’n’black is black-n-blue. There’s no run game, there’s no pass-game, and the defense has been walked over repeatedly. Good draft, strong players, no teamwork. They need to bond, and do it fast!
Washington Redskins (2-2) – The Redskins started off slow in every phase, but managed to beat Dallas. They blew a 17-point lead vs. Houston and lost in overtime… but had the best passing game the fans have seen in over a decade… then changed their gameplan vs. the Rams in the second half and lost the game… then come in and execute well against Philadelphia in a game where they figured out the run. 2-0 in the division helps greatly.
New York Giants (2-2) – The front 4 on defense had a coming out party vs. the Bears… Eli’s had a pretty strong season (his INT’s ALL coming off of dropped passes), but the rungame (minus vs. Chicago) has been anemic (as I predicted). I refuse to accept that they will finish better than 3rd or 4th in the division, but IDK who will end up there…
Philadelphia Eagles (2-2) – Mike Vick is the man, but he got hurt. Kevin Kolb (as I predicted) is not Aaron Rodgers, nor does he appear to be the answer. McCoy is a beast, and the defense has played well vs. the pass. If Vick comes back and stays in form, the Eagles are contenders. With Kolb, they’re pretenders.
Dallas Cowboys (1-2) – Dallas lost to the Redskins, and then the Bears, then defeated the Texans. This team has troubled all over the coaching staff and no leadership at all. They still want to be a passing team, but they’re built to run and pass off of the run. Defensively, they’re still a fierce team.
Chicago Bears (3-1) – The Bears are a solid team… outside of pass protection and Cutler’s decision-making in clutch moments. Forte has become a solid receiver and is running strong; special teams unit is starting to block well again. Defensively, Urlacher’s return is the spark that lights the fire… he’s come up big in clutch moments bailing out Jay Cutler.
Green Bay Packers (3-1) – The Pack lost to the Bears, then almost lost to the Lions. Not having Ryan Grant has hurt them, it’s clear, and Aaron Rodgers doesn’t look AS spectacular as he did in the preseason, but the defense has played pretty well (barring penalties).
Minnesota Vikings (1-2) – I can’t believe Sidney Rice’s late decision to go through with surgery, costing the team a receiving threat. Favre doesn’t have a lot of confidence in his receivers without Rice; this showed in both losses. However, Adrian Peterson’s increased workload without a receiving corps proved to be successful. Now if only they finish this trade with New England for Moss… we might see Favre consider another return next season.
Detroit Lions (0-4) – They’re nowhere near as bad as their record implies… they lost on a bullshit call to Chicago, they’ve remained close in all 4 games. Their defense still isn’t good enough to win a ballgame, and their offense continuously makes stupid mistakes to keep opponents in the game.
Atlanta Falcons (3-1) – The Falcons have been a decent team. The run-game hasn’t been outrageously successful, but they’ve been able to eat up the clock. Matt Ryan not making superb decisions, but he’s managing the game. Defensively they’ve been able to wreak some havoc up front, but they haven’t established an identity yet.
New Orleans Saints (3-1) – Losing to the Falcons in New Orleans was tough… this team is being injured left and right, but they’re plugging and plugging and still finding ways to make plays at crucial moments. Passing game isn’t really spectacular right now, and the defense is struggling to wrap up ball carriers, but they haven’t been anything like they were 2 years ago.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-1) – This team has found a way to play big in their first three games. They don’t have anyone playing at an extremely high level on either side of the ball, but they’ve got plenty of guys who are playing at a level high enough to win ballgames and showing some heart in the process.
Carolina Panthers (0-4) – I’m not too sure what to think of this team. I like Jimmy Clausen, but I’m disturbed about where he’s at with the rest of the offense around him. The ground game hasn’t really found their groove yet, and that’s been a huge problem because they’ve had to rely a bit too heavily on the rookie’s arm… he’s not just getting a taste, he’s being force-fed. Defense misses Peppers for sure.
Arizona Cardinals (2-2) – This team is in desperate need of a quarterback. They had high hopes up until Kurt Warner retired, now it looks like they’re the Cardinals of old. I like their defense, but the offense doesn’t hold onto the ball long enough to keep them fresh. They may currently have the lead in their division, but not for long.
St. Louis Rams (2-2) – The Rams are a shockingly decent team… simply because they’ve got some key injuries yet they’re remaining competitive. I’m telling everyone right now, Sam Bradford is every bit the potential that Peyton Manning was coming out of college… and with the team already establishing their rebuilt roster a bit, he’s well on his way to success.
Seattle Seahawks (2-2) – Matt Hasselbeck isn’t the quarterback he once was, and his numbers aren’t beautiful… but he’s managing the game. They’ve got a nice receiving corps and running back stable, and Pete Carroll seems to know how to gameplan. Defensively, Earl Thomas is an incredible talent and they’re playing physical football. Great special teams unit as well.
San Francisco 49ers (0-4) – By far the most disappointing team in the NFL. They were expected to run away with their division, and they’ve crumbled. The run isn’t working, the pass isn’t there… the defense isn’t dominating anything… this is a team that is constantly finding ways to lose games with the dumbest of mistakes, and have no character whatsoever.