NFL Week 3: Upsets and mysterious results – what now?
One of the most enjoyable and frustrating aspects of the NFL is that perceptions of teams are constantly in flux.
Last week it appeared that San Francisco was clearly the best team in the league, the Raiders and the Vikings were two of the worst and the Cardinals were lucky to be undefeated.
With more games being played the more confusing the NFL season is.
After three weeks, only two teams are without wins: Cleveland, which is not surprising, and somehow the New Orleans Saints.
Furthermore there are only three undefeated teams with the excellent Houston, Atlanta and the surprising Arizona without losses.
With everything constantly changing and every perception constantly challenged and changing it is time to take a look for some certainties in the NFL.
Arizona are very good
Despite their issues at quarterback, the Arizona Cardinals have a fantastic defense.
Darnell Dockett and Calais Campbell anchor a stout defensive line, Patrick Peterson is the best young cornerback in the game and Kerry Rhodes and James Sanders seem rejuvenated in the desert air.
Rhodes and Sanders were the stars of the game against the Eagles with a 30 second patch of play that pushed the game in favour of the Cardinals. Rhodes made a fantastic solo tackle to stop an Eagles touchdown on the one yard line and then two plays later Sanders returned a fumble 93 yards as the first half ended to complete a 14 point swing.
The Cardinals showed that there first two games were no fluke and that despite their question marks at quarterback they will be a tough challenge for any team.
Maybe the Saints are actually that bad
The Saints were a prime candidate to regress in 2012. After posting a record breaking 13-3 record in 2011, the Saints were one of the best teams in football last season.
However the combination of Sean Payton’s suspension and the Saints awful defense has led to the Saints being torched by teams one would expect them to manhandle.
The Saints were unlucky to lose to the Chiefs in overtime but allowing a running back to run for 233 yards at 7.1 per carry is not good enough.
More damning than this, the Saints held a 24-6 lead before allowing the Chiefs to score 21 straight points to lose the game.
The Saints have one of the worst defenses in the NFL particularly both against the run and pass. With Drew Brees being ineffective and only racking up cheap statistics this is a recipe for disaster.
The Saints are three games behind the Falcons in divisional standings and look completely out of sorts and seem destined to miss the playoffs.
The Steelers’ Defense isn’t what it was
For years the Steelers have statistically had some of the best defenses in the NFL with their highpoint being the historically great 2008 team. The Steelers this year seem to a shell of themselves.
Injuries have not been of help with former Defensive Players of the Year James Harrison and Troy Polamalu missing games.
Perhaps due to these losses or perhaps due to the advanced age of many defensive starters the Steelers just seem to lack that engulfing presence that they used to have. Their loss to Oakland is emblematic of this.
The Steelers allowed Darren McFadden to run for 113 yards including some key runs late in the game. Carson Palmer was able to throw the ball effectively but not fantastically and was only sacked once. Perhaps the most damning evidence against the Steelers was that in Oakland’s last five possessions the Raiders were able to score including three touchdowns.
Right now, the success of the Steelers hinges on the performance of Ben Roethlisberger who was outstanding in a losing effort. Roethlisberger did absolutely everything on the field but the Steelers were let down by their defense.
Baltimore and Houston are the best teams in the AFC
With the 49ers strangely and convincingly losing, the Ravens and the Texans have been the two most consistent teams in the NFL. After opening the season with wins over weak opposition, the Texans delivered a dominant performance over a strong opponent by beating the Broncos 31-25.
The Texans shut down the Broncos both on the ground and in the air that seems less impressive with two garbage time touchdowns.
The Ravens victory over the Patriots was overshadowed by the awful performance by the replacement referees that were simply unable to control the game. With 24 penalties being accepted, this game has provided even more evidence as to the necessity of a resolution for the labour dispute between the league and the officials.
Despite falling into considerable holes, the Ravens were resolute and most importantly were able to provide exceptional performances offensively and defensively in the fourth quarter.
Although the Patriots are 1-2, they don’t really have a whole lot to worry about, this game easily could have gone their way. The Patriots are still the best team in their division and it seems exceedingly unlikely that they will miss the postseason.
The Browns are the worst team in the NFL
This needs no explanation.
What Really Confuses Me
Week three delivered come shocking results that have really muddled the landscape of the NFL. San Francisco’s loss to Minnesota was the most confusing after the 49ers looked to be the best team in the NFL by quite a margin.
The Vikings seemed terrible at the start of the year and there loss to the Colts and narrow win over cellar dweller Jacksonville seemed to confirm this. That the Vikings won by 11 with only 344 yards of total offense does little to explain how the Vikings won this game.
After two weeks and at 2-0, the Chargers were threatening to be one of the best teams in the NFL. However the Chargers were absolutely demolished by the Falcons 27-3. Phillip Rivers was terrible, throwing two interceptions and averaging an inept 4.6 yards per attempt.
After three weeks, the Chargers seem to be the best team in the AFC West and certainly have the talent to win the division, but their performance against the Falcons really has made understanding the Chargers muddled.
The Broncos seem to be a team of two halves. In weeks 2 and 3 they have fallen behind significantly in the first half only for Peyton Manning to charge back to pose a threat when the game seems to have already been lost. The Broncos have yet to put together any consistent offensive effort either positive or negative, their only win was produced by a defensive touchdown. Nothing solid can really be said about these Broncos yet.
Performances of the Week
Jake Locker (Tennessee) 29/42 378 yards, 2 TDs: The Hurt Locker had a breakout game against the Lions in an absolutely wild game. Locker was fantastic highlighting his potential. With no support from the running game (Locker was the Titans leading rusher) Locker still shredded the Lions defense.
The criticism of Locker has always been his inaccuracy but he showed today that he has the talent to succeed in the NFL.
Jamaal Charles (Kansas City) 33 carries 233 yards, 1 TD: After his 2011 season was lost to an ACL tear, Charles made an outstanding return to form and showed that he still has the talent that allowed him to break the yards per carry record in 2010.
Charles was instrumental in the Chiefs win punishing the Saints porous defense at every carry.
Torrey Smith (Baltimore) 6 catches 127 yards, 2 TDs: A day after his brother died in a motorcycle accident, Torrey Smith played one of the best games of his career breaking through double coverages and posing a devastating threat downfield.
Smith has developed into one of the best young receivers and is one of the best deep threats in the game.
More importantly after the game Smith showed how classy a person he is with a touching press conference.
Tampa Bay: After a strong start in their two games where they were unlucky to not be undefeated, the Buccaneers did absolutely nothing on offense producing only 166 yards.
Josh Freeman went 10/28 for only 110 yards and the Bucs only averaged 3 yards a carry.
Chris Johnson: In a game which saw the Titans producing 5 60+ yard touchdowns one would naturally expect Johnson to have a hand in at least one of them. Johnson continued his terrible start to the 2012 season running for only 24 yards on 14 carries.
Luckily for the Titans, Jake Locker was outstanding and their defense and special teams produced scores to make up for their absent running game. Johnson has fallen dramatically from his 2000 yard season and quite frankly, should not be starting.