Week 3 Power Ten + Storylines + Game Balls
I almost wasnt gonna write it I was so pissed off about the refs after the MNF and everything else, but with the old refs back I felt better and got my weekly writeup done. Picks coming probably tonight.
Week 3 Synopsis
1. Baltimore Ravens, 2-1 (3) - You have to give the Ravens a ton of credit for their win over the Patriots. When they fell behind 13-0 early, they quickly came back with two touchdowns. When the Patriots jumped out to 9-point lead in the fourth quarter, they battled back into the game. Despite the refs washing away a Tom Brady interception late in the fourth quarter and giving a ridiculous unsportsmanlike conduct penalty to coach John Harbaugh, the Ravens defense still came up with a huge stop and got the ball back for their offense. Joe Flacco had an incredible game, as did WR Torrey Smith. This team is playing with a sense of purpose.
2. Atlanta Falcons, 3-0 (4) - The Falcons are simply playing lights out. Matt Ryan is playing better than any quarterback, and their defense is giving opposing QBs fits. They started their schedule with three solid teams from the AFC West, and they have made them all look bad.
3. Houston Texans, 3-0 (8) - Their convincing win against the Broncos was definitely a statement game. The Texans are rolling on all cylinders, and should be able to pile up wins all year in the AFC South.
4. Green Bay Packers, 2-1 (2) - Yes, I am giving the Packers the win against the Seahawks. I’ve seen some bad calls in my day, but that one took the cake. Shame on the league office for not awarding the Packers the W. Still, 8 sacks in a half is a cause for concern, but you have to give them credit for making half-time adjustments and playing great defense, including the game-winning interception.
5. New York Giants, 2-1 (5) - The Giants reminded us all they are the league’s most resilient team. With three key starters out on offense, Eli Manning led them up and down the field with no problems. No matter what obstacles come this team’s way, they are mentally tough and will battle through.
6. San Francisco 49ers, 2-1 (1) - The 49ers should be ashamed of themselves. There’s no way the Vikings should have been able to compete with the 49ers. For the 49ers to lose to such a lesser team is a clear case of a team not showing up. The 49ers getting dominated by the Vikings is absolutely ridiculous. But it happened. And now Jim Harbaugh has to get his team to wake up and get back to playing at the level we’ve grown accustomed to.
7. Arizona Cardinals, 3-0 (10) - The Cardinal defense looks downright nasty, and have given opposing quarterbacks hell. The big question that remains for this team is at the quarterback position. Tommy Kelly calling Kevin Kolb soft seems to have inspired him to play better, but he still has a lot to prove. He still has yet to convince his own coach he is the starter for the team.
8. New England Patriots, 1-2 (6) - The Patriots have their first losing record since 2003 after two tough losses, but it’s not time to panic. They don’t play in a particularly tough division and Tom Brady looks as good as ever.
9. Chicago Bears, 2-1 (UR) - The Bears passing game looked great in week 1, but it hasn’t been all it’s cracked up to be since. Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall both need to play better, and the offensive line needs to tighten up. On the bright side, the defense looks excellent, with the secondary showing a lot of promise.
10. Philadelphia Eagles, 2-1 (7) - Michael Vick is running for his life out there and it’s not pretty. The offensive line has been rocked by injuries, and it looks like Vick in his old days in Atlanta. The defense is championship-caliber, but the offense needs to be a lot more efficient if they’re going to keep winning games.
Week 3 Storylines
1. Replacement Ref Debacle
I try to focus on the football and not get too wrapped up in officiating and league politics, but there is no ignoring this story. The first two weeks were anything but smooth, but the hope was that the refs would get better with time, not worse. Week 3 could be described accurately as all out chaos. Jim Harbaugh was awarded timeouts and challenges he didn’t have in the 49er-Viking game. Raiders’ receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey was knocked out cold for 10 minutes by a helmet-to-helmet hit that went unpenalized while several clean shoulder-to-chest hits were penalized. Refs incorrectly ran 10 seconds off the clock at the end of the Redskins-Bengals game while the Redskins were desperately trying to score a last-second TD to tie the game. Baltimore fans broke out into one of the most booming and in unision “Bullshit” chants in the history of pro sports. As if the weekend wasn’t enough of a circus, the refs outdid themselves on Monday night. An inexplicable string of horrible calls took place in the final minutes of the game, capped off by a ridiculous ruling on the final play of the game that robbed the Packers of a win. The outrage over the replacement refs inability to effectively officiate games has been coming from all angles, and the integrity of the game is in serious question.
As popular as the NFL is, it’s hard to understand how the league could let something like referee wages have such a negative impact on the integrity of the sport. It really got to a point where players felt like anything could happen, and the game was no longer in their hands. Thankfully, the Packers being robbed of a win served as a wake-up call to the league, and they got the deal done with the refs, who will be back on the field for week 4. The league should be ashamed of themselves for not giving Ed Hochuli and co. the respect they deserved from the start, and they should apologize to the fans for the product they put on the field for the first 3 weeks. All that being said, thank god that madness is over with, and now we can get back to focusing on football.
2. Wild one for the ages in Nashville
The Titans’ 44-41 overtime victory over the Lions may not end up having playoff implications, but it had to be one of the craziest games of all time. 46 points were scored in a wild fourth quarter, as the Lions overcame an 11-point halftime deficit and took a 7-point lead with less than 7 minutes to before surrendering three touchdowns to the Titans in the next 6 minutes. The Lions then scored a touchdown with 18 seconds left, recovered an onside kick, and completed a hail mary pass that sent the game to overtime. The game would ultimately be decided by a botched snap as the Lions attempted to draw the Titans offsides on a 4th and 1 from the Titan 7. QB Shaun Hill and C Dominic Raiola had a miscommunication amid the noise of a frenzied crowd and the center snapped the ball to his unexpected QB, who was stuffed short of the first down. The Lions are clearly having issues on defense, as they allowed 378 passing yards to Jake Locker, and they need to get it together quick if they want to build on their 2011 season.
3. Revis Island closed for repair
Receivers won’t have to worry about getting put on Revis Island anymore this year. Rex Ryan will have to find a way to keep his defense going strong without his star cornerback, who tore his ACL in the Jets’ win against the Dolphins. So much of what the Jets did on defense was predicated on his ability to take away an opponents’ best receiver, and this is a team that relied heavily on its defense. The Jets’ front 7 has not been stellar, and without Revis, the secondary will not be nearly the same. Kyle Wilson will step into the starting lineup alongside Antonio Cromartie, and quarterbacks will surely throw into the Jets’ secondary with a new sense of confidence. HB Joe McKnight will be moving to cornerback in an effort to bolster the team’s secondary, but the bottom line is there is no replacing a Darrelle Revis. The Jets are going to need a lot of guys to step up if they’re going to overcome this injury.
4. Ravens avenge AFC Championship loss
The Ravens 2011 season couldn’t have ended in more heart-breaking fashion, as Billy Cundiff’s field goal sailed wide and their Super Bowl aspirations were crushed. The Ravens had lost their last 4 regular season meeting with the Patriots, and had something of a monkey to get off their back. The Ravens have been unbeatable at home, with 12 straight wins in M&T Bank Stadium. They were forced to play the AFCCG in New England last year, but they’d like to make sure the road to the Super Bowl goes through Baltimore this year. Beating New England is a great step in that direction. The team rallied around WR Torrey Smith, who received the tragic news that his brother had died in a motorcycle accident early Sunday morning. The Ravens played from behind most the game and overcame a slough of bad calls that went against them in what could be a signature win for them.
5. Sophomore Slump for Cam Newton?
Maybe things came to Cam Newton a little too easy in his record-breaking rookie season. The quarterback who made everything look so easy last year has been struggling to get going this year. He threw 3 interceptions this week against the Giants and now has 5 picks on the year to go with his 2 touchdown passes. Veteran WR Steve Smith gave Newton a tongue-lashing on the sideline late in their blowout loss, telling him he needed to take mental reps while he sat on the bench instead of sulking. Newton is an incredible talent, but that will only carry you so far in the NFL. Newton cannot afford to be complacent and needs to keep working at his craft the way he did last year when he wanted to prove all his doubters wrong.
6. Cardinals off to best start since 1974
The Cardinals came into the year flying under the radar, with the main storyline surrounding their team being the QB competition between Kevin Kolb and John Skelton. It’s clear now that the real story on this team is their defense, which has stifled Tom Brady and Michael Vick the last two weeks. Vick took 15 hits in last week’s game as their front 7, led by DE Calais Campbell and LB Daryl Washington, continued to dominate.
7. Falcon defense KO’s another top QB
If anyone wasn’t sold on the Falcon secondary after they picked off Peyton Manning three times in the first quarter on Monday night, they are probably a little more convinced now. The Falcons traveled to San Diego, and FS Thomas DeCoud picked off Rivers twice as they held the Chargers’ high-powered offense to just 3 points. The Falcons now lead the league in interceptions, with 5 of their 7 picks coming from their starting safety tandem. Everyone knows CBs Assante Samuel and Dunta Robinson are big-time players, but if DeCoud and William Moore keep playing like this, their defense will be a force to reckon with.
8. Texans pass first big test with flying colors
The Texans play in the league’s worst division and their main job this year will be cleaning up the trash, which they have proven to be quite good at. Traveling to Denver to take on Peyton Manning and company was a good chance for the Texans to prove they are an elite team, and that’s exactly what they did. The final score made the game look closer than it really was, as Peyton threw two late touchdowns with the game already out of reach. Matt Schaub played brilliantly as the team proved they can win more than one way.
9. Freddy P. Soft finally emerges
To keep his team focused last year, Jim Harbaugh warned his players of Freddy P. Soft, the creature who lurks on players’ shoulders and tells them how great they are. Under Harbaugh’s leadership, the team never got complacent or stopped playing with a chip on their shoulder. Until this week. It seems as if all the “best team in the NFL” hoopla following their wins against Green Bay and Detroit got to them. The 49ers came out flat in their game in Minnesota, playing with no sense of urgency as they allowed Christian Ponder to march his team up and down the field and control the pace of the game.
10. Carson Palmer leads Raiders to improbable victory over Steelers
Following their embarrassing blowout loss to the Dolphins, it seemed as if the Raiders were ready to go back to being the NFL’s doormat. They showed some pride this week, overcoming a 10-point fourth quarter deficit after WR Darrius Heyward-Bey was carted off the field from a concussion. The Raiders scored on their final 5 possessions of the game as Carson Palmer skillfully led them down the field, and the defense managed to come up with a couple key stops down the stretch. HB Darren McFadden finally found some running room as he raced 64 yards down the right sideline for his first touchdown of the season, and Sebastian Janikowski kicked a 43-yard field goal as time expired to win it. The Raiders have made a habit in recent years of winning when least expected to, so it will be interesting to see how they follow it up.
Week 3 Game Balls
1. WR Torrey Smith, Baltimore
Everyone remembers Brett Favre’s incredible Monday Night Football performance in the wake of his father’s passing. Torrey Smith proved once again that sports can be a great outlet for dealing with grief. Smith received the news at 1 am Sunday morning that his 19-year old brother had died in a motorcycle crash. After visiting with his family, he decided to rejoin his team and play in their primetime game against the Patriots. You could see tears streaming from his bloodshot eyes on the sideline as he attempted to stay focused on the game, but he didn’t let the tragedy that struck his family stop him from helping his team. The Patriots double-covered Smith all game to no avail. Down 13-0 early, Smith hauled in a deep touchdown pass. Down 9 points late in the fourth quarter, Smith broke free from press coverage and hauled in another touchdown to make it a 1-score game. There’s no way the Ravens would have won that game if not for Smith’s stellar play and dedication to his team.
2. HB Jamaal Charles, Kansas City
According to Vegas, the Chiefs were the biggest underdogs of the week in their road game against the Saints. Down 24-6 late in the third quarter, it appeared the Chiefs were on their way to 0-3. Charles then woke his team up with a 91-yard run and let everyone know he’s back from his injury. Charles racked up 288 total yards as the Chiefs roared back and took the game in OT.
3. QB Christian Ponder, Minnesota
Nobody thought the Vikings had much chance against the 49ers and their vaunted defense. Ponder started the game by marching the Vikings down the field with a 16-play drive that took up 8 minutes and resulted in a touchdown. The young QB showed remarkable poise as he controlled the pace of the game and never made a costly mistake against the 49ers’ opportunistic defense. Ponder ranks second in the league in completion percentage and fifth in QB rating and has given Viking fans reason for optimism.
4. DE J.J. Watt, Houston
It’s not often that a player as young as Watt can reach elite status, but when you are as dominant as he has been, there’s no way to argue. Watt was in the Broncos’ backfield all day, and ended up with 2.5 sacks and 4 TFL as the Texans came up with a big win in Denver.
5. WR Ramses Barden, New York Giants
With Hakeem Nicks out, the Giants knew they would need one of their unproven receivers to step up. Barden has been riding the bench in New York for the past 3 years, waiting for that chance. The 6 foot 6 receiver looked like a go-to guy as he caught 9 of 10 passes thrown to him for 138 yards. Even when Nicks comes back, it’s going to be hard to keep Barden off the field.
6. LB Phillip Wheeler, Oakland
The Raiders main activity in the free agent market this off-season was releasing their high-paid players into it. One key addition they did make was Wheeler, who was all over the field for a defense that did just enough for the team to get the win. Wheeler forced 2 fumbles during the game, and then recovered one in the fourth quarter to set up Janikowski for a game-tying field goal. Wheeler had 11 of his team-high 24 tackles this week, and also had 2 passes defended.
7. HB Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville
The Jaguars knew they weren’t going to be able to count on Blaine Gabbert to outduel QB Andrew Luck for an entire game. Thanks to Jones-Drew, he didn’t have to. Gabbert spent much of his day handing the ball 28 times to the team’s best player as he racked up 177 yards on the ground. Gabbert had only thrown for 75 yards through the first 59 minutes, yet it was only a 1 point game. The young QB made a play when he needed to and threw a game-winning bomb to Cecil Shorts.
8. WR Santonio Holmes, New York Jets
There’s been a lot of bad publicity about Mark Sanchez’ relationship with his best receiver, but Holmes was there for his QB every time he needed him in the Jets’ overtime victory against the Dolphins. Holmes hauled in 9 passes for 147 yards, including a 38-yarder to set up Nick Folk’s game-winning field goal.
9. RS Darius Reynaud, Tennessee
The Titans-Lions game was one of the wildest in the NFL in some time, and the Titans return game played a big role. Reynaud recreated the Music City Miracle by throwing a lateral pass to Tommie Campbell, who ran 65 yards down the right sideline to give the Titans an early 10-6 lead. When the Lions took a one touchdown lead halfway through the fourth quarter, Reynaud returned the ensuing kick 105 yards to knot the game back up.
10. LB Daryl Washington, Philadelphia
The Cardinals’ defense as a whole did a great job shutting down the Eagles’ explosive offensive attack. No player had a bigger role in holding Vick and his offense to a mere 6 points than Washington, who spent a lot of time in the Eagles’ backfield. He hit Vick several times, sacked him once, and made another tackle for a loss in a game where the Eagles just couldn’t get their offense into rhythm.
Nice write up. I'm definitely a fan of yours. Do you think Newton is going to regress this year?
49ers did look flat, but I assume it's just a bump in the road. A lot of things just went Minnesota's way in that game too.
true enough, Im pretty confident the Niners will rebound. But I think those 5 teams played well enough to warrant a move up ahead of the Niners. That whole performance was just the complete opposite of what weve come to expect from the Niners.
I headed upstairs to take a shower right after the Lions pulled within 7. When I came back down, they were in OT. I left cause I figured the Titans would beat the Stafford-less Lions, and I was relieved when I got back in my car from shopping and heard Munchak talk about how they got an important win. But I was surprised to see how it ended, and how fortunate the Titans were. But a miscommunication like that is just inexcusable. How does Raiola not know what the play is? How?
Also, yay Reynaud! I wasn't too worried when Mariani went down because we had Kendall Wright, but I didn't see Reynaud not only taking completely over, but also making plays. He's been incredible, and with the way he played in the preseason and how CJ2K has been struggling, I'd love to see Reynaud get some snaps with the offense. He's been in there a few times to spell CJ, but lets get both these guys in there at the same time.
Also also, more people need to be aware of Tommie Campbell, the guy who took the lateral pass for the TD. Dude took a reverse for a TD on a return last year, and now he's down it again this year. Dude's 6'3, 205, and is a rocket. He's even seen snaps at WR in practice. He's already a ST's ace, and hopefully he puts it together so he can play with the active defense.
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