Yet another week has gone by in the 2013 NFL Season, so many story lines in such a young season. While the start of Week Four is just days away, it is not right to move on without first looking back on the week that passed.
The Dallas Cowboys are atop the division after a dominating performance over the St. Louis Rams to the tune of 31-7.. The Cowboys are now 2-1 on the season, they have truly been impressive thus far. Their new coordinators are doing a fantastic job, both offensively and defensively. Bill Callahan’s offense has been far more balanced than past seasons in Dallas, it’s made life easier for Tony Romo and keeps defenses as honest as possible. When’s the last time that a Cowboy running back carried the ball 26 times? Not 26 rushes as a team, but one player having that many attempts(Murray had 26 carries for 176 yards). It doesn’t stop there, Monte Kiffin’s 4-3 defense seems to be a perfect fit for the personnel. They are getting after the Quarterback and stopping the run, more importantly they’re not giving up 25 points a game. While it’s extremely early, the Cowboys have started to create a little separation from the rest of the division. Dallas was also the only team in the division to win this week.
The Eagles fell to the Chiefs, Kansas City was ready for Chip Kelley’s high octane offense and it showed. The Chiefs got after the Philadelphia offense from opening kickoff until the clock read showed triple zeroes at the end of the fourth quarter. The Chiefs forced five turnovers, while the Eagle defense struggled as they spent most of the night on the field.
Washington has issues of it’s own, pundits and fans alike have several theories. Many have shared their thoughts on Robert Griffin the Third and the health of his knee, the offensive play-calling, and more. The bottom line being that they are struggling on offense and there are big issues on the defensive side of the ball. Those things considered, the Redskins were very much in the game against Detroit, even appearing to have taken the lead at one point on a beautiful bomb to Aldrick Robinson. The Touchdown was overturned as Robinson failed to establish control of the ball once he hit the ground. For the second straight week, an offensive player from the opposing team was quoted making a statement about the predictability of the play-calling from Washington’s defense. The Lions encountered a limited resistance from the Washington defense as they won 27-20. The Redskins have their work cut out for them going forward, fortunately they are only a game back of the second place team in the division. While the term “must win” is often used loosely, it is safe to say that the Redskins can not afford to start the season 0-4.
The New York Giants, (notice the word “football” was omitted) suffered the worst loss of the week and possibly the worst loss of any team of the young season. Carolina destroyed the Giants, beating them 38-0 and there is nothing positive to point out, no silver linings for New York in this drubbing. The team as a whole, needs to play better if they wish to salvage the season. It is only week Three, but there is a big difference between heading into Week Four at 0-3 and 1-2.
The Miami Dolphins and the New England Patriots have something in common this season and no it’s not the fact that they play in the same division. The Dolphins and Patriots are both 3-0 this year, they are running side by side. That hasn’t happened often in this division, while it’s still early, credit must still be given to the young Miami team. They have won in several ways this season, the latest being on a 13 play, 75 yard game winning drive by Mr. Ryan Tannehill to beat the Falcons. The young QB has been outstanding thus far, while he’s no yet in the company of New England’s signal caller, he has shown that he is ready and willing to be “the guy” under center going forward. The Patriots haven’t been a dominant offensive team like in past years, but they have found a way to win games. The young receiving corps should only improve with time, the defense was great in the win over Tampa Bay, surrendering just three points.
Sloppy and exciting, the words that come to mind when thinking about the game between the New York Jets and the Buffalo Bills. Two Rookie QBs, two strong defenses made for a hard fought game. EJ Manuel and Geno Smith faced off for the first of what may be many times in the coming years. Manuel went 19 of 42 for 243 yards and one TD while Smith 16 of 29 for 331 yards and two TDs. The Jets turned the ball over twice, but their stifling defense gave Smith enough chances to make plays. Smith did his best work when throwing 20 plus yards down field, he was 5 of 7 on such attempts. The Bills and Jets defensive units gave up tons of yardage, but not tons of points as this was a one possession game. The Jets won the time of possession battle as well as the game, they move to 2-1 on the year while the Bills are 1-2. Each team’s fan base should be excited about the loaded defenses and young signal callers they have, the battle for first in the AFC East should be interesting as the year goes on.
The New Orleans Saints keep on rolling, now 3-0 after beating on the Cardinals. Sean Payton’s return has certainly helped this team, the biggest addition may have been defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. The Saints defense was abysmal last season, they are the exact opposite of abysmal this season. New Orleans has given up just 38 points in three games, last year they were in a shoot out every week due to that unit’s shortcomings. If the defense continues to play at a high level and the offense, well that offense is going to be explosive no matter what, the Saints will find themselves back in the post season. They are already out to a fast start!
Carolina has shown that they have the makings of a dominant front seven on the defensive side of the ball, they also seemed to have found their rhythm on offense. In a 38-0 clubbing of the New York Giants the Panthers got it done on both the ground and in the air. Cam Newton was 15 of 27 for 223 yards and three TDs, DeAngelo Williams had 23 carries for 120 yards as the Carolina offense was rolling. Special teams ace and deep threat Ted Ginn Jr. made a mark in the game as well, hauling in three passes for 71 yards and one TD. Carolina gained 402 yards to the Giants 150, it was truly a dominating effort by the Panthers. If Carolina can keep this new found rhythm on offense and their defense continues to show out, they may be able to challenge the Saints and Falcons for the Division crown.
The Atlanta Falcons are one of many NFC Playoff teams struggling to start the season, at 1-2 there is no reason to think that they are in serious trouble. They are behind the Saints at the moment, but it’s just Week Three. What is important for the Falcons is that they are 1-2 versus 0-3, the latter would put them in a horrible hole in terms of winning the division. One issue that must be addressed for Atlanta is their inability to close games, they have suffered several injuries as have most teams, but Atlanta has to right the ship sooner than later to start to close the gap on the Saints.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are lost, they have struggled in all three games they have played. Whether it’s mental errors, poor execution, bad game plans, etc. There are multiple reports coming out of Tampa saying that the players aren’t fans of the Head Coach, this could all be speculation or it could contain some truth. Never the less, the Buccaneers are in the bottom of the division and can’t afford another loss in the next few weeks if they wish to climb out of the cellar.
The Indianapolis Colts went into San Francisco and walked out with a convincing win, the Colts beat the 49ers at their own game. They controlled the clock and ran the ball enough to wear down the defense, Luck turned in a masterful performance as he made every right decision throughout the game. Ahmad Bradshaw has had success against San Francisco in the past, as a member of the New York Giants. Bradshaw continued that success by rushing for 95 yards and a TD against San Francisco. The Colts were missing several starters on the defensive side of the ball, yet that didn’t stop them from keeping the 49ers at bay, they did so easily. There was on drive on which they appeared over matched, but the unit did not allow that to happen again. They were able to sustain long drives on offense and force three-and-outs on defense, that allowed them to have the 49ers defense on the field for 70 plus snaps, exactly how you wear out a defense. The Colts are now 2-1 and have confidence going forward after their performance over the reigning NFC Champions. Chuck Pagano should be extremely proud of his young team, they appear ready to challenge for the division crown this season.
Jake Locker and the Titans did it again, they came from behind to beat the Chargers 20-17. That places Tennessee at 2-1, they are in a three-way tie for first place in their division. Locker’s 34 yard pass to Rookie Wideout Justin Hunter is the play that sealed the game, the Titans started slow but were able to fight back and get the victory. As stated last week, this isn’t last year’s Titans team.
Houston played Baltimore in a matchup of two AFC Playoff teams, the Texans were kept out of the endzone. They were able to boot three field goals, but they could not finish a drive with a TD at all. Baltimore did a great job defensively, the injury to Andre Johnson certainly didn’t help, but the Texans offense struggled to move the ball. Houston was unable to get Arian Foster going and that is the key to their offense, Baltimore also had a big special teams TD as they went on to win 30-9.
The Jaguars went into Seattle, they lost as many expected them to. They did score more points than the 49ers did in their last trip to Seattle. Jacksonville continues it’s winless streak, they are now 0-3.
Smooth Sailing in Seattle, the Seahawks continue their hot start to the season by dropping 45 on the Jaguars. Seattle is now 3-0 while boasting the leagues best defense, Russell Wilson broke out of his early season slump to throw four touchdowns. They have a nice lead over the rest of the division, the other three teams are all 1-2. Seattle shouldn’t lose a home game at all this season, their home field advantage goes beyond the “12th man.” Their challenge will be to take their game on the road this season, they certainly have the talent to do it. They have made a strong statement to start the year as one of the NFC’s best teams, it’s up to them for that to remain the same as the season goes on.
The Cardinals, Rams, and 49ers each scored seven points in their games this weekend. Not one of them was able to get their offense on track, or defense even for that matter.
San Francisco has suffered a few injuries to key players, but that isn’t the big issue at hand. The 49ers seem to have lost their identity, for several years they have been a run first team. This season they have abandoned who they really are and it’s no surprised that they’ve struggled. How long until they get back to their identity? If they don’t get back to it sooner than later, they may be picking in the top half of next year’s NFL Draft. The loss of Aldon Smith will hurt as well, but he needs help and has to put that as a priority over football. The 49ers may also want to start leaning on some of their younger players; while they’re not accustomed to doing so, their young players give them the best chance of overcoming some of the current issues they have.
The Rams, like the 49ers had one of the better defenses in the league last season. They too are spending too much time on the field due to an inept offensive unit. While some may not think of the Rams as a run first team, they were during the Steven Jackson years. Similar to San Francisco, they are struggling to evolve, specifically because they have also abandoned the run. Running the ball gets their offense into a rhythm while also giving their defense the rest it needs. At 1-2, it isn’t the end of the road but they can’t afford to let these issues linger as the season goes on.
The Cardinals were horrific on offense as well, they could not get anything going against the Saints. Their defense was on the field far too often, sounds familiar doesn’t it? The offense must help the defense out by sustaining drives, if not, the defense will eventually wear down. In this case, it’s not a good idea to give Drew Brees multiple possessions against your defense.
The Denver Broncos are 3-0, for more analysis please read the latest article about Peyton Manning by Chuckie Maggio. Their defense has been outstanding while Von Miller is finishing out his suspension, Denver is certainly making a statement to start the season. In Miller’s absence, two young linebackers have stolen the show with their play. Wesley Woodyard and Danny Trevathan are their names, they boast great speed and are very good tacklers. The Bronco defense should only improve once Miller returns.
Kansas City is off to a great start, after disposing of the Eagles they are now 3-0. The talent on the Chiefs roster is not indicative of the record they had last year, they are one of the most talented 2-14 teams in past years. Andy Reid left a decent situation in Philadelphia for a great situation in Kansas City, he truly upgraded by switching teams. Alex Smith is familiar with the style of play, take care of the ball and take what the defense gives you. Let your playmakers make plays, couple that with a very strong defense and you can see why their record shouldn’t be a shock. Eric Berry has returned to good health and is reminding everyone why he was so highly sought after, that defense should continue to live up to it’s potential going forward.
The San Diego Chargers did it again, they failed to close the door on an opponent and it came back to haunt them. The Chargers fell to the Titans on a game winning drive from Jake Locker. This is the second time in three weeks where the Chargers lost the lead late. The defense has to do it’s job, it has to get stops when the opportunity presents it’s self. San Diego plays good football for three and a half quarters, it’s the last half a quarter in which they falter. If they aren’t able correct this, it will be a very long season.
Terrelle Pryor is one of the lone bright spots in Oakland, the first year starter has done an admirable job. He’s surprised many with his play, he’s a bit raw but he definitely has ability. Once the Raider offense is able to gel, they will get better. Oakland is in a state of transition, lots of young and old talent. They are 1-2 on the year, keep an eye on Pryor’s development as the season goes on. His play will be the barometer as to how well the Raiders are doing.
The Chicago Bears continue to do what they do best……force turnovers. The Bears forced five turnovers versus the Steelers, that went a long way into a 40-23 win. That is certainly not a shock, Chicago has been doing this for the past couple of years on that side of the ball. What is a bit shocking, is the offense capitalizing on these extra possessions without turning the ball over themselves. Jay Cutler and company are starting to round into a balanced offense, it is far more than Brandon Marshall. Matt Forte’s dual threat ability has been fully utilized in the first three week’s of the season. If this offense continues to improve, especially their efficiency, Chicago may continue to out run the division.
The Lions were without Reggie Bush against the Washington Redskins, Matt Stafford still got the job done. Stafford passed for 385 yards and two touchdowns. Nate Burleson and Calvin Johnson made key catches throughout the game. The matchup between Redskins DB DeAngelo Hall and Johnson was extremely entertaining, the Lions dodged several bullets during the game. A deep pass from Griffin to Robinson was nullified because the receiver failed to secure the ball prior to hitting the ground. Detroit relied on it’s strong passing attack to get the job done, Bush may be back next week to make the offense even more explosive. Detroit is now 2-1 on the young season.
The Vikings lost to the Brian Hoyer led Cleveland Browns, Josh Gordon caught 10 passes for 146 yards in his first game of the season. The Browns won even though they turned the ball over four times, the Minnesota was unable to take advantage of those opportunities. The Vikings also turned the ball over three times, Adrian Peterson failed to reach 100 yards on the 25 carries he had. Ponder and the passing game has failed to get on track thus far this season, the Vikings will be in for a long year if they offense can’t get on track. The onus is on the passing attack, how will they fare going forward?
The Green Bay Packers are 1-2, they were involved in a barn burner with the Bengals. Cincinnati jumped out to a 14 point lead, Green Bay responded by scoring thirty unanswered points. The Packers weren’t able to put the Bengals away, after clawing all the way back to take the lead, the Bengals wouldn’t go quietly. The Packers are experiencing the injury bug at the moment, but they can’t allow that to slow them down. If they don’t get going, they’ll have to hope the Bears falter as the season progresses.
The Bengals won a hard fought game against a Playoff team and the Ravens destroyed one of the “contenders” heading into this season. Wins against the Packers and Texans respectively, the Ravens got it done with great defense and special teams. The Bengals won with big plays on offense and a constant pass rush that harassed Aaron Rodgers from start to finish. Each team turned the ball over four times in the Bengals-Packers matchup, neither offense could really take off, yet the made enough plays to put up points. The Texans couldn’t get going on any level against the Ravens, they struggled the entire game. The Ravens and Bengals move on to 2-1, they’re currently tied atop the division.
Brian Hoyer, Josh Gordon, and a strong defense was enough to beat the Vikings. The Browns, taking flack all week for trading running back Trent Richardson, got a big win. The Vikings, as mentioned above, struggled to pass the ball. Cleveland was able to limit Adrian Peterson and smoother the Viking wideouts, giving them the opportunity to win despite their four turnovers. The Browns should be fine once Brandon Weeden is back under center and reunited with Josh Gordon. This was definitely a big win for Cleveland, the Browns are 1-2 on the year.
The Pittsburgh Steelers are 0-3, the injury bug has bit them hard, specifically the offensive line. That has made for tough sledding offensively as they are unable to sustain drives or get into a rhythm. It’s impacted both the rushing and passing attacks mightily, the defense has done what they could but they spend entirely too much time on the field. The Steelers are in a dangerous place, they are in need of a win. They are not used to looking up at the rest of the division.