3 and Out – Thoughts from Week 4 in the NFL

Return of the Refs Sparks Return of the Air Show

Cheers and applause rained down on officials as they took the field Sunday after a lockout which reigned over the NFL for month of the regular season.  For fans forced to endure the sloppy tenure of the replacement officials, it was a welcome return.  With new CBA’s in place for both the players and the refs, the NFL will operate for the next decade without threat of a work stoppage (sorry hockey fans).

No one should be happier about the officials being back than owners of the top tier quarterbacks in fantasy football.  The replacement refs mainly came from the college ranks where they allow a lot more contact downfield on receivers.  The first four weeks looked like a flashback to the 1990’s with all the clutching and grabbing limiting the gaudy passing stats we’ve come to expect.  This week Brady, Brees and Rodgers combined to pass for 1105 yards, 10 touchdowns and only 1 interception.  It appears as though order has been restored.

Breast Cancer Quarter

What’s the number one ‘killer’ of women?  That’s easy – heart disease.  Gotcha – some of you at least.

I think it’s great the NFL has a dedicated initiative to support breast cancer.  It’s a game played by the manliest of men and having them don the pink gear is a noble and worthwhile gesture to women everywhere.

That being said, a campaign which lasts a quarter of the season seems a bit much.  I want to tread very carefully as not to offend anyone.  Lung cancer claims the lives of 3 times as many North Americans every year than any other type of cancer.  Other forms of cancer such as Colon, Prostate and Pancreatic each affect the lives of North Americans the same way Breast Cancer does.  I’m not suggesting support one over the other, or that this isn’t a great initiative – it most certainly is.  It isn’t a gender thing (men contract breast cancer also).  The NFL is an extremely powerful marketing tool which currently dedicates a month long campaign to such a cause. Perhaps instead of four straight weeks supporting one worthy cause every year, they could spread the wealth.

NFL 1st Quarter Power Rankings

  1. Houston Texans (4-0) – Dominant defense, dominant running game and a passing attack that can go to work when necessary.
  2. Atlanta Falcons (4-0) – Very similar to the Texans with an average defense.  Passing attack is better though.
  3. San Francisco 49ers (3-1) – The best defense in the league and a running game that rivals the Texans.  They fall out of the top 2, because I don’t know if they can spread it out and play catch-up if they fall behind.
  4. Green Bay Packers (2-2) – The Packers will win the division, but the Fail Mary against the Seahawks could force them on the road in the playoffs.
  5. Arizona Cardinals (4-0) – With the injury to Revis, Patrick Peterson is the best corner in football.  The offense needs to improve if they want to contend in January.
  6. Baltimore Ravens (3-1) – The Ravens offense has steadily improved the last few seasons.  At a similar pace, the defense has declined.
  7. New England Patriots (2-2) – Brady continues to orchestrate an offensive juggernaut.  The young secondary needs to mature.  Quickly.
  8. Chicago Bears (3-1) – Made a tough opponent like Dallas look pedestrian on Monday night.  The defense is opportunistic and stingy and the return of Matt Forte sparked the entire offense.
  9. Philadelphia Eagles (3-1) – I’ve never seen a team play so average and get to 3-1.  Imagine if they played up to their potential.
  10. San Diego Chargers (3-1) – Phil Rivers has taken care of the ball and the defense and special teams are no longer an Achilles heel.
  11. New York Giants (2-2) – I’ll keep them here as the defending champs.  Manning has been exceptional, but injuries and a Super Bowl hangover will be tough to overcome.
  12. Denver Broncos (2-2) – Manning is getting more comfortable and the defense is even more physical than last year under new defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio.
  13. Cincinnati Bengals (3-1) – AJ Green is in the discussion for best receiver in football.  The Bengals have few weaknesses, but lack a real strength as well.
  14. Minnesota Vikings (3-1) – I’m not surprised at Ponder’s exceptional play so far this season.  With Adrian Peterson and Percy Harvin, this offense is emerging.
  15. Seattle Seahawks (2-2) – Should be 1-3? Could be 3-1?  The defense is stout, especially at home and they can run the ball.  Will Matt Flynn get a chance?
  16. Pittsburgh Steelers (1-2) – A ho-hum start for the Steelers.  Need to get healthy on defense, and the return of Mendenhall couldn’t come any sooner.
  17. Dallas Cowboys (2-2) – The $1.2 billion stadium is so nice, it attracts fans from all over and eliminates any home field advantage.  Talent is there, performance is not.
  18. Washington Redskins (2-2) – Season ending injuries to key defensive starters all but guarantee the Redskins miss the playoffs.  The offense is much improved and the arrow is pointing up in DC.
  19. St. Louis Rams (2-2) – The Rams cannot protect Sam Bradford and Steven Jackson is on his last legs, but the defense is young and underrated.  4 first round picks in the next 2 years could round this team into a legitimate contender.
  20. Detroit Lions (1-3) – We expected to hear the Lions roar this season.  The way Matt Stafford and their defense is playing, it sounds more like a purr.
  21. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-3) – The ‘never say died’ crew in Tampa are embracing coach Greg Schiano’s bully attitude.  Talented group that is underachieving.
  22. Carolina Panthers (1-3) – I expected Newton to take a minor step back this season after his historic performance as a rookie.  Defense needs an infusion of talent.
  23. Tennessee Titans (1-3) – Jake Locker was off to a fine start before injuring his shoulder.  If Chris Johnson can get going, the defense is good enough to keep the Titans competitive in most games.
  24. New Orleans Saints (0-4) – The Saints are as bad on defense as they are great on offense.  Brees can do a lot, but he can’t tackle opposing running backs.  Apparently no other Saint can either.
  25. Buffalo Bills (2-2) – I’ve said it a million times – I really like Ryan Fitzpatrick for a number of reasons, but I don’t think he’s the guy who can get it done in Buffalo.
  26. New York Jets (2-2) – The Jets need to retool.  They need upgrades everywhere except cornerback.  Not even Tim Tebow can fix this team.
  27. Miami Dolphins (1-3) – The Dolphins defense is an elite unit and it’s because of them the Dolphins are staying competitive.  Tannehill is taking his lumps as expected.
  28. Indianapolis Colts (1-2) – RGIII’s highlight reel plays have taken most of the attention away from Luck who has quietly been impressive in Indy.  Defense is a mess.
  29. Kansas City Chiefs (1-3) – The offense is loaded with talent everywhere and Romeo Crennel should be getting more out of his defense.  The Chiefs need a quarterback.
  30. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-3) – Blaine Gabbert has thrown 5TD’s and only 1 INT this season.  He is protecting the ball, but has taken very few chances throwing down field.
  31. Cleveland Browns (0-4) – Drafting Brandon Weeden set this team back 2-3 years in its development.  Good thing they have a lot of young talent elsewhere.
  32. Oakland Raiders (1-3) – Not much to get excited about in Oakland and few reasons to think the team will improve drastically over the next 12-18 months.

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