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NFL Week 4: More unbeatens fall

Cowboys and Broncos flop, so who is the best team. Also, Terrell Owens, drama queen.

E-mail Cyd

Brett Favre is again the greatest quarterback ever to play the game, throwing for six touchdowns against the Arizona Cardinals who were missing arguably their best defensive player, safety Adrian Wilson. Let’s put the loss of Wilson this way: Rotoworld said before the game to “upgrade all Jets” because the Cardinals were missing that one player. This follows a week of the media piling on Favre for his bad play against the Patriots and Chargers. Look, he’s a gunslinger. He’s going to take risks and put up crazy numbers at times. But then, say when you’re in overtime in the conference championship game, he’ll telegraph a pass right to a defender and throw a pick. Maybe they’re looking at 9-7, given their easy schedule. But I still see them as a .500 team at best. Even if Favre plays like Superman the rest of the season (which he won't), the rest of the team just isn't that good, and I'm starting to wonder if maybe it's the coaching staff.

E-mail Jim

Who’s #1? We have passed the quarter pole for most NFL teams and it is clear none are dominant. Heading into Sunday, most people would have called Dallas dominant, but not any more after the Cowboys lost at home, 26-24, to the Washington Redskins. Here is how I see the four unbeatens thus far.

Tennessee (4-0): The Titans are a legit contender since they have a great defense and solid running game, plus a veteran quarterback (Kerry Collins) who seldom does anything dumb. On the other hand, the teams they have beaten so far have a combined 3-12 record, so the jury is still out.

Buffalo (4-0): The Bills are 4-0 for the first time since 1992 and have a terrific young QB in Trent Edwards plus an improved defense. The Bills, though, needed second-half comebacks the last two weeks against Oakland (1-3) and St. Louis (0-4); that’s either the sign of a maturing team or one that will be in trouble if it falls behind a good team.

John Madden put the Chicago Bears defense on the horse trailer for their goal-line stand in the fourth quarter on a Correll Buckhalter rush from the 1, but why is no one talking about the fact that the ball crossed the line of scrimmage? A shot from above showed the ball CLEARLY across the line; The Bears DIDN’T stop the Eagles on that play, the refs got the call wrong and the Eagles didn’t challenge the call. Another game where a ref’s incorrect call has a significant role in a game.

Rams coach Scott Linehan was fired Monday morning, and it’s no big surprise why. Just a few years ago they were one of the best teams in the NFL; now they are, quite clearly, one of the two worst teams in the NFL. Total defense: Ranked 31st. Total offense; 30th. I suppose you can make the argument that the Detroit Lions are the worst, and they have canned their incompetent general manager.

But I’m left wondering about the front offices of these two organizations: Why did they take so long to act when the fans and commentators could have told you last season, or the offseason, or the preseason that Linehan and Matt Millen weren’t contributing to the team. You want to see front offices giving people the opportunity to succeed, but fans also want those same front offices to have vision and see what’s coming. The Lions and Rams didn’t do that, and I can’t imagine that they are suddenly going to start now. Plan on continued failures for both of these franchises; sorry Rams and Lions fans!

The Atlanta Falcons offense has been soaring at home, averaging 36 points per game in Atlanta. On the road, they’ve scored 9 points in both games away from home. Chalk that up to a rookie quarterback, a rookie coach, and a running back carrying a team for the first time in his career; Plus, they’ve played teams that are a combined 1-6 while they’ve been at home; their road opponents are 6-2. They face the 2-2 Packers who are now desperate for a win this week.

Speaking of jekyll and hyde, the former-greatest-team-ever-headed-to-16-0-now-falling-fast Dallas Cowboys have outscored opponents by a total of 29 points on the road, but only 1 at home.

I don’t remember seeing so many perfectly timed bye weeks. The Patriots, Seahawks and Colts were banged up and an early bye week in week 4 was perfect. The Dolphins got their week 4 bye week after a rousing win that could inspire them for future success. Ditto that for the Jets coming off their win over the Cardinals and the Browns coming off their win over the Bengals. The Rams just fired their coach, and they have a bye week now. Even the Ravens’ surprise week 2 bye week gave their rookie quarterback an extra week to prepare for his second game.


My Top Five:

1) Tennessee Titans.
They are the quintessential blueprint of smash-mouth football success: Tight defense, strong running game, solid kicker.

2) Buffalo Bills. After they woke up at halftime, they outscored the Rams 25-0 in the second half.

3) Carolina Panthers. They finally won a game at home and are clicking. One of the guttiest teams in the league; as Steve Smith continues to get worked into the offense, they will keep roaring.

4) Dallas Cowboys. Wow, what do you say about that loss at home? The Cowboys just didn’t come to play. As we’ve said, Wade Philips just isn’t the answer.

5) Philadelphia Eagles. Their two losses were two I expected them to lose. Now we’ll see if they can get on a run; if not, they’ll fall off this list quickly.

New York Giants (3-0): The Giants, off Sunday, have not lost since last year’s regular season. I guess the champs stay No. 1 until someone beats them.

Baltimore (2-0): I am writing this prior to their Monday nighter at Pittsburgh, which I expect the Ravens to lose.

The bottom line is that the league is wide open this season with Tom Brady’s injury crippling New England and the Colts starting 1-2.

Drama queen: Shocker -- The Dallas Cowboys lose and Terrell Owens bitches about not getting the ball enough (and he reportedly did not run hard on some routes).

From the Dallas Morning News:

The Cowboys ran 58 offensive plays. They threw it to him 18 times and let Owens run it twice on two end-arounds. Yet when asked if the ball was thrown his way often enough, Owens said: "I would say no. I'm a competitor, and I want the ball. ...

"Everybody recognized that I wasn't really getting the ball in the first half," Owens said. "I'm pretty sure everybody watching the game recognized it, people in the stands recognized it, I think my team recognized it. I didn't quit. I kept fighting and trying to running my routes and trying to get open."

So, the Cowboys went to Owens on 31% of their plays and he whines. With his narcissism and huge ego, TO is only happy if he's the star; some people never change.

Frauds: There are fast-starting teams I think that were exposed as frauds. The first is Denver (3-1), which was shellacked by woeful Kansas City, 33-19. The Chiefs are so bad they had scored 32 points all season! But the cure-all for any offense this season is to play the Broncos. In their last three games, Denver has allowed 38, 32 and 33 points. If not for a blown referee's call against San Diego, Denver would be 2-2. I don’t see the Bronocs’ defense getting much better, so QB Jay Cutler better be able to outscore teams each week.

The fraud in the NFC is Arizona (2-2), losers of their last two and whose defense hit bottom Sunday, allowing Brett Favre to throw six touchdowns in a 56-35 romp. Arizona’s saving grace is being in the NFC West, the league’s worst division.

I was going to rip Arizona QB Kurt Warner, but Don Banks of SI.com saved me the trouble of writing:

“Kurt Warner's lack of ball-security prowess astounds me. If there's an NFL starting quarterback who's sloppier at taking care of the football, I don't know who it would be. Sunday was somehow a fitting example of where I think Warner's game is at these days.
He can pile up some pretty, pretty statistics for you, witness Arizona hanging 35 points on the board in the second half, and Warner ending up 40 of 57 with 472 passing yards. But in the first half, Warner was picked off twice, and fumbled three times, losing two of them. Those four turnovers had more to do with the Jets leading 34-0 at the break than anything New York did.”

Another fraud: My fantasy football team is 0-4. I am the Matt Millen of fantasy GMs.

Poignant: It was hard not to root for Tampa Bay kicker Matt Bryant, who kicked three field goals a day after burying his 3-month old son, Matthew Tryson, who was found dead at home Wednesday. In the postgame press conference you could hear a pin drop as a tearful Bryant tried to keep himself composed.

"The biggest thing for me, I wanted to honor Tryson's name," Bryant said. "I mean, I don't think it was very fair for his life to end so short. This is the best way I believe I could get out and honor him. I miss him and wish he was here, but he was here with me. He helped out."

Bryant's field goals were the difference in a 30-21 win against Green Bay.

Remember the Titans: The New York Jets used their “throwback” uniforms worn by the New York Titans (right), the team’s original name. They actually look kind of cool to me and Favre certainly played out of his mind with them on, with his six touchdowns being a career-high. It was the second-most points scored by the Jets in their history. Favre, the gunslinger, played like the Titans did in the old wide-open AFL days.

Still a stud: Kansas City Chiefs tight end Tony Gonzalez has had a frustrating season as the Chiefs have been playing musical quarterbacks. Gonzalez had only three catches in the win against Denver, but his 10-yard TD catch where he twisted in midair and came down hard on his back was a thing of beauty.

MVP (Most Valuable Penis) Watch: The Washington Redskins are 3-0 since Chris Cooley showed his penis on his blog.

Coaching blunder of the day: Early in the game, Jacksonville lined up to punt at the Houston 41. Except the Jags crossed up the Texans and never brought their punter on to the field. Clearly something was up, but the Texans coaches were asleep and failed to call a necessary timeout. The result was a 41-yard run by Montell Owens, who had never carried the ball before in his three-year NFL career.

Great goal-line stand: The Philadelphia Eagles had three cracks from the 1-yard line to take a lead late at Chicago. Three runs yielded no gain, no gain, no gain and the Bears held on for a 24-20 lead.

Bear fans will celebrate the marvelous defensive effort, while Eagle fans will rip coach Andy Reid for not having QB Donovan McNabb try a pass on any of the plays (he is mobile enough to run it in). Count me among the rippers – the Eagles were playing without their best back (Brian Westbrook was hurt) and I would have had McNabb done a run-pass option to spread the field.

Good luck charms: If you want to be guaranteed a great game, tune in when CBS’ Dick Enberg and Randy Cross call a game. They have done three this season and all have been barn-burners: Week 2, Denver 39, San Diego 38 (the Ed Hochuli blown call game); Week 3, Jacksonville 23, Indianapolis 21 (Colts rally for 21-20 lead, Jags kick last-second field goal to win); Week 4, Jacksonville 30, Houston 27 (overtime).

Rodgers falls to Earth: After throwing no picks the first three games, Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers threw three against Tampa Bay and hurt his right shoulder; he possibly has a separated shoulder. If Rodgers is out, the Packers are done since their only backups right now are two rookies.

It would suck for Rodgers if he misses significant time after waiting patiently behind Brett Favre for three years.

Why OT blows: I hate the NFL overtime rule that does not guarantee both teams a possession. Jacksonville won the toss against Houston, drove down and kicked the game-winning field goal. I know the argument is that the Texans should have played better defense and stopped the Jags, but this ignores the fact that the Jags defense got to sit on the sidelines and was never tested. I would give each team one possession and then make it sudden death if it’s still tied.