The Colts, Giants, Saints and Patriots look elite. The Raiders, Rams, Chiefs, Browns and Bucs look like garbage.
By Jim Buzinski
How I saw Week 4 of the NFL:
The NFL is one-fourth over, so the season is starting to take shape. Here is how I see it shaking out so far:
Top-tier teams: Indianapolis, New Orleans, N.Y. Giants (all 4-0); New England (3-1).
Good but I'm not convinced: Minnesota (4-0), Denver (4-0), Baltimore (3-1), N.Y. Jets (3-1).
Truly awful: Tampa Bay, St. Louis, Cleveland, Kansas City (0-4); Oakland (1-3).
Biggest surprise: Tennessee at 0-4. Can't believe they are this bad. Only one team (the 1992 Chargers) have made the playoffs after an 0-4 start.
Every other team varies from promising (the Falcons and Eagles had a bye so have only played three games) to mediocre or in-between.
Four games are still too few to make definitive pronouncements, but the Colts and Giants look like the best teams in their conference after a month. Eli and Peyton Manning have thrown for a combined 17 TDs and only five interceptions for the Giants and Colts. But in the NFL, everything can change in a week (if you don't believe me, remember the Jets-Giants Super Bowl many were talking about last November).
Not yet elite: I did not buy the spin that called the Ravens the best team after three weeks. They beat Kansas City and Cleveland (a combined 0-8) and a San Diego team that kept screwing up in the red zone. So I was not surprised when the Ravens lost to the Patriots, 27-21, though the game did come down to a fourth-down drop by Baltimore's Mark Clayton inside the 10.
The Ravens were really undisciplined, handing the Patriots four first downs via penalties. Coach John Harbaugh was even nailed 15 yards for arguing a call. In addition, the Ravens' defense could not get off the field, as the Pats held a nine-minute time of possession edge. New England still looks plodding on offense, but they have defeated teams the last two weeks that came into their game unbeaten.
After the game, Ravens defenders (especially the always-annoying Ray Lewis) were bitching about two roughing-the-passer penalties that kept Patriot drives alive. Both calls were legitimate, though, and the NFL is right to protect those playing the most important position. Nobody pays to watch a nose tackle play.
You might as well find out once and for all what you have in the mercurial Young, given that Tennessee faces a huge contract decision with him in 2010 anyway. With the Titans facing the specter of being 0-6 heading into their Week 7 bye -- they're at home against the Colts and at New England in the coming two weeks -- why not re-insert VY and one way or another let 2006's No. 3 pick help make your long-term decision for you. The situation calls for something drastic in Tennessee, the site of this NFL season's biggest underachievement by far.
A legit win: After wins over Cincinnati (on a miracle pass) and woeful Oakland and Cleveland, the Broncos were called the worst 3-0 team in memory. Denver looks more legit, though, after a rollicking 17-10 win over Dallas. The Cowboys had four tries to tie the game inside the 10 in the final minute, but Tony Romo once again failed to deliver (the abysmal play calling didn't help).
Romo completed 25 passes but only for 241 yards, and had a fumble deep in his territory and an interception deep in Denver territory. The Boys have lost twice this season and Romo's five combined turnovers in those games have been the biggest reason. In his last eight games, Romo is 3-5 with nine TDs and 10 interceptions. The once shining star is rapidly becoming a liability.
The true test of the Broncos will come in their next seven games: New England, San Diego, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Washington, San Diego, Giants. None of these teams has a losing record.
Confusing: The Steelers and Chargers are each 2-2 and I can't figure either team out. The Steelers won their Week 4 matchup, 38-28, but almost blew a 28-0 lead. In their last three fourth quarters, the Steelers have been outscored 45-10, so it seems no lead they have is ever safe. The Chargers, meanwhile, can't stop anybody and looked asleep for 2½ quarters on Sunday; that's what playing for Norv Turner will do.
Back to Earth: It was just a matter of time before the "Sanchise," Mark Sanchez reminded people he's just a rookie. The Jets' much-hyped QB basically handed the game to New Orleans. The Saints won, 24-10, but two of their TDs came on a 99-yard interception return and a Sanchez fumble in the end zone recovered for a score. Sanchez also threw two more interceptions. I think he will be a really good pro, but all rookies go through a rough patch.
My bye week: Next week I am playing in the Gay Super Bowl in Washington DC, so no Week 5 notes. Don't worry, the Raiders will still suck.