Wednesday, September 26, 2007

NFL 2007 Week 3: AFC Edition

Has there ever been a more frustrating first few weeks for elite running backs? It’s become a clear passing season where even a guy like John Kitna can pass for over 400 yards in one game when Larry Johnson can barely scrape out a hundred over three. I like high-octane offense, but all the games this season feel like Pac-10 games; even the bad teams can put up 40 on a defense.

AFC East: After three weeks, it’s clear to me that the Patriots are the best team in the NFL. That doesn’t translate to postseason success necessarily, but they’ve put up 38 points in each game so far, and defenses have found no way to respond to Moss. For the first time, Brady has a true go-to guy, and it’s working out fairly well for them, I’d say. The Jets were finally able to pull one out, but the Dolphins tried hard and almost took them out. They haven’t managed to pull one out themselves, but Ronnie Brown finally played like a pro and it looks like they’re getting a little better every week. I won’t mean a whole lot since no other team here is getting into the playoffs, but they might actually be getting to a place where they can compete again. The Bills won’t be able to say this for a long time. It’s hard to believe that the Bills are worse now, but with the loss of Losman, they’re going with Stanford great Trent Edwards starting and Craig Nall (is there nobody better?) backing him up, the next two weeks will be dismal for them

AFC North: The North isn’t quite as one-sided as the East, but the Steelers have easily become the cream in the division. They’ve been able to do it in all facets of the game, and are one of the big three in the conference with the Pats and the Colts, with Indy being at the bottom of that short list. The Ravens and the Bengals are both talented teams, but each is only halfway there. If you combined Baltimore’s defense with Cincinnati’s offense, you’d have an unstoppable force. If you combined the other sides together, you’d have a team that even Cleveland could beat. It looks like the Derek Anderson magic has run out already. They might spoil a game or two for people, but they exhausted their entire offensive production for the season against Cincinnati. I hope they enjoyed it while it lasted.

AFC South: The Colts are still the best team here, but the division looks to be one of the most competitive in the league. They’ll wind up with a good record, especially out of the division, but all three of the other teams here have the potential to surprise them at any time. The Texans actually look like they might be for real. I’m happy to see it, not to mention shocked, but taking the Shanahan philosophy throughout the NFL is clearly the right thing for football. Mario Williams continues to do well, and even Ahman Green is doing great now that he’s out from under the shadow of Favre. Tennessee is looking especially good right now. The defense is performing at a very high level, the running game is looking very good (LenDale White single-handedly beat Erik in our fantasy football matchup this week, which automatically adds a few points to his stock for me) and even the passing game looks pretty good. If Vince Young continues to improve those aspects in the way he’s started, he will soon be one of the elite QBs in the game. Even Jacksonville was able to win, angry as that makes me, but it would be hard for any team to beat eighteen play, twelve minute drives, it was very good game management from Del Rio, but other teams don’t seem to have the same problems stopping the run as Denver does this year, so we’ll see if they see similar success other places.

AFC West: They’re the worst division in the conference. I hate to say it, but it’s true. As good as some aspects of the Broncos’ game have been, some of it is atrocious, namely, the rush defense. For as good as their secondary is, there’s no reason to throw when teams can pull out so many quality runs. I think their problems scoring will ebb, but having to play the Colts the week after such a disgusting loss is going to be tough to watch. The Chiefs finally won a game, good for them. It’s no thanks to Larry Johnson, though, who continues to look poor. Next to last in points, next to last in rushing, and 29th in total offense does not make a scary team, even if they beat a defense that I look at as one of the best in the game. Ooh, the Raiders beat the Browns, I’m super impressed. We should crown their defense because Anderson didn’t throw five TDs this week. Lane Kiffin learns his lessons about cheap timeout management, so I guess that’s something. Maybe he can learn not to lose all the time, too. What I’m most happy about with the West, though, is just how bad San Diego looks. LT and Rivers are fighting, which makes me laugh; nobody is defending Norv any more, which makes me laugh; that the Broncos, who aren’t looking like great shakes right now, are the clear best in the division really makes me laugh. I have to laugh at something, Denver just lost to the Jags of all teams. Sad, just sad.