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article imageOp-Ed: Recap of Week 3 in the NFL

By Shawn McLeish     Sep 26, 2011 in Sports
There was plenty to talk about yesterday in the NFL. Here are some highlights or low-lights, depending on whose jersey you wear tailgating.
* For those of you not embroiled in the Einstein debate, this week it was debated in several newspapers about the availability of one Randy Moss and whether he would be good or bad for their particular team. There are a number of teams that should be interested in the retired Moss as he would be a significant upgrade for most. The question remains whether Mr. Moss wants to play football anymore...or if he ever really did.
* In the Game of the Day, the upstart Buffalo Bills beat the tyrannical New England Patriots 34-31 to go to 3-0 and move atop the AFC East standings. This was a tale of two games. The first half belonged to the Patriots. Quarterback Tom Brady hooked up with tight end Rob Gronkowski twice in the end zone to take a 14-0 lead. They scored again in the half and lead 21-10 at the break. The Bills lost several close games last season and it could be said they choked in a few of them. The Bills had also lost 15 games in a row to the Patriots entering yesterday. This year's Bills are different, though. Instead of folding in the second half and letting Brady continue his dominance, the Bills defence stepped up and started causing turnovers. By the end of the game, the Bills had scored 24 of their points off Brady turnovers, including a 27-yard interception return by Drayton Florence to give the Bills their first lead of the game in the fourth quarter. The biggest difference in the game was the discipline shown by the Bills. They stuck with their game plan despite being down early and the capitalized on several uncharacteristic mistakes by the Patriots. Turnovers happen and even Tom Brady has bad games, but what really killed New England were some huge penalties that turned stalled Buffalo drives into scores. Looking at the AFC standings, there is only one undefeated team. Buffalo. In this year of uprisings in the Middle East, the AFC East is feeling the upheaval as well.
* Over in the NFC East, the Philadelphia Eagles were expected to cruise through the season and straight to the Super Bowl. That plan doesn't seem as likely now. The Eagles lost yesterday 29-16 to the New York Giants in Philadelphia. Losing a home game within your division is never good, but yesterday's loss hurt especially hard as Eagles QB Michael Vick had to leave the game after a supposed broken right hand. Philadelphia was betting that Vick could last the whole season and that was always a 50/50 proposition at best. Now they're left scrambling to come back from a 1-2 start with no healthy or able quarterback and a high priced defense that doesn't seem to be living up to the hype. On Sunday, the Giants' Eli Manning was able to throw 4 touchdown passes, including 2 to unknown Victor Cruz. Cruz had two career catches in the NFL before yesterday and then exploded against an Eagles secondary full of All-Pros.
* In a happy by-product of the pass-first NFL, wideouts are coming out of nowhere every week. Last week, reality show winner Jesse Holley caught his first NFL passes and won the game for the Dallas Cowboys. In Week 3, both Cruz and the Baltimore Ravens' Torrey Smith announced themselves to NFL fans with huge days. Smith caught three TD passes in the first quarter for 133 yards. They also happened to be the first three catches of his NFL career. With teams throwing the ball more than ever and players getting hurt more than ever, expect this scene to repeat itself in the coming weeks. The NFL has been a league of established stars for the past few seasons (Arian Foster notwithstanding), but the tide seems to have shifted to a new surprise player every week. Fantasy football owners everywhere are groaning.
* Established stars are still holding down the fort in Green Bay though. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers has never looked more confident. All did not go well for the Packers in yesterday's win over the Chicago Bears, but Rodgers was able to steer the ship to a 27-17 victory to remain undefeated. Rodgers essentially has two new toys with the return of running back Ryan Grant and tight end Jermichael Finley from injury. The defending Super Bowl champions are even stronger this year on offense and they remain a step above any team this season. Rodgers' confidence was even more impressive when foiled against the Bears' Jay Cutler and Atlanta Falcons' Matt Ryan lack thereof. Both of those QBs looked shell shocked at times yesterday and need to be protected more in order to make an impact in the playoffs...or even finish the year healthy.
* In a season full of fantastic athletic feats and season-ending injuries, it was poetic that Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Brandon Flowers beautifully intercepted a pass, then returned it 41 yards only to hurt his knee on the play. People in Kansas City should start sizing themselves for Andrew Luck jerseys as it is becoming apparent that he will play next season with the Chiefs. Unless the Vikings continue folding in the second half...
* For the third week in a row, the Minnesota Vikings lost a game they were winning at halftime. In each game this season, the Vikings have been leading by at least 10 points thirty minutes into the game and each time they've coughed up said lead. This week's comeback was perpetrated by the Detroit Lions, who are now 3-0 for the first time since 1980. Receiver Calvin Johnson made a spectacular catch in overtime to seal the win for the Lions. With Johnson and a healthy Matthew Stafford at QB, the Lions have a legitimate shot at making the playoffs (and making noise in the playoffs) only a few years after going 0-16.
* A team that won't go 0-16 this year now is the Carolina Panthers. In what was easily his worst game as a pro (or at least an NFLer!?!), Carolina QB Cam Newton earned his first win. Newton played through a torrential downpour at home to beat the Jacksonville Jaguars and their rookie QB, Blaine Gabbert. Newton set records in his first two NFL games, but was more satisfied in winning his third, even if he didn't have his best stuff.
* Oakland Raiders running back Darren McFadden erupted against the visiting New York Jets for 171 yards rushing and two touchdowns as the Raiders won 34-24. It was the Jets' first loss of the season. It somewhat mirrored the Bills-Patriots game in that the Raiders came from behind to win, but more so because it was a game the Raiders would not have won last season. The Bills and Raiders are different teams this year and must be mentioned so far among the AFC contenders.
* And now for, This Week in Wildly Optimistic Predictions ...
- Buffalo QB Ryan Fitzpatrick will win multiple NFL MVP awards, beginning with his unanimous win this season.
- Oakland, Buffalo, and Detroit will make the playoffs this season and all play in their conference's championship game.
- In keeping with yesterday's theme in which close games dominated the schedule, every single NFL game in Week 4 will be decided by three points or less.
- Michael Vick will retire at the end of the season and become an NFL referee.
* For the first time this season, no quarterback yesterday threw for 400 yards. However, eight QBs threw for more than 364 yards. Watching some teams try to run the ball yesterday (and even some elite teams), it's almost as if they don't practice running plays at all. Many teams must think that "if the Pats throw 45 times a game and are good, then throwing 65 times a game must be better." Flawed logic, but sweeping a copycat league.
* What's really hurting the chances of some teams are turnovers. In the passing game, they are far more prevalent and it's a definite risk-and-reward play to throw more often. Teams are more willing to take the risk, but need to accept that there are going to be days when the ball keeps getting thrown to the other team.
* There's growing momentum behind the idea of crediting defensive players who are held. This is a fantastic idea. A player who draws a hold drives his opponents back 10 yards, which is further back than a sack usually is. Add to the fact that several positive offensive plays are called back because of holding calls and the disruptive defensive player should be credited for his great play.
* Michael Vick notwithstanding, referee crews around the league had a great week. They usually do, as much as we hate to admit it, and we should give out props when they do a good job. There wasn't one game this weekend where an official was even really noticed. That's the best compliment anyone in that profession can receive.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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