From Jags, Giants and Steelers to Peyton, Pats and Chiefs, here's the good, bad and ugly through four weeks of the NFL.
Make that great, as in Peyton Manning and the Broncos; the coaching of
Andy Reid, Sean Payton, Mike Munchak and Bill Belichick; the work of
sackmasters, who have the NFL on a near-record pace; superb field goal
accuracy; and the breathtaking performances of Patrick Peterson, Adrian Peterson and Trindon Holliday.
A fully healthy Manning clearly has been the star and the story of the
first four weeks, with his unprecedented — and unbelievable — 16
touchdown passes and no interceptions. The ease with which he connects
with his receivers (10 already), the margins by which the Broncos are
winning (179-91 overall) and the balance the offense has stamped them
as early front-runners for Super Bowl.
"I think we just continue to get better," coach John Fox said before
delivering a scary warning. "It's still early in the season and I
expect us to get better. People look at me funny when I say that, but
there are still a lot of areas we need to improve at and can improve
Kansas City's improvement is the most dramatic and notable, although
New Orleans was 0-4 at this point in 2012 with Payton suspended for the
season for his role in the bounty scandal. Reid, a consistent winner
for most of his 14 years in Philadelphia, has brought stability to the
Chiefs, and a renewed confidence.
Their defense is particularly formidable, with a monster pass rush. The
Chiefs have led the surge of sacks throughout the league with 18.
With the Petersons and Holliday, the old saw about every time someone
touches the ball he could score, absolutely applies. Holliday, the
NFL's shortest player at 5-foot-5, has 12 kickoff returns for 296 yards
and two scores. Arizona's Peterson has played his usual cornerback
slot, worked as a receiver and is one of the league's most dangerous
As for 2012 MVP Adrian Peterson, the Vikings running back has "only"
421 yards rushing and five touchdowns, a pace that would get him near
1,700 yards on the ground and 20 scores. Not quite what he managed last
year, but remember that Peterson was unstoppable in the second half of
Also notable through four weeks:
—Saints TE Jimmy Graham ranking second in yards receiving to Atlanta's
Julio Jones, unheard of territory for a tight end. Graham also has six
TDs, tied with Peterson and Denver's Wes Welker for the league lead.
—Colts DE Robert Mathis, supposedly on the other side of his prime,
tied with Kansas City's Justin Houston for the NFL lead with 7 1-2
—Five 4-0 teams, tied for the most in any season.
It's far too early to panic, yet the folks in Atlanta, Minnesota,
Washington, Houston, Green Bay, Cincinnati and Baltimore — all 2012
playoff teams — should be concerned about the first month of the
None has shown any of the consistency and clutch performances they
displayed last year. Most worrisome are the Falcons, Vikings and
The Falcons can't run the ball, can't stop the pass and tend to come up
just short in tight games, as losses to the Saints, Dolphins and
Patriots proved. At least they've been pretty competitive, but so have
the Vikings, despite a surprisingly problematic defense, worst in the
league against the pass.
But the Redskins needed a rally at Oakland to beat the woeful Raiders
for their first win, and QB Robert Griffin III, still healing from a
postseason knee injury, has been anything but the sensational top
rookie of 2012. The defense has been a sieve.
As in 0-4.
Jacksonville's wretched start — outscored 129-31, noncompetitive at
home or on the road — was somewhat expected given its lack of talent
and a new coaching staff finding its way. Things might not get any
better this year.
The Steelers adamantly refuse to use the world "rebuilding," but with
few playmakers left on their once-vaunted defense and nobody who can
keep Ben Roethlisberger upright, it's time to admit the obvious.
New York's collapse is a stunner because the Giants do have those
playmakers on both sides of the ball. They're well-coached, usually
disciplined, and Eli Manning seemed to be far past his penchant for
Guess again. Their offensive line has been, well, downright offensive,
just like Pittsburgh's. And the pass rush, upon which the defense is
built, has disappeared.
Still, nothing has been as pitiful as what Tampa Bay has managed in its
That first game was handed to the Jets on a late hit by linebacker
Lavonte David. It should have been an early indication of how out of
control things would get with the Bucs.
Then there's the QB situation: Josh Freeman was benched last week after
playing poorly in the first three games. Then the quarterback believed
someone within the Bucs organization leaked information about him being
in the league's drug testing program.
On Thursday, Tampa Bay released Freeman.
The Bucs have the second-worst offense and a mistake-prone defense
despite a collection of high-priced veterans on the roster.
Their bye week has given them extra time to stew in the ugliness.
First Quarter: The Good, Bad, And The Ugly
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