The National Football League enters the fourth week of the regular season and here are a few observations:
The Chicago Bears were embarrassed Sunday night by the Dallas Cowboys 34-10 at home. Chicago had three defensive starters that left the game because of injury: linebacker Lance Briggs (groin), cornerback Nathan Vasher (groin) and defensive tackle Tommie Harris (knee). That was perhaps the least of Chicago problems. Quarterback Rex Grossman's performance was nauseatingly familiar. He once again displayed the ineffectiveness that most believe will not allow the Bears to be Super Bowl Champions.
At this point in the season the Bears don't even have the best record in their division thanks in large part to ineffectiveness of the offense and Grossman's performance. At 1-2 the only Bears win has come against a Kansas City Chiefs team most experts are picking to be among the leagues worst. Although they were playing at home, the Bears only beat the Chiefs by 10 points, 20-10. The final score included a Devin Hester special teams touchdown. Against Dallas, Grossman threw three interceptions (including one returned for a touchdown) and had a quarterback rating of 27.5. The Bears defense is getting tired and worn down in the fourth quarter because of the anemic play of the offense. To be fair Grossman is not the only player whose performance is abysmal. Running back Cedric Benson has only gained 189 yards rushing all season for an average of 63 yards a game and a 3.2 yards per carry average. Those are not the type of numbers a starting NFL running back should have. There is a theory amongst analysts that during the off-season, the Bears practically gave away their best running back in Thomas Jones to the New York Jets, while keeping Benson in an attempt to justify his first round status.
The Bears appear to be tired of the Grossman experiment, as the NFL Network has announced that Brian Griese will start on Sunday at quarterback replacing Grossman.
Where has the magic gone?
The New Orleans Saints are 0-3 after losing to the Tennessee Titans in their home opener. Last year the Saints boasted one of the league's explosive offensives. This year the Saints' offense can barely boast anything louder than a whimper. On opening night the offense didn't even score a touchdown. The Saints' offense has scored a total of 38 points for the entire year. In retrospect the New England Patriots average 38 points per game.
To make matters worse for the Saints' offense, running back Deuce McAllister has a torn left ACL and will miss the remainder of the season. Last year the Saints offense scored early and often, making their opponents' offense one dimensional while hiding the New Orleans' defensive deficiencies With their offense struggling this year, the Saints can no longer hide their defensive shortcomings, and now they have trouble stopping anyone. The Saints' defense is giving up an average of 34.3 points a game. New Orleans has a bye next week and it could not come at a better time for them. Even an extra week's preparation may not be enough to turn the Saints season around. What started out as a season of hope and optimism has tuned into a season of unwanted familiarity for New Orleans.
Winless no more.
The New York Jets beat the Miami Dolphins 31-28 in an AFC East showdown. Both teams entered the game 0-2. Now that the Jets have won their first game, does this mean they are on the rebound and will return to their play of last year when they made the playoffs? It's probably too early to tell. The team that Jets beat Sunday entered the game with a losing record. New York went 1-4 against teams with winning records and 2-5 against teams with a .500 record or better last year. To think that the Jets could challenge for the AFC East is rather imprudent considering their inability to beat good teams. The remaining Jet schedule includes road games against Cincinnati Bengals, Dallas Cowboys, New England Patriots and Tennessee Titans. At home they face the Pittsburgh Steelers and Philadelphia Eagles.
If the Jets want be one of the NFL's upper tier teams, they have to learn how to beat the good teams. And that is a job Jet coach Eric Mangini has to do, otherwise the Jets will continue to masquerade as a good team while in reality remain just another an average team.
Don't blink you may miss a touchdown
Monday Night Football matches two teams with explosive offenses featuring the New England Patriots taking on the host Cincinnati Bengals. This game has the potential to be the shoot out similar to the one the Bengals had in week 2 against the Cleveland Browns 51-45. Although the Patriots have the number one ranked offense in the NFL overall, the Patriots also boast the league's number one ranked defense overall as well. Derek Anderson had a career day against the Bengals, however he is no Tom Brady. Brady of the two Super Bowl MVP's and three Super Bowl wins to his credit is playing perhaps the best football of his life. Tom Brady has a quarterback rating of 141.8 and is on pace to break the record for touchdown passes in a season. See what happens when you surround the games best quarterback with weapons similar to what his rivals have had all along?
Randy Moss has been better than anticipated as he is playing some of his best football in years. That's bad news for any opposing defense. Wes Welker has played great as the slot receiver. He is the slot receiver the Patriots have needed for their offense. Donte Stallworth and Kelly Washington have made contributions. Look for Stallworth as the year progresses (or as Moss is double and triple teamed) to make opponents pay for their overemphasis on Moss.
Both New England and Cincinnati hope to get a victory on Monday night, however it appears the game is bigger for the Bengals because losing could really put them behind in their division race. For Cincinnati, they may need to win the division to make the playoffs as teams jockey for the two wild card spots. Cincinnati coach Marvin Lewis has even tweaked the Bengals practice schedule to adjust for the Monday Night schedule.
Keys To the Game
The key to this game for Cincinnati is to get out to a lead early and make the Patriots play from behind. The problem for the Bengals is with the potent offense the Patriots have they can play from behind if necessary and have shown the ability to overcome a slow start.. After trailing the Buffalo Bills briefly last Sunday the Patriots ran off 35 consecutive points. The Patriots could have scored even more but head coach Bill Belichick choose not to run up the score.
The key for the Patriots is keep doing what they have done this season. Score lots of points and play great defense. On offense I said the Patriots will score. Of course after seeing Brady and the new England offense operate its easy to say that, however knowing how bad the Bengals defense is carves that fact in stone. The Bengals defense is giving up 402 yards per game, allowing 145 rushing yards a game and 257.7 passing yards a game. Did I mention the Bengals defense allows an average of 31.7 points a game?
The Patriots should be able to score at will against the Bengals defense while at the same time not completely stopping a very good offense Bengal team but containing them.
I predict the Patriots will win 41-24.
Have great week. I'll see you next week with further recaps and analysis.
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