Will the Titans win a game before their bye week? Has Vikings QB Brett Favre found his groove? Who's the best out of the five undefeated teams? Some interesting developments in Cleveland, what the Packers need to do within the next two weeks, Tampa Bay's ironman and more in Ed Thompson's NFL Quick Count.
Before the season started, many pundits expected the Tennessee Titans to
repeat as AFC South champions with the Indianapolis Colts nipping at their
heels. Some even predicted the Colts to stumble as low as third place behind the
Houston Texans under the delusion that the loss of head coach Tony Dungy and
wide receiver Marvin Harrison--in addition to some changes in the coaching
staff--would disrupt the Colts. But as the NFL enters Week 5, the Colts head to
Tennessee as a 4-0 team while the Titans are grasping for any viable explanation
for being 0-4. And with the Patriots on deck for the Titans after the Colts,
it's not far-fetched to think that Tennessee could be 0-6 and practically
eliminated from the playoff picture by mid-October.
Is Brett Favre finally hitting his stride? Up until Monday night's game
against the Vikings, the future Hall of Fame quarterback wasn't showing a
consistent ability to accurately throw the ball downfield. But he looked sharp
against the Packers, zipping the ball all over the field and slinging it
accurately into some tight coverage situations. Was the improvement fueled by
the adrenalin of facing his former club? Was it a result of an inept Packers
pass rush? Or has Favre finally had enough practice and game time with his
receivers that he's got his timing and execution down? With the Vikings facing
the winless Rams next week, we won't know for sure. But with the Ravens and
Steelers on tap after that, we'll have a better idea if Favre's finally found
his groove again. I sure hope so, because he was fun to watch again on Monday
night and is deserving of every bit of praise he receives this week.
Five teams emerged as the league's only undefeated clubs after the first four
weeks of action. At this early stage, my personal ranking of those five clubs
would be the Saints, Colts, Vikings, Giants and Broncos. Out of those five, the
only team with a high probability to fall in Week 5 is Denver, who hosts the
Patriots. The Vikings play the Rams, the Colts face Tennessee, the Giants take
on the Raiders, and the Saints have a bye.
Here's a stat that defies conventional football logic. The Chicago Bears
converted just 20 percent of their third-down opportunities (2 out of 10), but
finished the game with 48 points on the scoreboard against the Detroit Lions.
And only seven of those points came off of a punt return for a touchdown. The
other 41 were produced by the offense. Go figure.
Massaquoi led the Browns in receiving in his second career start. Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
While plenty of people were caught up in the name-recognition game when the
Cleveland Browns drafted wide receiver Brian Robiskie out of Ohio State in the
second round of this year's NFL Draft, some shrugged their shoulders or
questioned why the team bothered to grab another wide receiver with their other
second-round pick. That other wide receiver, Mohamed Massaquoi out of the
University of Georgia, stepped into the spotlight this past weekend, leading all
Browns receivers with eight catches for 148 yards during their overtime loss to
Cincinnati. The humble and hard-working player told me earlier this year after
being drafted that, "I'm just going to go in there compete, listen to what
all the coaches are telling me, and work hard for my opportunity." After
last weekend's performance, you'd have to say that Massaquoi is a man of his
word. In two starts and four game appearances, he has ten catches for 179 yards.
Meanwhile, Robiskie has yet to make his first NFL catch.
Speaking of the Browns, an NFL source told me that defensive tackle Carlton
Powell worked out for Cleveland on Monday and was asked to stay overnight and
take a physical on Tuesday. A fifth-round pick by the Denver Broncos, Powell
landed on the team's Physically Unable to Perform list during his rookie year
after tearing his Achilles tendon during off-season workouts. He was released by
Denver on September 4. A 31-game starter at Virginia Tech, Powell logged 104
tackles and 5.5 sacks.
The Packers have two weeks to make a trade that could help them improve their
pass protection and improve their chances of being a playoff team. Let's face
it, when you have a quarterback as talented as Aaron Rodgers, it's a crime to
waste his talent and possibly risk a career-ending injury as teams batter him
week after week. After being sacked a season-high eight times by the Vikings on
Monday night, Rodgers has hit the turf 20 times in four games. There are a
number of teams with No. 2 offensive linemen who would be an upgrade to that
Did you know that the ironman of NFL cornerbacks is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers'
Ronde Barber? This past Sunday against the Redskins, Barber made his 156th
consecutive start, a streak that began back in 1999. If you don't find that to
be just short of amazing, let me put it in perspective for you. The cornerback
who is currently trailing Barber with the second-longest streak is the Miami Dolphins' Will Allen, who made his 46th consecutive career start when he took
the field against the Buffalo Bills last weekend.
Some of the notable October 6 NFL birthdays include Raiders defensive lineman
Richard Seymour (30), Broncos running back Correll Buckhalter (31), 49ers wide
receiver Brandon Jones (27), former Colts and Buccaneers head coach Tony Dungy
(54), former Patriots, Saints and Dolphins defensive back Tebucky Jones
(35), former Chiefs and Raiders defensive back Albert Lewis (49), former
Dolphins wide receiver Jimmy Cefalo (53), former Raiders running back Napoleon
McCallum (46), former 49ers and Colts offensive lineman Bubba Paris (49), former
49ers, Jaguars and Patriots wide receiver J.J. Stokes (37).