After two games, I think it is safe to offer the following observations about the other 31 teams in the NFL and the 8 divisions in which the teams play. I’ll start with the AFC West.
Denver is looking scarier than I thought they would be going into the season. I am particularly impressed with the defense; it was my belief that losing Elvis Dumervil and not having Von Miller in the front 7 would hurt the defense badly. So far it has not. Of course, Denver is forcing teams to be one dimensional really quickly in the 3rd quarter, with Peyton Manning putting up record shattering performances for two game stretches in the NFL. He can’t play that well all season, can he? Maybe the loss of Ryan Clady for the season will slow them down; so far, a defense has not been able to do that.
Kansas City has improved. Having even an average NFL quality QB will do that for a team. Andy Reid knows what he wants he do, his team has bought in and gotten off to a good start. KC has not turned the ball over in the first two games of this season, and that goes a long way to winning.
That Other AFC West Team
I am not certain what to make of Oakland at this point. They have beaten a really bad Jacksonville Jaguars team at home and lost to a flawed Indianapolis Colts team on the road in a close game that they nearly pulled off. Terrelle Pryor brings an interesting dimension to their offense, but I do not believe that anyone will really know what they are for a few weeks yet.
The best division in the NFL
For all the talk that the NFC West gets as being the best division in the NFL, I’m not buying it. If I had to pick a division where all four teams could finish .500 or higher, I’d choose the NFC North. All four teams have some flaws, but the things that the teams do well, they do really well. The team with the best balance is the Chicago Bears, but I can’t trust a team with Jay Cutler as its QB to win a division.
The Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers have the most explosive offenses and Minnesota has the best defense and running game. To give you an idea of how bad Minnesota thinks their QB situation is, ponder the talk of benching Christian Ponder for Matt Cassel.
On the other side of the coin is the NFC Least. So far, the only team to show even a hint of having a defense in this division is the Dallas Cowboys. As for my comfort level with their QB situation, see Cutler, Jay. The Washington Redskins have been simply awful so far, the Philadelphia Eagles have no defense to speak of, and the New York Giants look as awful as Washington does.
I thought Sean Payton’s return to the New Orleans Saints would be huge, and so far it is. The defense is still bad, but they might have just enough to win the division over the Atlanta Falcons. There is 0-2, and then there is Oh-Oh and 2. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are 0-2, with a point differential of minus 3. Contrast that to Jacksonville (-36), Washington (-24) and the New York Giants (-23). The Carolina Panthers look just bad enough to lose a lot of games and just good enough to not get blown out in them.
If the Seattle Seahawks go into Candlestick and do what they did against the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday Night, they will have earned a #1 ranking. Until then, I am sticking with San Francisco as the class of the NFC. The St. Louis Rams and Arizona Cardinals are not bad, but when not bad is in the same division with two great teams and a conference filled with good teams, not bad is not enough.
The Miami Dolphins are for real. They got some production out of Mike Wallace against Indianapolis, their lines look a lot more stable than they did in pre-season, and they look solid enough to compete with the New England Patriots. Speaking of Tom Brady’s Bunch, riddle me this folks… New England has scored more/less/the same number of points Oakland so far? The correct answer is THE SAME. The emperor’s new hoodie is looking a little threadbare so far this year. Coach Vader has done well at re-tooling his team over the years, but too many key parts might have dropped off the machine this season.
A little bit rusty
The AFC North is really looking like the Bengals get the division before Halloween. They are the only team in that division that seems to know what it is doing and have the players to do what they want. Norval’s offense is not working for the Cleveland Browns, so far. That team is second to last in the league in scoring, with 16 points in two games, five better than the QB challenged Jacksonville offense. The Pittsburgh Steelers are in trouble, as are the Baltimore Ravens.
The Houston Texans are a solid team in a division of flawed teams. They can be thought of as the San Diego Chargers of 2007; getting used to being in the playoffs and in a bad division. Indianapolis may need another draft or two to get good, and the Tennessee Titans are still trying to find the next Steve McNair and Eddie George. Jacksonville fans are starting a movement for the team to sign Tebow. The organizers of the movement say they only want a bad team to be entertaining… Last Sunday, the CBS affiliate in Orlando was running a scroll at the bottom of the screen during the Jacksonville – Raider game apologizing for the "Inconvenience" of showing the game.
Catch you in another few weeks!