Wednesday, October 15, 2008

At the sports desk: observing the NFL so far...

...I think I've learned the following (and by the way I only went 7-7 last week in my picks, so my knowledge only goes so far, but...):

I thought before the season started that the Minnesota Vikings of the NFC North could be a Super Bowl contender. Now, I wonder if anyone from that division will wind up with better than a 9-7 record (as Green Bay, Minnesota, and Chicago are all 3-3 right now...and tied for 1st).

I thought before the season began that the Atlanta Falcons, starting rookie QB Matt Ryan, would really struggle. But, especially after watching him closely this past week vs the Bears, I now think this kid really has something. He can make throws. He has maturity. The Falcons are a playoff contender.

Before Monday night, I thought the NY Giants were perhaps the best team in the NFL. Then came their debacle vs. Cleveland. I also thought, before Sunday, that Washington had established itself as a power. Then came their loss to St. Louis. Unpredictability remains a norm in the NFL.

Early in the season I thought the Dallas Cowboys were perhaps the best team in the league. But they've had 3 poor games in a row, Tony Romo is out for 4 weeks, and now things look a lot tougher for them. They may have to struggle a bit just to make the playoffs. The Giants right now look like the best bet to win the NFC East.

What surprised me most about the Cowboys/Cardinals game this past Sunday was the pressure the Arizona D-line put on Romo. Maybe the Cardinals are actually a serious playoff contender? We'll know they are when they can actually win on the road.

I thought this past Sunday night's game vs. the Chargers really exposed the limitations of the Patriots' Matt Cassel. He makes mistakes; he has a harder time throwing deep with accuracy. Teams are wising up, crowding the line and daring him to beat them deep. He has played decently so far and there remains no doubt the Patriots have above-average talent. But how far can this team really go? There are serious questions.

Remember, the Miami Dolphins remain only a 2-3 team. But hasn't Tony Sparano maximized his talent on the offensive side of the ball so far? I can't think of a coach who's done more with less.

Last week, for the first time, the Indy Colts truly looked like the Colts. But even so, Tennessee with its defense and ball-control offense will give them a serious run for the AFC South title.

Sometimes, I have no answers--only questions. Such as: will Big Ben remain healthy enough to keep the Steelers on a path to another division title?

Are the Cleveland Browns really fixed, with their big Monday night victory over the Giants? I dunno--did you see all of their silly procedure penalties? Still too many mistakes.

Who is going to emerge from the AFC West? Denver's defense struggles, and Jay Cutler's inconsistency re-emerged last Sunday; San Diego remains without Shawn Merriman and with a-not-100% LaDainian Tomlinson.

The AFC is wide open. Come to think of it, so, right now, is the NFC...