Before you bother asking, the answer is “yes”: I have knowingly skipped Week 2 in my comprehensive review process. Let’s just go with the idea that I’m trying out some wild bi-weekly NFL segment. Because, really, how much can actually change from one week to the next in the NFL? Nevermind.
1. Tennessee’s Kerry Collins has somehow managed to throw for 35,000 yards in his career, putting him in some esteemed company. Collins, who has played for five different teams over the course of his 15 years in the league, became only the 15th QB in history to break the passing mark and now needs only 368 yards to surpass Hall-of-Famer Jim Kelly (35,467) on the all-time passing list.
Collins reached 35,000 in second quarter of the Titans’ 31-12 win over the Houston Texans on Sunday. The 6’5″, 245 lb. Penn State alum, who went 14 of 26 for 189 yards in Week 3, passed a notable pair of Jims (Hart and Everett) and will certainly pass up Kelly, presumably during Tennessee’s game next week at home against Minnesota. And with starter Vince Young now receiving treatment for clinical depression, the grizzled veteran seems to have an outside shot of passing Boomer Esiason (37, 920) and Dave Kreig (38, 147) to settle in behind the legendary Johnny Unitas at twelth on the all-time list.
Never, in my wildest paradoxical nightmare, did I think I would ever mention the names of Collins and Unitas in the same breath.
2. The Jacksonville Jaguars can beat anyone in the AFC — if they play the way they did against the Colts on Sunday.
After lackluster performances in each of the first two weeks, the Jags brought their A Game to Lucas Oil Field, demonstrating a physcial style of play that led to 100+ yard performances from RBs Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew. Quarterback David Garrard, who threw as many INT’s in the first two games of ’08 (3) as he did all of last season, wasn’t spectacular on Sunday (16-22, 167 yds), but, then again, he really didn’t need to be. The duo of Taylor and Jones-Drew combined for 228 of the Jags’ 236 rushing yards behind an offensive line that physically dominated the smaller Colts front seven.
The equally fiecre Jags defense stifled the Colts’ vaunted passing attack, holding Payton Manning to only 216 yards. Jacksonville also forced Manning, who has appeared rusty thus far in 2008, to throw two picks. All in all, Jacksonville held the Indy offense to just over 300 yards for the day.
Jacksonville’s physical style of play on both sides of the ball was indicated by the disparity in time of possession between the two teams. The visiting Jags held the ball for nearly 42 minutes, or 70% of the time, compared to just over 18 minutes for the Colts.
3. Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan knew what he was doing when he drafted QB Jay Cutler. Though Cutler was the best possible choice at QB when the Broncos selected 11th overall in the 2006 NFL Draft (Texas’ Vince Young and USC’s Matt Leinart were taken 3rd and 10th, respectively), it is unlikely Shanahan would have passed on the former Vanderbilt siganl-caller had the Broncos had higher draft order.
And although Young and Leinart possess unique and worthy skills that may or may not translate to big-time NFL success (right now, Young is battling depression, while Leinart is mired in the backup job in Arizona), only Cutler features the combo of arm strength and mobility that Shanahan loves in the leader of his offense.
Cutler needed time to adjust to the speed of the pro game, but he now appears ready to lead the Denver offense, as indicated by his 4:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio and sterling 110.6 passer rating through three games this season. After squeaking by the Saints, 34-32, with their lowest point total of the season on Sunday, the Broncos lead the league in scoring offense, averaging 38 points per game.
Denver moved to 3-0 on Sunday despite being outgained 502-369 by New Orleans.
4. The Dolphins aren’t nearly as good—and the Patriots aren’t nearly as bad—as Miami’s 38-13 throttling of New England in Foxborough Sunday may suggest.
Yes, the Patriots are clearly a different team with Matt Cassel under center, but an abrupt ending to a 21-game regular-season winning streak doesn’t mean the defending AFC champs have all of a sudden hit a downward spiral. Conversely, a previously 1-15 Miami team won’t magically turn a corner just because they ran roughshod over an aging Pats defense with a mix bag of unconventional offensive formations and uncharacteristic trick plays.
Until someone beats New England in January, the Patriots are still the class of the conference, even if Tom Brady’s injury has significantly narrowed the gap. And though new boss Bill Parcells has brought a new attitude to South Beach, the Fish will have to repeat their Week 3 performance game-in, game-out if they want to prove they have arrived as a legitimate AFC East threat.