Sunday, October 11, 2009

8 In the Box- AFC

1. Without a doubt, the biggest surprise of the first quarter of the NFL season (and I'm talking good surprises, not horrifying Tennessee Titans type surprises) is the 4-0 start by the Denver Broncos.  Week 4's 17-10 win over the Cowboys is the first semi-impressive feather in their cap, and it marked the return to effectiveness of Brandon Marshall, who put the Broncos ahead late in the 4th quarter with an insanely athletic catch and run to the end zone.

2. While the Broncos are the best story, the best team in the AFC continues to be the Colts. They destroyed a bad Seahawks team to move to 4-0. Peyton Manning looks better than he ever has, and the Colts appear to be getting the year after Tony Dungy leaves performance bump that the Bucs got in 2002 when they won the Super Bowl.  Dungy has a way of shackling a team by playing sooo conservatively on offense and defense that it kind of limits what they can achieve. Peyton Manning looks completely unstoppable now that things have opened up a little, and so do the Colts.

3. The Jets failed to be the 3rd undefeated team in the AFC. They went down to the Superdome and were dominated by the Saints in a 24-10 loss. Mark Sanchez threw 3 INTs, got sacked 4 times, and fumbled in the end zone once.  Sanchez' numbers thru the first quarter of the season, 71.2 passer rating, 57.3 completion percentage, 6.8 yards per attempt. Matt Leinart's numbers in his 2006 rookie season: 74.0 passer rating, 56.8 completion percentage, 6.8 yards per attempt. So there you go, so far Mark Sanchez is pretty much an exact clone of Matt Leinart, except he throws a few more interceptions. Isn't that exciting?

4. The game of the week in the AFC was the unbeaten Ravens in Foxboro to take on the somewhat wobbly Patriots. The Ravens controlled seemingly every statistical category, but still suffered their first loss of the season thanks to too many penalties, a couple of turnovers, and a very crucial drop by Mark Clayton late in the game.  Still, this is one of those losses that kind of look good on the resume. I'm more impressed with the Ravens now then before this game, they went on the road to face the Patriots and looked at least as good as them.

5. Just as losses like the Ravens had kind of increase their esteem level in my mind, you can have wins that make me lower my opinion of you. The Bengals' excruciating 23-20 super OT win over the Browns falls into that category. Yes, the Bengals are 3-1, but the shitty Browns played them pretty much to a standstill. I was talking some crazy talk about Carson Palmer being an MVP candidate last week, but he was terrible in this game. None of his wide receivers caught more than 2 passes, in a game that went on forever and had plenty of time for them to catch more than that. It's not that he doesn't have talent at wideout. He's got Ochocinco, Laveraenues Coles, and Chris Henry. He's just not getting them the ball.

6. The 1-2 Steelers faced a MUST WIN on Sunday Night against the Chargers, and very predictably, they won. Rashard Mendenhall got the start at running back in place of injured Willie Parker, and shredded the Chargers for 165 yards and 2 TDs. Thus ends the Willie Parker Era in Pittsburgh.  The vaunted Steelers defense was a little less than impressive though, the Chargers were down 28-7, but then it started raining 30 yard passes from Philip Rivers to Antonio Gates, and the Chargers got back in the game.  I guess the best thing you can say about the defending champs right now is that they are 2-2 and averted a disastrous first quarter of the season.

7. Meanwhile, the Chargers are also 2-2, and the presumed default AFC West Champs are 2 games behind the Broncos. They can't run the ball (16 rushing yards against the Steelers), and their defense was just embarrassing in that game. I know they pull it together every year after a slow start, but other than Philip Rivers and the passing game there just isn't anything to like about them right now.

8. Finally, we had an honest to God TRADE this week. Braylon Edwards gets sent to the Jets to hasten the development of the great Matt Sanchez and his legendary 71.2 passer rating (tying him with the benched Byron Leftwich btw) for Chansi Stuckey. Go get that #1 pick Mangenius!!

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