Patriots crash and burn
Vail, CO Colorado
While Week 3 of the NFL brought many intriguing games, the top headline of the week must be the Miami Dolphins’ victory; rather, humiliation of what was so recently the league’s most dominating team, the New England Patriots.
Considering that the Pats were without reigning league MVP Tom Brady (knee), the fact that Miami won the game was not such a giant surprise. It was the manner in which the Fins accomplished such victory that was so astounding. While New England entered the game having won its previous 21 regular season games and 12 straight at home, Miami had gone 1-20 in the regular season during that same stretch (the lone win thanks to a missed Ravens field goal attempt in overtime), and had lost 11 straight on the road.
The Patriots were beaten badly by the same trick play (a direct snap to running back Ronnie Brown) on three different occasions, one of which Brown took for 62 yards and all of which he took for touchdowns.
Ironically enough, Miami was the last team to defeat the Patriots before their string of 21 consecutive regular season victories, beating New England 21-0 at home on December 10th, 2006. I guess you could call Miami’s domination a necessary revenge; in 2007, New England became the first team ever to surpass the 14-0 regular season of the 1972 Dolphins by winning all 16 of its regular season games.
Another major headline in Week 3 was the plethora of games won by the smallest of margins, as five games were decided by three points or fewer. The Bills managed 17 fourth-quarter points to beat Oakland as time expired, while Jacksonville took the lead over Indianapolis with just four seconds remaining in a game that saw the lead change three times in the final three minutes.
Both Tampa Bay and New York (the G-Men) came from behind to win in overtime over Chicago and Cincinnati, respectively, games in which the four starting quarterbacks combined for an astounding 183 pass attempts.
And Denver survived another shootout thriller, sealing a 34-32 victory on a missed 43-yard field goal by New Orleans’ Martin Gramatica with 1:55 remaining in regulation. With these five games, there have now been 16 games through the first three weeks of the season decided by five points or fewer. If that stat is any indication, we’re in for quite the rollercoaster ride in the NFL this year.
One of the biggest surprises of the 2008 NFL season has been the rise of the underdogs in AFC divisional races. While supposed AFC powerhouses New England, Indianapolis, and San Diego each sit in second place of their respective divisions with a combined 3-5 record, Buffalo, Baltimore, Tennessee, and Denver all hold the leads of their respective divisions, with an astounding combined record of 11-0 (Baltimore is just 2-0 after their Week 2 game was postponed due to Hurricane Ike).
I can’t imagine that this was how most “experts” had these seven teams finishing come season’s end. Such surprise is also somewhat present in the NFC as well; while Dallas, New York, and Green Bay (8-1 combined) were each expected to contend for division titles, Arizona and San Francisco sit tied atop the NFC West while Carolina and Atlanta are tied with Tampa Bay for the lead in the NFC South. On a side note, the NFC East teams are a combined 10-2, with the only two losses coming in interdivisional games.
Most Impressive Team: Miami Dolphins
I didn’t know I’d ever be saying it, but hats off to Joey Porter and the Miami Dolphins. Porter talked the talk and backed it up with three sacks and a forced fumble, while the Dolphins trampled all over New England to end its 21-game regular season win streak.
Best Offensive Performance: San Diego Chargers
While putting up 48 points on 357 total yards, the Chargers punted just once in 11 possessions and converted 9-of-13 third down opportunities en route to their first victory of the season.
Best Defensive Performance: Philadelphia Eagles
Philadelphia allowed just 6 points on 180 yards to a solid Pittsburgh offense, keeping them out of the red zone until the final drive of the game. The Eagles hadnine sacks, a safety, forced thre turnovers, and limited the Steelers to just two third-down conversions on 13 attempts.
Fantasy Stud of the Week: Ronnie Brown, Miami Dolphins
Brown carried for four rushing touchdowns and threw for a score as well, on a half-back option in the third quarter. In addition, he piled up 117 yards on the ground and nine yards receiving on a total of 18 touches.
Rookie of the Week: Steve Slaton, Houston Texans
The rookie running back from West Virginia filled in for the injured Ahman Green and gained 116 yards on 18 carries, while adding his first career touchdown against a very formidable Tennessee run defense.
Here are your games to watch for the upcoming weekend:
Atlanta (2-1) at Carolina (2-1)
Two surprising early-season teams find themselves in a Week 4 battle for a shot at a 3-1 record and an AFC South division lead. While the Falcons have been riding high on the shoulders of free agent running back Michael Turner, the Panthers have been up and down with two victories by a combined five points and a loss last week by 10. I expect Steve Smith to have a big day and for Carolina’s defense to make life difficult for rookie QB Matt Ryan.
Minnesota (1-2) at Tennessee (3-0)
In a matchup that pits two of the league’s best defenses against each other, the outcome may be decided by whose offense can make the fewest mistakes. Each team took a defensive turnover back to the house in Week 3, and each is loaded with talent to do so in this game. I look for Adrian Peterson to exploit a Tennessee run defense that allowed 116 yards to a rookie last week, and have a big day on the ground. Minnesota will recover from a few tough early season losses to reenter the battle for the NFC North title.
Baltimore (2-0) at Pittsburgh (2-1)
Pittsburgh is coming off a tough 15-6 loss in Philadelphia while Baltimore enters Week 4 atop the NFC North standings. With Willie Parker out due to a knee injury, rookie Rashard Mendenhall will get the start for Pittsburgh in the backfield, and should have a rough time against the league’s best run stopping Ravens. This one may very well come down to the final five minutes, and both teams should stay under 20 points. I smell an upset.
Game of the Week: Washington (2-1) at Dallas (3-0)
Anytime NFC East rivals square off, NFL fans are in for a treat and this week should be no different. Jason Campbell has looked good of late at quarterback for the Redskins, while the Dallas offense has picked up where it left off last year, averaging 32 points per game. Washington will stay in the game for awhile, maybe even well into the fourth quarter, but the overwhelming talent on the Cowboys’ side should eventually leave the Redskins behind.
Last week’s record: 3-1
Season’s predictions record: 6-2
When not breaking down the NFL, Davey DeChant is a senior at Battle Mountain High School.
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