New-look AFC (cont.)
Everything seems new in the AFC East this season, at least since Tom Brady went down with a knee injury in Week 1. The door now seems very much open for the Bills to challenge the Patriots for the division title that everyone was conceding to New England just 17 days ago. It's already a given in the reconfigured AFC landscape that the Patriots at Bills game in Week 17 might be for a division title. Imagine that.
"Obviously when the league loses a great player like Tom Brady, it does change the landscape,'' Schonert said. "But no team is built entirely on one guy. He was an integral part of that team and he knew that offense inside out, but hey, they won a Super Bowl there one year when they lost their starting quarterback in a season. So don't underestimate the New England Patriots. Yeah, they had a bad week this week. But they're 2-1 with 13 games to go. They'll be heard from this season. Don't worry about that.''
And so will these 3-0 first-place Bills. Three weeks into the regular season, it's a thought that's still taking some getting used to.
On the flip side, as surprising as the early season results in the AFC have been, the NFC is confounding in its own way. That's because 10 teams have winning records so far, meaning there's plenty of competition for those six playoff berths.
Since there aren't three wild-card spots to be had, at least one team has to be the odd man out in the NFC East. Dallas and the Giants are both 3-0, with Washington and Philadelphia at 2-1. That's a combined 10-2 record, and did you know that no NFC East team has lost to anyone outside the division? The Redskins lost to the Giants in Week 1, and the Eagles lost that points-fest at Dallas in Week 2. Pretty good indication of the division's strength.
Then there's Tampa Bay, Carolina and Atlanta, all at 2-1 in the NFC South. And the team that I thought would be the division's strongest, New Orleans, hardly looks like last-place material. Green Bay is the only winner at 2-1 in the NFC North, but the NFC West lead is shared by San Francisco and Arizona at 2-1, in what is shaping up as the NFL's weakest division by far.
It's time for my weekly Jyles Tucker reference. The second-year San Diego linebacker had two of the Chargers' three sacks of Brett Favre on Monday night, backing up my contention that he's going to fill Shawne Merriman's shoes better than most imagined.
Make the switch now, Romeo. Once you introduce the possibility of a starting quarterback change, it almost always becomes something of a self-fulfilling prophecy any way. Putting Derek Anderson on notice for being yanked in favor of Brady Quinn isn't really that far from the actual benching, even though it probably feels like just the last step of necessary patience to the Browns' head coach.
Then there's the iffy quarterback situation in Houston. Matt Schaub is keeping his starting job for the time being, but another ugly loss and the pressure will continue to mount on head coach Gary Kubiak to switch to backup Sage Rosenfels.
Doesn't it seem as if we've seen this movie before with the Texans' quarterbacking? In just two games, Schaub has been sacked eight times, which is a pace that perhaps only David Carr can truly appreciate. Schaub has one touchdown pass, five interceptions and a 50.3 passer rating so far, and the pass pressure he has been under has led to many of his mistakes.
The Texans scored just one touchdown in six red zone trips at Tennessee, and went a combined 5 of 21 on third and fourth downs. That kind of negated the benefit of the 146 yards rushing and 5.2-yard average carry that Houston posted against the Titans' No. 1-ranked defense.
If I'm a Lions fan, I'm only crazier to hear that Bill Ford Jr. would fire team president Matt Millen after eight desultory seasons, if he only had the authority. Ford Jr., the team's vice chairman, needs to be urgently and passionately making that case to his father, team owner William Clay Ford, more than he does to the Detroit Economic Club.
I suppose hearing someone in the Ford family admit they question why Millen's failure has been allowed to become so acceptable is cathartic in a way. But it's also a bit of the ultimate tease, and would only make the agony of having to put up with Millen's continued employment that much more painful for fans who really care about the team's downtrodden fortunes.