Snap Judgments for Week 5
BALTIMORE -- Musings, observations and the occasional insight as we witnessed the bruising heavyweight fight that the Titans-Ravens game morphed into on Sunday, before a demoralized M&T Bank Stadium throng ....
Watching the Week 5 final scores roll in, one question kept reverberating around my brain: Is there really a true upset in this league anymore? How many teams are there that are so good it seems like a shock to see them lose? One, maybe two? More likely, none? Where have you gone Bill Belichick and your perfect-season Patriots? A football nation turns its lonely eyes to you.
On Sunday, it was just another day in the suddenly devoid of dominance NFL. There was Miami doubling its 2007 win total by knocking off the visiting Chargers 17-10, despite San Diego being favored by almost a touchdown. There was Atlanta and its rookie quarterback, Matt Ryan, going into Lambeau Field and taking care of the Packers 27-24, as if it were nothing to it. And there was Washington taking its act on the road once more, this time to favored Philly, proving that last week's NFC East humbling of Dallas was anything but a fluke.
All Week 5 did was continue the trend that started on Kickoff Weekend, when the Bears got the upsets underway with that 29-13 mauling of the heavily favored Colts, having the audacity to ruin the opening of Indy's new Lucas Oil Stadium. In Week 2, San Francisco went to Seattle and beat the four-time defending NFC West champs at Qwest Field 33-30 in overtime.
Then came Week 3, and Miami's stunning 38-13 dismantling of New England, the very team we had come to count on above all else in the NFL. Last week? I still can't decide if Kansas City's shocking 33-19 defeat of previously unbeaten Denver was the upset of the week, or if the Redskins knocking the Cowboys from the unbeaten ranks was actually more impressive?
Maybe this is the way it's going to be in the NFL in 2008. Greatness is in extremely short supply, especially compared to last year, when the early-season results showed a league that was clearly delineated between the elite -- the Patriots and Colts in the AFC, the Cowboys and Packers in the NFC -- and then everyone else.
This season, with the possible exception of the defending champion Giants (4-0), whose schedule has yet to challenge them, there are no superpowers in the NFL. Just a bunch of fairly even teams, taking turns making one another look bad (and sometimes worse than that) from week to week.
I suppose we best get used to it. After all, it's the only NFL season we've got.
Hail to the Redskins indeed. Jim Zorn's resilient team is growing more impressive by the week. Not only did Washington climb out of an early 14-0 hole at Philadelphia, refusing to wilt after the Eagles scored twice in the game's first seven-plus minutes, but also the Redskins went on to roll up 388 yards on offense and hold the Eagles to just 254.
And not to jack up the Redskins-mania any higher among the team's rabid faithful -- if that's even possible -- but in the season's first five weeks, Washington has already weathered all three of its NFC East road games, winning at Dallas and Philly and losing at the Giants. With their next three games being at home against St. Louis and Cleveland, and on the road at Detroit, Washington has a great shot to be 7-1 at the season's midpoint.
Uh, oh. What do the Eagles do now that they've lost a game that Donovan McNabb called a "must-win?'' A lot of folks picked Philly to come back strong this season and win the NFC East, but at 2-3 they're already a clear-cut fourth in that tough four-team division.
This one had to hurt worst of all -- more painful than the losses at Dallas or Chicago. The Eagles led 14-0 early, and their defense gave up 23 points after having not allowed a touchdown at home this season (against either the Rams or Steelers).
Another couple game days like Sunday's 44-6 shellacking at the hands of the Giants and Seahawks head coach Mike Holmgren might not make it through his entire swan song season in Seattle. At 1-3, with his team surrendering 33 points or more in three of four games, this can't be fun for a guy who has led his Seahawks to the playoffs five years in a row.
Maybe Holmgren will just prematurely toss the keys to Seattle secondary coach Jim Mora -- who has already been named his successor in 2009 -- and call it an early retirement. Doubtful, but could you blame him if this keeps up?
Between their Michael Turner-led running game, Roddy White-led receiving game and Matt Ryan-led passing game, there's nothing that's not legit about the Falcons offense. And that retooled offensive line can take a bow, too. The Falcons probably won't be able to keep up in the tough NFC South this season, but there's something good building in Georgia, and it's paying some pleasantly surprising early dividends.
Stat line of the week: Against Carolina, Chiefs running back Larry Johnson ran seven times for two yards, with a long gain of four. Not an easy feat. I'm guessing he's not happy about it, either.