The Fine Fifteen
1. New York Giants (3-0). G-men ascend to the throne while sitting on their thrones. Bye week. It'll be interesting to see if Domenik Hixon can be Plaxico Burress for one game, and if Burress can sweep aside his personal crappola to try to get the Giants to another Super Bowl.
2. Dallas (3-1). I am sure this is a misprint. After scoring a touchdown in the Cowboys' first three games of the year, rookie Felix Jones was not listed as a rusher or receiver Sunday against the Redskins. I'm sure there's been some mistake. What genius would carve out a game plan without Felix Jones' name in it?
3. Tennessee (4-0). The Titans keep growing on me. They punish you, first of all, and they don't beat themselves now that Kerry Collins is under center. "Vince needs to sit behind a good veteran quarterback for a while and watch,'' Jeff Fisher told me a couple of weeks ago. "He's never had a chance to do that.''
I think he's going to have quite a long chance to do that now.
4. Washington (3-1). After opening night, I thought there'd be a better chance this team would be ranked 32nd than fourth by the end of September.
5. Buffalo (4-0). I don't know what Sunday's game means. The pathetic Rams got 380 yards on the unbeaten Bills. The Bills kept St. Louis scoreless for the final 43 minutes. Trent Edwards was an efficient 15-of-25. Edwards threw a pick and got sacked four times. The details aren't as important as the win. We all know that. I just don't know what this game means.
6. Philadelphia (2-2). I'm not going to let one failed goal-line plunge -- without Brian Westbrook in the lineup -- cause me to grade the Eagles down very much.
7. Pittsburgh (2-1). I expect the Steelers to introduce Joe Flacco to road life in the AFC North rather brutishly tonight.
8. Tampa Bay (3-1). As much as the Brian Griese 67-pass performance in the win at Chicago last week was a good fairy tale, I expect Jon Gruden double-barreled action in the bullpen at any time, now that Griese's thrown six interceptions in the last eight quarters. Garcia threw four last season.
9. Carolina (3-1). Steve Smith is a marvelous talent. I noted from the AP dispatch from the Panthers-Falcons game that Smith gave the ball he scored his touchdown against Atlanta with to Ken Lucas, the teammate he sucker-punched eight weeks ago. "He has done everything a man can ever do for forgiveness,'' Lucas said.
10. New England (2-1). Some words of tribute for recently retired Troy Brown. In an era of diva receivers, Brown was John Stockton. No credit, please; let it all go to the team, because in football, team is all that matters. That was Troy Brown, for years. That's why Bill Belichick kept him even when he had more talented receivers -- and younger receivers who might have been better on special teams -- than Brown.
His 557 catches rank first in Patriots history, and he's the best two-way player in franchise annals too, having played defensive back part time for his last four seasons. In 2006, he held Donald Driver to one catch in a game against Green Bay when he was forced to play lots of cornerback because of injuries -- and because he was pretty good at it.
"It was a privilege and an honor to coach Troy Brown,'' Belichick said, and if you know Belichick's regard for Brown, you know that's an understatement.
11. (tie) Chicago (2-2). Every game comes down to the end. Every game leaves viewers with welts.
(tie) Green Bay (2-2). I won't know what to think about the Packers long-term or short-term until Aaron Rodgers (possible separated shoulder) gets out of the MRI tube today in Green Bay.
13. Jacksonville (2-2). Was that David Garrard looking like the 2007 David Garrard on Sunday, running with abandon and throwing precisely?
14. Indianapolis (1-2). The next six weeks: at Houston, Baltimore, at Green Bay, at Tennessee, New England, at Pittsburgh. That's not a schedule that gets teams back into playoff contention. Most teams, anyway.
15. (tie) Baltimore (2-0). Ravens have Steelers on the road and Titans at home in the next seven days. They're going to be wishing they still had their bye to look forward to.
(tie) San Diego (2-2). You tell me where to put a team that beats the Jets by 900 points, then trails the Raiders 15-0 at the half. I don't know.
(tie) Denver (3-1). This defense is more than an Achilles heel. It's more like a sinkhole. Giving up 370 yards to Damon Huard and the Kansas City Chiefs. Surrendering Larry Johnson's biggest rushing day since the 2005 season. Unless Jay Cutler can play about nine perfect games over the next 13 weeks, Denver's going to be an endangered playoff species.
Quote of the Week I
"I told Mike Shanahan, 'You got a hell of a football team. But we were better today, podnah.' ''
Quote of the Week II
"It was such a bad pick, I thought Al Davis made it.''
Such a good line, Rock thought; I'm going to repeat it on Larry King Live. And he did.
Quote of the Week III
"The scene at the Allen Park practice facility is sort of surreal. A parade of fans has been driving by all morning, honking their horns and waving Lions flags as if they've been liberated.''