The Fine Fifteen
1. Baltimore (3-0). "I think we're 10 times better than last year,'' Joe Flacco told Steve Tasker of CBS after the game. Well, they're certainly better, but 10 times better would mean they were a combo platter of the '66 Packers, the '78 Steelers and the '07 Patriots. Here's a controversial statement: I don't think they're there yet.
2. New York Giants (3-0). Uh, all of you Saints, Jets and Vikes backers who are throwing bricks through your computers at the office this morning because I moved the Jints over your lads ... here's a stat for you: Tampa Bay, in the first 50 minutes AT HOME Sunday, managed 30 net yards against a Giants team missing two huge pieces from the front-seven puzzle -- Justin Tuck and Chris Canty.
3. Minnesota (3-0). Interesting Fine Fifteen nugget: Favre's current team is third, his old team is fourth, and his former Packers are eighth.
4. New York Jets (3-0). As I said last night on NBC, the confidence is running downhill from Rex Ryan. I asked wideout Jerricho Cotchery if he thinks the Jets are the best team in football. "Yes I do,'' he said. "We're playing well in all three phases right now.''
5. New Orleans (3-0). The Saints don't need Drew Brees to carry the team every week to win. Sunday in Buffalo, they rushed for 222 and held the Bills to 243 yards total offense.
6. Indianapolis (3-0). Tony Dungy's dissertation on Football Night in America on what Peyton Manning digests at the line of scrimmage, and how he calls up to three plays per snap, and how he decides which play to use, was a great piece of television.
7. New England (2-1). Still can't figure out this team, but I do know this: As long as Fred Taylor runs the ball the way he did Sunday (21 carries, 105 yards, 5.0 per rush), he's an infinitely better option that Laurence Maroney.
8. Green Bay (2-1). A.J. Hawk flexed his muscles a bit, for the first time in a while. His 10 tackles led everyone at the Jones Dome.
9. San Francisco (2-1). No shame in losing that one. None. But now, with Frank Gore likely out this week with an ankle sprain, they would be in a little trouble if they weren't facing St. Louis. Still, if it's a long-term injury, that could knock the Niners down a peg.
10. San Diego (2-1). This just in: Philip Rivers is really, really good. He threw two picturesque bombs, a 55-yarder to Vincent Jackson, a 47-yarder to Malcolm Floyd, and now has 739 passing yards in the last two weeks. That's Fouts-ian. In fact, the last time a San Diego quarterback had that many passing yards in a two-game span was in 1985 ... and it was Dan Fouts who did it.
11. Denver (3-0). This is the kind of balance Josh McDaniels wanted to establish when he got the job in Denver: Correll Buckhalter 108 rushing yards, Knowshon Moreno 90 rushing yards, Kyle Orton 157 passing yards.
12. Chicago (2-1). Coolly efficient Jay Cutler at Seattle. Not his best day, but he went 21 of 27 and found Devin Hester in traffic for the winning throw of a very tough game at Seattle.
13. Philadelphia (2-1). Don't you get the feeling Kevin Kolb has gone from liability to legitimate in eight days?
14. Cincinnati (2-1). Andre Caldwell! Andre Caldwell! Or, as Keith Olbermann called him on TV last night: Ocho Siete. You know -- 87. That's who caught the winner from Carson Palmer in the end zone against Pittsburgh.
15. (tie) Atlanta (2-1). For the first time in a long time, maybe in his 13-month pro career, Matt Ryan played a C-minus game. The stats don't look that bad -- 17 of 28, 199 yards, no touchdowns or picks -- but you had to see the game to get the feel of Ryan's inability to make anything happen. For Ryan, one drive of 60-plus yards in a game is just not normal.
15. (tie) Pittsburgh (1-2). "They have bigger closer problems than the Phillies,'' said Elliott Kalb, my baseball-minded friend at NBC and the MLB Network. Now, I don't think the Steelers are the 15th-best team in football, but that's what they've played like in the first three weeks. Until they can run the ball, they'll be suspect.
1. Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans. He's human. He's also 3-0.
2. Peyton Manning, QB, Indianapolis. Colts travel two-and-a-half hours to play AFC East champ Miami, and Manning wins it with a 303-yard passing night. On a short week, Colts travel three-and-a-half hours to Phoenix, and Manning strafes the NFC champs for 379 yards and four touchdowns.
3. Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota. Not his best day, obviously -- 19 carries, 85 yards -- but it came against the same team, San Francisco, that held him to a three-yard rushing day in 2007.
4. Joe Flacco, QB, Baltimore. A rating of 95 or better in all three games, and it's no coincidence the Ravens are outscoring their foes by 50 point so far.
5. Darrelle Revis, CB, New York Jets. After taking Andre Johnson and Randy Moss out of the first two games, Revis was the key to holding old pro Kerry Collins to a 41-percent passing day Sunday.
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