Snap Judgments: Running down preseason Week 3 winners, losers
Aaron Rodgers and Joe Flacco both look poised to dominate in 2010
Patriots aren't the panicking type, but concern is high regarding pass defense
Panthers offense has been overwhelmingly average, at best, this preseason
Musings, observations and the occasional insight as we run down the winners and losers in Week 3 of the NFL's preseason. The games don't count, but the perceptions sure do. ...
WINNER -- If there's anybody playing at the level of Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers and Baltimore's Joe Flacco this preseason, it is not yet apparent to me. Rodgers and Flacco are the two biggest reasons I made the Packers and Ravens my Super Bowl XLV prediction even before camps opened, and what they've done this month has only reinforced my belief.
Fairly impressive Week 3 for both QBs, wouldn't you say? All Rodgers did was complete 21 of 29 for 195 yards and three touchdowns in the first half of Green Bay's 59-24 dismantling of the shellshocked Colts on Thursday. Rodgers still hasn't been sacked or turned the ball over this preseason. Against Indy he led a Packers offense that amassed 19 first downs and 236 yards en route to taking a 28-17 lead in the opening 30 minutes. Rodgers, in three preseason games, has completed a staggering 77.4 percent of his passes for 470 yards and six scores.
Not to be outdone, Flacco shredded the Giants defense in the first half of Baltimore's 24-10 win at home Saturday night, completing 20 of 32 for 220 yards, leading a pair of long touchdown drives. The once-predictable Ravens threw the ball on 37 of 46 plays in the first half, and not even the loss of receivers Donte' Stallworth (broken foot) and Mark Clayton (concussion) could take the luster off Baltimore's dominance through the air. Four Ravens caught at least four passes in Baltimore's balanced first-half passing clinic.
The Packers and Ravens both have issues in their secondary to figure out, and neither team has a pass rush as consistent as it needs to be. But tell me who exactly is going to stop those passing games? Rodgers and Flacco are going to make up for a few defensive deficiencies this season, and that's going to translate into a plenty of points and wins in Green Bay and Baltimore.
LOSER -- If Kyle Orton were still in Chicago (and sorry, it's too late for that, Bears fans), Lovie Smith's sputtering team would have itself a well-deserved quarterback controversy by now. Jay Cutler and the Chicago offense have been brutal in the preseason, and you have to hope that Saturday night's four-sack, two-pick performance by J.C. in a loss to Arizona represents rock bottom.
Clearly the 0-3 Bears are not yet who we thought they were (then again, maybe they are). There's plenty of blame to go around in Chicago and it's certainly not all Cutler's fault. The Bears rebuilt offensive line has been a sieve (16 sacks allowed in three games, including 10 of Cutler), coordinator Mike Martz's magic sounds like a cruel joke to this point (12 points per game), and no Bears receiver has produced more than six catches for 126 yards (both totals belonging to second-year man Johnny Knox).
Even if Chicago's Julius Peppers-fortified defense pulls its weight, it's becoming harder all the time to imagine the Bears scoring enough to keep themselves in the NFC North race with the likes of Green Bay and Minnesota.
WINNER -- Kansas City remains winless this preseason, but you can see the makings of a fairly dominant Chiefs running game coming together week by week, and that might portend a return to relevancy in the AFC West. K.C.'s Matt Cassel-led passing attack is still a work in progress, but the Chiefs are averaging an impressive 150 yards per game on the ground this month (No. 2 in the league behind the Steelers) and no one in the NFL has more than their 30 first downs via rushing.
And this isn't an all-on-Larry Johnson's-shoulders type of ground game. Jamaal Charles, Thomas Jones and Dexter McCluster all can move the chains in different ways, and the team's leading rusher this preseason is third-year power back Jackie Battle, a 238-pounder who knows how to lower his head but who has also ripped off a pair of 21-yard gallops. Kansas City ran the ball 36 times for 168 yards against Philadelphia on Friday night, throwing only 28 passes for 128 yards.
For now, it sounds like the offensive emphasis in Kansas City is clear. The Chiefs are committed to the ground, and starting to develop an identity.
LOSER -- The Patriots have made a sizable investment in their secondary in recent drafts, and from early indications, young talents such as Devin McCourty, Darius Butler, Patrick Chung and Brandon Meriweather cannot be considered anything but solid picks. But it's hard to remain perfectly calm regarding the state of the New England pass defense when you see St. Louis quarterbacks Sam Bradford, Thaddeus Lewis and Keith Null shred it for 334 yards and three touchdowns on 29 of 41 passing, as they did Thursday night in that 36-35 shootout of a Rams win at Gillette Stadium.
And did we mention that Bradford and Lewis are rookies and had no business picking apart the secondary of a team that believes it is once again playoff material in the AFC East? They're not known for panic in New England, but it's at least time to stress play-making in Foxboro. Patriots defensive backs against the Rams played back on their heels, and no one stepped up with a big hit or an interception to stop the bleeding once it started. With Cincinnati and the Bengals' rejuvenated passing game looming in the season opener on Sept. 12, the learning curve in New England's young secondary needs to immediately intensify.