1. Green Bay (3-0). Jermichael Finley told everyone he was ready to take his place among the Gonzalez/Witten/Gates elite of NFL tight ends. Guess we should have listened.
2. Baltimore (2-1). Just when it seemed like the Ravens might have enough offense without him, Torrey Smith appears. Explosively.
3. New England (2-1). At some point, the Patriots are going to put some draft emphasis on finding a pass-rush. In the last four seasons, in average passing yards per game, New England allowed 190.1, 201.4, 209.7 and 258.5. Who would have thought the Pats would be allowing 377 passing yards per week, through three weeks?
4. New Orleans (2-1). How fun is it to watch Drew Brees take a team on his back and win a game it has little business winning?
5. Detroit (3-0). Schwartz for Mayor! Do you have any doubt he could win?
6. Houston (2-1). Hard to say you're making progress when you surrender 40 points and 370 passing yards, but if you watched the game, you know there was a lot of good about Houston's defensive effort. And James Casey too. The local kid -- Casey went to Rice -- looks like a long-term keeper, an offensive tight end with good athleticism.
7. Buffalo (3-0). On the last two Sundays, you can't tell me there hasn't been a spike in visits to western New York cardiac units.
8. Pittsburgh (2-1). Mike Wallace is building quite a nice fan club around the country. Easy to do when you've had three straight 100-yard receiving games.
9. Tampa Bay (2-1). The Falcons had won five straight over Tampa (by 3, 3, 10, 6, and 4 points), so it was no surprise that Raheem Morris' first victory over Atlanta came down to the end.
10. Oakland (2-1). Darren McFadden is a legitimate star, something the Patriots will discover when they visit the Black Hole this weekend. If not for that three-point loss to Buffalo, the Raiders would be 3-0.
11. New York Jets (2-1). I'm mystified about what to do with the Jets. Time will tell.
12. New York Giants (2-1). Eli Manning: four touchdown passes, no interceptions. Shades of the '07 playoffs.
13. San Diego (2-1). Still don't trust my AFC preseason pick, but Ryan Mathews earned 98 rushing yards, many of them tough, which was one encouraging sign in a far too close win over the Chiefs.
14. Atlanta (1-2). Haven't given up on the Falcons yet, but mark my words: Matt Ryan will not make it to November if he keeps getting hit that much.
15. Washington (2-0). Why not Philly here? Thought long and hard about it. I just don't know who the Eagles are right now, especially if Mike Vick has to miss a week or two.
Offensive Players of the Week
Baltimore WR Torrey Smith. I wonder how it feels to play the best quarter of your professional life in the first quarter as a starter of your professional life. Smith did that Sunday at St. Louis. Seriously: Is it possible for a wide receiver to debut any better than catching three balls for 133 yards and three touchdowns in the first 14 minutes of his NFL career? Touchdown catches of 74, 41 and 18 yards showcased Smith's speed, the big reason the Ravens picked the Maryland kid in the second round of last April's draft.
Green Bay TE Jermichael Finley. He's not Torrey Smith, but Finley's an OK player. Finley missed the NFC Championship Game with a knee injury last season, and Sunday he showed the Soldier Field crowd what it missed in January. He caught all three of Rodgers' touchdown throws, and had seven catches in all. As the world is seeing, Finley is one heck of a matchup problem. He has the size of a Randy Moss and runs almost like him.
Defensive Players of the Week
Cleveland DT Ahtyba Rubin. Taken out of Iowa State in the sixth round of the 2008 draft, in what would be one of Phil Savage's last acts as Cleveland GM, Rubin is turning into one of the best defensive tackles in the league. He was one of the keys to a resilient if ugly 17-16 win over Miami Sunday. He had 1.5 sacks, nine tackles and another tackle for loss as the Browns stifled much of what Miami tried to do on offense.
Indianapolis DE Dwight Freeney. There's a good chance Cris Collinsworth broke the world record for "Dwight Freeney, Most Times Mentioned in a Network Telecast'' Sunday night as the Colts narrowly lost to Pittsburgh. Freeney had four tackles, two sacks, three more quarterback hits and a forced fumble, and it seemed he was in Ben Roethlisberger's kitchen for three hours. Seems like Freeney's not getting older -- he's getting better.
Special Teams Player of the Week
Bills kicker Rian Lindell. Tom Brady has had six four-interception games in his career, and Lindell has had the unique advantage of being on the opposite sideline for two of them. In the 2003 season opener, he nailed a 44-yard field goal and made four conversion kicks as the Bills beat a mistake-prone Brady and Co. 31-0. And on Sunday, after enduring 15 consecutive losses to New England as a Bill, the 34-year-old Lindell hit the 28-yard game-winning field goal as time expired to make Brady pay again for another four-interception outing.
Coach of the Week
Tennessee offensive coordinator Chris Palmer. The Titans aren't supposed to be 2-1, and Matt Hasselbeck isn't supposed to be among the league's most accurate passers (69.6 percent) through three weeks, especially because he had to learn a totally new offense in less than two months. But the teaching by Palmer -- his system isn't so much a progression system with receivers all over the secondary, but rather a system where the quarterback usually knows which half of the field he's throwing to after the snap of the ball -- has gotten Hasselbeck in gear quickly. And he's helped Hasselbeck with his emphasis on colored targets in practice, making him hit exact spots in drills. It's been a great match so far.
Goats of the Week
Philadelphia LB Casey Matthews and FS Kurt Coleman. Bad enough that Brandon Jacobs ran past a slow Matthews on the Giants' first score of the day, a wheel-route touchdown toss from Eli Manning that gave the Giants a 7-0 lead. But with the Giants stuck at their 26 late in the quarter on third-and-two, Manning threw a short pass to the left flat to Victor Cruz. Coleman came up to him at the Giants' 35, had a clear shot at a tackle, but went high at him -- around the chest -- and Cruz burst through him, shucking him off and going for a 74-yard touchdown. There were other Philadelphia defensive deficiencies later -- one at the goal line by Nnamdi Asomugha -- but Matthews and Coleman led the way in digging a huge hole for the Eagles.
Kansas City QB Matt Cassel. The Chiefs, stunningly, had a shot to win at San Diego late, trailing 20-17 with a minute to play. And Cassel, who'd played his best game since last December up to that point, threw a short pass right into the gut of San Diego safety Eric Weddle. Incredible mistake. Cassel grabbed his head as though he couldn't believe what he'd just done. Neither could every TV-watcher in great Kansas City.
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