Posted: Monday October 3, 2011 8:06AM ; Updated: Thursday October 6, 2011 10:51AM
Peter King

MMQB (cont.)

Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font

Fine Fifteen

Haloti Ngata and the Ravens forced four fumbles by Mark Sanchez, three of which Baltimore recovered.
Haloti Ngata and the Ravens forced four fumbles by Mark Sanchez, three of which Baltimore recovered.
Nick Waas/AP

1. Green Bay (4-0). I don't know how you play better than Aaron Rodgers right now: 73 percent accuracy, 331 passing yards a game, 12 touchdowns, two picks.

2. Baltimore (3-1). Can you imagine what it feels like to take a blindside hit, full-speed, to your kidney and spine from a 322-pound man like Haloti Ngata? Mark Sanchez felt that with eight minutes left in the first half Sunday night, and I do believe he'll be feeling it every day when he wakes up for the next month. Or longer.

3. New England (3-1). Unless Tom Brady breaks Dan Marino's passing-yardage record by 1,000 or so, it's only a matter of time before the Patriots' defense ruins this team. Yards allowed in the first four games this year: 488, 470, 448, 504.

4. Detroit (4-0). Why doesn't every expert in the world, in the media and on coaching staffs, just shut up about Calvin Johnson. You're embarrassing yourselves. But give this team its due. What a strong first quarter of the season. (See stat of the week.)

5. New Orleans (3-1). Saints are 2-0 since ALS-stricken Steve Gleason delivered an impassioned speech to the team about the meaning of football and life nine days ago.

6. Houston (3-1). Other than a fourth-quarter meltdown at New Orleans eight days ago, the Texans' defense is different. Much more competent than in year's past.

7. Tampa Bay (2-1). Still feeling their way, but I'd be surprised if the Bucs didn't rout the Colts tonight.

8. Washington (3-1). In our collective obsession with the Washington quarterback situation, we sort of forgot that Bruce Allen and Mike Shanahan have collected some good defensive talent, and Jim Haslett has molded them into a group that's giving up just 297 yards a game through four weeks. Pardon us.

9. Tennessee (3-1). Allowed 16, 13, 14 and 13 points so far. They haven't played a great offense yet. Just thought I'd mention this league is playing no defense at the quarter pole -- and the Titans are.

10. Buffalo (3-1). Not a killer, but that's the kind of loss that could come back to haunt the Bills with the 1-3 Eagles (must-win for them), 3-1 Giants and 3-1 Redskins on the horizon next.

11. San Francisco (3-1). Alex Smith has completed 67 percent of his passes with only one interception thus far. Could be that Jim Harbaugh is the best thing that ever happened to Smith.

12. New York Giants (3-1). I don't think Eli Manning knew the rule about a runner giving himself up when he met the media after the game. It is a weird rule.

13. San Diego (3-1). Interesting that the Chargers are winning with Philip Rivers having more interceptions (6) than touchdowns (5). He really misses Antonio Gates, and the tight end could be missing with his plantar fasciitis for a while.

14. New York Jets (2-2). The Jets have a lot in common with about two-thirds of the teams in the league: They're awful at protecting the quarterback.

15. Chicago (2-2). When Devin Hester caught the ball he'd return for his 11th career punt return for touchdown, Tony Dungy, next to me in the NBC viewing room, said to the TV: "Don't kick it to him!''

The Award Section

Offensive Players of the Week

Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers. When you do something no quarterback in history has done -- throw for more than 400 yards (408, to be exact), throw for four touchdowns (of 50 yards, 16, 17 and eight) and run for two touchdowns (from 11 and eight yards out) -- you probably deserve this august award.

Giants QB Eli Manning, who apparently likes that stadium in Arizona. He beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl four seasons ago, won a shootout over the Cards there in 2008, and led two touchdown drives in the last five minutes Sunday to erase a 27-17 deficit and win. Half his team might be hurt right now and Manning lost a fumble in the game, but when you go 27 of 40 for 321 yards with two touchdowns, that cures a lot.

Defensive Player of the Week

Baltimore CB Lardarius Webb. Playing without two of their top four corners (the injured Jimmy Smith and Chris Carr) and with another placed on IR with a bad knee (Domonique Foxworth), the Ravens held Mark Sanchez to a high-schoolish 31-percent passing. Webb, with the Ravens up 27-17 in the third quarter and the Jets driving to make a game of it, made a beautiful catch on an interception of Sanchez, plucking it out of the air and returning it 73 yards for a touchdown. That was the last score of the game -- and the third defensive touchdown the Ravens scored.

Special Teams Players of the Week

Kansas City K Ryan Succop. For three quarters, he was just about all the offense the Chiefs had. His five field goals (from 40, 24, 51, 54 and 22 yards) gave the Chiefs a 15-10 lead, and the Vikings didn't have enough juice to come back. Pretty good day for the former Mr. Irrelevant.

Chicago DE Julius Peppers. Huge momentum situation in the Panthers-Bears game. In the third quarter, with the Bears up 24-20, Carolina tight end Jeremy Shockey came off the line of scrimmage, shucked the defender who was directly in his way, the defender was contacted mildly and fell backward, Shockey got flagged for offensive interference, and Shockey caught a touchdown pass from Cam Newton that, obviously, was called back. So that was seven points taken off the board. Carolina lined up for a 34-yard field goal, and Peppers muscled through the line to get one hand on it. Carolina went from thinking it had seven, to settling for three, to getting nothing. Great effort by Peppers.

Coach of the Week

Baltimore defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano. Had to be a pressure-packed night for Pagano, with former Baltimore defensive icon Rex Ryan coming back to town; it was as if Pagano were not just making a plan for this game but also trying to show he was worthy of overcoming the long shadow Ryan has cast in Baltimore. Pagano saw an effective Ed Reed strip-sack on a blitz (Reed doesn't blitz often) to lead to one touchdown, and his defense scored 21 points on the night. Amazing display by a group missing three of its top five corners. Good job by Pagano, who is well-respected by his players in his rookie year running the defense.

Goat of the Week

Dallas QB Tony Romo. I wanted so much to give this to Philadelphia RB Ronnie Brown for one of the dumbest plays I've seen in years. Brown crashed into the 49er line near the goal line, got stopped, and in the process of going to the ground, threw the ball to the ground backward. And if you didn't see the play and are thinking, Hey, Ronnie Brown's a veteran; he'd never do something so stupid, I agree with you. But he did! Dumb Play of the Season!

I also wouldn't have minded giving the goat horns to Philadelphia kicker Alex Henery (The Eighth I Am I Am) for missing a field goal from 39 yards with 14 minutes to play and from 33 yards with six minutes left, either of which would have given the Eagles a victory and a 2-2 record. But you saw the last 21 minutes of Dallas-Detroit, and there can be no bigger goat than Romo.

Has any player had more of a yo-yo first quarter of the season? Has anyone had more of a yo-yo quarter of a season in any season? Goat at the Jets, star (in pain) the next two weeks, and a nightmare of a loss Sunday against Detroit. Romo captained the ship that blew a 27-3 lead and lost to the Lions 34-30. In an eight-play span of the third quarter, Romo threw pick-sixes to linebacker Bobby Carpenter (a groomsman in Romo's wedding last spring) and Chris Houston -- turning that comfy 27-3 lead to a shaky 27-17 lead. The avalanche continued from there.

Sizing up the NFC East
Source:SI's Andrew Perloff takes a look at one of the most competitive divisions in the NFL, the NFC East.
Hot Topics: NBA Playoffs NHL Playoffs Golden State Warriors Bryce Harper Paul Pierce Masai Ujiri
TM & © 2014 Time Inc. A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you. Read our privacy guidelines, your California privacy rights, and ad choices.
SI CoverRead All ArticlesBuy Cover Reprint