Sportsman of the Year
Life of Reilly
SI for Kids
SI Customer Service
SI Media Kits
Get into College
Posted: Tuesday October 09, 2001 2:50 PM|
Sports Illustrated's Don Banks tackles three questions that matter to fans:
||At the quarter pole of the NFL season, who is the league's most valuable player?
It is the NFL's version of which came first, the chicken or the egg? Is Marshall Faulk the X factor that makes Kurt Warner and the St. Louis Rams' offense the best in the league, or is Warner the indispensable man who makes Faulk and Co. the NFL's gold standard on offense?
Splitting the atom is probably easier than settling this one definitively. But let's try.
The vote here goes for Faulk. His and Warner's successes are so mutually interwoven that it's hard to know where to draw the lines of accountability. But Faulk, last season's MVP, is leading the NFL in yards from scrimmage with 615, a four-game pace that would break his 1999 record of 2,429. He is tops in the NFC in touchdowns (five) and receptions (31 for 279 yards), and he's second in the NFC in rushing yards (336).
And Faulk remains the man who creates the most matchup problems in the NFL. No defense has an answer to the dual rushing and receiving threats that he poses, and there isn't a coordinator in the league who doesn't consider him the game's ultimate weapon.
Warner? All the 1999 league MVP has done through four games is lead the NFL in quarterback rating (115.0), touchdown passes (11) and passing yardage (1,248).
Faulk and Warner probably should just share the league MVP until further notice. One of them can't rightfully win it without the other one's amazing talents.
||Only the 4-0 Rams are undefeated. When was the last time the NFL had only one unbeaten just four weeks into its schedule?
It was seven years ago, when only the 1994 San Diego Chargers were perfect after the season's first month.
If there's an omen to be found in that, the Rams welcome it. In 1994, the Chargers started 6-0, slumped somewhat at midseason, but wound up winning the AFC West with an 11-5 record. They pulled off two dramatic comeback wins in the playoffs, against Miami and Pittsburgh, and earned the franchise's only trip to the Super Bowl, where they lost big to San Francisco in Miami.
St. Louis, of course, started 6-0 last year and still barely made the playoffs at 10-6, thanks to a defense that was in tatters by season's end. But with eight new starters, the Rams defense has been re-born. St. Louis' shutout of Detroit on Monday night was the franchise's first since September 1994, the year before the Rams moved east to St. Louis from Los Angeles. By comparison, St. Louis last season only held an opponent under 20 points once, and that came in a 16-3 loss at Carolina.
Don Shula and Miami's 1972 undefeated team shouldn't be sweating anything just yet. The Rams still have tough games remaining against the Giants this week, as well as both showdowns with New Orleans, a Monday nighter with Tampa Bay, and a late-season shootout with Indianapolis.
As for last season's final unbeaten, it was the 7-0 Vikings. They too slumped afterward, finishing 11-5 and winning one playoff game before being humiliated by the Giants in the NFC championship.
||What's the achievement (or underachievement) of the year after four weeks of play?
All those glowing numbers being churned out by the Rams' offense and Ravens' defense are impressive. But they bore us in their utter domination. On the other hand, it's hard to fathom the depths to which at least two storied NFL franchises have quickly sunk.
Consider the plights of Washington and Detroit, who met in the playoffs as recently as January 2000, in a NFC wild-card round game won by the Redskins. Last year, Washington and Detroit went a combined 17-15, finishing just out of the money in the wild-card race. The Lions missed the playoffs only by losing at home to woeful Chicago in the season finale.
Both the Redskins and Lions finished last season under interim head coaches, but didn't see fit to keep either Terry Robiskie or Gary Moeller around in 2001. No, they were both smarter than that. They set about looking for the best available Marty.
And the two Martys -- Schottenheimer and Mornhinweg -- really have made an impact thus far. Besides combining for 34 letters in their names, the two coaches are responsible for zero victories, seven losses, 222 points allowed, 45 points scored, two offensive touchdowns, and three quarterback changes. Oh, and don't forget overwhelming fan apathy for their new regimes.
Both head coaches were hired by novices in what amounted to face-saving moves. Washington owner Daniel Snyder and Lions new general manager Matt Millen were fearful of being shut out in terms of landing a top-notch candidate. It's only early October, but for the Redskins and Lions, there's not much face to be saved these days.
Copyright © 2001|
An AOL Time Warner Company.
All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.