|Connelly’s Top Ten: Patriots Win By Less Than a FOOT||Panic Mode in Full Effect, Minutemen are Struggling||Patriots Survive Gritty Challenge From Jets||Smart Era Gets Off to a Good Start with Win over T’wolves|
We’re already through a quarter of the NFL season, and we’ve already seen a lot of surprises. Some people though Detroit would be good, but I don’t think anyone thought they’d be 4-0 good. Buffalo finally knocked off New England. Philadelphia has been quite lackluster. Tampa’s holding their own in the ultra competitive NFC South. And the Packers are 4-0; not everything has been a surprise so far. It’s still tight in the races, obviously, but there are already some power teams and some rebuilders, so let’s look at what would happen if the playoffs started as of Tuesday, October 4:
No surprises here. The defending champion Packers are every bit what we all expected. All their returning players from last year’s IR are starting to pay dividends, and Aaron Rodgers is as dangerous as ever. This team is simply built to win.
The Redskins are one of the big surprises this year. After the quarterback fiasco last year, this year has started pretty well. They started off by beating their arch rivals the Giants, then kept their momentum going, only barely losing in Dallas. Washington isn’t showing any signs of letting up any time soon, but neither are several other teams in the NFC.
New coach Jim Harbaugh turned out to be just what San Francisco needed. If it wasn’t for a determined Tony Romo (with a broken rib and punctured lung, no less), San Fran would be 4-0. The Giants have really been turning up the heat themselves after their opening week loss to Washington. But with San Francisco stabilizing their situation, Frank Gore heating up and a sure to be rowdy fan base, the 49ers should have the edge.
Tampa‘s another one of those teams that has been doing well early after a tough opening week. But other than a close home victory against Atlanta, their opponents haven’t been the most impressive. Meanwhile, Detroit has crushed the competition, and is only #5 because they live next door to the Packers. With two massive comebacks in a row, no lead over Detroit is safe, and Detroit already won this very game in Week 1.
With no Peyton Manning, the division has really opened up for Houston. With a perfect conference record, great passing game, several quality running backs and an actually improved defense, Houston will be a force to be reckoned with this season.
Buffalo has been another surprise so far in 2011. Beating New England was perhaps the biggest surprise of all. They have a good balance of offense and defense to stall and overwhelm almost any opponent. As long as Buffalo doesn’t rest on their laurels, they could very well be playoff bound.
Baltimore started with a great victory over Pittsburgh, then laid an egg against Tennessee. But they did recover nicely. New England can get away with a lot when they have Tom Brady and interception machine Vince Wilfork, but Baltimore has a solid defense and great offensive attack as well. New England hasn’t had much luck in home playoff games lately, so a road one might do them some good, and they have a good shot to win assuming their defense doesn’t give up about a googol yards per game.
Tennessee has a huge presence this year even without Chris Johnson contributing a noticeable amount. San Diego has gotten off to an unusually strong start, losing so far only to the New England juggernaut. With San Diego’s strong December still to come, Tennessee might need Chris Johnson to step up and for Matt Hasselbeck to continue his run to stand a chance.
Tags: Baltimore Ravens, Buffalo Bills, Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, Houston Texans, New England Patriots, New York Giants, NFL Playoffs, San Diego Chargers, San Francisco 49ers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Tennessee Titans, Washington Redskins