|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|
And just like that, a quarter of the NFL season is already behind us. That pesky lockout of the officials ended in time for Week 4. Not a moment too soon for everyone, but even after the regular refs were back, the Packers had trouble getting a break against the Saints. It a big surprise that those two are doing as badly as they are, though the Packers at least still have some dignity. The Cardinals are doing surprisingly well, highlighted by a big win IN NEW ENGLAND. That just doesn’t happen. The Falcons are right there with them at 4-0 thanks to their first three games being against the AFC West, with the Raiders visiting in Week 6. The Texans are also unbeaten, the AFC East is a logjam and that’s only the beginning of the surprises. So after everything that’s gone on in the first month of the season, let’s look at what would happen if the playoffs started as of Tuesday, October 2:
With the aforementioned upset of the season coming in Week 2, Arizona is sitting pretty at 4-0. But aside from beating Philly 27-6 in Week 3, all of their wins have been by at most four points. So clearly Arizona can win close games but their close call against Miami at home must be causing some worry as to whether Kevin Kolb can lead the team to keep this up for a whole season.
Atlanta‘s last three victories have come against Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers and Cam Newton. That’s a pretty good resume for their defense. With their offense still loaded as ever, Atlanta could definitely be considered the early favorite in the NFC.
Minnesota has already won this game in Week 3, just another upset in the young season. San Francisco responded well, though, going to New Jersey and blanking the Jets. Their offense has improved, and their defense is still excellent. After winning in Green Bay to open the season, San Francisco has shown exactly how difficult they are to defeat.
Philadelphia has already beaten the Ravens and defending champion Giants, but they were picked apart by Arizona and were nearly upset to open the season in Cleveland. Their biggest win of the season has been by two points, and Michael Vick’s ability to remain uninjured is always a concern, so with the way Chicago has been putting up points and bowling over opponents on defense, a nice road win is a likely scenario.
Despite Matt Schaub losing a piece of his ear, the Texans have remained healthy so far. They have some great options on offense and a much-improved defense, which will make them a dominant team this season despite being only ten years old as a franchise.
The Ravens have picked up where they left off last season, getting some big wins and nearly beating the Eagles. They missed a field goal to beat the Patriots, oddly enough, but at least we all hated the replacement refs, and it doesn’t take away from how good the Ravens are. They are still as big a threat as anyone to go deep in the playoffs.
Thanks to another ho-hum bunch of competition in the AFC East, the Patriots are still very much alive. Stephen Gostkowski has just been terrible so far, especially by New England standards, so the Patriots will need to score touchdowns like the did against Buffalo to compete (no problem). Atlanta aside, San Diego has been more impressive than just about anyone predicted. The Patriots have a good recent history against San Diego, though, and Tom Brady doesn’t throw picks and New England’s much-improved defense keeps it up, the Pats shouldn’t have much of a problem.
The Jets are having a rough time again; getting shut out at home has already led to a resurgence of Tebow-mania in the Meadowlands. Cincinnati, meanwhile, has done a very good job staying on top of games, with their only loss coming in Baltimore (no shame in that). Especially with Darrelle Revis out for the season for New York, Cincinnati has the clear edge.
Tags: Arizona Cardinals, Atlanta Falcons, Baltimore Ravens, Chicago Bears, Cincinnati Bengals, Houston Texans, Minnesota Vikings, New England Patriots, New York Jets, NFL Playoffs, Philadelphia Eagles, San Diego Chargers, San Francisco 49ers