JUDGE: Observations on Week 5 in the NFL

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Clark Judge

  • The Oakland were supposed to miss Jon Gruden, but at the rate they're going they will obliterate every team record and squeeze a couple league marks, too. Let's go to the calculator: Based on their first four games, the will wind up the season with 648 points and 7,384 yards in offense — both league records — and quarterback will finish with a career-high 40 touchdown passes. Now you know why the wouldn't let any of Gruden's staff accompany him when he took off for Tampa Bay.
  • With each loss, the heat goes up a little more on St. Louis coach Mike Martz ... especially after Martz suggested Sunday that his team wasn't jacked up for its game with the . Afterward, players strongly rejected the suggestion that they had lost confidence in their head coach and that he was or is responsible for the 0-5 start. But you better get used to the questioning until the pull out of their funk. "It's not his fault," defensive end said of Martz. "We're not playing hard. He's got nothing to do with it. He's calling the same plays. Lovie (Smith) is calling the same defense; Mike's calling the same offense. We're not executing. It's not Mike's fault. It's not Lovie's fault. I don't think anyone's lost confidence in either one of them."
  • Last week it was Pittsburgh; now there's another AFC North team with a quarterback controversy. Would you believe ... Cleveland? That's because , the league's highest-rated passer, played well again in relief of the injured . Holcomb took over for Couch after the starter left in the fourth quarter with a mild concussion, and all he did was lead the club on a 7-play, 98-yard scoring drive — one of two Cleveland scores under Holcomb in the fourth quarter. Sure, Holcomb threw two interceptions, but he kept the in the game and had them in position to win at the end. "Cleveland's offense feels it can't be stopped with in there," said ESPN's Joe Theismann. If that's the case, why's the guy sitting?
  • When the Cleveland had the third pick of the 2001 draft they considered taking a running back, and, no, it wasn't . It was Mississippi's , whom the club thought would be perfect for its offense. But it liked defensive tackle more and wound up taking him instead. Nevertheless, the didn't give up on McAllister, trying to swing a deal for the guy until he disappeared with the 23rd pick to New Orleans. Imagine if they'd been successful. They'd be on top of the AFC North and not wondering when or if will come around. As it is, it's New Orleans that's riding McAllister to the top, with the second-year back gaining 100 yards in each of the ' four victories.
  • What in the name of Pete Rozelle is the NFL doing associating itself with those raunchy Coors beer commercials? The league tells its players that it won't tolerate substance abuse, then sells itself to a sponsor that portrays twenty-somethings doing precisely what it advises its players not to do. Uh, what we have here is a failure to communicate. I understand what Coors is doing: It's aiming at young male market, but the message it conveys contradicts the league's stand on substance abuse — and, yes, alcohol qualifies here. There has been discussion within the league's headquarters on the subject, and there have been numerous phone calls and letters protesting its association with the beer company. There should be. The NFL sets itself up for criticism when it preaches sobriety, then sells itself to a sponsor that portrays its buyers getting hammered with Kid Rock. Unless Coors cleans up its act, the NFL should do what the Cincinnati always do: It should drop back 15 and punt.
  • Give the Baltimore credit. They could have followed the leader and ditched starting quarterback after scoring one touchdown in their first two games, but they refused to budge. Good for them. I guess there's a place for patience in this game, after all. Redman settled down, the scored 60 points in their last two games — both victories — and, just like that, Baltimore is in first place in the AFC North. The club wanted to finish this season with a quarterback in place, and it appears it will get its wish. Meanwhile, there were five teams to start new quarterbacks this week, and look what it did for them: Four of them lost. Only Washington, with rookie relieving injured starter , broke the streak.
  • Will somebody please take Arizona tackle to the Pro Bowl this year? The guy did a terrific job on Carolina's Sunday, and, no, that's no surprise. As a rookie a year ago, Davis was one of the top guards in the league ... yet somehow was left off the Pro Bowl list. Now that he's switched to right tackle to replace the injured maybe his peers will notice — with Sunday's game a start. "Our offensive line is as good as any in the league," coach Dave McGinnis told me Sunday night. "We're doing a lot of good things with the people we have there." Maybe the people of Phoenix can do something good, too, like show up for the Cards' next home game.
  • There is no more amazing turnaround than what first-year coach John Fox and coordinator Jack Del Rio have done with the Carolina defense. A year ago, the were dead last in the league, allowing 116 points through their first five games — four of which they lost. Entering Sunday, they were the league's No. 1-ranked defense, and through five games they've given up only 61 points — nearly half of last year's total. The difference: Nobody runs on them. The ranked last in that department a year ago, too, but now they're among the best — yielding an average of 82.6 yards rushing a game.
  • Yes, seventh-round draft picks do matter, and look no farther than the San Francisco for evidence. Two years ago, they drafted there. He's the team's backup quarterback. In 2001, they drafted Yale wide receiver . He's the team's starting tight end. This year they took Stanford offensive lineman . He not only started Sunday in place of the injured ; he's liable to start there the rest of the season. Fiore, out for the rest of the season with a knee injury, becomes a free agent after the season, and he might have made substantial money if he hadn't been hurt. Now, he'll get backup pay, and it will almost surely be in San Francisco. He likes it there, and the team wants to keep him because of his versatility. Plus, a history of injuries should scare off potential suitors.
  • OK, upon further review, the AFC West is the strongest division in football. That was apparent Sunday when Oakland held off Bufalo, and Kansas City overcame the New York . The are the worst team in the AFC West, yet they've won three games and crushed Miami. The are the worst team in the AFC East, and they're on a four-game slide. The AFC West is 15-4, with San Diego's only loss to Denver. That makes it 14-3 outside the division, and nobody comes close to that record. What makes the division powerful is that its teams can play offense and defense. Entering Sunday, three of the four teams ranked in the NFL's top 10 in defense, while Oakland and Kansas City were in the top 3 in offense. You want running? There's and . Passing? Three of the division's four quarterbacks had ratings Sunday over 100. Receiving? Try , , and . All that's missing is a new stadium for the .
  • There's no more intriguing team than Buffalo, which scores points the way Mrs. Fields produces cookies, but the team that keeps people in the seats is Cleveland. With Sunday's loss, the have had four of their five games decided on the last play. There was that fiasco; the winning field goal in Tennessee; the losing field goal in Pittsburgh; and Ed Reed's interception.
  • After watching Oakland cornerback again on Sunday you wonder how in the world the guy fell to the 17th pick of the draft. In two weeks Buchanon returned a punt and interception for touchdowns. But that's not what impresses you about the guy. Anyone check out the speed? You need a JUGS gun. Buchanon entered the draft as the second-ranked cornerback and was expected to go the minute left the board. Well, Jammer disappeared with the fifth pick; Buchanon hung around for 12 more and, presto, just like that, the have another keeper. I know they like as a starter, but how do you keep Buchanon down when returns to the lineup?
  • That's 19 straight games at home now that Denver has not allowed a 100-yard rusher, with San Diego's the latest victim. One week after ripping New England for a career-best 217 yards Tomlinson was held to 48 by the . But that's what happens when you have the speed of Denver's linebackers. They rush to the ball, and they're effective tacklers.
  • is not having a good year; he's having the best season of his career. At the rate he's going he will finish with 38 touchdowns, 5,638 yards and completion percentage of 70 percent. The problem in Buffalo is not Bledsoe. The lead the league in scoring with 163 points, an average of 32.6 per game, but their defense is awful. They've given up a league-high 180, including 49 to Oakland on Sunday. The odd thing is that coach Gregg Williams is a former coordinator of the league's No. 1-ranked defense (Tennessee, 2000), but the allowed 30 or more points in 10 of their 21 games under Williams. Clark Judge can be reached at his e-mail address,
  • Tagged: Bills, Bengals, Browns, Broncos, Chiefs, Raiders, Rams, Saints, Jets, 49ers, Redskins, Panthers, Ravens, Cardinals, Chargers, Gerard Warren, Tony Gonzalez, Eric Johnson, Jerry Rice, Charles Woodson, Grant Wistrom, Drew Bledsoe, Deuce McAllister, Anthony Clement, Leonard Davis, LaDainian Tomlinson, Chris Redman, Eric Heitmann, Phillip Buchanon, William Green, Julius Peppers, Quentin Jammer, Patrick Ramsey

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