The Cards can’t complete a pass. The Rams can’t lose. And I’m still in pain from watching the Bears offensive line.
And Eagles fans get it right.
It was another wild week in the NFL. We hand out the weekly Scheiners, Schein 9 style.
1. The curious case of the NFC East
I did a preseason rant on the NFC East clearly being the best division in pro football. At the quarter mark, absolutely nothing is clear. None of the teams is above .500. No outfit looks dominant or truly capable of a legit run. Every team is significantly flawed. The pendulum swings from one squad to the next when you take the temperature every Tuesday. You cannot make a definitive statement about any team being a lock for the playoffs.
Washington had a great win in Philly, fueled by the emotion of Donovan McNabb returning home. Mike Shanahan played that card brilliantly during the week, getting his team ready to win on the road in the division.
But it wasn’t as if Washington played a great game. Heck, McNabb himself was pedestrian at best. The receiver position is weak. Ryan Torain is starting to emerge at running back. Remember, he was a Shanahan favorite in Denver before getting hurt. Clinton Portis has been hobbled and was never a Shanahan guy. Larry Johnson and Willie Parker are long gone. Torain isn’t exactly John Riggins.
And what exactly do the ’Skins have on defense? They inexplicably blew a 17-point lead at home to the Texans. The St. Louis defeat was awful, as Jim Haslett’s defense looked hapless and ill-prepared against the Rams. And I don’t want to hear the sting is gone with the Rams beating Seattle. There are too many good players on defense, starting with weapon Brian Orakpo and linebacker London Fletcher, to be this inconsistent. Perhaps it is the scheme change. They should even out their play by midseason.
During preseason, I picked Washington to win 10 games. The Redskins are getting Green Bay, marred by penalties and poor special teams play, at the right time at FedEx Field this Sunday. I am a huge believer in Shanahan and think they find a way to the playoffs. But I would’ve felt better about it had the ’Skins landed Vincent Jackson. And I still think they need to get rid of the troublesome Albert Haynesworth.
The Giants are perplexing. They showed off their talent in Week 1 against Carolina. They embarrassed themselves in every phase against the Colts. The Giants imploded against the Titans, a game marred by too many foolish penalties and turnovers. And the Giants stopped the “bring in Bill Cowher” talk by manhandling the Bears offensive line in the single least aesthetically pleasing game of the 2010 season. And let’s be honest: You can credit the Giants for surviving the slop, but that win was about the Bears offensive line and Mike Martz being totally lost.
Before the season, I thought the Giants would win 10 games and capture the division. I am not so sure they are capable of a run. The offensive line has severely underachieved. They have a tough spot in Houston. And, frankly, it is not worth going through the schedule. The Giants have more talent than the Titans. It’s just a matter of whether Tom Coughlin can get this team focused week to week.
Bigger issues than quarterback
Every talking point around the Eagles surrounds Mike Vick’s rib cartilage, Kevin Kolb’s readiness and whether the team should’ve traded McNabb. I still very much believe in Kolb as a viable starter, regardless of how he looked in relief after Vick got crunched Sunday afternoon. But now LeSean McCoy is injured with a broken rib. The interior portion of the offensive line is a mess. And in three games this year, Sean McDermott’s defense has looked poor. Frankly, it looked anemic in Weeks 1 and 2.
The Vick, DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin show was pretty amazing for 2 1/2 games. The aerial assault could be on hiatus. I think both quarterbacks can play and Andy Reid is a fantastic coach. I thought Philly was a wild-card team before the campaign. The offensive line and rocky defensive play could stand in the Eagles’ way.
Perhaps nothing better defines the ebb and flow of the division quite like the Cowboys. They entered Week 3 in danger of being buried and losing their coach. They start Week 5 with, in theory, as good a chance as anyone in the division at 1-2 coming off a bye week.
But the questions I had for this team still remain. Do you trust Wade Phillips? Are you fully confident in Jason Garrett? The line is weak. I still think the Cowboys, even with the firepower of Tony Romo, Miles Austin and Jason Witten, are the worst of the four mediocre teams in the division.
I still think the division gets two in the playoffs. The coaching is too good. The West will only get one team. In the North, I don’t trust the Vikes or Bears. And even the Packers have struggled the past two weeks. The Saints and Falcons both look the part of playoff teams. I’ll take the Redskins and Giants, the teams I picked to win 10 games. I think. Until next week, that is.
2. Pop and sizzle
If you want sizzle, you want Kyle Orton. The Broncos quarterback is an early MVP candidate with a whopping 1,419 passing yards. And this is with an offense that simply cannot run the ball at all. It’s pretty amazing on every level. Even more amazing when you think Denver drafted a quarterback in the first round.
3. Amateur hour
What the heck has happened to my Arizona Cardinals?
Derek Anderson is a total disaster, which isn’t a big surprise if you watched him in Cleveland. This move never made any sense. How do you leave the cupboard totally bare after Kurt Warner’s retirement? I told you we were going to see Max Hall. I just never said Max Hall was any good. But he certainly is better than Anderson, who has major trouble with the forward pass. Ken Whisenhunt joked on Monday maybe he wouldn’t use a quarterback against the Saints. Better to laugh than cry, right?
Blame the offensive line. Blame Mike Martz. Blame Jay Cutler for holding onto the ball. How do you allow nine sacks in the first half? That was embarrassing.
5. Backseat coaching
Jim Caldwell badly mismanaged the game against the Jags on Sunday.
As Jacksonville seemed content going to overtime, Caldwell tried to get the ball back with the score tied. But there were only 42 seconds left. The risk/reward wasn’t there. And when Caldwell called a timeout after Maurice Jones-Drew’s run, it allowed the Jags to attempt passes. David Garrard hit Tiquan Underwood on a couple of big sticks and set up Josh Scobee’s dramatic, 59-yard field goal at the gun.
Caldwell told us Monday on Sirius NFL Radio: “I’m thinking we are away from home and you want to end it in regulation. You never know what’s going to happen with the coin toss. We’ve done it before.”
It wasn’t a good move.
6. My guys
Eagles fans: The Philly fans have a pretty bad reputation. You hoped they recognized the greatness of Donovan McNabb as a legendary Eagle and athlete in Philly. It wasn’t like he left. McNabb got traded. He deserved a thunderous standing ovation and got it. Great job, Philly fans.
LaDainian Tomlinson: What year is this? The Jets back punished the Bills with 133 hard-earned rush yards. And LT passed Tony Dorsett for the seventh-most rushing yards in NFL history. Tomlinson has been amazing for the Jets.
Joe Flacco: Signature moment for the Ravens’ young gunslinger: finding T.J. Houshmanzadeh for a game-winning touchdown in Pittsburgh against the previously undefeated Steelers with 32 seconds left.
Antonio Gates: He made it look easy against the Cards with seven catches for 144 yards and two touchdowns. Gates has 503 receptions in 101 career games, reaching 500 receptions in the fewest games by a tight end in NFL history.
James Laurinaitis: Break up the Rams! Sam Bradford rightly deserves the credit. But have you noticed how improved Steve Spagnuolo’s defense has looked this year? Laurainitis is at the heart of it, following up his great rookie year with an impressive second season. When we talked to him on Monday, he was quick to credit Spags for keeping the same demeanor win or lose and for preaching the details. A football junkie, Laurainitis has become the leader of the Rams defense. Shame on those teams who passed up Laurainitis in the first round.
7. My goats
Nate Clements: He picks off Matty Ice with 1:30 to go then foolishly fumbles at the Atlanta 7 when he was too interested in scoring and not preserving the lead. Classic Niners.
Jeff Reed: The Steelers kicker missed a couple of kicks he must make in a big game.
Chan Gailey: First, he wins the coin flip and doesn’t take the ball. Then, when asked if the Bills are the worst team in the NFL, Gailey says: “I don’t know how anybody else is.” Great pep talk. How about giving C.J. Spiller the ball? Or not waiving your starting quarterback?
Mike Martz: You know you can make in-game adjustments, right?
Dolphins special teams: You give up a 103-yard return, get a field goal blocked for a Patriots touchdowns and have a punt blocked. Awful.
8. Your turn
We always take your tweets: @adamschein on Twitter. This one comes from @couch_coach:
@AdamSchein Chris Johnson looking more like CJ1K this year
I cannot believe the Broncos made Chris Johnson a total non-factor. I thought he would go for 200 all-purpose yards. You are right. Maybe CJ should stop talking.
9. 3 nuggets of wisdom
• Don’t call the Falcons lucky. They are opportunistic. They do a great job taking advantage of the opposition’s mistakes. That’s a good, well-coached Mike Smith team.
• Pittsburgh has nothing to hang its head over after losing to the Ravens. Chalk up a pretty amazing 3-1 first quarter without Big Ben. The Steelers, Ravens and Jets are the three best teams in the AFC right now.
• The Texans went 3-1 without Brian Cushing, also incredible. It’s a credit to Gary Kubiak. I loved his decision to bench Arian Foster for missing a meeting in a tough spot in Oakland, sans Andre Johnson. The Texans are more confident and more physical than they’ve been any other time since they joined the NFL.