NFC West is worst division in NFL
Mike Singletary is a little different, hardly your typical NFL head coach. Last Sunday, he thanked Pete Carroll for kicking “our tails” after the Seahawks embarrassed his San Francisco 49ers. We can all imagine how he’ll thank Sean Payton for repeating the favor later tonight when the Saints drop the 49ers to 0-2.
We all knew months ago that the NFC West had the makings of the NFL’s worst division. And nothing we've seen so far has changed that assessment. The Buffalo Bills may be the league’s worst team, but the West as a whole might possibly produce a champion without a winning record.
After two weeks the division has two wins; Arizona beat St. Louis and Seattle beat the 49ers. It may be insane to say, but it’s difficult to predict many wins right now when the Cardinals, 49ers, Rams and Seahawks stray outside the division. The 49ers were the preseason favorite because they should be able to beat Kansas City, Oakland and Carolina.
The previous worst division winner in professional football was the Boston Patriots back in 1963. They won the AFL East with a 7-6-1 record. The only time the NFL had teams with losing records reach the playoffs was after the strike-shortened 1982 season when two 4-5 teams advanced, only to promptly lose in the first round.
Even now Singletary’s 49ers seem to be self-destructing. There is tension among the offensive coaches because one of them snitched about offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye’s problems last weekend relaying plays into quarterback Alex Smith. Singletary said the team will find this rat. Singletary was not only mad about that leak and the embarrassment it caused Raye, but he also expressed some displeasure with some of his players’ effort on the flight home from Seattle.
It has not been a good week.
Take Sunday. The Cardinals definitely miss Kurt Warner. They traveled to Atlanta, where the Falcons lost a pair of running backs, but still cruised to a 41-7 win as third-stringer Jason Snelling had a three-touchdown day. The Rams thought they had a chance against the Raiders, until coach Tom Cable benched Jason Campbell and won with Bruce Gradkowski. The Seahawks were feeling good about whipping San Francisco, only to meet a similar fate in Denver.
That’s three losses Sunday by a total of 53 points. Believe me, there will be more lost weekends like that as this season unfolds.
I Hate to Say This, But ...
-- Don’t you think Brad Childress should have called one play-action pass during Adrian Peterson’s unsuccessful march to the end zone on Sunday? Yes, Brett Favre was having a bad day, but the Dolphins surely were over-playing the run and somebody might have been wide open. You wanted Favre for situations exactly like that.
-- I’m glad I’m not Andy Reid. How does he tell Michael Vick to return to the bench?
-- Rex Ryan could be right about his Jets after their complete dismantling of the Patriots in an early showdown game. And the biggest news may be that LaDainian Tomlinson isn’t washed up. He looked quicker and faster Sunday than he did in San Diego over the last couple of seasons.
-- The best player in Green Bay right now isn’t Aaron Rodgers, but Clay Matthews, who has six sacks in two games. Plus, he skipped preseason to get healthy.
-- Nobody seriously could have predicted that both the Chiefs and Bucs would be 2-0 at this point. These teams won a combined seven games last season and they could surpass that total in a couple of weeks.
-- Fewer players are displaying a more selfish streak than Giants running back Brandon Jacobs. Unhappy with his carries, he tossed his helmet into the stands last night in Indianapolis. Give me a break! And fine his butt!
-- The Colts still look like a Super Bowl contender to me.
-- The Steelers are 2-0 and don’t know who their quarterback will be when they travel to unbeaten Tampa Bay. They will re-sign Byron Leftwich, stick with fourth-stringer Charlie Batch or wait and see if Dennis Dixon’s knee is OK. The defense is so good, the Steelers might go unbeaten without Big Ben.
-- Chicago’s Devin Hester looked like a real No. 1 receiver on his game-winning touchdown catch in Dallas. His one-handed stab and toe dance was almost as good as the Randy Moss one-handed touchdown catch against Darrelle “My Hammy Hurts” Revis.
Concussion story, Week 2
Anybody who watched the Dallas-Chicago game must have seen the animated sideline conversations between Cowboys trainer Jim Maurer and tight end Jason Witten. With the game on the line in the second half, Witten had suffered a concussion and the Cowboys, much to Witten’s displeasure, wouldn’t allow him to return to the field.
Trying to read lips, it was almost like Witten was barking on the sidelines that if we lose this game, it’s on you guys, the doctors and trainers for keeping me on the sidelines.
After four concussions league-wide on opening weekend (that we know about), the Cowboys are to be commended for considering Witten’s long-term health over a short-term gain. Players must be protected from themselves.
Two rising stars
Yes, it is early in the season, but it sure looks like the Lions made the correct move in April’s draft when they traded back into the first round in order to get Cal running back Jahvid Best. Coach Jim Schwartz thought Best was one of the best playmakers in the draft and who can argue with that premise? The rookie has scored five touchdowns in two games. It’s scary to think what a talent like this would be doing in Green Bay’s or New Orleans' offense.
What Best did against a supposedly improved Philadelphia defense, was rush for 78 yards and catch nine passes for 154 yards. That’s something that Barry Sanders never did.
Also, the Tampa Bay Bucs may not be free spenders, but coach Raheem Morris and general manager Mark Dominik were right about quarterback Josh Freeman. Those two guys thought Freeman, 6-foot-6, 250 pounds, had more upside than Matthew Stafford and Mark Sanchez in last year’s draft. And they may be right.
Freeman has won two games now while playing with a broken thumb on his throwing hand, which has limited him in practice the past few weeks. Heck, he’s so unknown that when his car was rear-ended in a traffic accident, he failed to make national news like Tom Brady’s collision the same week.
Greg Olson has done a superlative teaching job with Freeman, who wasn’t rushed into action last year when it was obvious to everyone watching practice that he was the team’s best quarterback. Freeman doesn’t have a Calvin Johnson or all the playmakers that Sanchez has in New York, but he does manage a game very well.
Some of the best decisions he made against Carolina on Sunday were when he simply threw the ball away when under severe pressure. He never seemed to panic. Freeman is a calm, confident kid in a big, athletic body. He’s only 22 while Best is 21.