It’s already Week Three, and we’ve got more than three story lines to watch for the upcoming slate of games.
With 16 games, it’s easy. Next week the byes begin, which will begin to make it harder for us to come up with 10 worthwhile takes entering each weekend.
But we suppose we’ll manage.
1. Consistency is the key for Vick, Reid.
Andy Reid got one thing right on Tuesday, when announcing that Mike Vick
had become the team’s new quarterback. Vick, as Reid observed, is
among the hottest quarterbacks in the league.
The next question
becomes whether he can continue to perform at that level.
2006, Vick’s last season as a starter before Week Two of the 2010
season, the former Falcon’s performances swung wildly. In a 29-27 win
over the Bengals, Vick generated a passer rating of 142.7 by completing
19 of 27 passes for 291 yards and three touchdowns. The next week, in a
30-14 loss at Detroit, Vick’s passer rating plunged to 52.0. In the
next game, a 17-13 loss to the Browns, Vick’s passer rating dipped to
43.4 before rebounding the following week (despite a 24-10 loss) to
It was then back to 47.9 (a 31-13 loss to the Saints,
otherwise known as the
middle finger game) before rebounding to 115.1 in a 24-14 win over
the Redskins before falling back to 62.8 in a 17-6 win over the Bucs
before shooting to 121.0 in a 38-28 loss to the Cowboys before
plummeting nearly 100 points to 22.7 in a 10-3 loss to the Panthers.
and perhaps fittingly, Vick’s passer rating for his last game with the
Falcons — a loss to the Eagles in Philly — increased to 97.6.
Vick can continue to play at a high level (or, perhaps more accurately,
if Reid can get him to continue to play at a high level), Vick will
continue to keep the job in Philly, for 2010 and beyond. If Vick plays
like he did in 2006, Reid soon will be mending fences with the guy who
had the job for less than a half.
2. Wildcat looms over
biggest game of Week Three.
Last year, the Dolphins unfurled
their Wildcat attack on the Jets, which helped pave the way toward a
31-27 mid-October win. After the game, Jets linebacker Calvin Pace made
clear his disdain for the unconventional single-wing approach.
going to be honest, I can’t respect that stuff,” Pace said. “All that
Wildcat. Because we’re in the NFL, man. If you’re out there running
that nonsense, it’s crap.”
And, of course, the Jets would
later rely on that “nonsense” and “crap” to scratch and claw their way
into the playoffs, using Brad Smith in the shotgun formation to beat the
Bengals in Week 17.
After the game, the Wildcat apparently had
gotten Calvin’s tongue.
On Sunday night, look for a healthy dose of the Wildcat flowing in
both directions, with the Dolphins relying from time to time on the
change-of-pace, misdirection-based approach and the Jets trying to give
them a mouthful of their own medicine.
As Miami’s version of the
Wildcat has evolved, defenses have a little more time to prepare for
it. In its most effective form, the offense emerges from the huddle
with the quarterback splitting wide and a running back lining up to take
the snap. Recently, the Dolphins have been sending quarterback Chad
Henne to the sidelines after the preceding play, making it obvious that
something fishy is coming.
It may be a good idea to follow
the same approach against the Jets. Despite the fact that a chunk of
the strategic advantage is sacrificed, getting Henne off the field keeps
a defensive back from taking a free shot at him. That it hasn’t
already happened could be the biggest surprise regarding the retro
offense that the Dolphins first used almost two years ago to the day.
Flacco should be safe, for now.
With the addition of
receiver Anquan Boldin and receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh and rookie tight
ends Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta, combined with the ongoing development
of tailback Ray Rice, most league observers expected to observe a major
upgrade from quarterback Joe Flacco in his third NFL season.
through two games Flacco has struggled. Badly.
performance against the Jets in Week One (38 attempts, 20 completions,
248 yards, one interception for a 62.2 passer rating) dissolved into a
disaster against the Bengals in Week Two, with 39 attempts and 17
completions for 154 yards, a touchdown, and four interceptions. Passer
The decline has prompted many to wonder when/if
the Ravens will bench Flacco for Marc Bulger. The easy answer? Not
The Ravens faced a pair of playoff teams to start the
season. Sure, Flacco floundered against them, but in two years he has
played in five postseason games. Also, with speedy receiver Donte’
Stallworth out for half the season, the Ravens lack a deep threat that
can stretch the field and clear out space for its collection of
So be patient, Ravens fans. Besides,
there’s no reason to think that Marc Bulger would do any better.
Could Cassel be the next to sit?
With seven of 32 starting
quarterbacks already gone from the field due to injury or
ineffectiveness, one of the next hot spots could come in Kansas City,
where the Chiefs have to be wondering whether Matt Cassel ever can
duplicate the performance he produced after Pats quarterback Tom Brady
tore an ACL in Week One of the 2008 season.
That year, Cassel
completed 63.4 percent of his throws for nearly 3,700 yards, with 21
touchdowns, 11 picks, and a passer rating of 89.4. In 2009, his first
year with the Chiefs, Cassel connected on only 55 percent of his passes,
for 2,924 yards, 16 touchdowns, and 16 interceptions.
two games in 2010, Cassel has been the inept captain of an anemic
offense, with only two offensive touchdowns. He has completed only 52
percent of his attempts, and his passer ratting has dropped from 69.9 in
2009 to 55.8. Though the Chiefs also have two wins, Cassel had better
start clicking soon, or Brodie Croyle could get the keys to the Charlie
Thinking ahead, it’s hard to envision Cassel
returning for 2011, even if the Chiefs can overachieve their way into
the playoffs. Weis had no prior connection to Cassel, and Weis surely
will be lobbying for a guy like, say, Brady Quinn.
Bragging rights are bigger in Texas, too.
The Houston Texans
arrived on the NFL scene eight years ago with an unlikely upset win over
the Dallas Cowboys. Four years later, the Cowboys settled the score
with a 34-6 blowout.
Two years later, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones
took the Olympics-frequency rivalry to a new level by explaining the
differences between the franchises.
“The Cowboys have never been
about checkered tablecloths and boots and hats,” Jones said. “They’ve
been about glitz and glitter. Leave
the other stuff to the Houston Texans.”
Texans owner Bob
McNair responded by taking the high road.
“I’m not offended by
what Jerry said,” McNair told the Houston Chronicle at the time.
“I’m glad he knows we’re the Texans. I’m proud to be a Texan and a
Houstonian. . . . Houston’s a hardworking city, and the Texans are a
hardworking team. I don’t see anything wrong with checkered
tablecloths, hats and boots.”
Jones later apologized for the
remark, and McNair said he told Jones he wasn’t offended.
doubt that. And we suspect that McNair has been waiting patiently for
another crack at the Cowboys, and that he wants his team to win this one
almost as badly as he wants to see them finally get to the postseason.
course, the ultimate revenge would come if/when the Texans — not the
Cowboys — play for the Lombardi Trophy in the glitzy and glittery
football palace that Jones has erected in Dallas.
return to the scene of their biggest loss.
In February 2005,
the Eagles played for the third time in Jacksonville. On that occasion,
however, they didn’t play the Jaguars, who are undefeated in three
games against Philaldelphia.
The Eagles instead played the
Patriots in Super Bowl XXXIX, and the Eagles came dangerously close to
stealing the victory. A monster performance from Terrell Owens, which
in many respects helped create the monster he’d become the following
year, ultimately went for naught due to a stunning lack of urgency with
the game on the line, possibly because quarterback Donovan McNabb became
Months after the game, Owens supported his effort to
get fired by the Eagles by taking this infamous slap at McNabb: “I’m
not the one who got tired in the Super Bowl.”
McNabb, for his
part, denies getting sick or tired. Either way, the Eagles lost the
game. And it’s hard not to wonder whether McNabb would still be the
quarterback of the Eagles today as the team prepares to return to
Jacksonville, if the Eagles had won the last time they played there more
than five years ago.
Who knows? Maybe if McNabb were still with
the Eagles, Mike Vick would be playing for the Jaguars.
Packers have a chance to make a huge statement.
opportunity to command the league’s attention comes on Monday night,
when the Packers invade Soldier Field to face the 2-0 Bears, whom many
think should be 1-1.
But the unblemished record held by the
home team will make a runaway win by the Packers even more impressive.
Given the protection problems that the Bears have had and the resulting
beating that quarterback Jay Cutler has absorbed, Packers linebacker
Clay Matthews could give Cutler the same facemask full of sod that ended
Kevin Kolb’s first stint as a full-time starter less than 30 minutes
after it began.
As good as Green Bay’s defense has been, the
offense is even better, even without running back Ryan Grant. In the
end, a game that looks good on paper could end up looking great for the
Packers — and awful for the Bears and the rest of the NFC.
Jahvid Best could be worst Vikings trade in 21 years.
In October 1989, the Vikings gave up a truckload of draft picks and
players for the man who was perceived to be the missing link for a Super
Bowl run, tailback Herschel Walker. More than 20 years later, they’re
still trying to get back to the Super Bowl for the first time since
With a four-spot drop in the 2010 draft, the
Vikings helped a division rival get a tailback who may end up not being
the missing link but a building block. The player picked with the
Vikings’ pick, Jahvid Best, has been lighting up the league for the
Lions, with five touchdowns in two games and more than 230 yards of
offense against the Eagles in Week Two.
Since the 1998 season,
the Vikings have owned the Lions, winning 21 of 24 times. The pendulum
could now be swinging back in the other direction, and if it happens the
Vikings have only themselves to blame for helping Detroit get their
best back since the days of Barry Sanders.
9. Falcons get
their shot at the champs.
In many corners of the country, the
Saints have been the ultimate feel-good story. In Atlanta, the only
feeling that New Orleans’ success has inducted is nausea.
Falcons, who have strung together winning records in consecutive seasons
for the first time in team history, have craved for months their crack
at the Saints. This week, they get it.
With the Saints heading
home on a short week after a grueling Monday nighter in San Francisco,
the Saints could be ripe for an upset. If it happens, it would thrust
the Falcons directly onto the short list of elite NFL teams.
it would put the Falcons in the driver’s seat to win the NFC South. By
beating the Saints in their own building, the Falcons would need only to
hold serve at home to secure the all-important tiebreaker.
Haslett heads home, sort of.
Two years ago, Redskins
defensive coordinator Jim Haslett was the defensive coordinator of the
Rams. When former head coach Scott Linehan was relieved of his duties
only four games into the campaign, Haslett took over.
first game as interim head coach, Haslett took the Rams to FedEx Field
and beat the Redskins.
Haslett’s Rams surprised the Cowboys the
following week to pull their record to 2-4, but then the wheels came
off again, with 10 straight losses to end the year. Haslett wasn’t
asked to return.
Now, after a year in the UFL, Haslett is running
the defense in D.C., and he returns to St. Louis for a crack at the
team that he led to a rare bright spot with those back-to-back wins.
Fresh in his mouth is the bad taste that comes from blowing a 17-point
loss to the Texans. It’ll only get worse if Haslett’s defense fails to
keep the Rams from scoring enough points to get only their second win
since Haslett left.