The third week of the 2010 season provided plenty of memorable highlights and outcomes.
From an overtime thriller in New Orleans to a couple of 0-2 underachievers getting things pointed in the right direction to what nearly became an overtime thrilled in Miami, we hope the next 14 weeks are just like this one.
Then again, some teams would prefer to forget all about Week Three. For 10 story lines focusing on the good and the bad from Week Three, read on.
1. Coughlin out, Cowher in?
Two years ago, the Giants started the season 0-2, giving up 80 points in
two games. This year, after a sloppy Week One win against a grossly
overmatched Panthers team, the Giants have surrendered 67 in two even
Publicly, coach Tom Coughlin has taken the blame. Privately, he has
begun the process of holding his players accountable.
Whether it works remains to be seen. The Giants are becoming every bit
as dysfunctional as they were when Coughlin somehow pulled a Super
Bowl-sized rabbit out of his hat. The championship season has become
largely forgotten, however, especially as the Giants become upstaged in their new
stadium by the look-at-me Jets, at whom New York and the rest of the
country are looking, both for what they do on the field, and what they
do off it.
After the Giants collapsed down the stretch and missed the playoffs,
co-owner John Mara blew a gasket. This year, if the Giants fail to
qualify for the postseason, he’ll do more than talk tough.
Coughlin has one year left on his contract, and the Giants will have to
decide after 2010 whether to re-up Coughlin’s deal — or whether to move
on. If they choose to thank the 64-year-old coach for his
contributions and pay him not to work for the franchise in 2011, the
most obvious candidate to replace him becomes Bill Cowher.
The 15-year coach of the Steelers, who resigned after the 2006 season,
recently said that he’s looking for the “right situation.” And former
Steelers tailback Jerome Bettis, who called Cowher’s coming resignation
at the outset of the 2006 season, sad earlier this year that Cowher
“covets” the Giants job.
Unless and until Coughlin can get his Giants to play disciplined,
winning football, a guy who led the Steelers with square-jawed intensity
could become the ultimate answer to the cross-town team led by a
player-coach who doesn’t actually play.
2. Tebow takes a big step backward.
Entering the regular season, Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow occupied the
No. 2 spot on the depth chart, behind starter Kyle Orton and ahead of
Brady Quinn. Per a league source, Tebow was under the impression that
he’d be the top backup all year.
After only two games, Tebow fell to No. 3. Inactive for Sunday’s game
against the Colts, the elevation of Quinn prevented Tebow from entering
the game before the fourth quarter, essentially eliminating the team’s “Wild Horse”
single-wing package. As it turns out, neither Quinn nor Tebow entered
the game at all.
Following the 27-13 loss to Indy, Bronco coach Josh McDaniels downplayed
“Just made a decision after the week of practice,” McDaniels said.
“Brady had a good week and it wasn’t anything about Tim — we just felt
like Brady was probably better equipped at this point to handle this
style of game plan, the style of defense that they played. Again, they
get very few reps anyways, but the reps that they get — we felt more
comfortable doing that.”
Whether it’s a one-time thing remains to be seen. The fact that Tebow
believed he’d be the No. 2 guy all year makes the move surprising. The
possibility that he’ll stay at No. 3 shows just how far he has to go
before he becomes the full-time starter.
3. Pink slips coming soon?
The desperation that has prompted so many quarterback changes could soon
result in a flurry of firings. Coordinators could be the initial
scapegoats in some cities. But with bye weeks beginning,
underperforming head coaches could soon find themselves staying home for
the rest of the year, with pay.
The Panthers have looked putrid, and if they hit their break at 0-5,
coach John Fox could be out the door.
The Browns, who are 0-3 but just as easily could be 3-0, face the
Bengals, Falcons, Steelers, and Saints before their bye. And if the
Browns are 0-7, Eric Mangini may not get a chance to host the Patriots
and the Jets in consecutive weeks — which likely would drop Cleveland
to 0-9, anyway.
Another potential candidate for a bye week “buh-bye” is Jaguars coach
Jack Del Rio. As one league source explained it, multiple factions
currently are clashing in Jacksonville. “If [Del Rio] survives the
season,” the source said, “he likely won’t survive the offseason.”
Whether Del Rio survives the season depends on whether the Jaguars can
turn things around, quickly. Outscored by a total of 50 points in two
weeks, things get no easier next week, when the Colts come calling. (It also doesn’t help that the Jags are stuck in a division with Indy, Tennessee, and Houston.)
In San Francisco, Mike Singletary could be on the hot seat, too — if
anyone there had the nerve to actually communicate the decision to fire him.
Then there’s Raiders coach Tom Cable, who faces some risk of being fired
every minute of every day, of every season.
4. Time to change inherently unfair fumble rule.
While watching the Chargers-Seahawks game, which Seattle surprisingly
won, a play late in the first half reminded us of one of the most
inequitable rules in all of sport.
When an offensive player fumbles the ball out of bounds, his team keeps
possession. But when an offensive player fumbles the ball out of the
end zone that his team is trying to invade, the ball is regarded as
having been recovered by the other team, and it’s placed at the 20.
NFL spokesman Michael Signora described it as a “long-standing rule, in
place for decades.”
That’s fine, but that doesn’t make it fair.
It simply makes no sense to punish the offensive team for getting so
close to the end zone, losing the grasp on the ball near paydirt, and
then losing possession even if the other team never actually recovers
Instead of giving the ball to the defense at the 20, the rule should
give the ball to the offense, at the opponents’ 20. Some would argue
that possession should be awarded at the line used for the try after a
touchdown. Either way, possession shouldn’t be handed over the defense
when the defense has done squat to secure possession.
5. Jets, Falcons seize control of their divisions.
With 13 games to go, a lot can — and will — happen. But two teams
confidently can claim that, for now, they rule the four-team roosts in
which they reside.
Both the Jets and the Falcons went on the road and knocked off rivals
who had been 2-0. So now the Dolphins will have to win in New York and
the Saints will have to win in Atlanta in order to avoid what amounts to
a three-game swing in the standings — 2-0 versus 0-2, plus ownership
of the tiebreaker.
Coupled with the Jets’ win over the Patriots, New York has come a
long way in only 13 days
Ditto for the Falcons, who lost a heartbreaker in Week One and suddenly
have broken the Saints’ hammerlock on the NFC South. It likely was the biggest win of quarterback Matt Ryan’s three-year career.
Again, there’s a long way to go. For now, though, the Jets and Falcons
have to be feeling pretty good about where they are.
6. Chiefs are for real.
When a team exceeds expectations, expectations eventually will be
adjusted. For that reason alone, look for the Chiefs to continue to
downplay their success, in the hopes that no one will believe that
they’re a legitimate contender to win the AFC West.
But they are. Already, the 3-0 Chiefs possess a two-game lead over the rest
of the division, and they’ve toppled the perennial top dogs from San
Moving forward, the Chiefs benefit from a fourth-place schedule. While
the Chargers play the Ravens and the Patriots, the Chiefs get the Browns
and the Bills. (All four AFC West teams play all four AFC South teams
in 2010.) Those two games could end up making a huge difference, if the
race gets tight in late December.
The biggest question mark comes at quarterback, but that question mark
became an exclamation point, at least for a day, when Matt Cassel
completed 16 of 27 for 250 yards, three touchdowns, and an interception
– good for a passer rating of 111.7.
It’s the kind of triple-digit performance that became commonplace for
Cassel in 2008, when he replaced Tom Brady in New England. Now that
Cassel could be clicking with Charlie Weis, the guy who helped make Tom
Brady into Tom Brady, there could be even more strong performances from the
player whom many regard as the weak link on a slowly-improving
Until then, the Chiefs would prefer that we all regard them as
slowly-improving, with no reason to think that they may be headed in the
direction that their 3-0 record suggests they’re heading.
7. Dallas Desperadoes deliver for Wade.
Backed against the wall, the Dallas Cowboys proved the value of a single
NFL weekend by avoiding an 0-3 start, pulling into a three-way tie for
second place in the NFC East, and getting themselves back on track for a
season that still could end with a Super Bowl.
Desperation suited the Cowboys well on Sunday in Houston, and now
they’ve got time during their bye week to continue to tweak the offense
and refine the defense and prepare to continue the push toward and
At a time when the NFL is considering a move from 18 games, it’s
important to remember the impact of a single NFL game when a total of
only 16 are played. The significance of each and every contest makes
each and every one dramatic and memorable; for the Cowboys, who
faced full-blown implosion after only two weeks, a single game changed
If the season is “enhanced,” that quality could quickly be diminished.
8. Steelers could run the table.
We know it’s way too early to say this, but we’re going to say it
The Pittsburgh Steelers could go undefeated.
It’s unlikely. Eventually, they’ll surely lose. But if they can get past the
Ravens on Sunday in the last game without Ben Roethlisberger and if he
pumps up an offense that is complemented by the best defense in the
league, the Steelers will be unstoppable.
If they get to 16-0, it won’t have happened against a slew of patsies.
They play at Miami and at New Orleans, and they host the Patriots and
Still, there’s already something special about this team, and it could
become even more special if Roethlisberger helps light up a scoreboard
that rarely will reflect many points from the opposition.
9. Vick’s historic redemption tour continues.
As the football-watching world waits for Mike Vick’s triple-digit
passer-rating performances to drop dramatically, as they always have done in the past, Vick has instead put his
foot harder on the gas, authoring his best performance to date with the
In a 28-3 win at Jacksonville, Vick completed 17 of 31 passes for 291 yards and three touchdowns, good for a passer rating of 119.2.
In 10 quarters, Vick has thrown six touchdown passes and not a single
He’ll face his toughest test yet next week, when Donovan McNabb returns
to Philly for a game that Eagles fans will want to win more than any
non-playoff game in franchise history. And regardless of how well
McNabb does or doesn’t play, another strong showing from Vick could make
McNabb’s performance moot.
Meanwhile, at some point we need to acknowledge that we’re witnessing
one of the most compelling stories in league history. Rather than
merely returning to the level he occupied before missing two years while
in prison, Vick could be on the verge of reaching new heights — and of
becoming the franchise quarterback he never quite became in Atlanta.
10. Saints need to lose their blind spot for Garrett Hartley.
Kicker Garrett Hartley forever will occupy a position in the pantheon of
Saints stars, thanks to his delivery of the franchise’s first NFL title
via a 40-yard overtime kick in the NFC Championship and a trio of
40-plus-yard field goals in the Super Bowl.
But kicker remains one of the most fungible positions in football, and
if a guy can’t do his job there are plenty of others who can, and who will.
The challenge for coach Sean Payton and G.M. Mickey Loomis will be to
forget about the things Hartley did in the past, and to focus on what
he’s doing now.
Or, more importantly, on what he’s not doing.
Two missed field goals in Week One allowed the Vikings to hang around
much longer than they should have, and a redirection from 49ers
defensive tackle Ray McDonald may have prevented Hartley from being the
goat in Week Two.
The goat he was on Sunday, when he missed an overtime chip shot after
knuckling the game-tying kick that forced the extra session.
Peter King reported on Sunday night that the Saints will bring in
kickers this week. It shouldn’t simply be a shot across Hartley’s bow.
Kickers need to be much more reliable than Hartley has been. And if
Hartley continues to receive extra consideration for what he did in last
year’s Super Bowl, the Saints won’t win another one this year.