Sorting out the Middle

Where do the Lions and other teams with three losses stand?

Six weeks into the NFL season and 16 teams (that’s half the league) have 3 losses. Some of them are 3-3 and others have already had a bye week and stand at 2-3. Some might call it parity, but I just call it mediocrity. There are a few bad teams in the league and just as few really great ones. For me to tell you that the Falcons are really strong or the Chiefs are really weak would be a waste of your time and mine as well. This week, I’m going to sort out those teams with three losses to try to find out who is for real, who is a pretender, who is overachieving, and who is a flukey upstart. This sounds eerily similar to a Bandwagons article……

I’m just visiting.

Ever been in that situation where you get grouped with people far less qualified than you? Whether it be because of age, experience, skill, or some other factor? Like that star student who does poorly on one assignment or forgets to turn in work and ends up bureaucratically grouped with miscreants, or that older kid who has to play sports with the younger kids because there was no room for him on a team. Someone in that situation does whatever they can to downplay that group or their involvement in it. Yeah I’m in regular track English, my scheduling got messed up. Yeah, I’m on JV, but I’ll get called up soon so I’m not really worried about running sprints. Picture an adult (more like William Cecil, less like Rasputin) who has to sit at the kids table at Christmas because of one ill-fated, Coors-fueled outburst at Thanksgiving, who tries to join in on the adult table conversation across the room. Where I’m going with this is that the Packers and Patriots (my Super Bowl picks) don’t belong in the company of the Rams and Bills. We’re one bad call away from 4-2. We should have beaten Indianapolis. Gostkowski usually makes that field goal.

Green Bay Packers– They finally looked like the team I watched light up the scoreboard game after game for more than an entire season. Until Sunday Night, they had not looked like themselves. Even the much-maligned (and rightfully so) defense came up with big plays like they did a season ago (the saving attribute for what is a weak and overrated group). Rodgers was finally able to just unleash the passing attack, and the result was a dismantling of arguably the toughest team in football. I think Green Bay will make the playoffs with a record between 10-6 and 12-4. They have some very difficult games left on the schedule, but with five games left against division foes, they can pretty much write their own ticket.

New England Patriots– Tom Brady still plays for them, right? Okay, just checking. New England will be just fine. Their three losses have been by a combined total of 4 points. Now, granted, that could be a foreshadowing of an inability to close games. Last week they just found out what the Packers also found out the hard way: Seattle has a freaking good defense.

Still working things out.

Some teams get the benefit of the doubt. These teams could be contenders with a few fixes.

Denver Broncos- The ability to win the division is there. Twice they have played a solid, complete game. The other four have been, win or lose, second half-efforts. Peyton Manning has got to just put fear in opponents after halftime. If you don’t put him away, he will catch up eventually. It’s just three times this year he’s needed about 7 more minutes of time on the clock. Pretty impressive for a guy on a new team after a year out of football. When the defense solidifies and the run game gets going, the Broncos should be back on experts’ Super Bowl watch lists.

Philadelphia Eagles- Alas, if only Michael Vick could stop giving the ball to the other team. I am a big Vick fan, and I know what he is capable of (Mesa owe yousa a life-debt after yousa savea meesa bombad fantasy football team ina 2010). The Eagles are too talented to be 3-3, and if Vick can start taking care of the football, they should get back on track. Coming up after the bye week, they face Atlanta at home. If they win that game, they should silence a lot of doubters.

Pittsburgh Steelers- Sure, they haven’t played well this year and they are injured. I have too much faith in this Steelers organization and Mike Tomlin to not believe they will get things worked out. However, they need to do that soon, as their upcoming schedule is @Cincinnati, home versus Washington, and @New York Giants. It might not take a lot to win an AFC Wild Card spot this year, but 5-3 is a heck of a lot better than even 4-4 halfway through the schedule.

The New York Knicks

There are not a lot of NBA teams I’m more interested in watching this season than the Knicks. They are so talented, yet somehow manage to stay so mediocre. In fact, the Heat and Thunder might be the only teams in the league more talented than them. Some of the underachieving teams in the NFL could be really darn good if they ever worked in a way that somewhat resembled a functional football team.

San Diego Chargers– In fairness, if they didn’t implode last night, they wouldn’t even be in this article, but the fact that they did brings to light this: their record is pretty suspect. Wins versus the Raiders, Titans, and Chiefs? A loss to New Orleans, last night’s collapse, and a sound defeat versus the Falcons, and the Chargers are left with not much to stand on. They ARE a good team; they just need to get their ducks in a row.

Detroit Lions– They don’t play good football. They make many mistakes. And yet, Matthew Stafford + Calvin Johnson = the ability to stay in any game. If you don’t finish them by the fourth quarter, they are going to make things interesting. I’m wondering if the lack of discipline on and off the field seen the last two years could be remedied with a different coach, or if it’s really just not a good group of men.

Dallas Cowboys- People have been calling them Super Bowl contenders since before there was an ‘E’ in Roy Williams. 13-3 in 2007 was convincing, but one playoff victory in Romo’s tenure isn’t. Apparently the experts believe they have the talent year after year, but there is something fundamentally wrong with this team that prevents them from reaching their potential.

In theory….

Two teams in this category are doing surprisingly well, while another is trying to convince us last season wasn’t a fluke. In all three cases, theory has it they could be legitimate teams.

Washington Redskins– Even though they stand at 3-3, they haven’t looked bad yet this season (well, okay, the pass defense has been miserable). I’m stunned how quickly RGIII has adjusted. That game winning touchdown on Sunday was big time (oh great, now Skip can keep shouting “clutch gene” about his anointed one (in fairness to Mr. Bayless, I look at his views on Tebow in a much better light since his article)). We will see how things play out for Washington in the close race in the NFC East.

Miami Dolphins– Two overtime losses already. Different results could have this team at a shocking 5-1. When Tannehill has played well (which he has done with surprising frequency) they stay very competitive. By running the ball well and stopping the run, they have themselves set up to potentially get back to the playoffs. In theory.

Cincinnati Bengals– Am I supposed to hold them to the standard of an underdog or a playoff team, as they were both a year ago? Not long ago they were 3-1, but a loss to the team with the worst record in football has them back at .500. I tend to think they’ll stay around there for the rest of the season.

You’re not fooling me.

Some teams with three losses haven’t looked too bad, but after the seasons they had last year, I’m not ready to proclaim them ready to compete.

St. Louis Rams– Their defense has been very stingy – against teams with weak offenses. Three games against Green Bay, New England, and at San Francisco could deal a knockout to the upstart Rams.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Josh Freeman finally looked like his 2010 version again, but this season has been rather blah for him and the rest of the team.

Indianapolis Colts– I have been impressed with Andrew Luck so far, and he’s been helped immensely by the resurgent Reggie Wayne. They looked pretty weak against the Jets, and quarterbacking wasn’t their only problem last year. I don’t think my Colts have much chance at sneaking into the playoffs.

Too close to call.

I’m going to have to wimp out and refrain from making a call on these two teams.

New York Jets- They have looked really strong and really weak at different times during the season. If Shonn Greene can run anywhere close to the way he did versus Indy, they should be able to create something that resembles an offense. The injury bug has hit them fairly hard, but they might be strong enough to hang in for a Wild Card.

Buffalo Bills- They’ve been embarrassed twice this year, which makes me wary, but they have also played some decent games as well.

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The SneakyGoodSportsGuy


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