As we enter the fourth week of the 2009-2010 NFL season, teams are beginning to show their true personalities. Some teams have performed up to fans’ expectations, and some have far exceeded them, then there are those who’ve underachieved, to put it politely. Over the next couple of days, I will look at both ends of the spectrum, to give you, the NFL fan, a solid look at where the teams at the top and the bottom will end up by the end of Week 17.
Today, we’ll take a look at the select few who are 3-0. Everyone knows that starting your season off with some wins under your belt is huge. Starting strong not only builds team chemistry, but it helps to gain momentum going into future games. Teams will prepare differently for an opponent that goes in 3-0. There is certainly a degree of respect you give an undefeated team that you don’t normally display to other teams who may be considered “middle of the road.”
First up are the New York Jets. Coming fresh off of an abysmal end to the 2008-2009 season, they began the 2009 season stronger than most people would have believed. Led by rookie quarterback, Mark Sanchez, they have take by surprise all three teams they’ve gone up against. You can attribute the majority of that to Rex Ryan’s stellar defense. It’s what led Baltimore’s charge for a while, and now he’s doing the same thing in New York. He wants a Superbowl, not just a playoff berth. You have to admire the guts this guy has to talk the way he does. But all of that bravado can only go so far.
In spite of their victories over the Patriots and the Titans, the Jets still come across as the weakest of the undefeated teams. With his secondary already banged up in only the 4th week of the season, look for the New Orleans Saints to bring the Rex’s Jets back to earth. Drew Brees has been throwing ball after ball, and with a lacking second unit, the Jets are going to have their hands full with this one. I don’t doubt their ability in pulling out a win here, especially with Sanchez’s love of airing out passes and the Saints’ horrid secondary, but I think that this will be the Jets’ toughest challenger to date.
The Baltimore Ravens are scary. In the most literal of terms, they scare the life out of me. If I was an NFL offensive player, I would certainly choose the week I go up against the Ravens to get “hurt.” The last thing I want is Ray Lewis blasting through my offensive line and coming after me. Their offense isn’t something to sleep on either. They’ve outscored their opponents by a combined 50 points so far (only the Saints have a greater number).
While they haven’t played the strongest of teams, their defensive unit has been solid. Six interceptions, seven sacks, and they don’t seem to be showing any signs of slowing down soon. This week will be their first great test, though, as they play a hungry New England squad. A win over New England will hurdle the Ravens to the forefront of the group of undefeated teams, and in my opinion, make them the team to beat for the rest of the year.
The Indianapolis Colts are perpetually a machine. You replace a cog here and there, and they just keep marching forward. They keep winning, they keep succeeding on every aspect of the field. How can you not be afraid of this team going into a game? Manning has led the Colts through the air, and leads the league in passing yards. While their win over Miami wasn’t too surprising, it was certainly scary.
I thought for sure Chad Pennington was going to walk out with a W over Indy. But since the second half of that game and beyond, the Colts have been that machine we’ve come to expect. They could stand to run the ball a little more, but you go with who brought you to the dance. Peyton’s been the escort for this team, so Joey Addai and Donald Brown will just have to live with it… while it’s working, that is. Going against a subpar Seattle team, look for the Colts to remain undefeated after this week.
The Broncos have only allowed one touchdown all year, and that was against the Bengals in the fourth quarter of week one. More importantly, they haven’t allowed a single touchdown in 126 minutes of football. This week they take on the Cowboys at home. Denver has been a machine on defense. Allowing the fewest points, fewest total yards, and second fewest passing yards, they just seem to have an unstoppable unit. Tony Romo, take notice. The Broncos are looking to be too wild for the Cowboys to settle down.
Look for the Cowboys to utilize their run game against the Broncos, and really test that defensive line of theirs. It may or may not work to their advantage. One thing is certain, though. The Broncos have a bit of a rough road ahead of them. Staying undefeated will be extremely difficult for them. In spite of their great defense, I expect the Broncos to fall to 3-2 in the next two weeks. In my estimation, they’ll be part of the 25% that doesn’t make the playoffs this year.
Moving onto the NFC, the New York Giants have surprised no one. They’ve won the games they are supposed to, and moved the ball efficiently. It’s not the passing or the run game which has dominated for them, though. Their secondary has been downright unstoppable. Their line has let up a bit too many rushing yards, but you can attribute the majority of that to going against a fantastic Dallas run game. A couple of “easy” games lie ahead of the Giants, and if you think they’ll walk into either game and not dominate, just look back at what they did to Tampa Bay last Sunday.
The Giants won’t be tested until Week 6, when they roll into the Superdome to take on the Saints. There’s not much I can say about the Giants right now, as they’ve played exactly how you would expect them to. Eagles and Cowboys fans take note. As much as it pains me to say it, the Giants will win the NFC East this year. Have fun on Wild Card weekend, Philly and Dallas.
In what may be the biggest eye opener of the year, the Vikings have started the season without a defeat. I guess I might be the crazy one here for not realizing the potential of the Peterson/Favre One-Two Punch combination, but they have surely delivered. Minnesota has definitely stuck it to Green Bay and they look to do it this weekend as well. The Packers are hungry to take down Favre and the Vikings, but don’t expect to see that this weekend.
If the Vikings survive this week, expect them to go into Baltimore in Week 6 undefeated. Minnesota has been pretty good so far, and Percy Harvin has been developing as Favre’s favorite receiver, but the story is still all about Adrian Peterson. The man averages over 100 yards and a touchdown per game. He’s been averaging more yards per carry than in his two previous years, and it looks like Favre has been utilizing him more as a receiver as well. The Vikings definitely have all the tools to take them deep into the playoffs, if not to one last Superbowl for Brett Favre.
Finally we have the team that seems like they just have a chip on their shoulders. The New Orleans Saints have been trouncing over their first three opponents, and it doesn’t look like the domination will stop anytime soon. However, I think you will see a more grounded offense than usual in the coming games for the Saints. While they are going up against a Jets secondary this week that is a little banged up, the Jets still have one of the better ranked defenses in the NFL. The bumps and bruises on the Jets D may be enough to let Brees shine this week. But the Jets offense has also shined, and with a horrible secondary, the Saints may just let Sanchez air out passes like he did against the better Titans secondary.
So out of our undefeated teams, we know we will lose at least one, as the Saints and Jets take each other on. Look for the number to dwindle down from seven to five after the dust settles. Also, take note of where the teams turn after this week, as I believe it is a big turning point from here for all seven of our undefeated teams. One way or another, this is definitely one of the most exciting NFL seasons I’ve witnessed, and with big games for pretty much all seven undefeated teams this week, it definitely isn’t going to disappoint.
Erik Espenberg is a native New Yorker who is an avid fan of the Yankees, Rangers, and Jets. When not writing for Camel Clutch, he can be found killing his brain cells playing assorted video games. He can be contacted at [email protected].
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