It was an eventful weekend of football across the board. There were plenty of close games and surprises. A few things are worth a second look.
No undefeated teams left
Arizona and Cincinnati lost, and lost big. That means every team in the NFL has at least one loss. Only seven teams (including Seattle ahead of tonight’s game) have one loss. Every other team has at least two losses. This is the earliest time in a season that I can remember no undefeated teams were left.
NFC East rising
We knew the Eagles would be competition for the #1 seed in the NFC because the NFC East was full of patsies. Well, we got it half right. Philadelphia has the most unlikely collection of four wins in the NFL, but they have’em. The division boasts three teams with winning records and two teams with 4-1 records. The Dallas Cowboys, of all teams, is one of them. They feature a fantastic running game, and a defense that has been far better than advertised. Now, they were advertised to be the worst defense in the NFL, so take that for what it’s worth. The NFC West also has four teams with winning records, but no teams with four wins (the bye week makes that impossible for Seattle and Arizona). The hope here is the East is better than people thought, and they will beat each other up more. The Eagles and Cowboys still have two games to play against each other. The Giants could also give both teams trouble.
49ers are hanging in there
This was a critical stretch for the 49ers. Losses to the Eagles and Chiefs at home were real possibilities. They would have been 1-4 with three losses at home if that had been the case. Instead, they found a way to win both games and sit at a respectable 3-2.
Their margin has been razor-thin. Opponents have scored 106 points against them this year. The 49ers have scored 110. If there is one group most responsible for San Francisco’s winning ways this year, it has to be their receivers. Brandon Lloyd and Stevie Johnson have made critical plays that guys playing the third and fourth receiver in past years for that team would not have.
They now play St. Louis twice in the next three games, and play @ Denver and @ New Orleans. The Broncos game seems like an almost certain loss, but the Saints game is not nearly as scary as it once was. If the 49ers don’t come out of this four-game stretch with at least two more losses, they will be right in the division race all year, and setup for a very strong finish when Navarro Bowman and Aldon Smith return.
Cardinals played tough
The score doesn’t indicate it, but I was impressed with how the Cardinals played in Denver. They were right in that game until the fourth quarter on the road against a very good Broncos team. Their defense forced two turnovers, and played physically.
The offense was abysmal, but scored enough points to make a game of it with their backup quarterback, and eventually, their third string rookie quarterback.
Arizona is the anti-St. Louis. They seem like they have too many talent gaps to be competitive, but there is an intangible toughness to how they play. The sum is greater than the parts. The Rams have first-round talent throughout their defense, but play at a far lower level than their talent would indicate.
NFC South is a scrum
The Saints pulled out a miraculous and necessary win to end the week 2-3 instead of 1-4. If not for a very poor decision by Mike Glennon to hold the ball in the endzone for a safety, they probably lose. Carolina leads the division at 3-2 despite a negative point differential (-16), and every other team has lost more than won. They probably will beat each other up all season.
Looking forward to a Brandon Browner return
Former Seahawk Brandon Browner will be added to the Patriots roster today and should play again soon. That Patriots defense could get a lot better with Browner and Darrelle Revis as their corners. One of my favorite players, I wish Browner all the best in his return to the field.