by Robert Ferringo - 10/05/2005
And the pendulum swings.
Slightly less than one quarter of the National Football League season is over and done with. So I ask you this: would you ever say a game has been decided before the end of the first quarter? Since the answer is clearly no, then why are people getting so excited/spastic/manic/depressed after just four games?
Just seven short days after everyone was conceding New England's third consecutive Super Bowl title, people are throwing black roses on their grave. The Chargers, dismissed at 0-2, are now The Hot Team. And nowhere is the league's dichotomy as extreme as in the Big Apple. There the Giants have the league's best offense and are the toast of the town while the Jets have the league's worst offense and have left all their Super Bowl talk in the rear view.
So what does all of this prove to us? Well, nothing actually.
Football reflects the world that we live in - chaotic, unpredictable, nonsensical. But underneath there is an undercurrent of certainty and structure. The same governing laws that apply to your favorite teams also apply to your bank account. Not the least of which is this: it's still early. If you're off to a fast start, good job but don't get too cocky. If you haven't had the type of beginning to your season that you expected and you're account is dwindling, stay vigilant and have no fear. Soon enough, the pendulum will swing again.
Here are my random thoughts about Week 4:
* Fourth quarter, fourth-and-inches for Buffalo at the New Orleans/San Antonio 48-yard line. The Bills trail 13-6 and Kelly Holcomb could just fall forward for the first down to keep Hope alive. Instead, Buffalo attempts a run up the gut with Willis McGahee - going backwards to go forward. Saints safety Dwight Smith came flying through the line like an ICBM, untouched, and stoned McGahee. Game. Set. Match.
Yes, J.P. Losman is terrible. I mean, he's a rookie. Rookie QB's are terrible like freshman are dorks. However, the reason that the Bills offense has been so inconsistent over the past three years is because their offensive line has been atrocious. Over that time they've done nothing to upgrade, and if they can't manage a couple of inches against a worn out defensive line then they're just about useless.
* The winning team's margin of victory over each week of this season has been 12.7, 14.4, 10.6, and 11.2, respectively. That doesn't look like parity to me. So far only 27 of a possible 60 games have been decided by a single-digit margin. Conversely, 14 of those 60 contests -- nearly one-quarter -- have been decided by 20 points or more.
* "Mad Mike" Martz proved once again that he is as reckless as a college kid on Two-For-One Night. His Rams threw the ball an absurd 62 times on Sunday in their 44-24 loss to the Giants. It was a prideful move by the architect of the once-mighty Rams offense. But like the Greek or Roman ruins, the St. Louis offense is just the shadow of its former self. All Martz's pass-happy attack did was leave a leaky defense vulnerable to a new wave of in the form of Eli Manning and the Giants.
* On Sunday night against Arizona, the 49ers put on one of the worst offensive displays I think I've ever seen. And I'm a Bears fan. They crossed midfield on only two occasions - the furthest they got was the Arizona 42 - and their 14 points were courtesy of two defensive scores. The Niners finished with just 168 total yards on 50 plays, had five fumbles (three lost) and an interception, and in the fourth quarter they had drives of -13, 5, -7, and 21 yards. And yes, they represented us in another country.
* I think it's going to be a lot of fun once Marcus Vick gets into the NFL. At that point, 12.5 percent of the quarterbacks in the league will be either a Vick or a Manning. I pose these questions to you:
Which of those four QB's would you pay the most money to watch play?
Which one of those QB's would you want to lead your team in a game for your soul?
Which QB do you think will be considered the best 20 years from now?
It's a matter of opinion, but your answers to those questions say a lot about your views on the game.
* On Friday evening I signed the contract for my first home, which led to the following exchange between me and my fiancé: Sara: "Where do you want to go for dinner?" Me: "I just spent $170,000. I think I'll have a bowl of cereal."
* The shame of Week 4 is that when people look back on it no one will ever remember that Joey Harrington led a brilliant, potentially career-altering, 93-yard drive, in an undefeated opponent's lair, which should have resulted in the game-winning touchdown. Instead, the Lions get shafted on a replay call, lose the game, and are left again questioning their organization and their quarterback.
The Detroit Free Press reported that the Lions' receivers are close to mutiny, and that Charles Rogers was just suspended for four games (substance abuse). Detroit's entire season may have been decided, incorrectly, by a man in a funny, striped shirt.
* I really can't decide which is a bigger disaster/fraud right now: the Minnesota Vikings or the Republican Party.
In a related note, my beloved Bears (1-2) seized control of first place in the NFC North while on the bye week. Green Bay, at 0-4, is only two games out of the top spot. Wow.
* The Falcons are just bludgeoning people. Against the Vikings on Sunday they ran the ball 41 times for 285 yards and a 7.0 yard-per-carry average. That's right; they averaged seven yards every time they ran the ball. Of their 41 runs only two - a T.J. Duckett no gain and Matt Schaub's kneel down to end the game - failed to gain positive yardage. That's how you win football games.
* Favorites were 11-3 SU on Sunday, with only Denver, Kansas City and New England losing. However, the favorites were only 8-6 ATS. Tennessee was the only home underdog, and they got thrashed by Indianapolis.
* Denver, Philadelphia, Arizona and Tampa Bay were the only four teams to manage a touchdown out of their two-minute offense right before the half. With the exception of the Broncos (who were only up 7-0), each team was trailing before that drive. The momentum carried on into the second half, and all four ended up winning.
* Yes! We have another member of the Gus Frerotte Celebration Hall of Fame! San Diego ace Jake Peavy broke a rib while celebrating the Padres' divisional title last week. He's done for the postseason, but stuck around long enough to get lit up for eight runs by the Cardinals. Priceless.
* Dagger-Through-The-Heart Play of the Week: With Buffalo trailing 13-6 and under 10 seconds left in the half, Bills return man Terrence McGee fielded a kickoff and proceeded to put on as impressive an athletic display as you will ever see. He juked and jived at least seven Saints, and had a clear path to the end zone for the go-ahead score.
But then it happened. McGee's "convoy" of blockers didn't get out of his way. McGee should have held up or cut the run back away from the one New Orleans defender within 50 yards. McGee shouldn't have jumped for the end zone from the 10-yard line. McGee should have pitched the ball when he realized he was falling. These are all the thoughts going through my head as I saw my cover go bye-bye. I had the Over teased down to 26.5 and that touchdown and extra point would have meant Cover City. Nope. Instead, the final was 19-7 and a loss.
* Everyone is always talking about how "old school" Bill Parcells is. If that's so true, then why was he throwing the ball - twice - when inside an opponent's five-yard line with a chance to win a road game? Maybe it was the sheer girth of the Oakland interior lineman - Warren Sapp, Ted Washington and Ed Jasper average about 330 pounds - that scared him away from running the ball. On the day they held the Cowboys running attack to 32 carries for 116 yards.
* Phenomenal win on the road for Philadelphia. The Eagles were down 24-6, and then erupted for 31 unanswered points (taking full advantage of K.C.'s bumbling offense and shaky defense) in one of the toughest venues in the NFL. That win could be a turning point for both team's season.
In the second half of his last two games, Donovan McNabb has completed 69 percent of his passes for an average of 253 yards and two touchdowns. Those numbers represent a solid day's work for most QB's. That's what a hobbled McNabb is averaging in the final 30 minutes.
* A close second for the Dagger Play of the Week was Josh Brown ringing the post on a potentially game-winning 47-yard field goal against Washington. Kelly Herndon set up the play with an interception, but during the return Herndon made it to the Washington 29 before backtracking and getting tackled at the Skins' 33. D'oh!
Then, after a three-yard gain on first down with 45 seconds to play and one timeout, Mike Holmgren decided he was close enough. He called one more vanilla run up the middle (no gain) with about 15 seconds left, and then used his final timeout with just seconds to play. Considering that Brown's kick missed by only a foot or so, I wonder if Holmgren wishes he had actually tried to pick up a few more yards. I mean, a 47-yarder isn't exactly a chip shot.
* Has it really been 11 years since Reality Bites came out? I watched the movie last week, and I had forgotten how good it is. If a movie's jokes are still funny, and themes still seamlessly applicable to society over a decade after it was first released, you know it was a good flick.
My favorite line from that movie: ""(Life) is just a random lottery of meaningless tragedies and narrow escapes."
Questions or comments for Robert? e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.