Greetings, readers! Week 4 is over so it's time for another edition of the Rankings. I have to say that this week went a lot better for me; I try to pick the winners of every game every week and was immensely disappointed to only get four right last week. This week I got 11-of-15 right and feel a lot better about how I did. Of course, I got thrown by a couple of the late results; that's to be expected, really.
Still, what I said last week remains mostly in effect. It won't be quite as serious here as it was in previous weeks or previous seasons. That's probably for the better anyway.
Not quite as many stories to get to, but I think there were some important developments, just as in every week of the NFL season. That's one good thing about football: with only 16 games in a season, every week has something important happening. Often, there are multiple something's and this week was no exception.
Let's start with last Thursday's game, Browns @ Ravens. It went down to the wire with a surprising finish. I guess the Browns being close was a surprise to people other than me? I remember seeing Ron Jaworski on Pardon the Interruption that afternoon and he said the Browns had a chance to keep it close. Obviously, their offense played better than expected, especially on the last drive. Their defense wasn't too bad either; while Baltimore had 23 points, their offense didn't look as crisp as it has at times this season. Of course Brandon Weeden ended up showing his true colors at the end. He's a rookie, after all. Despite that close scrape, the Ravens are 3-1 and appear to be in control of the division. They hold the tiebreaker on Cincinnati. That's probably a good thing, because the Bengals continue to round into form by the week. We'll see how Baltimore plays when they head to Cincy later this season.
Most surprising 3-1 team? My vote goes to the Minnesota Vikings. I'm not sure I could name more than 10-12 players on the team, yet they've taken out the 49ers and won a division game this week against the Lions. Apparently Christian Ponder is the last QB to have not thrown an INT this season. Quite impressive, considering how turnover-happy some QB's have been already. Adrian Peterson appears to have recovered from his knee injury quite well. Likely better than expected. It's hard to predict where this team can end up. Obviously, if their effort remains close to where it was against the 49ers, they have a legitimate shot just like the other teams in their division. Some teams start out hot and then fade down the stretch. We'll see what happens.
I think I heard Tom Brady make a comment about getting back on track, or something to that effect against Buffalo. Next time I'll make sure to pay better attention, since they just hung 52 up on the Bills. This performance raises two quite obvious points. First, the Bills absolutely stink on defense; they've given up 48 and 52, to division opponents no less. Second, Tom Brady's still got it. I didn't think losing Aaron Hernandez would have such an effect, but then Brady got Welker and Branch back into the game plan and the TD's started pouring in once more. I doubt anyone was really selling on the Pats so early, especially with that division, but it was a little troublesome to see them lose to Arizona and Baltimore. Both games were close, though, something that you can't say about Sunday's game.
Surprisingly, there are still three undefeated teams after four weeks. Atlanta and Arizona had hard-fought wins while the Texans coasted for most of the day. Atlanta's defense nearly failed them, but held up enough to get Matt Ryan in position to win it. And how! He threw a bomb to Roddy White which traveled at least 60 yards in mid-air and then proceeded to get surgical, taking short chunks of yardage in order to set up his kicker. Probably one of the better drives I've seen this season. And yet, I can't shake the feeling that if they had played better earlier in the game, they wouldn't have been in that situation to begin with. Similarly, the Cardinals took awhile to really wake up. Once they did, though, they ended up scoring late in the 4th and then won the game in OT. A bit troubling that it took so much effort against Miami, of all teams. Houston not only won, they knocked out Jake Locker too. Unlike the majority of the national media, I'm not quite convinced that the Texans really are the best team in the league. For now it's Atlanta, until they get beat. And it just might happen that the Texans lose before Atlanta does. I don't think it'll be in Week 5, though.
Finally, we get to the Giants. This one is kind of a referendum on the entire NFC East, since the entire division insists on being unpredictable in a rather stupid way. Washington went down to Tampa and pulled a win out of the hat despite their kicker's "difficulties" throughout the day. The Giants lost while having two cracks at a game-winning FG. And we all saw what Dallas did (and didn't) do last night. I found the Giants result particularly maddening because the statistics say that Eli Manning is great in the 4th quarter as well as in comeback victories. He had neither of those things going for him Sunday night and didn't really look like he was in the game for the entirety of it. Now, even when he's really playing well, he doesn't look all that impressive. At least, I've never seen a game where his play has really impressed me. But he looked particularly bad in the 4th quarter Sunday night and failed to make even basic throws. He wasn't helped by his bonehead receivers who committed ridiculous offensive PI penalties either. So they're a disappointing 2-2 while the Eagles are somehow 3-1 when they should be 0-4. I wouldn't be surprised in the least to see Michael Vick get benched at some point this season. If it happened to McNabb, it can happen to Vick.
Here are the Rankings for Week 4:
1.) Atlanta (4-0) [no change]
An impressive end to last week's game. Now they head to Washington to face RGIII.
2.) Houston (4-0) [no change]
The defense looks for real. TJ Yates has more playoff wins than Matt Schaub, though.
3.) Arizona (4-0) [no change]
Kevin Kolb showed why he got beat out by Skelton. Short week + division rival = Trouble?
4.) Baltimore (3-1) [no change]
Better to be lucky than good. Heading out to KC for what should be an easy win.
5.) San Francisco (3-1) [+1]
No losing streaks allowed, apparently. That beatdown was probably the most impressive win of the weekend.
6.) Cincinnati (3-1) [+1]
Can anyone stop A.J. Green? I'm going to take a wild guess and say not Miami.
7.) Chicago (3-1) [+1]
They'll feast on another bad QB in Jacksonville. Now if they could keep Cutler from being Cutler....
8.) San Diego (3-1) [+1]
Philip Rivers rebounded nicely from that debacle against Atlanta. Going on the road to New Orleans is tougher, but winnable.
9.) Philadelphia (3-1) [+1]
Turning the NFC East on its head while trying not to turn the ball over on every possession. Ugly, but effective.
10.) Minnesota (3-1) [-]
The most surprising 3-1 team gets a Titans team starting their #2 guy. 4-1 is looking likely.
That's all for this week. See you next week.
Three Games to Watch (Week 5):
Arizona @ St. Louis (Thursday, NFL Network)
Atlanta @ Washington (Sunday, FOX)
Denver @ New England (Sunday, CBS)