Week 3 Judgements: Bills' 3-0 start impressive to say the least

by | CBSSports.com Senior NFL Columnist

1. The next challenge for Buffalo, coach Chan Gailey said, is "how do we handle prosperity?" He's right about that. The 2008 Bills started 5-1, then lost seven of their next eight and eight of their last 10. Five of their next eight are on the road, including games at the New York Giants, Dallas and the New York Jets.

2. A former assistant with New England once told me the Patriots believe that more games are lost than won, and that they play the odds to avoid critical mistakes. Well, the odds caught up to them. And so did the mistakes. They lost Sunday's game with four Tom Brady interceptions -- as many in one afternoon as he had all last season. NBC's Rodney Harrison is right when he says the Pats are too one-dimensional. The problem is that when Brady isn't Tom Terrific, the club has trouble surviving. It happened in last year's playoffs; it happened again Sunday.

3. Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride has taken a lot of heat already this season, but he should take a bow for his play-calling in Sunday's improbable win. Gilbride went into the game with Victor Cruz as his second option at wide receiver -- a guy who had two career catches prior to Sunday -- yet he won with four touchdown passes, two of them to Cruz. "He understood exactly what had to happen," winning coach Tom Coughlin said of Cruz, "and he made it happen."

4. The more I see of Indianapolis the more I'm convinced Peyton Manning is underpaid. I mean, you subtract him, and this is what you get? Now you know why he was a four-time MVP.

5. San Francisco's Alex Smith is another guy who won't last long behind a matador line. The poor guy's been sacked 11 times in two weeks, one way to hurry the development of rookie Colin Kaepernick.

6. It's easy to see why Philadelphia coach Andy Reid was steamed after his latest loss. That defense that added expensive free agents like Cullen Jenkins and Nnamdi Asomugha and Jason Babin ... and traded for Dominque Rodgers-Cromartie ... and changed coordinators ... yeah, well, that defense can't tackle, make big plays or stop anyone. It's one thing to be beaten by Tony Gonzalez; but Victor Cruz? With their latest self-immolation, the Eagles have been outscored 29-0 in the fourth quarter of the last two games, and, that's a problem.

7. Chris Johnson not only doesn't have a 100-yard game; he doesn't have 100 yards, period. In three games he's totaled 98 on 2.1 yards per carry. That's what happens when there's no offseason, and you skip training camp.

8. I dare you to watch the Oakland Raiders, then tell me that running the ball doesn't matter anymore.

9. Finally, a Troy Polamalu sighting. It's about time.

10. I know it's early, but I don't like what's happening in Atlanta -- and what's happening is that the Falcons seem to have lost their identity. Once they were a running team that passed; now they're a passing team that runs. And loses. Wonder why Matt Ryan's taking a beating? Start there.

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11. I see that Randy Moss is "open" to returning to a winning team with a veteran quarterback. Swell. After what Moss did ... or did not do ... in 2010, I can't imagine a winning team or a veteran quarterback willing to take him on.

12. Here's one reason the Vikings stink in the second half: They're 1-for-15 on third downs; opponents are 13-for-22. Let's see, no offense, no defense ... yep, that will do it.

13. Matt Hasselbeck is getting two jobs done at once: He's helping the Titans win today, and he's helping them win in the future. By playing as well as he is, he keeps rookie Jake Locker nailed to the bench, which only benefits him when he's called to start.

14. Someone asked Sunday if there was a better tight end out there now than New England's Rob Gronkowski. Uh, yeah, there is. Meet Jermichael Finley.

15. My concern with Houston is not so much with a defense that didn't hold up Sunday. That happens when you play Drew Brees and the Saints ... especially in New Orleans. Nope, it's with an offense that continues to sputter in the red zone. In the Texans' last 12 trips inside the 20 they have two touchdowns and eight field goals. Not good.

Five Things I Like

1. Drew Brees and touchdown passes. For those keeping score at home, that makes 30 straight games in which Brees has thrown at least one TD, the third-longest streak ever. Only John Unitas (47) and Brett Favre (36) are better.

2. Atlanta's ability to force mistakes. The Falcons intercepted Josh Freeman twice Sunday, running their record to 22 straight games with at least one turnover in each -- the longest current streak in the NFL.

3. Mark Herzlich's tweet before Sunday's game: "Making same drive out of Philly that I did when diagnosed. This time it's to go play the Eagles. Feel blessed." Nice.

4. Everything about Buffalo's 3-0 start. It's one thing to hammer Kansas City. But Oakland and New England in consecutive weeks? And from at least 18 back in each game? Nobody has done that before. Nobody. It's good for the NFL to have the Bills back on the map, and great for the people of western New York. They're loyal fans, and they waited years for a winner. This season I hope they get their wish.

5. Anyone kicking against San Diego. When Kansas City's Ryan Succop missed his first field-goal try Sunday it ended a streak of 35-straight field goals against San Diego (preseason, regular season and postseason). Prior to Sunday, the last kicker to miss a field goal against the Bolts was Dallas' Nick Folk on Dec. 13, 2009. Honest.

Five Things I Don't

1. The Jets going for it on fourth-and-goal at the Oakland 2 with less than a minute left. I'm with CBS analyst Phil Simms; I would have taken the field goal, then tried the onside kick. The Jets needed two scores; it didn't matter in what order.

2. That phantom holding call on Johnny Knox's surprise punt return for a touchdown. Where was the hold, guys? Officials called it on the Bears' Corey Graham, but replays indicated he was nowhere near the play ... or near anybody to hold.

3. Chicago's running game. What running game? Last week the Bears wouldn't run. This week they couldn't. Good luck defending that division title, guys.

4. Anything about St. Louis defensive back Justin King. He was beaten for three touchdown passes -- all by rookie Torrey Smith and all in the first quarter. "No explanation for that," said coach Steve Spagnuolo.

5. Tony Sparano's future. He lost his last six, 11 of his last 12 at home and 21 of his last 35 overall. Jim Harbaugh never looked better.

Five Guys Who Have Some 'Splainin' To Do

1. Minnesota coach Leslie Frazier: You're at the Detroit 17, you're up by three points and you need one yard to sustain a drive. So what's the call? Yep, you hand it to ... Toby Gerhart ? You must be kidding. What happened to Adrian Peterson? When you absolutely, positively need to make a play, you put the ball in the hands of your best playmakers. Adrian Peterson is the Vikings' best playmaker, not Toby Gerhart.

2. New England wide receiver Chad Ochocinco: A couple more flubs like that drop of a sure TD, and don't look for Tom Brady to keep standing up for you.

3. Atlanta defensive tackle Corey Peters: Corey, Corey, Corey. When it's fourth-and-inches, and the quarterback keeps barking signals he's usually trying to get someone to jump offsides. That someone was you.

4. Giants punter Steve Weatherford: I just want to know why he felt compelled to tweet this while driving to Sunday's game: "Just arrived in Philly. What a dump. Let's get a W and get the heck out of here."

5. Philadelphia coach Andy Reid: He had three chances to score at the Giants' 1 (including a play nullified by penalty) and called Michael Vick twice on quarterback sneaks. The guy was coming off a concussion last weekend. Not sure why you want him diving head-first into a sea of humanity.

Just Asking ...

 Lions or Packers?
 What is wrong with St. Louis?
 How does Ben Roethlisberger last behind that offensive line?
 Too soon to throw dirt on the Vikings?
 Andre Johnson or Calvin Johnson?

Monday Morning QBs

Here we go again, folks. Can't resist keeping tabs on the league's veteran quarterbacks who switched addresses, so let's how they're doing after three weeks:


Matt Hasselbeck, Tenn/112/78/932/5/2/2-1
Donovan McNabb, Minn/81/47/478/2/1/0-3
Kerry Collins, Ind/98/48/481/2/1/0-3
Kevin Kolb, Ariz/96/60/812/5/3/1-2
Tarvaris Jackson, Sea/97/59/527/2/2/1-2


3: Straight weeks an opponent returned a fumble for a touchdown vs. St. Louis

3: St. Louis passing yards in the first half

13: Rushing yards for Chicago, its fewest since 1952

11: Straight Detroit wins, including 2010, the 2011 preseason and the 2011 regular season

16: Wes Welker catches

34: 300-yard passing games through three weeks, an NFL record

67-6: Opponents vs. Minnesota in the second half

74: Chris Johnson rushing yards in his last two starts vs. Denver

1980: Last time the Lions were 3-0

My Top Five

1. Green Bay
2. New Orleans
3. Detroit
4. Buffalo
5. New England

My Bottom Five

32. Kansas City
31. Miami
30. Indianapolis
29. Minnesota
28. St. Louis

Next Weekend's Three Best Games

New England at Oakland ... Raiders try to "bully up" for second straight week.

Pittsburgh at Houston ... Wade Phillips vs. Dick LeBeau. I love it.

New York Jets at Baltimore ... Yes, you can go home again, Rex.


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