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Snap Judgments for Week 5

Musings, observations and the occasional insight as we witnessed the bruising heavyweight fight that the Titans-Ravens game morphed into on Sunday, before a demoralized M&T Bank Stadium throng ....

• Watching the Week 5 final scores roll in, one question kept reverberating around my brain: Is there really a true upset in this league anymore? How many teams are there that are so good it seems like a shock to see them lose? One, maybe two? More likely, none? Where have you gone Bill Belichick and your perfect-season Patriots? A football nation turns its lonely eyes to you.

On Sunday, it was just another day in the suddenly devoid of dominance NFL. There was Miami doubling its 2007 win total by knocking off the visiting Chargers 17-10, despite San Diego being favored by almost a touchdown. There was Atlanta and its rookie quarterback, Matt Ryan, going into Lambeau Field and taking care of the Packers 27-24, as if it were nothing to it. And there was Washington taking its act on the road once more, this time to favored Philly, proving that last week's NFC East humbling of Dallas was anything but a fluke.

All Week 5 did was continue the trend that started on Kickoff Weekend, when the Bears got the upsets underway with that 29-13 mauling of the heavily favored Colts, having the audacity to ruin the opening of Indy's new Lucas Oil Stadium. In Week 2, San Francisco went to Seattle and beat the four-time defending NFC West champs at Qwest Field 33-30 in overtime.

Then came Week 3, and Miami's stunning 38-13 dismantling of New England, the very team we had come to count on above all else in the NFL. Last week? I still can't decide if Kansas City's shocking 33-19 defeat of previously unbeaten Denver was the upset of the week, or if the Redskins knocking the Cowboys from the unbeaten ranks was actually more impressive?

Maybe this is the way it's going to be in the NFL in 2008. Greatness is in extremely short supply, especially compared to last year, when the early-season results showed a league that was clearly delineated between the elite -- the Patriots and Colts in the AFC, the Cowboys and Packers in the NFC -- and then everyone else.

This season, with the possible exception of the defending champion Giants (4-0), whose schedule has yet to challenge them, there are no superpowers in the NFL. Just a bunch of fairly even teams, taking turns making one another look bad (and sometimes worse than that) from week to week.

I suppose we best get used to it. After all, it's the only NFL season we've got.

• Hail to the Redskins indeed. Jim Zorn's resilient team is growing more impressive by the week. Not only did Washington climb out of an early 14-0 hole at Philadelphia, refusing to wilt after the Eagles scored twice in the game's first seven-plus minutes, but also the Redskins went on to roll up 388 yards on offense and hold the Eagles to just 254.

And not to jack up the Redskins-mania any higher among the team's rabid faithful -- if that's even possible -- but in the season's first five weeks, Washington has already weathered all three of its NFC East road games, winning at Dallas and Philly and losing at the Giants. With their next three games being at home against St. Louis and Cleveland, and on the road at Detroit, Washington has a great shot to be 7-1 at the season's midpoint.

• Uh, oh. What do the Eagles do now that they've lost a game that Donovan McNabb called a "must-win?'' A lot of folks picked Philly to come back strong this season and win the NFC East, but at 2-3 they're already a clear-cut fourth in that tough four-team division.

This one had to hurt worst of all -- more painful than the losses at Dallas or Chicago. The Eagles led 14-0 early, and their defense gave up 23 points after having not allowed a touchdown at home this season (against either the Rams or Steelers).

• Another couple game days like Sunday's 44-6 shellacking at the hands of the Giants and Seahawks head coach Mike Holmgren might not make it through his entire swan song season in Seattle. At 1-3, with his team surrendering 33 points or more in three of four games, this can't be fun for a guy who has led his Seahawks to the playoffs five years in a row.

Maybe Holmgren will just prematurely toss the keys to Seattle secondary coach Jim Mora -- who has already been named his successor in 2009 -- and call it an early retirement. Doubtful, but could you blame him if this keeps up?

• Between their Michael Turner-led running game, Roddy White-led receiving game and Matt Ryan-led passing game, there's nothing that's not legit about the Falcons offense. And that retooled offensive line can take a bow, too. The Falcons probably won't be able to keep up in the tough NFC South this season, but there's something good building in Georgia, and it's paying some pleasantly surprising early dividends.

• Stat line of the week: Against Carolina, Chiefs running back Larry Johnson ran seven times for two yards, with a long gain of four. Not an easy feat. I'm guessing he's not happy about it, either.

• Can we just all admit this Giants team is vastly superior to last year's Super Bowl-winning club? New York can do virtually whatever it wants these days, witness the 523 yards of offense against Seattle.

Eli Manning had 224 yards passing in the first half, en route to a 267-yard day, and the Giants' running game steamrolled the Seahawks for 254 yards, led by Brandon Jacobs (136 yards and two touchdowns on just 15 carries). New York is 4-0 for the first time since 1990 and clearly the best team in the league through Week 5. Dare we say it? The Giants repeating as Super Bowl champions is suddenly anything but far-fetched.

• I know I'm not breaking this story, but the Bob Sanders-less Colts can't stop the run again. The Texans rushed for 156 yards against Indy on Sunday, with rookie Steve Slaton gouging them for 93 yards and a pair of touchdowns. And that rated as "improvement" for Indy, which entered Week 5 allowing an AFC-worst 199.3 rushing yards per game.

Of course, the last time the Colts really struggled to stop the run was late in the 2006 season. And you know how that season ended for them. With the big on-field confetti shower in Miami.

• Speaking of the Colts, they're now 2-2, with both wins being the rabbit-out-of-a-hat variety. I thought it was remarkable enough when Manning and Co. pulled out that 18-15 win at Minnesota in Week 2, but Sunday's comeback at Houston takes the cake. Trailing 27-10 late in the final quarter, the Colts scored 21 points in a span of 2:10, stunning the winless Texans 31-27.

By all rights, the Colts should probably be 0-4. Juxtapose them with the Bears, who won at Detroit to improve to 3-2 on Sunday. Chicago blew fourth-quarter leads at Carolina and home against Tampa Bay in Weeks 2-3, meaning the Bears are closer to 5-0 than any of us are probably willing to admit.

• This direct-snap craze is getting a bit out of hand in the NFL. If Miami's Ronnie Brown keeps this up, his agent will probably suggest to the Dolphins that his client should be paid as a quarterback rather than a running back.

This is nothing if not a copycat league. At one point on Sunday, the Texans direct-snapped to running back Ahman Green on a third-and-nine from the Colts' 20. Green gained just one yard, and Houston wound up kicking a 37-yard field goal to tie Indy at 10-10. Third and nine?

• Tough times for West Coast teams heading east, no matter where they end up staying. Last week it was the Cardinals getting routed at the Jets despite the "benefit'' of not having to cross three times zones to get to the game. This week the Seahawks flew cross-country just to get humiliated 44-6 by the Giants, and the jet-lagged-looking Chargers jetted all the way to Miami to lose 17-10 to the improved Dolphins.

• Seems like there are a lot of good Comeback Player of the Year candidates, but I do believe Ronnie Brown has my vote so far. Mr. Direct Snap himself had another big rushing day with 125 yards and a touchdown.

• So much for the notion of the Lions rallying around Rod Marinelli after their bye. Sunday's 34-7 egg-laying at home against the Bears didn't do much to convince anyone the end of the Matt Millen era lifted the black cloud that has hovered above the organization since 2001.

With Detroit at 0-4 and about to hit the road for three of the next four weeks, I'd say Marinelli may be giving Cincinnati's Marvin Lewis a run for the top spot on my current Hot Seat rankings for coaches.

• C'mon, wouldn't you kill to know what Millen did with his first NFL Sunday off in many a year? I'm ruling out any chance he went to a Detroit-area sports bar to watch the Lions game. Call it an informed hunch.

• Don't look now, but Kyle Orton is 14-5 in his last 19 games as the Bears starting quarterback. It's pretty apparent that Chicago head coach Lovie Smith made the right preseason call with his quarterback question, going with Orton over the turnover-plagued Rex Grossman.

But Lovie, as a Bears fan might be tempted to ask, what took you so long? By the way, Orton set career highs in passing yards (334), completions (24) and passer rating (121.4) on Sunday. But what else is new against the Lions?

• You get the feeling the Texans are this year's team of misfortune? First, their Week 2 home opener against Baltimore is postponed by Hurricane Ike, which damaged Reliant Stadium. Since then, the roof has really caved in on Houston, which fell to 0-4 with Sunday's fourth-quarter meltdown against the Colts. Oh, and just when starting quarterback Matt Schaub played an encouraging game last week at Jacksonville, he was forced to miss Sunday's game when he was hospitalized Saturday night with a virus.

• After watching the Chiefs fall meekly at Carolina, which won 34-0, you think the Broncos are wondering how on earth they lost 33-19 at Arrowhead last week? Kansas City had just 127 yards of offense against the Panthers, who rushed for way more than that (205 yards), winding up with 441 yards of offense and 38:54 of possession time.

Can you say "butt-kicking?''

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