GREEN Bay, Wis. -- Musings, observations and the occasional insight as a rather unconventional but fascinating homecoming weekend here in Titletown wrapped up with the Vikings' 38-26 win over the Packers ...
• They're not really known for doing anything all that quietly and understated (see new stadium, $1.15 billion price tag), which is what makes the Cowboys' three-game winning streak so absolutely un-Cowboys-like. Downright stealthy almost. But in case the rest of the NFL hasn't noticed yet, we're here to tell you, Dallas is suddenly on the move.
Believe it or not, the Cowboys' 38-17 home-field destruction of Seattle on Sunday sets up next week's NFC East first-place showdown at Philadelphia, with 5-2 Dallas testing its new-found mojo against the 5-2 Eagles. To the winner goes the undisputed grasp of the division's top spot at the season's mid-point, no matter what the floundering Giants (5-3) do next week at home against San Diego.
Honestly now, a month or so ago, with the Cowboys 2-2 and in a bit of disarray coming off that humbling loss at Denver, did any of us see a first-place battle in the Cowboys' not-too-distant future? Yes, I see that hand, and you can put it down now,
To be sure, the Cowboys didn't play their best game in trouncing the fading Seahawks (2-5). They left some points on the field, and gave up a good chunk of yardage defensively (Seattle had 308 total yards). But you can also see a team that's starting to believe in itself, and the
Dallas scored five touchdowns, and four came from the previously maligned receiving corps:
Romo finished 21 of 36 for 256 yards, and three scores, but the best part of his day was completing passes to 10 receivers, with none having more than Austin's team-leading five receptions for 61 yards. Gone are those bad old days of the
Having won three in a row at home after that stadium-opening disappointment against the Giants in Week 2, the Cowboys are starting to develop a little home-field advantage in their new digs as well. Now they have to take their act on the road the next two weeks into two of the more hostile settings in the NFL: Philadelphia and Green Bay. Both will be difficult trips, but my sense is these Cowboys will be up for the challenge.
For a change, Dallas is beginning to take on the look of an overachiever. Imagine that.
• That's pretty much what I expected out of the Baltimore defense on Sunday against visiting Denver, a season-saving wake-up call. The Ravens needed to rediscover their defensive identity, and they found it against the undefeated Broncos, holding them to just seven points and 200 yards of offense in the 30-7 win.
Baltimore really used its Week 7 bye to reinvigorate itself and get back to basics on defense. It looked as if the Broncos' bye last week actually robbed them of the momentum generated by their 6-0 start, and
The Ravens defensive intensity, of course, had something to do with Orton's off day. Baltimore sacked him just twice, but the defense flew around and hit everything in sight, and it looked to me like new defensive coordinator
You can't overestimate how big the win was for Baltimore, which climbed back over .500 at 4-3. With next week's trip to first-place Cincinnati (5-2) looming, the Ravens' playoff plans are very much alive.
• Denver's defense returned to earth at Baltimore, too. Before Sunday, the Broncos had given up just 10 points in the second half, and the only touchdown scored in the final 30 minutes came in Week 1 at Cincinnati. Against Baltimore, the Broncos allowed 24 points in the second half, although just 17 were against the defense. Ravens rookie cornerback/return man
With the schedule Denver has, it was only a matter of time before the Broncos tasted defeat. But the trick will be to ensure that one loss doesn't quickly become a losing streak. The defeat at Baltimore won't hurt Denver much in the AFC West if it can rebound next week at home against the defending Super Bowl champion Steelers (5-2), who will be coming off their bye.
• Wow. Break up the Titans. And good to see
• As the Giants slide continues, how long until
• Speaking of the Giants and their former selves, are we watching the resurrection of
You can't tell me Manning's passing isn't being affected by the plantar fasciatis he's playing through. Manning seems to be sailing a lot of his passes high over his receivers' heads, and that's probably an indication he not's real comfortable planting his feet and following through on his throws.
The Giants don't get their bye until Week 10, so Manning has to tough it out through Sunday's game against San Diego. New York has to hope the rest will do Manning's foot -- and flagging confidence -- some good.
• I'm not saying
Between Jackson and rookies
• What is going on with the once-proud Giants defense? New York really looks like it misses former defensive coordinator
Consider this: Weaver entered the game with 16 yards on four carries this season, and never had a run longer than 37 yards in his five-year NFL career. It was only the second touchdown he's ever scored as a professional.
All those big plays by the Eagles should make for a pretty uncomfortable week in the Giants defensive meetings.
• OK, we really shouldn't have to hear any more for the time being about the Jets' supplanting the Patriots as the beasts of the AFC East. Until New York (4-4) learns how to handle Miami, which just swept the season series for the first time since 2003, it's really unseemly for the Jets to be talking big and bold about knocking off New England.
I'm not saying the Patriots (5-2) clinched the division title on Sunday. But if I'm the Jets, who limp into their Week 9 bye, I just shut up and get rid of those awful Titans throwback uniforms at this point.
• Another Sunday, another blow to the NFL's "Any Given Sunday" mantra. After last week, which featured the biggest spate of blowouts since December 1970, five of the league's eight early games on Sunday were lopsided affairs, too. Baltimore, Houston, Chicago, Dallas and Philadelphia all won by 21-24 points.
• Remember the foul mood Jets head coach
• From the credit-where-credit-is-due department: Let's give it up for the Texans, who climbed two games over .500 (5-3) for the first time in their eight-season history by hanging in there to beat Buffalo 31-10 on the strength of a 22-point fourth quarter.
But now for the hard part. Houston plays undefeated Indianapolis twice in its next three games. If the Texans have any legitimate hopes of beating the Colts out in the AFC South, they'll have to prove it in head-to-head play. It's not hyperbole to say next week's game at the Colts shapes up as biggest game in franchise history for Houston.
• If Buffalo safety
• I'm giving the
Butler's in his fifth NFL season, I might add, so he can't claim he didn't know how the whole touchback thing works.
• Don't get me wrong. I applaud the effort, but fed-up Cleveland fans showing up late for a Browns game won't work. It's been tried before. Shoot, the Browns themselves have had whole games this season where they didn't show up, and absolutely nothing has changed.
• Given that a certain quarterback was playing at Lambeau Field on Sunday, I'm guessing Seattle running back
• There are few things in life you can count on, but I promise you
What about his four seasons in New England? Glad you asked. Branch, showing a penchant for a pattern of a different sort, scored two touchdowns his first season as a Patriot, three his second, four his third and five in his fourth and final year in Foxboro.
• How bad is that Bears offensive line? Bad enough that even hapless Cleveland sacked
• Another quality day for Browns quarterback
Anderson did score the Browns' only points on a 1-yard plunge. But of course, Cleveland had the extra point blocked. If
• You heard it here first, Bills fans. After that 29-yard
• Congrats to the Colts'
• I do believe ex-Ravens head coach
• It has come to this: Colts quarterback
• The Rams deserved to get their first win after 17 consecutive losses, because they've played hard for rookie head coach
• The Lions, however, simply aren't as far along under rookie head coach