Sunday October 10th, 2010

Quick-hitting insights from the slate of 1 p.m. games.

The Colts' win over the Chiefs wasn't the kind of game to convince anyone Indianapolis isn't suffering a Super Bowl hangover. Peyton Manning and the Colts offense didn't have their normal explosive plays, and their pass rush wasn't quite as explosive as it's been in the past, even though it held Kansas City quarterback Matt Cassel to 156 yards passing. Give the Chiefs credit, however. It's a bit of a fluke that they were the last undefeated team in the NFL, but their defense is good enough to keep them in the AFC West race.

The Bears seem like an unlikely 4-1 team since they were so bad in primetime last week against the Giants, and their quarterback, Todd Collins, threw for just 32 yards and four interceptions in their win over Carolina. Credit Lovie Smith's defense, which actually played well last week in New York and was dominant against the Panthers. Julius Peppers didn't get a sack in his return to Carolina, but he had an interception and has lifted the play of the entire line. In an uncapped year, several teams probably wish they had challenged the Bears' $91 million contract for Peppers.

Will the Lions actually get better when Matthew Stafford is healthy enough to return to the lineup? Backup Shaun Hill has put up big numbers since Stafford hurt his shoulder and had the Lions marching up and down the field with relative ease as Detroit recorded its first victory. Of course, with Stafford's contract, Hill staying in the lineup is not even an option once Stafford is ready to return. That being said, San Francisco probably wouldn't mind having Hill under center.

If you happened to flip by this game on Sunday Ticket and thought you were watching the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl, that's because no one told CBS' Gus Johnson this game was barely watchable. Still, the Jags once again found a way to jump out to a winning record early in the season, even though their best player is probably kicker Josh Scobee. Meanwhile, the Bills have to be considered the NFL's front-runner to go 0-16 this season. Buffalo, which entered the week with the NFL's worst rush defense, was gashed for 216 yards rushing by the Jags.

The Texans were supposed to finally break through and reach the playoffs once again, but they're not going to do it unless their defensive backfield improves, or they generate enough pass rush to cover up for it. Eli Manning didn't need to do much in the second half of an easy Giants win, so he didn't have huge overall numbers (27-of-42, 297 yards, three TDs, two INTs). Still, Manning had his choice of open receivers in the first half.

The Ravens are a different team when Ray Rice is at full strength, like in Sunday's win. Rice, who ran for 1,339 yards last season, had his first 100-yard game of the season (133) and made everything Baltimore wanted to do on offense easier. Good thing, because the Ravens were putting too much pressure on their defense to win every week.

Are the Falcons a good team because they know how to win close games or an overrated team because they can barely beat bad teams? Watching them Sunday, you had to get the feeling they were going to win no matter how close Cleveland got. The Falcons are too sound defensively and can control the ball on the ground enough to tire out opposing defenses by the fourth quarter. Meanwhile, the Browns didn't seem thrilled to have Jake Delhomme back. The offense took a step backward when Seneca Wallace hurt his right leg. In a crucial fourth-quarter drive, they trotted out Josh Cribbs at QB on first- and second-down and he looked more dangerous than Delhomme.

Carson Palmer and the Cincinnati offense's late meltdown is probably the biggest headline in the Bengals' loss to the Bucs -- they never should have been throwing the ball on that final drive. Don't forget to praise Tampa Bay's second-year quarterback Josh Freeman, who showed a lot of poise leading the Bucs down for the tying score in the fourth quarter. Some questioned Freeman's maturity as a quarterback coming out of college. That was a mistake. And how did former Syracuse receiver Mike Williams last until the fourth round of this year's draft?

Donovan McNabb finds himself in a similar situation in Washington as he was in Philly. He had no running game and had to win with his arms and legs. And just like in Philly, McNabb wasn't terribly accurate underneath but kept the Redskins in it with a few beautiful long passes. After throwing for 125 yards against his former team last week, McNabb threw for 357 to lead all early quarterbacks and help Washington come from behind to beat Green Bay in overtime. The Packers have been living dangerously not putting teams away all season, and it finally cost them.

Do the 1972 Dolphins actually bother popping champagne when the last undefeated team falls this early in the season? Now that everyone has at least one loss, and you look at the landscape of the NFL, it's hard to pick two future Super Bowl teams. Two fashionable preseason picks, Baltimore and Atlanta, improved to 4-1 on Sunday and may have as good a chance as anyone.

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