• By now, I'm seriously starting to wonder who we can trust in this year's NFL? Did anyone inspire confidence in what was a wild Week 7? And is there anything or anyone solid enough to truly believe in as Halloween approaches and we near the season's midway point?
Clearly not the defending champion Saints (4-3), who lost by 13 points to a 1-5 Browns team that was a 13-point underdog entering the Superdome on Sunday. SeanPayton and DrewBrees said their team wouldn't suffer a Super Bowl hangover, but those words now seem laughably hollow.
And not the Baltimore Ravens (5-2), who were supposed to feast on the winless Bills, but instead wound up escaping 37-34 at home in overtime against Buffalo, another 13-point road underdog. Safety EdReed's return helped the Ravens defense (he intercepted two passes), but there wasn't anything remotely dominant about Baltimore's signature unit giving up 505 yards of offense to the Bills, including 373 yards passing and four touchdowns by quarterback RyanFitzpatrick.
Same goes for the Philadelphia Eagles (4-3), who had started to capture our attention with those impressive wins against the 49ers and Falcons the past two weeks. At 4-2, with a pair of quality quarterbacks at their disposal, the Eagles had us starting to think they were approaching elite status. But then came Sunday, and a 37-19 loss at Tennessee, whose backup quarterback, KerryCollins, riddled AndyReid's club for 276 yards and three touchdowns.
Perhaps clarity is an antiquated relic of NFL seasons gone by. The league simply has no givens this year, and I'm beginning to think we'll just have to get used to it. The NFL doesn't have a caste system in 2010. It just has winners and losers, and some weeks, like this one, you can barely tell them apart.
• The Steelers may be 5-1 and in first place in the AFC North, but how they can feel all that great about their 23-22 win at Miami when referee GeneSteratore admitted the officials blew the call that saved Pittsburgh quarterback BenRoethlisberger a lost fumble at the Dolphins 1 and set up Jeff Reed's 18-yard, game-winning field goal?
Because a replay review couldn't determine who recovered the Big Ben fumble in the end zone -- once the officials initially ruled Roethlisberger had scored and blew the whistle, they kind of lost interest in the play, apparently -- the Steelers got a do-over of sorts, at the half-yard line.
So the Dolphins "won'' the replay review, but lost the ball and then the game. And maybe there's really no way to correct an error of that sort, as Ed Hochuli's blown JayCutler fumble call at San Diego in 2008 proved. The Dolphins just kind of get credit for a big ol' hang-with-em and another home loss. Miami is now just the sixth team to start a season 3-0 on the road, but 0-3 at home.
• As for Roethlisberger, what's with all the sloppy ball security issues in his first two games back? He threw a horrible pick last week at home against Cleveland, and fumbled three times against the Dolphins. He officially lost just one of the fumbles, but again, the total could have been two if Steratore and crew had been a bit sharper. Roethlisberger needs to get that problem fixed post haste.
• And speaking of superstar quarterbacks who had disappointing days, raise your hand if you foresaw DrewBrees and Co. finding a way to lose in blowout fashion to Browns rookie quarterback ColtMcCoy in just his second career start.
Brees threw four interceptions and was sacked three times, with two of the picks (from 64 and 30 yards) being returned for touchdowns by 12th-year linebacker DavidBowens. Not that they were rare or anything, but in the first 11-plus seasons of his NFL career, Bowens had just two other interceptions, one each in 2008 and 2009. Oh, and Brees already has 10 interceptions this season after totaling just 11 of all last year.
• Maybe Titans receiver KennyBritt can compartmentalize better than most players, but it was a pretty neat trick to post the NFL's best receiving day this season two days after being involved in a bar fight. Britt didn't start the game and didn't play until the second quarter, but he still torched the Eagles for 225 yards and three touchdowns on 10 catches -- all career highs.
At times it looked as if all Collins had to do was toss it up deep, and Britt would came down with it. Henceforth, I'm guessing teams won't be leaving him in one-on-one coverage quite as often as the Eagles did.
• All things considered, the breaks of the game continue to make it rather easy on Reid in his quarterback shuffle in Philly. With a sloppy KevinKolb committing three turnovers that led to 17 points, it only makes sense that Reid would turn back to a healthy MichaelVick after Philadelphia's Week 8 bye.
• I think it can now be safely said that the Bears are who we thought they were. Maybe even worse than we thought they were.
If there's one team I can't take my eyes off this season, it's Chicago, a loser of three out of four after its 3-0 start. What a trip into bizarro world watching the Bears play this season. Quarterback JayCutler can have these games that seem beyond imagination, and then he can have a worse one the following week.
In truth, I don't know how Cutler tops the 17-14 home loss to Washington. He threw four interceptions, all to DeAngeloHall (tying an NFL record for interceptions by one player), and lost a key fumble at the goal line in the second quarter. He was also sacked four more times, giving him 19 sacks in his most-recent 10 quarters of play.
The Bears have dropped consecutive home games to .500 teams (Seattle was 2-2 and Washington entered 3-3), and I don't know how you begin to fix Chicago's offensive line. Shorter drops and shorter throws worked for a while on Sunday, but then Cutler started making Hall his favorite receiver and things got almost comically bad for the Bears. On Chicago's seven possessions in the second half, it had six turnovers and a punt.
Wonder where MikeMartz will be working next year?
• If I'm the Bears, I focus like a laser on signing one key player this week: A guy by the name of Max Protection. Until Chicago starts giving Cutler at least a modicum of time, mostly bad things are going to continue to happen when Martz calls a pass play.
• Maybe you don't notice what doesn't happen -- if you know what I mean -- but I didn't recognize any sea change in how NFL defenders went about their business Sunday, the first game day since the league stiffened up its enforcement of dangerous hits.
Perhaps it was too small of a sampling to notice any trend, but couldn't you say roughly the same thing about last week's violent collisions? There were apparently some examples noticed of defenders holding up a bit or going for a leg tackle instead of a higher hit, but I didn't see instances where any contact was obviously shied away from.
• If Josh McDaniel doesn't make it to year three in Denver, the Broncos head coach might look back at Sunday's 59-14 home loss to the hated Raiders as the moment his tenure turned tenuous. Losing so badly at home to AlDavis and Co. isn't going to be an easy failure to move beyond in Denver.
• Let's see, Denver goes down 24 points in the first quarter at home against Oakland and winds up falling by an astounding 45 points. San Francisco drops to 1-6 by losing 23-20 at previously winless Carolina.
And all I could think of was: Next week's 49ers-Broncos game must be driving 'em wild with anticipation in London.
• And the Chargers lose yet another one thanks to their special teams play. How many times have we already said that this season? New Chargers kicker KrisBrown is an ex-Texan because he wasn't particularly clutch in Houston, but now his reputation seems to be following him to southern California.
Brown missed a 50-yard field goal attempt with :23 left as San Diego fell to 2-5 with a 23-20 loss to New England. In fairness, Brown wasn't the biggest culprit on the Chargers special teams. He was lining up for a 45-yard attempt to force overtime, but guard LouisVasquez was flagged for a false start, costing San Diego five key yards. Brown's kick wound up clanking off the right upright, with the extra yardage likely making the difference between a conversion and a miss.
• It wasn't exactly Favre returning to Lambeau, but no one enjoyed the Browns upset at New Orleans more than Cleveland linebacker ScottFujita. The former Saints defensive leader, who signed as a free agent with the Browns in March, had one of the four interceptions of Brees. But maybe Fujita's biggest contribution for Cleveland came last week, in sharing secrets of how to prepare for Brees and where the weak spots in his game might be.
• The Jets and RexRyan were off this week, but wouldn't you know a Ryan was still front and center in Week 7. Browns defensive coordinator RobRyan, Rex's twin brother, had a great game plan for playing the Saints, and his postgame Gatorade shower was richly deserved.
The Browns really harassed Brees into multiple mistakes, and made him look flustered for much of the game. It was the first time in a long time that I can remember thinking that Brees' lack of prototypical NFL quarterback height really hurt him in a game.
• Maybe they won't put him out of his misery during the season no matter what, but that's about curtains for MikeSingletary in San Francisco, right? If the befuddled 49ers (1-6) had any hope of climbing back into the mild, mild NFC West race, that 23-20 loss at previously winless Carolina ought to remove all doubt. Good thing the baseball Giants made the World Series, because otherwise the heat would be even greater on Singletary in San Francisco.
• It's time we start looking at the first-place Seahawks (4-2) as a serious threat to win the division and return to the playoffs for the first time since 2007. With Seattle's 22-10 win over Arizona (3-3), the Seahawks now have what amounts to at a two-game lead on the rest of the division And first-year Seahawks head coach PeteCarroll is about to start generating some legitimate coach-of-the-year buzz. The Rams could have been right there with Seattle at 4-3, but their last-minute, 18-17 loss at Tampa Bay takes some of the luster off how well St. Louis has played thus far.
• A week after I wrote that Atlanta's lack of explosive playmakers kept it from being as dangerous as the likes of Philadelphia and other top contenders in the NFC, Falcons receiver RoddyWhite reminded us all that he might be the most underrated receiver in the game. White had 11 catches for 201 yards and two touchdowns in Atlanta's 39-32 victory over the visiting Bengals, adding a pivotal two-point conversion reception as well. White caught 11 of Matt Ryan's 24 completions, often in spectacular fashion. He did get stripped of the ball by Bengals cornerback Adam Jones after one of his receptions, but he was also clearly the best receiver in the game, which included TerrellOwens and ChadOchocinco.
• David Carr's showing in relief of the injured AlexSmith ought to tamp down some of the "We want the backup'' clamor in San Francisco. Carr was just 5-of-13 for 67 yards with a game-deciding interception in the final minute-plus. Smith sprained his left (non-throwing) shoulder in the first half and spent a good bit of the day on the sideline with his arm in a sling.
• I wonder what ex-Broncos head coach MikeShanahan thought of his ex-Broncos quarterback, JayCutler, on this day? Maybe at this point he doesn't even recognize the kid he drafted in 2006's first round. Except some of the turnovers are probably vaguely familiar.
• Well, it was a good run for MaxHall in Arizona. The rookie quarterback left the game in the third quarter with a blow to the head at Seattle, after going just 4-of-16 for 36 yards and a pick. DerekAnderson, the former starter, replaced Hall.
And with that, Arizona head coach KenWhisenhunt is officially at his wit's end at quarterback. Could the MattLeinart experience really have been worse than this in 2010?
• DanCarpenter is rapidly becoming the entire Miami offense. The Dolphins kicker was 5-of-5 on field goals this week, after last week's 3-of-3 showing from long distance in the overtime win at Green Bay. That means he has produced 24 of Miami's most recent 45 points, and that's never a good development for an offense.
• The man has certainly taken his share of grief this season, but that was a superb individual effort turned in by Redskins defensive lineman AlbertHaynesworth on the Cutler fumble he forced at the Washington 1. Haynesworth, anticipating Cutler sneaking the ball, went up and over Bears center OlinKreutz to knock the ball out of Cutler's grasp as he tried to extend it over the goal line.
That's the kind of disruptive force Haynesworth can be when he's on his game and motivated.
• How old am I? I actually covered ToddBouman when he was a rookie practice squad quarterback with the Vikings in 1997. The Jaguars, down to their third quarterback already this season, had to play Bouman at Kansas City on Sunday after getting both DavidGarrard and TrentEdwards hurt in the Monday night loss to Tennessee.
Bouman, 38, hadn't started a game since 2005 in New Orleans (the Saints' San Antonio/vagabond season), and he still hasn't won a game as a starter since 2001 in Minnesota. Now that's a losing streak, when you're up to nine years and counting.