Can you believe that it's already week 3 in the NFL? If I told you that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers would be 2 - 0 and the Cowboys were going to be 0 - 2, you would have said that I'm crazy. The unpredictable season is always exciting.
Fans can be a fickle bunch, myself included. The collective mood varies week to week, quarter to quarter, possession to possession. This sentiment is amplified following a team's season opening performance. A win correlates into a franchise's followers booking their Super Bowl accommodations; a loss spirals supporters into panic. This is especially the case in Philadelphia. Another example: the New York Jets, who arrived with unparalleled hype and hoopla thanks to HBO's Hardknocks and proclamations from coach Rex Ryan. Yet after suffering a defeat to the Baltimore Ravens on Monday night, seemingly the entire football world wrote off Gang Green's title aspirations. Pigskin pundits blasted New York management for cutting ties with running back Thomas Jones, signing washed-up veterans, and welcoming the distraction of a reality series into training camp. Former star Joe Namath took issue with the team, stating the current Jets needed to "shut up and play." Ryan was crucified for his game plan, whose conservative nature seemed to contradict the coach's brash attitude and assertions. Keep in mind, New York lost by just ONE POINT. But in the NFL, there's a thin line between bliss and bitterness.
On to the game of the week:
The Atlanta Falcons were the recipients of similar vitriol after a Week 1 defeat to Dennis Dixon and the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Falcons were expected to bounce back from a disappointing and injury plagued 2009, and competing against Dixon, a 3rd string quarterback, appeared to be just what the doctor ordered. Unfortunately for the Falcons, Troy Pomamalu and the Steeler defense had a different itinerary in mind, as Pittsburgh came out victorious in a 15-9 overtime slugfest. Soon after, Mike Smith's squad was showered with criticisms and condemnations. Would Matt Ryan fall short of his projected potential? Was Michael Turner's 2008 an aberration? After Roddy White, were there any viable weapons in the aerial arsenal? So on and so on...
A 41-7 drubbing of defending NFC West champion Arizona seemed to lay to rest doubts among the Dirty-Bird backers, if only for a week. Ryan threw for 225 yards and 3 touchdowns, with a QB rating of 117.3. The Burner rushed for 75 yards on just 9 carries before succumbing to an injury (although not feared to be serious). Receivers not named White accounted for 14 receptions on Sunday. In short, Atlanta looked like the playoff-contending team that many had forecasted.
In reality, the Falcons fate is somewhere between their two performances. The Pittsburgh D, after shutting down Chris Johnson and Vince Young in Week 2, looks to have reclaimed their tenacious tendencies that led them to a Super Bowl in 2008. Meanwhile, the Cardinals are doing their best Little Giants impersonation. Atlanta travels to the Big Easy this week to play the Saints, off to a 2-0 start in their title defense. I give the edge to New Orleans; prediction: 28-19.
But rest assured, no matter what the outcome, one fan base will be making January playoff plans while the other will willow in its own misery. At least until next week's game.
These are my picks for the rest of the NFL:
Vikings over the Lions
Ravens over the Browns
Patriots over the Bills, aka the worst team in the NFL
Raiders over the Cardinals
Texans over the Cowboys...how bout dem cowboys? 0-3
Dolphins over the Jets
Steelers over the Buccaneers
Titans over the Giants
Bengals over the Panthers
Colts over the Broncos
49ers over the Chiefs
Eagles over the Jaguars
Redskins over the Rams
Packers over the Bears
Chargers over the Seahawks