Just like every year in recent memory, everything you thought about the NFL coming into a particular season is trending in the other direction after two weeks. With that in mind, here are the Week 2 notebook cleaners.
Eddie get your guns: Ed Hochuli, one of the NFL’s best officials, kicked a big call at San Diego in the closing minutes of regulation. The call has been widely discussed, but what’s lost here is an official admittied that he kicked it to the coach on the wrong side of the decision. When is the last time a MLB umpire made such an admission to a mad manager?
But, you gotta stop ’em: By the way, regardless of the call, the Chargers’ defense did NOT stop Denver on the fourth-down pass into the end zone OR the 2-point conversion pass (never mind the game-winning pass in the final seconds by Carolina in Week 1). By the way, the Chargers’ defense has allowed the fifth-highest points per game average through two weeks. That’s not the fault of the officials.
Tom who?: The Patriots may have found a way to put a chip on their collective shoulders after the season-ending injury to quarterback Tom Brady. The victory over the Jets re-established (for the moment) that New England is the best team in its division. I’m not buying that the Pats are the best team in the AFC right now. They are going to have to win some games with Matt Cassel’s arm and smarts, and that might be tough to do.
Pushin’ the panic button: The Vikings are 0-2 and QB Tarvaris Jackson is being shown the bench in favor of Gus Frerotte. Minnesota (of course, my pick to win the NFC North) has struggled with just two offensive TDs (tied for 25th in the NFL). They had the Colts on the ropes on five field goals, but could not finish off Indy in a game that might have implications in both conferences down the line.
Darth Raider waits to strike: Al Davis has not shown Lane Kiffin the door (yet) in Oakland, as many media reports had him doing sometime this week. The soap opera that is the Raiders may have reached a new low with last week’s profane tirade of Rob Ryan, Oakland’s defensive coordinator, reportedly at Davis’ urging. The inevitable battle between owner and coach might be uglier than Davis’ parting with Mike Shanahan several years ago.
Are they really in the NFL?: The Rams have been absolutely awful in the first two games. Scott Linehan might beat Kiffin to the unemployment line if the Rams don’t win this week. Chip Rosenbloom, the son of the late Georgia Frontiere, placed the monkey squarely on Linehan’s back on Monday. With questions swirling about the Rams’ long-term future in St. Louis, a city that is much more of a baseball town, ownership won’t hesitate to give some hope to a shrinking fanbase.
Brett who?: Don’t look now, but the Packers are 2-0. QB Aaron Rodgers has led the way, and despite a defensive lapse against Detroit, the Green Bay offense has been explosive in both victories. How good are the Pack? We will find out this week when they host Dallas.
Old-time shootout: If you like to play Madden 2008, then you loved Monday’s shootout between Dallas and Philadelphia. Combined totals of 78 points, nine touchdowns, 717 yards and 43 first downs made it one to remember. The teams will meet again on the final Sunday of the regular season, Dec. 28 in Philly.
Northern exposure: As good as Philly-Dallas was, Pittsburgh-Cleveland was not on Sunday night. The Steelers got an ugly win over the Browns in 40 MPH conditions from what was left of Hurricane Ike. Ben Roethlisberger completed 12 of 19 passes despite a bum shoulder, and the game featured 11 punts. The Browns, for being the preseason media darlings, are 0-2 in an AFC North in which the Ravens might be the second-best team right now. Pittsburgh goes to Philly in what looks to be the best game of Sunday’s action.
Starvin’ Marvin: The other team in the AFC North to play on Sunday, the Bengals, were beaten soundly by the Titans, behind the aging Kerry Collins at quarterback. Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis and his group might be staring at 0-3 after a visit to the defending Super Bowl champ Giants this week.
Big game in Baltimore: The Ravens host the 0-2 Browns on Sunday in a momentum game. How many of us, including myself, had the Ravens starting 2-0, even if the Houston game had been played? How many of us thought that the Browns and Bengals could be a combined 0-6 when they play each other in Week 4? Both are possible, and a Ravens’ victory makes for an very interesting storyline when the Purple and Black go to Pittsburgh for a Monday nighter next week.
Ike’s impact and how you can help: The cities of Galveston and Houston took a big punch from Hurricane Ike last weekend. Even with the hurricane forecasting in place, there was no guarantee until just a few hours prior to landfall, that Houston and Galveston would not be spared the worst effects. As part of 150 employees with the Saints organization in 2005 when Katrina battered the Gulf Coast, all of us learned that these storms are nothing to trifle with. The Texans organization was not thinking about football early Saturday morning as the storm battered the area, they were all just making sure they and their loved ones were safe.
The games could wait, recovery for those hardest hit in the area can not. The Saints had two weeks, around a meaningless final preseason game at Oakland, after Katrina before a surreal regular season began, while the Texans had just a little over two days before potentially resuming theirs. The postponement was the right call, regardless of the disruption to the three teams involved. We have 15 consecutive weeks of football to look forward to, while the people of the Texas coast might have weeks of no power and worse hardships to endure. As you fire up the grill on Sunday to tailgate or settle in with friends at home to watch the Ravens, please take a moment to say a prayer for those who need help and, as I asked the WNST listeners to do in the tough days after Katrina’s wrath, please make a donation to the Red Cross for hurricane relief efforts.