There's a natural human tendency to long for order and to seek it out and even super-impose it over chaos when it is not present.
Over the past few weeks an odd narrative had sprung up around the NFL that there were four teams clearly better than everyone else. They were the Jets, Ravens, Steelers and Patriots. It had been suggested that they formed an unbreakable quartet destined to take the top playoff spots in the AFC.
After Sunday, that still might happen, but it is far from inevitable.
- The Jets played one of the single ugliest games I've ever witnessed. The argument for the Jets was that their defense was so strong that it could lift a middling offense come playoff time. Yesterday certainly should have disabused us all of that notion. Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc, long a Sanchez denier, has stated that Mark Sanchez has small hands that won't translate to accuracy in bad weather. He looks like a savant today, as Sanchez was a train wreck in the high winds. The Packers have a very average defense (12th in scoring going into yesterday), that was also banged up. This wasn't the Ravens in week one. It was an average defense that shut out the Jets and made them look horrid. The Jets schedule is filled with winnable games, but after yesterday, EVERY Jets game is going to be in play. No offense that bad can be counted on to absolutely win a game against any team.
- The Steelers are a team that I believe in thanks to an outstanding defense. After watching them the last few weeks though, I don't think of them like a 'traditional' best team in the NFL. Their offense is also suspect, even with Roethlisberger. They aren't going 14-2 and probably not even 13-3. They are good, and there is no shame in losing to a desperate New Orleans team on the road, but they are far from an unbeatable juggernaut.
- What do we do with the Patriots, who Ross Tucker called "the worst 6-1 team I've seen"? We've known for years that their great advantage was Belichick, and they seem to be living off that edge against clown college coaches like Norv Turner and Brad Childress. Childress put on an insanity clinic yesterday. First of all, he opted to go for it on fourth down right before the half. Those who read regularly know that the one time I really favor kicking FGs on fourth and one and is just before the half because the field position advantage is negated. Then, because he failed the first time, Childress went for a FG on the two in the third quarter (THAT'S THE ONE TO GO FOR!), then he punted from midfield on fourth and 1. The Pats, despite not having a single area of the game in which they excel, continue to beat mediocre teams with bad coaches. Now they have the best record in football, but can't possibly scare anyone.
- Meanwhile, everyone in the criminally underrated AFC South is at least 4-4 including the Jaguars. The Titans' loss to the Chargers was a tough break for them. Had they been able to travel west beat a team coached by a chimp, it would have vaulted them into that 'elite' discussion. Now, they fall back into the scrum in the AFC and still have to answer their very serious quarterback questions. Before Vince Young got hurt yesterday his line was, well, Youngian: 10/23, 251, and 2 TDs. He was helped by one long touchdown pass which greatly helped his numbers. His inaccurate and undependable. The Titans are beastly (best point differential in football), but at any given time Young's play can come apart, and they'll lose to a team like Denver. They remind me of the Jets: if they had a real quarterback, they'd be unstoppable.
- The Richard Seymour trade is looking worse all the time for the Pats. They gave up on last season, selling their fans on the idea that they would get the first overall pick for Seymour. Instead, the Raiders are now 4-4, and looking like they'll be a middle of the first round pick. That deal gets worse with every Raiders win.
I'm sorry, but there is no order to be seen in this mess. Not yet. If the Colts go out and put on a good performance against Houston, there's every reason to beleive their still the best team in football. If the Texans go out and stomp Indy, they'll have to be taken seriously as well. Either way, no one is going to know what's up with this league until at least Thanksgiving, if then.