The winds of change are upon us. The old guard of the NFL is being swept away before our eyes.
Maybe this is a bit dramatic a start to this fan post, but it definitely seems to capture what happened in week 3. It really became a week of upsets and eye opening performances through out the league. Many of the teams that have made up the traditional teams to beat, the Patriots, the Eagles, the Colts, and the Steelers to name a few, lost (or in the case of the Steelers played like garbage and would of lost if they weren't playing one of the worst teams in the league...aka the Colts). The teams that the Packers beat in the playoffs last year that were suppose to give the Pack a hard time this year, the Bears, the Eagles, and the Falcons, all lost and now all sit at 1-2. Also each of those teams have certain amount of reason to panic.
Meanwhile a few of the traditional bottom feeders have sprung up to the top of the standings in the league. Of coarse the most notable of these are the Bills and the Lions. Each of these teams are 3-0, and perhaps most surprisingly, these two teams are the only non-Packer team in the NFL that is undefeated still.
In fact this changing of the guard so to speak is reflected in some early Power Rankings. Yes, yes, power rankings mean absolutely nothing in the end with the NFL, but it does serve as a good litmus test of how teams are shaking out early in the year. Perhaps the most surprising is from CBS Sports where the Lions and Bills are sitting at two and three. A more balanced mix of the teams you would expect to be at the top and the surprise teams comes from ProFootballTalk.com with the Bills and Lions in the top five with the Packers, Saints, and Ravens.
So what exactly does all this mean going forward and how is the NFL shaping out for 2011?
In some respects this sort of thing happens every year. There are always a few teams that just seem to jump out of nowhere each year. Take the Buccaneers last year. They were supposed to be one of the worst teams in the league and instead almost made the playoffs and pushed two playoff teams (the Falcons and the Saints) to the limit in many of their games together. The Chiefs also took people by surprise last year and won their division. So having some teams jump out of nowhere isn't new.
I don't know if this year is quite the same though. I'm still in shock that the Bills beat the Patriots. I know that the Patriots have a worse defense than out own, but still, that would be similar to us losing in Carolina last week. Yes we were down early, but once the team got settled and their feet under them the game was pretty much over...kinda like any Viking game in the second half.
Going along with that the Jets lost to the Raiders. Aren't the Jets the class of the AFC after the Pats and the Raiders something akin to football purgatory? Right now the Jets and the Pats have to turn it around because if the Bills actually find a way to win that division I will shocked beyond belief.
There are also a whole host of teams that it's just tough to get a feel for right now. Foremost among these teams are the Ravens. So far, the Ravens have blown out two teams that were expected to make a playoff push and was defeated by a team that will be lucky if it makes 8-8. I don't know exactly what to think of that to be honest with you. I think it means that they are a promising team that could make noise in the AFC, but I am also having a hard time believing in any AFC team since just about every front running team from that Conference lost and/or play terrible last week.
Another team that I can't quite understand right now is the Dallas Cowboys. I want to write this team off. I want to just say they are terrible and move on with my life. However, they do have some talent on both sides of the ball, Tony Romo is starting to take on some of the leadership activities of a QB, and they have one of the better records in the NFC. Add in the fact that the only loss they have is one they pissed away against a very good Jets team and there could be something brewing in Dallas. Then again they barely hung on against a disappointing 49er team and had to come back against an overachieving Redskin team. This next week will give more answers with the Lions coming to town. A win for Big D could not only take the sails out a division rival, but also show Dallas to be a legit playoff contender. Then again, rooting for such a thing would be rooting for the Cowboys so pick your poison.
After the teams are a bit of unknowns there are the teams that you do know what they are.... disappointments. I touched on the three that I can think of earlier as the Falcons, the Bears, and the Eagles. The Bears are who we thought they were, a team that traded away most of their offensive weapons and have a pretty good defense. Somehow I thought they would luck their way into the playoffs, but I don't think that's going to work this year.
The Falcons are different though. This is a team I had high hopes for, but in my gut I thought it would all fall apart for them. Typically when a team thinks they are one piece away from winning a championship and make a dramatic move for that one piece, it quickly becomes clear that the team is in fact many pieces away. The worst part is that the team often has to give up what is needed to get those pieces in order to get that one guy. Week after week in this new year the Falcons are proving that true again. They have offensive line woes and their secondary is still suspect. Worse, since it takes a couple years for a receiver to really break out and have an impact, thus it's not surprising that Julio Jones isn't able to carry the water he's supposed to win THIS year. Now they are 1-2 and not looking nearly as scary as they did a year ago at this time.
Finally the Eagles. I could make some quip about the "Dream Team" looking at a nightmare season. It's tempting, it honestly is, but really we've seen this script play out as well in a couple different ways. Michael Vick's team struggling once teams have enough tape on him and he's battling injuries? Check. The team that made all the flashy acquisitions not gelling and so digging themselves in a whole early on? Check. The Eagles struggling with O-line problems and having an inconsistent offense as a result? Check. Yup, that should just about cover it.
So what does all this mean for the Packers?
1. As much as I cringe watching the middle of our D get torn up week in and week out, I'm generally pleased with the product on the field right now. The Packers are generally starting fast, and staying aggressive despite getting everyone's "best shot." Wasn't that the biggest question coming in after all? The mental toughness this team would present fighting off various hangovers?
2. I said it after week 1 and I'm going to say it again....as this year goes on we are going to be so happy to have that win against the Saints. I'm not totally sure we would of been able to beat them later in the year. I am pretty confident if we play them again in the playoffs in Green Bay though and that win can go a long way to making that a reality.
3. Next man up is happening all over again. Williams banged up, Collins gone, and now Bulaga nicked up. We have withstood the Williams injury so far and Peprah should be up for the task as he settles in. Now we just hope that Marshall Newhouse wasn't a mirage on Sunday going up against a very good Bears D-line.
4. Someone needs to take the wind out of the sails of Detroit. I'm not scared yet, but the Lions do look more and more impressive each week. They are probably going to be the only real competition in the NFC North (yes I said that Bear and Viking fans what are your teams going to do about it besides fold up under pressure?) and the Lions and the Saints might even be the only major competition in the NFC period.
Odd ball thought of the week.
Is it just me or is Fox purposely trying to give Bear fans the middle finger? First it was that whole phony headline fiasco with Jay Cutler. Then this past week Fox decided to put a good 30 seconds of footage with Packer players dancing around the Lombardi trophy, wearing their Super Bowl jerseys, and having fake confetti come down around them for apparently no reason.
I personally found it hilarious and a little uncomfortable during an old school rivalry game like this. I know if the situations were reversed I would be sickened by such a pointless time filler that only rubs in the fact that my chief rival won the Super Bowl and my team didn't....this only has to be magnified while said team is soundly beating my team at the time the clip is being played.