Welcome to our 1st installment of what will be a weekly edition of “The 3-1-3 Things to Watch” feature. Every week, I’ll feature 7 “things to watch items.” Why 7? Because 3+1+3 = 7. Duh.
Week 4 in the NFL and we have 3 undefeated teams and 5 very, very defeated teams sitting at 0-3.
As usual, we’ll be watching our teams face off and hope for a W. But on a NFL-wide scale, here are some other notes and headlines that might be of interest to keep an eye on this weekend.
1. Can the Eagles offensive line keep Vick’s uniform crinkle-free?
After the game in week 3, Eagles QB Michael Vick, frustrated with being knocked around vs. the Giants, let it all out at the post-game press conference by “critiquing” the way the referees officiated the game, before later offering an apology of sorts to the officials and going back on what he said about getting hit after he’d released the ball. Either way, it’ll be interesting to see if the VP of Officiating Carl Johnson & his crew listened & if his offensive line mates took it upon themselves to make sure that no defender even got the chance for a late hit on Vick. Even though suffering a broken hand in the loss vs. the rival G-men, Vick plans to play. You can bet your house Reid will make sure there’s more protection there than a Presidential appearance at a Condom Expo in Mexico.
2. The Rivera Show Returns for revenge to Solider Field
While he might not say as much, former Bears defensive coordinator, now Panthers head coach Ron Rivera had this game marked on the calendar as soon as the schedule was released. Rivera was fired from Chicago, although technically he was ‘not rehired’ by Bears head coach Smith in favour of linebackers coach Bob Babich, despite an outstanding unit that ranked as one of the best under Rivera. You can bet that Rivera will be more than ready to taste the sweet, sweet tears of Smith, as will Panthers tight end Greg Olsen who was traded by the Bears this offseason, after seeking a trade. Relationships were stretched and the Panthers have benefited from the move with OIsen becoming one of rookie QB Cam Newton’s primary targets in offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski’s offense. With both the Panthers and Bears standing at 1-2, this game is vital to each team’s season. (Heading into week 5 is a lot easier at 2-2 than 1-3, as Captain Obvious points out.)
3. Can Roddy White overcome his stone hands vs. the Hawks?
Going into week 4, Atlanta Falcons receiver Roddy White leads the NFL in dropped passes with 4, including a huge late, game-changing drop vs. the Bucs in week 3. QB Matt Ryan found White and would’ve had a clear path to the endzone had his hands not been made of brick. While White is known as one of the better WRs in the NFL, he certainly needs to work on the one stat that will keep him from being a great receiver. Although he led the NFL in receptions last season with 115, he only dropped 3 passes. Can he rebound vs. the Seahawks? There should be plenty of opportunities for himself and Ryan to make some plays, it’s just a matter of if he can hang onto the ball long enough to complete those plays. Week 4 is the perfect time for White to turn things around.
4. Can the Pats D do a 180 degree turn and match their offence?
In week 1 action vs. Miami, QB Tom Brady (with his long locks flowing in the wind) threw for 517 yards and 4 TDs, including the memorable 99 yard TD pass to Wes Welker. Week 2, he threw for 423 in another W. Then came Buffalo. With Brady leading his team 21-10 into halftime, it all was looking like a 3-0 start for the Patriots. Then came the halftime adjustments from Buffalo and the major LOLFAIL from the Patriots D. There are major problems with the Pats D, no doubt. To date, they’re giving up 468.7 yards per game. All you had to do was listen to Boston sports talk back radio after the game last week to know that the hot topic was defence (& Tom Brady’s luscious hair. Meow). Enter, the Oakland Raiders. The Raiders are looking rejuvenated under Hue Jackson, with Darren McFadden leading the NFL in rushing after 3 weeks. How will Bill Belichick contain Run DMC when the Pats D missed some big opportunities in wrapping up Bills RB Fred Jackson, late in the 4th quarter last week. It’s concerning, and it’s just one of the many questions in this game including, how will former Pats Super Bowl winning defensive lineman Richard Seymour play going against his old team for the first time since getting traded? Another question is, who will get more TDs and touches? Welker or Run DMC? Either way, it’s an underrated matchup worth checking out in week 4.
5. Romo’s Ribs: Meet Ndamukong Suh
I can just see it now. Romo drops back (with one of the few non-fumbled snaps) and as he plants his foot, he scans the field. As he looks, completely unaware, Lions defensive tackle and man beast Ndamukong Suh has beaten his man. Boom. Romo is down, Suh lays a vicious hit that we’ve all seen before and all that is left is Romo laying on the turf yelling, ” NN DAM U KONG!” (Had to do it, I’m sorry.) Anyway, last week it was DeAngelo Hall talking trash about Romo’s ribs. This week, Suh has been quoted as saying, “That’s not my style. If I’m coming in from that side and I accidentally hit it, then so be it. That’s not my problem. That’s not my issue to deal with. I’m going to continue to play. I’m not planning on putting my helmet in his ribs or anything of that sort. I’m going to go after the ball. The ball is the most important. That’s the only thing that can really hurt you.” Suh is licking his chops, even if it is to get into the head of centre Phil Costa & QB Tony Romo to cause a few miscues. No doubt, it’s a matchup to watch for and a game that is definitely game of the week. The Lions face their toughest test yet (you can read Ash’s write up on the game here) and no doubt, it will be a game that will answer a lot of questions for both teams.
6. The Jared Allen Bowl
What a game. Two 0-3 teams going head to head, Jared Allen facing off against the team that traded him.. will the Vikings blow ANOTHER halftime lead? Talk about must-watch-TV. In all seriousness, something has to give this weekend, for one of these 2 teams. Both 0-3, both having 2 very different seasons so far. During the week, Chiefs WR Dwayne Bowe blamed the shortened preseason for the Chiefs start slow start. (Read here, via Yahoo Sports’ Doug Farrar.) He could’ve put it on injuries, but put it down to “lack of timing”. Ok Dwayne. We’ll just see if the defending AFC West champs figure out a way to get things moving, finally. With the Vikings coming to town however, that train might take a little longer to depart, especially with the Cowboy himself bearing down on QB Matt Cassel, trying to once again show the Chief’s Clark Hunt and then GM Carl Peterson, what a mistake they made when he traded Allen back in the offseason of 2008.
7. Ryan faces off against the Purple Machine he built
I could probably put a few other items here. Curtis Painter facing off against the Bucs on MNF. Ryan Fitzpatrick going against his former team the Bengals after 3 fantastic wins. Or even asking the question of why several RBs in this league have gone MIA. But instead, I’ll choose to focus on a great matchup. The overrated Jets and their head coach Rex Ryan travel to Baltimore for the 1st time since Ryan landed the head gig in NY. This will be a game worth watching featuring 2 teams who are emotional and highly physical; funnily enough, 2 characteristics of Ryan. There will be a lot of grudges facing off in this game. Rex Ryan, Jets defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, Bart Scott, Jim Leonhard and recently, Derrick Mason are all former Ravens who wouldn’t mind a nice bit of payback in their former home stadium. But it’s not just the Ravens D and all the familiar faces that will be playing, that will be a key to watch this week. The Ravens offense has exploded in 2011, with Joe Flacco throwing a career best 389 yards vs. St Louis last week in a 37-7 trouncing, thanks to a little help from new fantasy waiver-wire pickup Torrey Smith. Smith is a legit concern for the Jets D. If he consumes the coverage of Revis Island, it can potentially leave some other opportunities open for Flacco to expose Ryan’s current D that he’s created in New York. You can bet that when this game is all said and done, it will be bittersweet for a few players and leave a bad taste in a few others.
So that’s it for this week’s edition.. our first edition. Remember to keep an eye on these few story lines during this fine Sunday afternoon of pigskin watchin.’ Until next week, good luck and enjoy.