It's Monday, so you know what that means. Time for my weekly take on the happenings in the National Football League.
A Giant statement
You've read what I've written about the San Francisco 49ers in this space. They are a tough, smart, well-coached, physical football team that features one of the best tackling defenses in the past 25 years. None of it mattered yesterday at Candlestick, as the New York Giants out-Ninered the Niners on their home turf. Look, this is what the Eli/Coughlin Giants do. They go on the road and win games that people expect them to lose. Manning was terrific, but let's credit the Giants offensive line. In the regular season & playoff meetings last year in San Francisco, Eli was beat up, especially in the NFC Title game. On Sunday, he wasn't sacked, and was rarely under duress. I loved the game-plan orchestrated by OC Kevin Gilbride, who made a point of running the ball with Ahmad Bradshaw until the Niners were beaten down. Victor Cruz and Domenik Hixon made several terrific catches, and the Giants defense got after Alex Smith.
All of this added up to a dominant 26-3 win that really wasn't as close as the final score indicated. The Giants are now 4-2 and are at first place atop the NFC East, while the Niners find themselves in a three-way tie atop the NFC West at 4-2, knotted up with Seattle and Arizona. The Giants, quite simply, are capable of beating any team. They've proven that all they need to do is make the playoffs, and they can go on a Super Bowl run. Personally, I believe New York will repeat, and win Super Bowl 47. Sunday's ass-whipping by the Bay did nothing to dissuade that feeling.
Yeah, Alex Smith didn't play well, but let's slow down on the Colin Kapernick talk, OK?
Look, Alex Smith played a poor game yesterday. I question the Niners decision to throw the ball as much as they did, but most of the blame from yesterday's loss needs to fall on the shoulders of Alex Smith. It was, quite frankly, his worst performance in the Jim Harbaugh Era. Now, with all that being said, let's dispense with the silly talk that the Niners should make a QB change. I know that Colin Kaepernick was picked in the 2nd round of last year's draft. I see his athleticism and I'm wowed by his rifle arm. But he's not ready. The Niners are a team that's capable of making the Super Bowl. I believe that, if the Niners had won the NFC Title game last year, that they would have beaten the Patriots in the Super Bowl. You don't turn the reins of a championship team over to an untested quarterback. Alex Smith should finish the season in San Francisco.
I'd say the Packers are back, but I don't think they ever left
I'd currently rank the Giants as the best team in the NFC, and the Packers are a close second. In fact, I wouldn't be shocked if Green Bay ripped off seven or eight wins in a row at this point. I thought Green Bay would beat the previously undefeated Texans, in Houston, on Sunday night, but didn't think they'd do it in blowout fashion. Aaron Rodgers (or, as I call him, #TheMaestro) put on a show, with six touchdown passes, pinpoint accuracy and laser-like tosses down the field. The defense showed up and got after Matt Schaub. I was perplexed by Houston's decision to be pass-heavy the game's onset, but let's be real, they weren't beating the Packers last night. Remember: Green Bay got screwed by the replacement refs in Seattle. They lost to an extremely emotional Indianapolis team last week. They got bullied by a confident, hungry 49ers team in Week 1. They're 3-3 right now, but they could be the best 3-3 team of all time. Don't get it twisted: Green Bay will make the playoffs, probably win the NFC North, and is a significant Super Bowl threat. Don't call it a comeback, they've been here for years.
The Philadelphia Eagles are a dead team walking
I'm ready to say it. Not only will Michael Vick not be the Eagles starting QB in 2013, but he won't finish 2012 as their top signal-caller. This will also be Andy Reid's last year in Philadelphia. The Eagles are an absolute disaster. You simply cannot go up 23-13 late in the fourth quarter, at home, to a previously punchless Lions team, and somehow manage to lose 26-23 in overtime. After the game, you've got Nnamdi Asomugha questioning the defensive "wide-9" philosophy, which lines defensive ends Trent Cole and Jason Babin outside the offensive tackles. You've got Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Asomugha's battery mate at corner, saying the system works. Well, we know what doesn't work, and it's Eagles football right now. Eagles owner Jeffery Lurie said before the season that it's playoffs or bust for Andy Reid and company. Well, it's bust. The Eagles aren't making the playoffs. I can't believe they managed to beat the Giants a few weeks ago. It's been a great run for Andy Reid in Philly, but this is it. He will be fired the Monday after the season. Vick will be replaced, likely this year by Nick Foles, and then with another QB in the off-season. It's over for the Eagles in 2012.
The Legend of Russell Wilson
I think we can quiet the Russell Wilson haters, at least for one week, after the rookie outplayed Tom Brady down the stretch, leading Seattle to 14 late points and a 24-23, come-from-behind victory over New England. Read that sentence again. Now, read it a third time. Russell Wilson outplayed Tom Brady late, and the Seattle freakin' Seahawks beat the New England Patriots. The rookie QB has now beaten Tony Romo, Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady & Cam Newton this year. Wow. That's impressive stuff. What's even more impressive that Wilson has been the play of the Seahawks defense. Give Pete Carroll a ton of credit. He and GM John Schneider have built a tough, physical defense that's built for a street fight. They've drafted so well in the secondary, with Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor and Richard Sherman all being added in the past few years. Brandon Browner was signed from the CFL. The Seahawks are for real. They might not be as good as their 4-2 record indicates, and I certainly don't expect them to win on Thursday night against San Francisco, but they've been a very fun story in the first half of this year, and Russell Wilson should absolutely NOT be benched.
As for the Patriots and the AFC East...
Don't look now, but there's a four-way tie for first place (or is it last place?) in the AFC East, as the Patriots, Jets, Bills and Dolphins all currently sit at 3-3. Let's separate fact from fiction. The Patriots are the best team in the AFC East. They will win the division. That is a fact. The Jets had a nice, bounce-back win yesterday over the Colts, but they're not a playoff-caliber squad right now. The Bills are 3-3, but as long as they employ Ryan Fitzpatrick as their starting QB, they are headed nowhere. Miami has played very well, and really should be 4-2 (if not 5-1), but they're not ready for prime-time just yet. New England remains the class of the division. But it's important to note how disappointing 2012 has been thus far for New England. A Tom Brady QB'ed, Bill Belichick coached team should simply not lose games to teams like Arizona & Seattle. But I still expect the Pats to be fine, and they should handle the Jets with relative ease this coming weekend, setting the universe back on its proper axis.
Yet another late-game failure by Jason Garrett & Tony Romo
Twenty four hours later, and I still cannot believe that the Dallas Cowboys went into Baltimore, rushed all over the Ravens defense to the tune of 227 yards, and somehow, inexplicably managed to lose the game. It almost defies logic. I think Jason Garrett is a very intelligent offensive coach, but the guy is clearly over-matched as the head guy. His clock management is so bad that it makes luminaries like Andy Reid and Herman Edwards seem like Tom Coughlin by comparison. How is it possible that the Cowboys let 20 seconds tick off the clock late in their final drive, with a timeout in hand, because the players couldn't get lined up in time? It's inexcusable and pathetic. This is the NFL. This isn't college. It isn't high school. This ain't pop warner. This is the freakin' NFL, and you can't get your team lined up to snap the ball and try and gain a few more yards for your kicker?? And then, predictably, Dan Bailey misses the potential game-winning, 51 yard attempt. That was a classic example of a coach losing a game for his football team. Dallas went into Baltimore and played a hell of a game, and should have won, and because they couldn't manage the end of game situation, they lost. It was amateur hour for Jason Garrett and Tony Romo yet again in a clutch spot. You're nuts if you think that QB/coach combo is capable of winning a Super Bowl.
RG3: The most exciting player in the NFL
It officially happened as Robert Griffin III galloped towards paydirt in the waning moment's of Sunday's 38-26 Redskins win over the Vikings, a majestic, 76 yard jaunt that ended the Vikings comeback hopes: RG3 became the league's most exciting player. Is he for real? You're damn right he is. I picked Minnesota to win because I thought they had the better QB. I was wrong, plain and simple. RG3 is so exciting, so dynamic, so fun to watch. He's injected life into a franchise in desperate need of a spark, and you better believe the Skins will be in contention for as long as RG3 is the QB. I wouldn't be shocked if the Redskins went into MetLife Stadium and beat the Giants on Sunday.
Break up the Browns!
You gotta feel good for Mike Holmgren, Pat Shurmur, Brandon Weeden and company today, as the Browns finally got off the schnide and won their first game, 34-24 over the Bengals. I need to be critical of myself when I'm wrong, and I'll do that here: Brandon Weeden has looked much better than I expected. Josh Gordon looks like a star in the making, and I didn't like the decision to use a 2nd round pick on him in this year's supplemental draft. Trent Richardson is already a star, and the defense, with the returning Joe Haden, is solid. With Darrelle Revis out for the year, Haden might just be the best corner in the league. Seriously. I still think it's probably too late for Shurmur and Holmgren to save their jobs. New owner Jimmy Haslam will want to hire his own guys and do things his way. The only way for Weeden, Shurmur and company to save their jobs will be to win football games. Sunday against Cincinnati was a good start.
Don't let the 6-0 record fool you: Atlanta isn't the best team in the NFC
It wasn't the best game for Matt Ryan and the Falcons offense, but Atlanta still managed to hold off a surprisingly game Raiders squad to move to 6-0. When it mattered most, Matty Ice moved the Falcons into field goal range, and Matt Bryant drilled a 55 yarder in the waning moments to win it for Atlanta. I know the Falcons are undefeated, the last remaining team without a loss in the NFL. But I'd rank Atlanta as the fourth best team in the NFC, behind New York, Green Bay and San Francisco. Ask yourself this question: if Eli Manning & the Giants went into the Georgia Dome this upcoming Sunday, who would you pick to win the game? If Aaron Rodgers and the Packers went into the Georgia Dome this upcoming Sunday, who would you pick to win the game? I'd take the Giants and Packers, and probably the Niners, too. Atlanta will receive a first round bye. They might even claim home-field advantage. It won't matter. They won't beat the Giants or Packers when it comes down to it.
The 2 Minute Drill
- Some quick thoughts to close: Hoping that Ray Lewis isn't lost for the season in Baltimore. He's not even close to the player he once was, but he's the heart & soul of the Ravens.
- An even bigger loss for Baltimore is corner Lardarius Webb, who tore his ACL in their win over Dallas. Webb is one of the top 5 CB's in the league, and a significantly better player than Ray Lewis at this point in both careers.. Houston & Baltimore is a huge match-up this coming week. I like the Texans to bounce back and win that one.
- Rams rookie kicker Greg Zuerlein, aka Legatron, aka Young GZ, fell back to Earth with a poor game yesterday, missing three kicks in the Rams 3 point loss at Miami.
- Arizona might be who we thought they were. The defense is still amazing, but the QB pu-pu platter of Kevin Kolb and John Skelton isn't good enough.
- The Chiefs are the most pathetic team in the league, and as I wrote last week, expect Romeo Crennel, Scott Pioli and Matt Cassel to all lose their jobs at season's end.
- Although the Bucs dispatched the woeful Chiefs by a 38-10 margin, I don't like them to make any noise this year, and still question some of Greg Schiano's draconian ways in dealing with young professionals.
Prediction for Monday Night: John Madden said that it would d take about 7 weeks for Peyton Manning to round into form. I think it happens tonight. Give me the Broncos on the road, in San Diego, 27-23 over Phil Rivers, Norv Turner & the Chargers.
You can follow Nick Kostos on Twitter: @TheKostos. Nick is the Executive Producer of the SiriusXM Blitz on SiriusXM NFL Radio, Channel 88, and appears weekly on SiriusXM Cosmo Radio & SiriusXM Stars.