I feel that it is necessary to follow up from last week’s column on the horrid replacement refs with one on where the NFL is at with the re-introduction of the actual refs. I’m not talking about where the NFL is at in term’s of officiating, but where its teams and players stand, because truthfully, it has been an interesting and a bit out-of-whack four weeks.
Let’s start off with the no-brainers thus far: the Houston Texans and Atlanta Falcons with the perfect 4-0 records. One might be more inclined to be shocked at the Falcons’ record than the Texans’, but it is not difficult to comprehend. Matt Ryan looks like the perennial quarterback Atlanta took 1st round in 2008, throwing gems to top-tier receivers in Roddy White and Matt Ryan that comes with a stellar defense. Cut and paste that formula but instead use quarterback Matt Schaub, running back Arian Foster and the Texans D and things become clear.
Now for the rock and shock topics for discussion: the New Orleans Saints were bound to take a step back with Head Coach Sean Payton’s year long suspension, but an 0-4 start with an abysmal defense (that’s a cue to you, Steve Spagnuolo) makes fans not only appreciate the coaching efforts of Payton, but leaves their head scratching as to how this Saints team can be so awful with All-Pro quarterback Drew Brees?
Another former Super Bowl team not off to a hot start is the Green Bay Packers. Yes, while they may have been victim to arguably the most infamous refereeing miscue in NFL history and are currently posting a 2-2 record, Aaron Rodgers and the Pack seem to be off quite a bit. Ranking 25th in run offense (84.3 yards per game) and dead last in the NFC North in scoring (85 points), Green Bay has the chance of missing the playoffs (something that hasn’t occurred since 2009) if this flat production keeps up.
Speaking of NFC North, a surprising team (and for those of you who know me will probably snicker) coming up from the NFL bottom feeders is the Minnesota Vikings at 3-1. With two impressive wins over 2011-12 playoff teams (San Francisco and Detroit), the Vikings are rolling under second year head coach Leslie Frazier, running back Adrian Peterson (returning from ACL AND MCL surgery), a confident quarterback in Christian Ponder and an underrated defense. If the purple and train keeps rolling, you might want to hop on board.
The Arizona Cardinals have also left fans pleasantly shocked, starting off the season at 4-0 and continue to smoothly sail through the schedule behind quarterback Kevin Kolb, a player who up until this season was not guaranteed the starting job from prior inconsistencies and poor performances. While the Cardinals have not really been stellar in one particular area this season, this Arizona team seems to be getting the job done from cooperation behind both the offense and defense.
I’d be curious to see where these teams lay at the half way point in the season but for now, the National Football League seems a bit shaken up, but you’ll see little complaints coming from its fans.