Four games into the 2010 NFL season, football fans are already starting to give up on their teams. All around the NFC North Packers fans are still complaining about the 18 penalties, Bears fans about 9 sacks in a half, and Vikings fans are watching their chance at a Super Bowl diminish. However, there is still some hope for these fans who have endured a disappointing season so far. For the first time since 2001, not team has opened the season at 4-0 after Week 4. The Kansas City Chiefs are the only team with a chance, and if they fail to uphold their undefeated mark with a trip to Indianapolis, this will mark the first time sine 1970 no team reaches Week 5 unscathed.
From expected Super Bowl contenders such as the Dallas Cowboys who dropped their first two games, to the reigning Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints losing at home to Atlanta, not one team has been without its share of mediocre moments. In fact, the team that defined consistency over the last decade, the Indianapolis Colts, sit at 2-2 with both their losses coming against division opponents.
The NFL seems to be leveling out, and it’s keeping things interesting around the league. This means that for all the teams who entered the season with realistic sights on a February trip to Dallas but are off to an unimpressive start are not out of the race. If fans take a minute to step back and check out the 2010 landscape, they will notice that competition around the league has stiffened, bringing more competitive and engaging football with it.
Minnesota at NY Jets. The Minnesota Vikings continue to search for ways to beat the Packers, attempting to revive their once potent offense by bringing back none other than talented but aging wide receiver Randy Moss. Although Moss may be better than any of the receivers on the Vikings roster, fans should remember this is not 1998 and quarterback Brett Favre still needs to be held upright long enough to give his new weapon a chance to get downfield. It’s not clear how much of an impact Moss will have in Week 5, but he will have an extra day to prepare as the Vikings line up against the Jets and their shutdown cornerback Darrelle Revis on Monday Night Football.
Also, this matchup will mark the first of three times this season that Favre faces one of his former teams. Jets fans certainly have not forgotten the way Favre used their team as a rebound after his messy divorce with the Packers. The Jets are a much different team now than they were in 2008, mostly due to the arrival of head coach Rex Ryan and quarterback Mark Sanchez who have quietly put together three solid weeks since the team’s Week 1 meltdown. Revis vs. Moss, Favre vs. the Jets and a passionate coach named Rex Ryan are the three reasons Monday night should be electric this week.
Green Bay at Washington. Yes, I know the Packers barely beat the Lions, but acting like Green Bay should have blown out the Lions diminishes the efforts of a Lions team that has fought hard four straight weeks but keeps coming up short. The offense still has not put together four solid quarters; however, the source of the Packers’ unsatisfying start boils down to special teams, a phase of the game that has been anything but special under head coach Mike McCarthy. Devin Hester’s punt return for a touchdown in Week 3 and Jordy Nelson’s two fumbles on kickoff returns cannot happen on a team that considers itself an Super Bowl contender.
On the flip side, the Washington Redskins are coming off a win over Donovan McNabb’s former team and at 2-2 are tied with the Giants atop the NFC East. This is a great early season accomplishment; however, much like how the Packers are tied for the best record in the NFC at 3-1, the Redskins have not exactly looked like a great team this season. The difference is they did not enter 2010 on the short list of potential Super Bowl contenders. One of these teams is in for a dose of reality Sunday at FedEx Field.
Chicago at Carolina. The Bears better be thankful that Julius Peppers is on their team and not lining up against them after the 10 sack debacle in New York that left quarterback Jay Cutler with a concussion. How this game shapes up will depend largely on the health of Cutler and how this game affected his trust in the defense. The good news for the Bears is that with their defense playing lights out, they may not need the offense to carry much weight against the 0-4 Panthers. While coming off a strong showing against the Saints in the Superdome, Carolina has yet to find their real identity on either offense or defense.
St. Louis at Detroit. What at one point appeared to be a meaningless game now has a little extra sizzle. The only thing holding this matchup between two rebuilding franchises back, with apologies to Shaun Hill, is one of a young, rocket-armed passer in Matt Stafford who is still sidelined with a shoulder injury sustained in Week 1. St. Louis is a surprise at 2-2 and while the Lions are still sitting at the bottom of the heap at 0-4, they lost all four by a combined total of 24 points. Will this finally be the week the Lions get over the hump’?
Kansas City at Indianapolis. As I mentioned, the Chiefs are the only team left with a shot at a 4-0 start, but to do that they will have to go through Indianapolis—and that means literally running through them. The Colts’ porous run defense was exposed by the Bears’ Arian Foster in Week 1 by and last week by the Jaguars’ Maurice Jones-Drew. This game, however, is in Indianapolis where the Colts rarely lose.
Denver at Baltimore. The Ravens were already an elite team entering the season; however, a thrilling last second victory on the road against division rival Pittsburgh has thrust quarterback Joe Flacco into the discussion of elite NFL quarterbacks. Unfortunately, we can’t forget about his four interception game in Week 2, and for this game Flacco may not even be the best quarterback on the field. His counterpart, Broncos’ quarterback Kyle Orton, leads the league in passing yards this season with 1,419.
NY Giants at Houston. Is the vaunted Giants defense circa 2007 back or is the Bears offensive line just that bad? The Giants will have to prove they are for real this week against a talented Texans team and the league’s rushing leader in running back Arian Foster. In other news, defensive end Brian Cushing returns to the lineup for the Texans after serving his four-game suspension for performance enhancing drugs.
New Orleans at Arizona. This game will prove if Drew Brees and the formerly prolific Saints’ offense will stop partying on Bourbon Street like it’s 2009 and join us in 2010. They face a Cardinals team that sits at 2-2 but has amazingly won those two games by a combined two points.
Tennessee at Dallas. This matchup will prove whether or not a little bye week soul-searching has helped right the ship in Dallas.
San Diego at Oakland. San Diego has already lost to Kansas City and Seattle on the road, so Oakland should stand a chance.
Philadelphia at San Francisco. The NFC West favorite 49ers can’t start 0-5, can they?
Jacksonville at Buffalo. Who doesn’t want to watch arguably the NFL’s worst team versus the most forgettable? Okay, maybe this isn’t the greatest matchup ever, but it could still be entertaining.
Atlanta at Cleveland. Many fantasy players picked up Peyton Hillis off waivers and want to see how he fairs against a Falcons’ defense that has held its own thus far in 2010.
Tampa Bay at Cincinnati. The Buccaneers are a win away from equaling their total wins from last year, which stands as an achievement for a rebuilding franchise.