Emphasis on jerk. Here are some of the things that occurred to me while taking in this week of NFL madness.
We Can Stop Asking if the Bengals are for Real
A thrilling last-second win over the Baltimore Ravens, which put Cincinnati atop the AFC North, pretty much settles that debate. The Bengals have beaten the Packers, Steelers, and now the Ravens to plant themselves among the teams not to be taken lightly. I'm still not convinced they'll end this season having won their division and in the playoffs, but Cincy is getting better, and is once again a very good team to contend with.
No One Runs the Wildcat Like the Dolphins
There has been no more widely copied trend in recent years than Miami's fabled "Wildcat" package, which basically just puts Ronnie Brown in at quarterback instead of, well, a quarterback. After they schooled the Patriots with it last year, the Wildcat took the league by storm, and now almost every team has some version of it. Monday night's win over the Jets, though, reminded us all where all this nonsense came from. Teams have varying success running forms of the Wildcat, and no one else has yet to commit to it as a big part of their offense. What Miami has been able to accomplish with the Wildcat is amazing; that Jets defense was ranked best in the league two weeks ago, and Miami made them look ridiculous. I believe that the Wildcat will ultimately just be a flash in the pan, and isn't likely to be nearly as big a year or two from now, but Miami runs is far-and-away better than anyone else at the moment.
I Learned Two Things From Broncos/Patriots
First: The Broncos are better than I thought. I saw this team as a complete mess that was winning games with luck and surprise. Apparently, that defense really is extremely good. Brian Dawkins added that element of intimidation that Champ Bailey has lost a bit over the years. Elvis Dumervil is a hell of a pass rusher. That defense can really play. As for the offense, I still don't think they're better with Kyle Orton than Jay Cutler, but the offensive line and a motivated Brandon Marshall make them a scary group. Knowshon Moreno has had some growing pains, but he will be the next star to roll off the the Broncos assembly line. It's hard to admit, but that 5-0 record the Broncos are sporting is legit.
Second: The Patriots aren't nearly as good as we thought. New England was a hot Super Bowl pick in the preseason; everyone expected a healthy Tom Brady to make that an automatic bid. The Pats' offense may still have some pop, but the defense has been surprisingly un-Belichick. The secondary is a liability, the pass rush is non-existent, and they simply can't hold a lead. It's hard to believe a defensive guy like Bill Belichick will let that continue, but my eyes don't lie: the window appears to have closed for the Patriots.
Donovan McNabb Is One of the Greats
Granted, it was the Bucs, but coming off a two week break from broken ribs and passing for 264 yards and 3 touchdowns is tremendous. All that, and he's distracted and off-rhythm with the whole Michael Vick thing. Philly fans have never appreciated McNabb, but he's been nothing but awesome his whole career. Does he choke in huge games? Yeah, but at least he gets them there. He molded himself into a pocket passer, has one of the best arms in the game, and moves better in the pocket than just about anyone. As a Giants fan, I hate his guts, but I gotta give D-Mac some respect.
Peyton Manning Will Be the NFL's Only 4-Time MVP
Manning opened the season with 5 300-yard games. He's without his long-time target Marvin Harrison. His number 2 receiver, Anthony Gonzalez has missed games due to injury. His head coach retires, and there's a ton of off season turmoil around the offensive coaches. All that, and Manning is still probably the best there is. While this week's win over the Titans (who have given him trouble in the past) was typically impressive, it's even better when taking into account that he beat the Dolphins last week with only 15 minutes time of possession. Five weeks into the season, the Colts look unstoppable, and that's all thanks to Manning. If MVP really means most "valuable," who in the NFL is more valuable to their team than Peyton? Brady went down last year, and New England won 11 games. Anyone think Indy wins 6 with Jim Sorgi behind the wheel? Me neither. They should be starting his bust in Canton now, just to be prepared. It'll take a lot of bronze to sculpt that forehead.