Wednesday, October 15, 2008

An upsetting start to NFL season

If you’re a tunnel-visioned fan and only keep track of the Raiders or 49ers, you wouldn’t know that this has already been a crazy, unpredictable NFL season, one that makes you glad you don’t try to make a living by gambling on football.

The Raiders and 49ers keep losing to the teams they’re supposed to lose to and beating the few teams they’re supposed to beat. The only “upset” came in Week 2 when the 49ers beat Seattle 33-30, but the Seahawks were decimated at wide receiver and have struggled most of the season. So that wasn’t exactly a stunner. Their other win was against the awful Lions, while the Raiders’ one victory came against the woeful Chiefs.

Isn’t it nice to know we can count on something in the Bay Area?

As for the rest of the league, you never know what’s going to happen. After only six weeks, I’ve already got a pretty impressive list of Top 10 Upsets. Here they are, starting with the biggest:

1) Miami 38, New England 13 (Week 3): Yeah, I know Patriots QB Tom Brady is out, and New England isn’t what it used to be. But come on. The Pats hadn’t lost a regular-season game since the days of leather helmets, and the Dolphins were coming off a one-win season. What made this upset even more stunning was the way the Dolphins embarrassed New England -- in Foxboro, no less -- with a scheme that featured direct snaps to Ronnie Brown. The Pats were clueless and helpless.

2) Cleveland 35, New York Giants 14 (Week 6): Who saw this butt-kicking coming? Unbelievable. The Browns’ offense finally woke up and realized the season had started. QB Derek Anderson and WR Braylon Edwards remembered how to play catch. The Giants were undefeated going into this game and had won 11 straight road games, counting a 3-0 postseason run leading up to the Super Bowl last year. Well, that streak is dead. Eli Manning was intercepted three times in a thoroughly ugly loss.

3) Kansas City 33, Denver 19 (Week 4): Until this game, I had a feeling that the Chiefs might run the table the wrong way. Their offense was that bad. The Broncos, meanwhile had been putting up some ridiculous numbers on offense. This looked like a rout in the making. That was before Chiefs running back Larry Johnson gave Denver a blast from his not-so-distant past and ran for 198 yards.

4) St. Louis 19, Washington 17 (Week 6): For one of the rare times, firing the coach got immediate results. The Rams dumped Scott Linehan, and the fiery Jim Haslett, his replacement, won his debut. It was the Rams’ first win, and it came against a red-hot Redskins team that had won four straight. St. Louis forced three turnovers, all fumbles, from a Washington offense that hadn’t had a single turnover. Yeah, just as we expected.

5) Arizona 30, Dallas 24 (Week 6): There’s a little more elbow room on the Cowboys’ Super Bowl express after this loss – and the loss of QB Tony Romo to a broken pinkie on his throwing hand. Granted, the Cardinals play better at home. But this is a team that lost 56-35 to the New York Jets, giving up six touchdown passes to Brett Favre. How ’bout them Cowboys.

6) Atlanta 27, Green Bay 24 (Week 5): Atlanta imploded last season and won all of four games. Who’d a thunk the Falcons would go to Lambeau Field this year with rookie quarterback Matt Ryan and beat the Packers? Not me. Of course it helps the Falcons’ cause to have ex-Charger backup RB Michael Turner on their side this year. He rushed for 121 yards against the Pack.

7) Atlanta 22, Chicago 20 (Week 6): The Falcons may well have won their way out of underdog status for the rest of the year. The Bears’ dared Ryan to beat them through the air, and that’s exactly what he did, throwing for 301 yards, 112 of those to WR Roddy White, who’s having a career year.

8) Miami 17, San Diego 10 (Week 5): Maybe I shouldn’t have been that surprised at this outcome. Just as they did last year, the Chargers dug themselves an early hole and are now trying to fight their way out. These aren’t your one-win Dolphins of one-and-done coach Cam Cameron. New coach Tony Sparano and executive V.P. Bill Parcells built a much tougher and better team. But still. Come on. The Chargers should have won this game.

9) Washington 26, Dallas 24 (Week 4): The Cowboys had won 11 of the past 12 games against Washington at Texas Stadium. They were 3-0 and talking big. Oops. Redskins RB Clinton Portis went off for 121 yards, and Santana Moss killed the Cowboys with 145 receiving yards. In a way, this was Washington’s coming out party.

10) Carolina 26, San Diego 24 (Week 1): Right out of the shoot, we got our first upset. The Chargers had all the Super Bowl hype after nearly getting to the final game last season. Carolina was coming off a .500 season, and QB Jake Delhomme was coming off of “Tommy John” surgery on his throwing elbow. Then there was this: the Panthers were missing WR Steve Smith, suspended for punching teammate Ken Lucas in the face. I’d call this an upset.

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