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Outlooks change fast across NFL landscape

One week’s media darling can morph into the league’s goat the following Sunday, and vice versa.
Such is the life of NFL players and their ballclubs. When the Raiders shocked the Eagles a couple of weeks ago 13-9, all of the sudden the media was speculating maybe the circus in Oakland is getting its act together and turning the corner. A week later, after a 38-0 embarrassment against the Jets, the Raiders are right back where they started — or perhaps worse.

Quarterback JaMarcus Russell was benched during the game and criticized the decision afterwards, even asking a reporter if he agreed that the team’s struggles weren’t his fault.

Look folks, Russell is a threat to break a number of NFL records this season — for quarterback futility. Almost all of the players as bad as he is don’t have nearly as long of a leash, considering he’s supposed to remain the starter. The guy makes Vince Young look like Joe Montana, so don’t expect a rollercoaster ride for Oakland going forward because the lows will easily overshadow the highs.

“I don’t think we could have beaten an Oakland high school team today,” said Raider defensive lineman Richard Seymour.

A lot of bad teams were throttled on Sunday, but the Bears and Falcons are a couple of squads that had pretty solid seasons coming in only to be crushed. As the Bears beat Pittsburgh to kickstart a three-game winning streak that had Chicago at 3-1 earlier this season, fans were showering the team with praise. Even in last week’s 21-14 road loss to Atlanta, Chicago was given a pass due to the perceived quality of its opponent.

It all came crashing down Sunday, however, as Chicago was utterly obliterated 45-10 by Cincinnati. Former Texas Longhorn Cedric Benson was run out of Chicago earlier in his career during a stint that could be described as a trainwreck, but Benson had the last laugh as he bulled and burst his way to a career-high 189 rushing yards while quarterback Carson Palmer threw five touchdowns.

That’s all well and good, but what about the Bears? Granted, Chicago has dealt with its fair share of injuries, but all of the sudden this team went from middle-of-the-road to being in total disarray. You could say I’m jumping the gun, but 45-10 isn’t a little hiccup.

“That was pretty embarrassing,” said defensive end Alex Brown.

Alex Brown, master of the understatement.

Don’t think I’m going to let the Falcons off the hook either. Atlanta matched the best start in franchise history coming in at 4-1, but it trailed Dallas 34-14 in the fourth quarter. Maybe the Cowboys will prove to be much better than they’d shown after week one and prior to this win, but Atlanta was being talked about as one of the elite teams in the league.

The Cowboys went on a 34-7 run at one point in this game. If you’re one of the better squads in the league, you don’t get crushed like that by anybody.

Obviously the Falcons aren’t in crisis mode like the Bears right now, but the talk of Atlanta being an NFC power will die down after this one.

As for Dallas, maybe it isn’t the second-worst team in the NFC East at best. Regardless of the Monday night football result, you can’t trust the Redskins to clear 10 points on any given week and Philadelphia lost my trust in its ability with the loss to the aforementioned Raiders.

The Giants have looked utterly beatable the past two weeks against New Orleans and Arizona — they’re not scaring anybody these days.

All of the sudden, Dallas looks like a contender. It doesn’t hurt that receiver Miles Austin is playing like Jerry Rice on steroids; he only has 421 receiving yards and four touchdowns in his two career starts. Roy Williams, Terrell Owens, Michael Irvin, no Dallas pass catcher has ever approached that production in consecutive weeks.

Austin is big, fast, strong, he doesn’t have a case of the dropsies — I’m calling this guy the real deal until he proves me wrong. The run game is kind of a muddled situation with Marion Barber banged up, Felix Jones just returning from injury and Tashard Choice curiously being phased out after playing well in recent weeks. However, I think that’s the best trio of backs in the league and over the long haul some combination of the three will get the job done.

As for the Dallas defense, it finally got off the bus this season with four sacks and three forced turnovers.

Prior to that game, the Boys had 10 sacks and four forced turnovers for the entire season. If the Cowboys can actually present a challenge on that side of the ball, Tony Romo seems to be hitting his stride and maybe Dallas could come from way back to be the favorite in the division.

Granted, they have a long way to go and we’re several weeks away from that even being a possibility, but after Dallas’ loss to Denver and even the overtime victory against Kansas City it appeared to be a mediocre ballclub at best.

Like I said, it’s a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately league. Denver looked like a catastrophe in pads during the preseason, but a 6-0 record later and all of that drama is forgotten.

Teams I lauded or bashed here today could find a way to reverse their fortunes with an unexpected performance this weekend — good or bad. In the NFL, you take praise when you can get it because you’re only as good as your last stat line.

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Posted by on Oct 27 2009. Filed under Editorials. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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