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The End of the First Quarter: NFL Edition

The first quarter of the NFL season is complete, and there have been plenty of stories so far. Some teams and players have done what’s been expected, while others have done the complete opposite; some look to be true contenders, while others are doing a terrific job of being pretenders. We’ll take a closer look at some of those right now.

The first team I’ll focus on is the Cincinnati Bengals, who are one freak accident away from being undefeated. Carson Palmer (my dude for life, and the object of reckless hate from Ed) is showing signs of being a Pro Bowler again, Cedric Benson is running like he’s back at Lee High School again, and Chad Ochocinco is back to his All-Pro form. Antwan Odom, someone I never heard of until a couple of weeks ago, is leading the league in sacks, and the rest of their defense has been solid all season. I won’t lie; I called for Marvin Lewis’ head a long time ago, but Cincy obviously knew something I didn’t, because he’s coaching some good football right now.

The most pleasant surprise is the San Francisco 49ers. They’re sitting atop of the NFC West, at 3-1. We’ve had a feature on their head-man-in-charge, Mike Singletary and his effect on the team. They run first, play strong D, and put Shaun Hill in positions to where he can effectively manage the game. Their passing offense sucks, but they’re finding ways to win, and that’s all that matters. Patrick Willis is a grown-ass man, and Nate Clements is looking like the $80-million-man he was signed to be. The rest of their supporting cast is playing solid ball, and as long as they continue to do so, I see no reason why they can’t take the division and more. (Ed's note: This article was written prior to the breaking news of Michael Crabtree signing with the 49ers. The Niners might have just struck it gold again with this team of young talent. Thoughts?)

Another team that’s handling business is the New Orleans Saints. We all know about the play of Drew Brees (can he be considered the best quarterback in football? I mean, I’m just sayin’), and his ability to make sure everybody gets a hold of the rock, but I’ll be damned; it’s their DEFENSE that’s vastly improved. On top of the fact that the NFC South has gone to hell (I’m looking at you Tampa Bay and Carolina), it’s really between them and Atlanta for division supremacy. There are other players who have been pleasant surprises in this young season, including Steve Smith (the USC one), who’s leading the league in receiving yards, Chris Johnson leading the league in rushing, and 85-year-old London Fletcher leading the league in tackles.

For my fall from grace section, I have to point out the Tennessee Titans. It’s safe to say that 13-3 would be tough to duplicate, but they have yet to win a single game this season! Off the top of my head, their only glaring loss from last season’s team is Albert Haynesworth, but his loss can’t be the sole reason for this team going to hell so far. Kerry Collins hasn’t played worth a damn this season, which makes me wonder when Jeff Fisher is gonna send up The Bat Signal for Vince Young. Their division is way too competitive for them to continue to lose games and expect to get back in the race.

The other area of sheer disgust is with the Green Bay Packers offensive line. On Monday night, I watched Aaron Rodgers run for his life against the Minnesota Vikings, and while I know the Vikes have a strong defense, that display was beyond ridiculous. Rodgers has all the tools to be a very good quarterback, but he can’t do that if has to worry about getting killed. The man has been sacked 20 times in four games, and if that keeps up, he won’t make it to the end of the season. Hopefully, they get it together, because they have everything else in place to make a run. They simply gotta keep their quarterback on his feet.


-K. Masenda


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