Sunday NFL Insider: Surprises, disappointments at the quarter mark

  • Article by: MARK CRAIG , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 5, 2013 - 4:26 PM
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Wide receiver Josh Gordon and the resilient Cleveland Browns continue to defy expectations.

Photo: DAVID RICHARD • Associated Press,

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Now that the Browns have spent the past three weeks spoon-feeding us crow-flavored reminders that nothing in the NFL is ever completely as it appears, let’s look back on the first quarter of the 2013 NFL season. Gosh knows looking ahead doesn’t work in this league.

Top five surprises

1. Cleveland’s resurrection: To recap the past three weeks, the Browns traded last year’s third overall pick 18 games into his NFL career, promoted their No. 3 quarterback to starter, endured a nation that ridiculed and laughed at them, won back-to-back games, lost their new starting quarterback because of a serious knee injury and then won a third consecutive game because the previously demoted quarterback stepped in and played exceptionally well. And now the Browns (3-2) are in first place in the AFC North, two victories from matching their average season total over the past 10 years. Yeah, that sounds goofy enough to fly in the NFL.

2. Andy Reid smiling: Yeah, we all knew Andy Reid would make a difference in Kansas City. But 4-0 and doubling last year’s win total before the end of September? Sheesh. No. 1 on the list of reasons why: giveaways. Alex Smith brought his ball security with him from San Francisco. He’s thrown only two interceptions in 146 attempts. That’s a 1.3 interception percentage. A year ago, Matt Cassel and Brady Quinn threw 20 picks in 474 attempts, a 4.2 interception percentage.

3. Clutch defense in Detroit: At 3-1, the Lions are one victory from matching last year’s total and confirming themselves as the most unpredictable team in a flip-a-coin league. We all know how dangerous they are on offense. But did you know they also lead the league in third-down defense? Opponents have converted only 21.3 percent (10 of 47).

4. A turnover-free Tennessee: The Titans are another surprise 3-1 team. Like most surprise teams, pinpointing their success is a matter of following the bouncing ball. Or lack thereof. Tennessee is the only team in the league that hasn’t turned the ball over. Beware: The Titans started 3-1 in 2011 but finished 6-6 and missed the playoffs.

5. Philip Rivers is back (so far): So how would Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers do without renowned QB guru Norv Turner as San Diego’s head coach? Well, sorry Norv, but Rivers has adjusted quite well to head coach Mike McCoy and offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt. After throwing 48 interceptions in his previous 48 games, Rivers has only two this season. He also trails only Peyton Manning in touchdown passes (16-11), completion percentage (75.0-73.9) and passer rating (138.0-118.8).

Top three disappointments

1. The Falcons: At 1-3, Atlanta already has matched last year’s loss total. Surprisingly, the Falcons have been awful in the red zone, ranking 29th with only seven touchdowns in 18 attempts (38.9). That’s not good when you have tight end Tony Gonzalez, the most dangerous red-zone target in NFL history.

2. The NFC East: Picking between the Giants (NFC-worst minus-85 point differential), Redskins (halfway to last year’s six losses) and Chip Kelly’s Philadelphia free-fall since Week 1 was too difficult. So we just lumped the entire underachieving NFC East into one big 4-12 disappointment. It’s the only division without a winning team. And the top team, Dallas, is 1-2 outside the division.

3. Matt Schaub: Say what you want about the play call that resulted in Schaub throwing a game-tying pick-six in the closing minutes of regulation against Seattle last week. But Schaub is a 10-year veteran and an upper-echelon QB. A coach should be able to reasonably trust someone like that not to make a basic rookie mistake that leads to an overtime loss.

NORTHERN INTELLIGENCE

If you’re a fan of elite tight ends, keep an eye on Soldier Field on Sunday. The Saints’ Jimmy Graham just became the first tight end since 1986 to earn a conference player of the month award.

He has 27 catches for 458 yards and six touchdowns. Chicago’s Martellus Bennett, the Viking slayer in Week 2, has 20 catches for 225 yards and three touchdowns. Bennett, who has more blocking duties than Graham, wasn’t interested in comparisons this week. “There’s no wrong way to make an impact,” he told reporters. “There’s no wrong way to eat a Reese’s.”

• • •

Detroit as a desired destination just sounds strange. But that’s exactly what it was for Kevin Ogletree this week. Released Tuesday from the dysfunction that is 0-4 Tampa Bay, the veteran receiver landed in 3-1 Detroit a day later.

“Who doesn’t want to go play with Calvin Johnson and Matt Stafford and Reggie Bush? It’s a perfect opportunity,” said Ogletree, who caught eight passes for 70 yards and a touchdown in the Buccaneers’ first four games. With Nate Burleson and Patrick Edwards injured, Ogletree should play Sunday.

• • •

No, Green Bay hasn’t returned to the days of Lombardi’s Packers’ Sweep. But the Packers are averaging 5.3 yards per carry, second best in the league.

And after 44 consecutive regular-season games without a 100-yard rusher, they enter Sunday’s game against the Lions with a two-game streak of 100-yard rushers. A year ago, the Packers averaged only 3.9 yards per carry.

Three observations …

• Updating Jared Allen’s stat sheet vs. Steelers left tackle Mike Adams: 2½ sacks, one holding call, one key hurry and one Steelers trade for Cardinals left tackle Levi Brown.

• A confident Panthers QB Cam Newton travels this week to Arizona, where he threw for 422 yards and two TDs in his NFL debut in 2011.

Next up: A Winfield-free (maybe) Metrodome next Sunday.

• Percy Harvin is a great player, but teams that have employed him but were unable to play him because of injuries are 8-0 in their past eight regular-season games.

Two predictions …

• The Lions’ streak of losses in Wisconsin will reach 23 on Sunday.

• The Bears’ 29th-ranked pass rush won’t enjoy facing Drew Brees.
 

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Denver 28 4th Qtr 7:49
Cincinnati 30
Buffalo 12/28/14 12:00 PM
New England
Carolina 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Atlanta
Cleveland 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore
Dallas 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Washington
Indianapolis 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee
Detroit 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Green Bay
Jacksonville 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Houston
San Diego 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
NY Jets 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Miami
Chicago 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Minnesota
Philadelphia 12/28/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
New Orleans 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Oakland 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Denver
Arizona 12/28/14 3:25 PM
San Francisco
St. Louis 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Seattle
Cincinnati 12/28/14 7:30 PM
Pittsburgh
Denver 82 FINAL
Charlotte 110
Portland 95 FINAL
Houston 110
Utah 97 FINAL
Memphis 91
Toronto 120 FINAL
Chicago 129
Atlanta 105 FINAL
Dallas 102
LA Clippers 118 FINAL
San Antonio 125
Sacramento 32 2nd Qtr 6:52
Golden State 46
Ottawa 1 FINAL
Washington 2
Nashville 5 FINAL
Columbus 1
Pittsburgh 3 FINAL(SO)
Florida 4
Arizona 0 2nd Prd 12:36
Vancouver 4
San Jose 0 2nd Prd 10:40
Anaheim 1
Calgary 0 2nd Prd
Los Angeles 2
Ark-Little Rock 64 FINAL
Bradley 54
Brown 67 FINAL
Central Conn St 55
Stetson 59 FINAL
Florida State 63
Ill-Chicago 46 FINAL
Northwestern 63
Ohio 49 FINAL
George Washington 77
Southern Utah 61 FINAL
Ark-Pine Bluff 70
Elon 67 FINAL
Kennesaw St 65
Dartmouth 49 FINAL
Penn State 69
Green Bay 70 FINAL
UC Irvine 72
DePaul 68 FINAL
Colorado 82
Lewis & Clark 49 FINAL
Portland 71
SC State 59 FINAL
Abilene Christian 65
Manhattan 71 FINAL
Fordham 57
Truett-McConnell 57 FINAL
Ga Southern 90
Citadel 56 FINAL
Michigan State 82
Miami-Ohio 55 FINAL
Ohio State 93
Gardner-Webb 89 FINAL
Purdue 84
Idaho 68 FINAL
Northern Ky 81
Fairfield 66 FINAL
Albany 77
North Dakota St 61 FINAL
Alcorn State 50
UT Martin 37 FINAL
Butler 64
SE Louisiana 65 FINAL
UCF 70
Oakland 60 FINAL
Clemson 70
Florida A&M 57 FINAL
East Carolina 75
Eastern Ky 66 FINAL
Fla Atlantic 69
IUPU-Ft Wayne 43 FINAL
Illinois State 68
Norfolk State 74 FINAL
James Madison 71
Binghamton 68 FINAL
Mount St Marys 69
Towson 56 FINAL
Navy 61
Long Island 73 FINAL
New Hampshire 72
Northern Ill 66 FINAL
Notre Dame 91
William & Mary 62 FINAL
Old Dominion 69
Liberty 47 FINAL
Princeton 65
Delaware 81 FINAL
Robert Morris 84
MD-Eastern Shore 82 FINAL
St Bonaventure 80
Colgate 43 FINAL
Syracuse 78
Kansas 52 FINAL
Temple 77
Mercer 54 FINAL
Tennessee 64
East Tenn St 60 FINAL
VA Commonwealth 84
Va Military 74 FINAL
Virginia Tech 87
Bucknell 53 FINAL
Wake Forest 60
Alabama A&M 62 FINAL
Western Mich 71
New Orleans 59 FINAL
Indiana 79
Columbia 65 FINAL
Connecticut 80
Long Beach State 49 FINAL
St Johns 66
Wofford 44 FINAL
West Virginia 77
Southern U 66 FINAL
Baylor 70
UAB 67 FINAL
Chattanooga 83
Char Southern 54 FINAL
Colorado State 75
North Florida 70 FINAL
Iowa 80
NC Central 67 FINAL
Jackson State 64
Rice 72 FINAL
Lamar 79
Central Mich 89 FINAL
McNeese State 56
Coppin State 56 FINAL
Michigan 72
Furman 76 FINAL
Minnesota 86
SE Missouri St 51 FINAL
Ole Miss 82
Weber State 51 FINAL
Oklahoma 85
Grambling St 39 FINAL
TCU 80
Loyola-Chicago 62 FINAL
Texas Tech 44
Incarnate Word 47 FINAL
Tulsa 76
Penn 50 FINAL
Vanderbilt 79
Chicago State 38 FINAL
SIU Edwardsville 63
Simpson 62 FINAL
Drake 84
Tenn Tech 81 FINAL
UMKC 60
Murray State 83 FINAL
Southern Ill 71
Oral Roberts 45 FINAL
Missouri State 52
Jacksonville St 65 FINAL
Air Force 66
Milwaukee 54 FINAL
Arkansas 84
Wisconsin 68 FINAL
California 56
Coll of Charleston 47 FINAL
LSU 71
North Dakota 54 FINAL
Marquette 67
Northern New Mexico 39 FINAL
New Mexico St 78
UC Santa Barbara 78 FINAL
Oregon 82
Miami-Florida 62 FINAL
Providence 76
Northeastern 68 FINAL
St Marys-CA 72
Kent State 71 2nd Half 0:27
Texas-El Paso 75
UC Davis 73 FINAL
Northern Colorado 63
Lewis-Clark State 81 FINAL
Eastern Wash 87
Walla Walla 52 FINAL
Portland State 94
TX A&M-CC 45 2nd Half 13:50
Cal State Fullerton 52
Marshall 34 2nd Half 14:49
Nevada 51
Boise State 31 1st Half 1:14
Houston 20
UC Riverside 8 1st Half 11:29
San Diego St 14
Tulane 8 1st Half 14:10
Washington 11
Loyola Marymount 4 1st Half 15:48
Wichita State 6
Nebraska 12/23/14 12:00 AM
Hawaii
BYU 48 FINAL
Memphis 55
Marshall 12/23/14 5:00 PM
Northern Ill
Navy 12/23/14 8:30 PM
San Diego St
Central Mich 12/24/14 11:00 AM
Western Ky
Fresno State 12/24/14 7:00 PM
Rice
Illinois 12/26/14 12:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
Rutgers 12/26/14 3:30 PM
North Carolina
NC State 12/26/14 7:00 PM
UCF
Cincinnati 12/27/14 12:00 PM
Virginia Tech
Duke 12/27/14 1:10 PM
(15) Arizona State
Miami-Florida 12/27/14 3:00 PM
So Carolina
Boston College 12/27/14 3:30 PM
Penn State
(25) Nebraska 12/27/14 7:00 PM
(24) USC
Texas A&M 12/29/14 1:00 PM
West Virginia
Oklahoma 12/29/14 4:30 PM
(18) Clemson
Arkansas 12/29/14 8:00 PM
Texas
UMass Lowell 63 FINAL
Holy Cross 78
Temple 59 FINAL
Villanova 64
Georgia Southern 68 FINAL
Southern U 52
Xavier 60 FINAL
Kennesaw St 61
Eastern Michigan 52 FINAL
Michigan 81
Brescia 56 FINAL
Marshall 127
(21) West Virginia 54 FINAL
Ohio State 96
UMBC 87 FINAL
MD-Eastern Shore 78
Cornell 79 FINAL
Loyola-Maryland 61
St Bonaventure 70 FINAL
Georgetown 64
New Hampshire 63 FINAL
Northeastern 62
Eastern Washington 67 FINAL
Florida 56
Rice 63 FINAL
Texas Southern 69
Butler 72 FINAL
Illinois State 60
UC Davis 59 FINAL
(16) Stanford 71
Washington St 87 FINAL
Loyola Marymount 60
Sacramento St 94 FINAL
San Jose St 97
SIU-Edwardsville 74 FINAL
UMKC 58
Oakland 92 FINAL
IUPU-Ft Wayne 84
Belmont 43 FINAL
(14) Georgia 62
George Mason 83 FINAL
Longwood 61
Kansas 81 FINAL
Creighton 84
Abilene Christian 53 FINAL
Kansas State 68
UT Martin 65 FINAL
Missouri 74
Hampton 67 FINAL
DePaul 86
Florida State 65 FINAL
Tulane 54
Murray State 44 FINAL
Illinois 64
Fla Gulf Coast 74 FINAL
Arkansas State 68
BYU 62 FINAL
Utah State 58
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Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 preseason     
Aug 8 - vs. Oakland 7 pmX10-6
Aug 16 - vs. Arizona 7:30 pmX30-28
Aug 23 - at Kansas City 7 pmX30-12
Aug 28 - at Tennessee 7 pmX19-3
2014 regular season     
Sep 7 - at St. Louis NoonX34-6
Sep 14 - vs. New England NoonX30-7
Sep 21 - at New Orleans NoonX20-9
Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta 3:25 pmX41-28
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pmX42-10
Oct 12 - vs. Detroit NoonX17-3
Oct 19 - at. Buffalo NoonX17-16
Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay NoonX19-13 ot
Nov 2 - vs. Washington NoonX29-26
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago NoonX21-13
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay NoonX24-21
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina NoonX31-13
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets NoonX30-24 ot
Dec 14 - at Detroit 3:25 pmX16-14
Dec 21 - at Miami NoonX37-35
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago Noon

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