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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NY Mets 8 FINAL
Atlanta 2
Philadelphia 3 FINAL
NY Yankees 1
Detroit 5 FINAL
Baltimore 4
Toronto 4 FINAL
Pittsburgh 1
Cincinnati 2 FINAL
Cleveland 4
San Diego 3 FINAL
Seattle 4
Chicago WSox 6 FINAL
Los Angeles 4
Kansas City 13 FINAL
Texas 2
Oakland 9 FINAL
San Francisco 2
Wisc-Milwaukee 0 FINAL
Milwaukee 8
Arizona 6 FINAL
Colorado 3
Univ of Minnesota 1 FINAL
Minnesota 3
New York 82 FINAL
Indiana 105
Phoenix 105 FINAL
Orlando 100
Cleveland 115 4th Qtr 0:40
Toronto 108
Utah 82 4th Qtr 0:09
Boston 83
Charlotte 113 4th Qtr 0:53
Brooklyn 91
Denver 77 4th Qtr 11:32
Minnesota 68
Detroit 63 3rd Qtr 0:00
New Orleans 65
LA Lakers 65 3rd Qtr 2:05
Miami 70
Philadelphia 88 3rd Qtr 2:39
Oklahoma City 74
Memphis 89 4th Qtr 9:06
Houston 79
Sacramento 38 3rd Qtr
San Antonio 54
Milwaukee 9:30 PM
Golden State
Portland 9:30 PM
LA Clippers
Ottawa 3 3rd Prd 14:05
Winnipeg 1
NY Rangers 1 3rd Prd
Detroit 1
Pittsburgh 9:00 PM
Colorado
Montreal 9:00 PM
Anaheim
Longwood 65 FINAL
Presbyterian 61
Campbell 64 FINAL
Gardner-Webb 72
Liberty 70 FINAL
UNC-Asheville 80
Ohio State 77 FINAL
Penn State 67
Maine 66 FINAL
Albany 83
Duquesne 81 FINAL
Fordham 66
George Washington 67 FINAL
George Mason 51
Tennessee 78 FINAL
LSU 63
Notre Dame 71 FINAL
Louisville 59
SE Missouri St 74 FINAL
Morehead State 79
St Francis-PA 73 FINAL
Mount St Marys 58
Hartford 52 FINAL
New Hampshire 54
Wagner 68 FINAL
Robert Morris 91
Long Island 70 FINAL
St Francis-NY 79
La Salle 50 FINAL
Saint Josephs 55
Providence 79 FINAL
Seton Hall 66
UCF 45 FINAL
South Florida 74
Binghamton 57 FINAL
Stony Brook 62
UMBC 39 FINAL
Vermont 66
Sacred Heart 85 FINAL
Bryant 91
Richmond 56 FINAL
Massachusetts 53
Wake Forest 49 2nd Half 3:44
Duke 90
Purdue 42 2nd Half 6:24
Michigan State 47
Miami-Florida 60 2nd Half 1:47
Pittsburgh 58
St Bonaventure 61 2nd Half 3:35
Saint Louis 46
New Mexico St 63 2nd Half 3:17
TX-Pan American 48
Houston 52 2nd Half 3:13
Tulane 52
Howard 61 2nd Half 0:11
NJIT 71
TCU 30 1st Half 0:02
Oklahoma State 34
Cincinnati 25 1st Half 2:29
Tulsa 16
USC 25 1st Half 2:18
UCLA 41
Miss State 36 2nd Half
Vanderbilt 32
Utah State 30 2nd Half
Wyoming 40
St Johns 19 1st Half 6:10
Marquette 18
SIU Edwardsville 17 1st Half 10:12
Eastern Ill 15
Air Force 9:00 PM
Fresno State
Nebraska 9:00 PM
Illinois
Colorado State 9:00 PM
Nevada
Boise State 9:00 PM
San Jose St
San Diego St 10:00 PM
UNLV
Oregon 10:00 PM
Oregon State
UC Santa Barbara 10:59 PM
Hawaii
Toledo 64 FINAL
Northern Ill 68
Wake Forest 69 FINAL
Boston College 53
Eastern Illinois 35 FINAL
UT Martin 68
Austin Peay 69 FINAL
SIU-Edwardsville 72
Virginia Tech 57 FINAL
NC State 56
Massachusetts 55 FINAL
St Bonaventure 49
Auburn 71 FINAL
Florida 49
Penn State 63 FINAL
Indiana 68
Clemson 53 FINAL
Georgia Tech 80
Davidson 63 FINAL
La Salle 74
Loyola-Maryland 46 FINAL
Lafayette 58
Boston U 48 FINAL
Colgate 58
Coll of Charleston 58 FINAL
James Madison 107
Delaware 76 FINAL
Elon 77
Drexel 58 FINAL
Northeastern 42
Hofstra 75 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 76
Towson 56 FINAL
William & Mary 68
Miami-Ohio 55 FINAL
Akron 67
Ball State 85 FINAL
Central Michigan 69
Buffalo 55 FINAL
Bowling Green 47
Western Mich 65 FINAL
Eastern Michigan 74
Ohio U 69 FINAL
Kent State 56
Youngstown St 62 FINAL
Cleveland State 73
Illinois-Chicago 54 FINAL
Wright State 74
Alabama 56 FINAL
Vanderbilt 66
Detroit 58 2nd Half 0:14
Milwaukee 56
Purdue 46 2nd Half 7:14
Wisconsin 51
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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 NoonX13-9

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