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NFL Points: Week 3

Fans, analysts and pundits alike enjoy over-blowing early season subplots in the NFL. Granted if your star running back goes down and happens to be the reigning NFL MVP, teams like Seattle have legitimate concerns. But after three weeks of football unless your team has ceased to enter the win column, it’s not as bad (or good) as it seems on the surface…The Saints, fresh off road wins in Cleveland and Green Bay, capped by an emotional and thorough domination of the Falcons in the return of the Super Dome, have a tough road ahead. I mean that literally, as the remaining road schedule for New Orleans includes Carolina, Pittsburgh, Dallas, and the New York Giants. Add to that a rematch with Atlanta in the Georgia-Vick-dome, and the Saints are going to truly relish their resuscitated home. Likewise the Super Dome will continue to buzz with that visceral, palpable electricity. With seven more “Super Dome Bowls”, it will be up to seven different adversaries to attempt and match the intensity of a group of Saints inspired by the spirit of a city, a city that was ripped at its seams, but never tore. No small task for an opponent…

The New York teams have reasons for optimism. The Jets appear to be an eight win team with a healthy Chad Pennington at the helm. Jonathan Vilma is the most underrated middle linebacker in the league. He is a monster with the football senses of a player five years his elder. He singlehandedly makes the Jets defense a physical and viable unit. Playing in the suddenly weakened, but ever-hard hitting AFC East, should make for some (gulp) entertaining Jets games…

The Giants are welcoming the early bye week with open arms. There are clearly issues needing to be addressed behind closed doors, as opposed to on the practice field. Notably how to begin games with composure and execution, something that appears to be buried deep within the collective psyche of this football team. To this issue the whole Giants team is culpable. The big, bad defensive front of the G-men has been consistently losing the battle at the line of scrimmage. Eli Manning has come out of the gates erratic and frenetic, and his receivers have certainly not been bailing him out early in games. The Giants are a solid team with a quarterback that has quickly established himself as a prime time performer. Maybe Eli should call his brother and ask how to properly begin games, and in turn he can inform Peyton of how to execute the two minute offense…

Alarm bells are sounding in New England, and throughout the league. Is Tom Brady hurt? Depressed? Has Bill Belichick lost his edge? Is the dynasty dead? The answers are always, at the moment, absolutely not, and only time will tell. Many declared the end of the dynasty in Denver last January, but lest we forget that the Patriots are a Super Bowl XLI-victory away from becoming just the second team in league history to win four out of six Super Bowls (Pittsburgh’s “Steel Curtain” the other). So let’s wait to pass judgment on this team for a few months…

Until then we can address what is relevant and timely. Tom Brady’s shoulder has always been a problem. Coupled with the super-secret fashion in which the Patriots handle issues of injury it is truly impossible to determine definitively if Brady’s shoulder is seriously ailing. Definition won’t come until Matt Cassel starts a football game. As for Brady’s emotional status, it is no secret that he was very close with Deion Branch, and the loss of Branch has hit Brady hard. That being said, it is naive to think that the Patriots will continue to struggle throwing the ball. Doug Gabriel and Reche Caldwell showed glimpses of their respective talent against Denver. Both have the ability to run crisp routes and catch the ball, the two vital requisites of a wide receiver. Chad Jackson, in his one NFL appearance, illustrated his explosive potential; he just needs to get healthy.

The fact is that Brady has been looking primarily to his tight ends, Ben Watson and Daniel Graham, not because his receiving core is inept or unskilled, but rather he has a certain comfort level with the guys he’s played with. The Patriots employ an intricate and comprehensive offensive system; a system that relies on receivers making spot changes in their routes. Simply put, Gabriel and Caldwell are not yet sufficiently schooled in the Patriots passing schemes. That being said, they are wearing the uniform for a reason, namely because Belichick and Scott Pioli believe they have the intellectual capacity to conform to their system. SO PATIENCE…

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