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Forward Progress: Breaking down the action from Week 3

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Justin Boone - TSN.ca
9/28/2010 10:37:30 AM
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If my roman numeral counting is correct, we're 45 years into this NFL experiment and yet we still don't have an exact blueprint on how to build an NFL team.

There are certainly things you can do to help your cause and put your club in a position to succeed, but there isn't a foolproof plan to get from Point A (hopeless bottom feeder) to Point B (covered in Super Bowl confetti).

Near Abu Dhabi, they are designing the world's first zero-carbon city, and yet in North America there are NFL general mangers that still have trouble finding a sustainable quarterback.

Teams like the Bills, Browns, and Raiders have been stuck at the ground level for years, unable to move to the second phase of construction.

However, there are a handful of NFL executives, who are architects in their own right. Bill Polian, Ozzie Newsome, and Bill Parcells have kept their teams in contention no matter where they've been or what the circumstances.

The most recent success story might be the 2010 Kansas City Chiefs and their general manager Scott Pioli.

You may remember Mr. Pioli from his last job as the GM of the New England Patriots during their three Super Bowl seasons. In two years with the Chiefs, he has built the team up through the draft (Eric Berry, Dexter McCluster, Javier Arenas) and shrewd free agent signings (Thomas Jones, Ryan Lilja).

Under Pioli's watch, Kansas City is now 3-0 for the first time since 2003 and clearly has a foundation for the future. There may not be a blueprint available, but hopefully some other clubs are taking notes.

INS AND OUTS

Going In Opposite Directions
The 49ers were everyone's pre-season sleeper, the team many were penciling in not only to win the NFC West, but to make a playoff run. Meanwhile, the Chiefs were expected to spend another year in obscurity as they let their team develop in the AFC West. After their Week 3 meeting, things couldn't be more reversed. The Chiefs moved to 3-0 on the heels of their 31-10 dismantling of the Niners, while San Fran has fallen to 0-3 and fired their offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye (more on that later). The only good news for the 49ers is that they play in the NFC West with three unproven teams... so you're saying there's a chance.

Stick Out Like A Sore Thumb
With so many teams going to spread formations, it's refreshing to see the Patriots and Lions making use of two-tight end sets. It's a move both teams planned for in the off-season. The Pats drafted Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski, while the Lions added Tony Scheffler to play along side last year's first rounder Brandon Pettigrew. When they're not blocking in the power formation, they are all skilled pass catchers able to exploit defences downfield. With Randy Moss and Wes Welker drawing plenty of attention on the outside, Hernandez and Gronkowski have thrived in the middle, just as Calvin Johnson has helped open things up for his tight ends in Detroit. 

Missing In Action
Roy Williams has finally been located. Someone please alert his family that he is fine and apparently still playing receiver for the Cowboys. Williams, who had fallen behind Miles Austin and rookie Dez Bryant on the depth chart, flashed his long-forgotten skills during a five-catch, 117-yard, two touchdown performance against the Texans. Unless Williams has some vendetta against Houston that spurred the statistical outburst, he might still be a viable weapon in the Cowboys offence. Either that or he switched jerseys with Miles Austin before the game to help his teammate avoid double coverage from the Texans secondary.

Shape Up or Ship Out
After handing him the starting job for the second straight year, and giving him all the first team reps in training camp, the Bills released their former third round draft pick Trent Edwards. Edwards time in Buffalo was highlighted by a 5-1 start to the 2008 campaign, before the wheels fell off the Bills wagons, rendering them incapable of circling. Edwards will also be remembered for the song which described him as "Captain Checkdown" a name he consistently gave credence to. Buffalo might not be much better off with Ryan Fitzpatrick under centre, but that doesn't matter because the team is headed towards a top five draft pick, which you would assume they would use on a franchise quarterback.

THIS WEEK IN HYPERBOLE

"I bear all the responsibility for the way we operate on offence... I'm the leader. It's my watch."

While the claim was a very respectable one from former 49ers offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye who was fired this week, it's not entirely his fault for the poor performance from the 49ers offence so far this season. Raye was a hero last year when he helped breathe life back into quarterback Alex Smith, but this season Smith looks like under-achieving player we had grown to know during his first few campaigns. Raye's statement was a classy move that will undoubtedly help him get work with another organization, but San Francisco's shortcomings can't be placed on one man.

DOWNRIGHT OFFENSIVE

If you lost your fantasy week because Charlie Batch threw for 186 yards and three touchdowns, there will be a grief counseling available at a time of your choosing. The 35-year-old journeyman out of Eastern Michigan kick started the Steelers offence against a Buccaneers squad missing their starting safety Tanard Jackson, who was suspended indefinitely this week. Regardless, Batch exceed any and all expectations with his performance and helped the Steelers forge a 3-0 record without Ben Roethlisberger. It's looking more and more like the AFC's Super Bowl representative will need to go through Pittsburgh this season.

EASIER SAID THAN DONE

"I tried to change the way I ate a little bit. For me, it was a lot of fast food and things, but I tried to take a healthy approach as far as eating habits. I feel it's paying off for me right now."

You can say that again Darren McFadden. On the verge of being labeled a bust heading into the season, McFadden is third in the NFL in rushing after three weeks with 345 yards and has cemented himself as the starter in Oakland's backfield. The Raiders are 1-2 on the year and should be 2-1 had Sebastian Janikowski not shanked a 32-yard field goal on the final play against the Cardinals. The Raiders lost 24-23, despite McFadden posting his second straight 100-yard game.

HALFTIME

The Seahawks' Qwest Field and the Chiefs' Arrowhead Stadium are known as two very difficult places to play, and their fans have helped back that up this season making things as loud as possible during opponents offensive possessions. The noise level definitely causes fits for players trying to hear the quarterbacks cadence, but what is that sound doing to the rest of us?

In a recent Ted Talk, Julian Treasure discusses the "sonic assault" that our ears are under, not only at football games, but in everyday life. In a fast-paced world full of clamour and commotion, he explains how important our sense of hearing is and why we need to take our Sound Health into consideration.

Personally, I find that losing your voice at the stadium on Sunday makes things drastically quieter during the rest of the week.

COACHING ADJUSTMENTS

Falcons head coach Mike Smith knew what he was up against when he faced the Saints in Week 3. Drew Brees and company are not the kind of team that goes quietly into the night and unless you can match them touchdown for touchdown, you aren't going to stand a chance. With that in mind, Smith elected to go for it, not once but twice on fourth-and-two during a second quarter drive. The result was successful conversions on passes to Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez over the middle, leading to the second Falcons' touchdown, tying the game 14-14. Atlanta went on to win in overtime and Smith's aggressive play-calling is a big reason why.

The flip side of that coin took place in Jacksonville, where Eagles head coach Andy Reid is still struggling with those pesky short yardage calls. Reid might have come to his senses by naming Michael Vick his starter, but when faced with a short fourth down, Reid took the ball out of Vick's hands and was promptly stuffed on the play. The Eagles turned the ball over on the drive, but it didn't impact the outcome as Philly went on to thump the Jaguars 38-3.

THE DEFENCE RESTS

Things looked bleak for the Cowboys, sitting at 0-2 entering a Week 3 matchup with the state rival Texans and their high-powered offence. Dallas' defence came up with four sacks, two interceptions, and a forced fumble in their best performance of the season, holding the Texans to 13 points. it has to be mentioned that wide receiver Andre Johnson is nursing a bad ankle, but the Cowboys defenders delivered when their team needed it most. The win will make their bye week much more relaxing.

THE BIG SCREEN

"You run and we're gonna be digging a hole for you, you got that?"
-McManus (The Usual Suspects)

The Colts and Broncos made it clear they had no intentions of establishing the run this week. Both teams took to the air throwing a combined 100 times in their game (Orton - 57 attempts for 476 yards/Manning - 43 attempts for 325 yards). Denver has an excuse, as their top rusher Knowshon Moreno was a late week scratch when he was injured in practice, but Indy was just up to their old ways taking what the opposition gives, in this case it was short passes to Austin Collie.

"The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he did not exist." -Roger 'Verbal' Kint (The Usual Suspects)

The Broncos are doing a great job of creating the illusion of having a number one receiver. The truth is that the team doesn't have an elite option at the position, but who needs to deal in truths. Rookie Demaryius Thomas may one day develop into their top target, but right now they are getting production using smoke and mirrors, as Brandon Lloyd, Eddie Royal, Jabar Gaffney and Thomas are all producing at different times like the number one man. The most surprising part is that it's working, evidenced by Orton's 1,078 passing yards on the season, good for second in the league.

WEEKLY WOUNDED

LB Shawne Merriman, Chargers, (Calf)
OG Kyle Kosier, Cowboys, (Knee)
RB Jahvid Best, Lions, (Toe)
RB Fred Taylor, Patriots, (Toe)
RB Steven Jackson, Rams, (Groin)
DL Cory Redding, Ravens, (Concussion)
RB Ray Rice, Ravens, (Knee)
CB Marcus Trufant, Seahawks, (Ankle)
WR Andre Johnson, Texans, (Ankle)
QB Brett Favre, Vikings, (Stinger)
TE Visanthe Shiancoe, Vikings, (Leg)

FINAL WHISTLE

Congratulations are in order for the St. Louis Rams, who removed themselves from the list of teams chasing the elusive 0-16 season. The win was the first of the Sam Bradford era, and although there may not be many to go with it this season, the young passer is looking like he has a solid future in the league.

The Bills, Browns, Lions, Panthers, and 49ers are your remaining winless teams hoping to avoid sharing the fate of the 2008 Detroit Lions. The 49ers, Panthers and Lions have too much talent to stay down long, but the Bills and Browns might have to wait until Week 14 when they face each other to save themselves from infamy.

Raiders Fans (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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