Quite an exciting NFL first quarter
It has only taken four weeks to whittle the NFL undefeateds down to two. And they’re in the same division!
The fact that the teams in question happen to be ancient rivals Green Bay and Detroit means there will be more than the normal amount of Thanksgiving Day commotion, especially in households in which there may be a disagreement on the import of a holiday sporting event between the one who is preparing the meal and the one who is more likely to overeat once it’s put on the table.
Then again, I warn people all the time against entering into one of those mixed marriages. Marital life is far more likely to run smoother when both parties recognize Jim Nantz on sight. Anyway, it could get unspeakably ugly if someone is trying to get all the guests seated at the start of the fourth quarter.
We are jumping ahead of the story. In the here and now, the NFL clearly has turned into an offensive world, although you never would have known Sunday night, when the Ravens and Jets combined for 51 points while combing for one (1) offensive touchdown. Quarterbacks Joe Flacco and Mark Sanchez were engaged in a bizarre Anything-You-Can-Do-I-Can-Do-Poorer contest, finishing a combined 21 of 66 for 282 yards, a figure that, in this high-octane NFL world, is a minnow to be thrown back into the nearest body of water.
Globe alum Michael Smith, now of ESPN, has said of the league’s passing frenzy that “400 is the new 300,’’ and that is a very apt appraisal.
It does help to get the other team off the field once in a while, which is why the Patriots continue to worry the fans and, you can be sure, the coaching staff. There appears to be no fundamental change from the 2010 team, which went a league-best 14-2 and which was then sent home by the hated Jets in the divisional round of the playoffs. Man cannot sustain himself on gift end zone interceptions alone.
But the Patriots remain a Super Bowl contender. Just to be sure, I checked with the league office and they assured me that the AFC must provide a representative to play the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl XLVI next Feb. 5.
Of course, the Packers. Assuming nothing happens to Aaron Rodgers, Indianapolis can expect to be invaded by thousands and thousands of certified Cheeseheads next February.
It is highly uncertain just who those Cheeseheads will be cheering against. There have been some interesting developments in the AFC, but a September-October development is not a guarantee of December and January success. I’m talking to you, Buffalo, and you, Houston. Yeah, you’re both 3-1, but don’t get cocky. There’s a lot of football to be played.
Here are additional thoughts as we find ourselves one quarter of the way through the 2011 season.
MOST FLAMBOYANT ROOKIE ENTRANCE
It’s not as if a lot of people expected the guy to be a big flop, but did anybody foresee Cam Newton throwing for 422, 432, and 374 yards in three of his first four games? Or actually winning the game in which he threw for 158? He may not be in Auburn against the college boys anymore, but one thing that has not changed in the pros is that he will be the most exciting player on the field in 99 percent of his games.
BEST EXCUSE TO INDULGE IN A LITTLE SCHADENFREUDE
Are the Eagles fun to kick around, or what? They’re not even losing to actual, honest-to-goodness contenders, having gone down to the Falcons, Giants, and 49ers. Their linebacking is substandard, their overall run defense is putrid, and this is not a league in which you can think realistically about addressing your problems with a trade-deadline move.
OH, HOW THE MIGHTY HAVE FALLEN
Regarded by many as a Super Bowl contender at the dawn of the 2010 season, the Vikings have regressed so much they can’t even beat the Chiefs. Brett Favre wasn’t the answer, and neither is Donovan McNabb. I did note that someone finally introduced the coach to Adrian Peterson (23 carries, 80 yards Sunday). That only took four weeks.
FOX IN THE HENHOUSE
I’ve been 100 percent wrong in the recent past - e.g. Nick Saban with the Dolphins - but I’m calling Jim Harbaugh as the Next Great Thing in the NFL coaching ranks. The Niners aren’t (yet) great, but they’re annoyingly good.
WHAT IS UP WITH THOU, ROMO?
Dallas QB Tony Romo is the league’s true one-man soap opera. Just when you thought there was no way he could embellish the story, he loses a 27-3 lead over the Lions with a pair of pick-sixes (the first on an absolutely atrocious throw) as well as one final, killing INT leading to the winning TD. Right now I doubt he’s in Jerry Jones’s will.
WEREN’T YOU SUPPOSED TO BE ON THE MOVE?
Already 0-4, the Rams play at Green Bay, at Dallas, and home against New Orleans the next three weeks.
SAY WHATEVER YOU WANT: THE GUY CAN COACH
The Giants have plenty of injury reasons to feel sorry for themselves, but they are 3-1. Tom Coughlin, take a bow.
SOMEDAY, PATRIOTS FANS, THIS WILL BE YOU
Even with Peyton Manning, the Colts were in irrevocable decline. Without him, they very well could become an entrant in the Andrew Luck Derby.
Remember: Thanksgiving Day. Green Bay at Detroit, 12:30 p.m., EST. Dinner no earlier than 5. There always could be an OT.
Bob Ryan is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at email@example.com.