The 3-0 Chiefs are the league's only remaining undefeated team. Still, they are heavy underdogs going into their matchup at Indianapolis. Even if they win, the idea of Kansas City going undefeated is almost as absurd as Stephen Colbert taking over the CBS Evening News – even if that's a great idea.
If the Chiefs lose, this would mark the earliest point in a season since the 1970 season that there are no undefeated teams. That stat comes courtesy of the NFL, which hires the good people of the Elias Sports Bureau to look these things up. In 1970, the first year of the merger of the NFL and AFL, there were no undefeated teams after Week 4. While this is Week 5 of the current season, the Chiefs had a bye last Sunday (and byes didn't exist in 1970), so we'll count this as a tie.
When you consider the horde of teams that have made undefeated runs in recent years (Indianapolis Colts, New England Patriots and Tennessee Titans each started 10-0 at some point since the '07 campaign), it seems a little weird that nobody is making a run this year.
One general manager had a theory, but he admittedly hadn't spent a long time thinking it over.
"Everybody is flawed in some really significant way," the GM said. "Chicago was 3-0, but they can't block against a good pass rush. Their line is awful. Pittsburgh was the other team, and they're good, really good. When they get [Ben] Roethlisberger back, I think they're the team to beat. But they have flaws and big ones. They're old and pretty thin and the special teams are just OK.
"Kansas City? I like a lot of things that they're doing. [GM Scott] Pioli is doing a nice job of bringing in talent and the coaching staff got way better with [defensive coordinator] Romeo [Crennel] and [offensive coordinator] Charlie [Weis]. But seriously, they have problems, too. We all do. Look at my team, I've got young guys playing everywhere. Yeah, I think they're going to be good, but young guys make mistakes."
That last part leads to an interesting theory about why there seems to be more parity this season. Because of the change in the rules that limited free agency to only players who had played at least six years, many teams were unable to fix flaws with veteran free agent players.
While that meant that some teams were able to keep veterans longer, it also meant that problems had to be fixed primarily in the draft. In theory, that sounds good. In reality, it doesn't work.
Though this has been a good season for rookies such as Sam Bradford(notes) and Jahvid Best(notes), there is a reality that comes with playing rookies. That is particularly the case at a time when training camp has become so limited in terms of hitting.
"If my job didn't depend upon it, I'd probably laugh at some of the stuff I see these days," the GM continued. "You try to get guys a taste of the hitting in camp, but it's not really the same thing, especially when it's so limited. They don't understand what recovery really is. We have a lineman who got knocked around in training camp a couple of times and thought that was tough. He got into a game at it was like, 'You mean it's like this on every play?' He's going to be OK because he's competitive, he has pride. But some of the other young guys, they have no idea."
What that means is that teams that had flaws last year still aren't sure if the flaws are fixed or they're doing just enough to cover up the flaws for now.
But the losses are still coming.
Parcells exit warms seat for Sparano
There's a warm and fuzzy theory that former VP of football operations Bill Parcells stepped away from the Miami Dolphins earlier this season in an effort to protect coach Tony Sparano and general manager Jeff Ireland. Nice theory, but not fully realistic.
Anybody who understands the ins and outs of the Dolphins' situation knows that Sparano and Ireland are in deep trouble coming off the humiliating loss to New England on Monday night. Sparano tried to soothe the masses by firing special team coach John Bonamego (the Dolphins have had three punts/kicks blocked and allowed a kickoff return for a score in the past two games), but that's not going to solve much. It's sort of like fixing the icing on a birthday cake.
The loss to the Patriots, which also featured three interceptions by young quarterback Chad Henne(notes), was the second straight nationally televised night home game in which the Dolphins lost. That bottom line overshadows the fact that Henne showed some nice flashes of development and that two of the three interceptions weren't completely his fault.
It's also a big problem when owner Stephen Ross is all about the glitz. Ross' efforts to market the team have all revolved around glamour and sex appeal. Ross' closest confidants are all marketing people, according to a source familiar with the organization's operations. His biggest move with the team to this point has included his selling small shares of it to celebrity owners like Marc Anthony, Fergie and the Williams sisters (Venus and Serena). The team even created a special entrance for the celebrities.
This season, the team has added a night club at one end of the stadium. All of that is great … unless the team is bad. Even at 2-2 (and the two wins were ugly), the Dolphins aren't looking so great with the next four games being at Green Bay, Pittsburgh at home and then road games at Cincinnati and Baltimore.
By the time that run of games is over, the Miami Heat will be 10 games into their season and it's going to be really hard for the Dolphins to sell any available tickets if the Heat do what everybody expects with the combo of Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh. Throw in the fact that Parcells is now increasingly out of the picture – and also has no strong relationship with Ross because former owner Wayne Huizenga hired Parcells – and there is no one in-house to explain to Ross that the team is going through a rough patch that can be corrected. Instead, Ross will listen to the only guy he really knows in football, former Kansas City president and general manager Carl Peterson.
1. Baltimore Ravens (3-1): Nice win in Pittsburgh, even if the Steelers didn't have Ben Roethlisberger(notes). I was tempted to leave the Steelers here, but give the Ravens props.
2. Pittsburgh Steelers (3-1): If you told Steelers fans before the season the team would be 3-1 after the first four without Roethlisberger, they'd have taken it and run.
3. Kansas City Chiefs (3-0): They remain the only undefeated team in the league. Methinks that changes Sunday in Indianapolis.
4. Atlanta Falcons (3-1): A lot of the numbers on the Falcons aren't good, but QB Matt Ryan(notes) is terrific and WR Roddy White(notes) earned his contract Sunday.
5. Green Bay Packers (3-1): Dear Mike McCarthy and Ted Thompson: You better do something to fix that running game or you're going to waste the season.
28. Oakland Raiders (1-3): Allowed 249 yards rushing to Texans? At home? Wow, and I thought the Oakland offensive line was bad.
29. Detroit Lions (0-4): Really, the Lions are better than this. If they had QB Matthew Stafford(notes), they'd be going places because they're playing really hard.
30. San Francisco 49ers (0-4): As a Stanford grad, I hate to say it, but the 49ers really need to hire Jim Harbaugh and start all over. Either that or get Jon Gruden.
31. Carolina Panthers (0-4): Like Atlanta, the stats indicate something else for the Panthers, but the bottom line is terrible.
32. Buffalo Bills (0-4): OK, I understand dumping Trent Edwards(notes), but it hurts to do that when Ryan Fitzpatrick(notes) is the alternative.
This and that
• While no ill feelings exist in the Atlanta front office toward Michael Vick(notes), there are some people there who would be happy to see their former quarterback miss the next two games with his rib injury. Why? The Falcons visit Philadelphia on Oct. 17 and the team would like to avoid the whole topic of Vick, his present and future. In fact, the team is already prepping for the inevitable questions about Vick.
• One other little note about the Dolphins and New England: As endearing as the story is about 5-foot-9 Pats running back Danny Woodhead(notes), it has to be really disturbing for Miami when a guy like that beats LB Karlos Dansby(notes) so easily on a short pass over the middle for a touchdown. That's not what the Dolphins paid him $43 million over five years.
• One member of the Oakland staff was chuckling about USC's loss to Washington on Saturday. Not that the staffer dislikes USC, but the failure of Trojans (and former Raiders) coach Lane Kiffin to use his timeouts wisely at the end of the game was practically a carbon copy of how Kiffin wasted two timeouts at the end of a loss at Buffalo on Sept. 21, 2008. That was Kiffin's second-to-last game with the Raiders. Just as in the loss to Washington on Saturday, Kiffin allowed the Bills to run the clock down to three seconds and then end the game on a field goal. "When he was with us, I thought he did that intentionally just to [mess with Oakland owner] Al [Davis] … "
- Bill Parcells