NFL Week 4: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times

Show of hands – after four weeks of football, who is sick of Peyton Manning?

I’d raise my hand, but typing this column with one hand would take forever.

I’ve always been a Peyton Manning fan. I liked him while he played for Indianapolis because the Colts were likeable. The Broncos, not so much. I’ve never been a Denver fan (and yes, if you’re wondering, it DOES go back to the Elway vs. the Browns playoff days), so it’s quite difficult to cheer for Manning in this uniform. I still like him, but I’m already tired of hearing about how good he is and how good the Broncos are.

They are good. Sickeningly good. Annoyingly good. Insert an adjective that means “so good you can’t stand them” good.

But I’d like to point something out. Aside from the week 1 matchup against Baltimore, the Broncos opponents haven’t exactly been the upstanding teams of the NFL – NY Giants, Oakland, Philadelphia. Say it with me, class: Cream puffs. Next week the Broncos play the Cowboys and then, oh the humanity, the Jaguars.

While the NFL would have you believe that Denver is the only team in America, there are actually other teams at 4-0. New England, Kansas City, New Orleans and Seattle are also unbeaten. Out of this second group, I’m mostly impressed by the Saints and Seahawks, as both have played a handful more credible opponents. Not taking anything away at all from Denver, who I do believe is probably the best of the best right now, but the season is long and we’ve only hit the quarter mark.

On the flip side, Ben Roethlisberger would have you believe that the Steelers are the worst team in football. As much as I’d love to agree with him being a Browns fan and all, I have to disagree. Sure, the Steelers have problems, but most of their issues have to do with key injuries and just an aging team in general. However, I think it’s pretty easy to crown the Jacksonsville Jaguars as the worst team in the NFL.

How bad is it in Jacksonville? The team announced before Sunday’s game that showing their ticket stub would get them two free drinks. This is what it’s come to in Jacksonville? Bribing fans with free beer? The Jags have scored a TOTAL of 31 points this season. San Francisco, Chicago, Detroit, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Minnesota, Tennessee, Denver and New Orleans all scored 31 or more points in their week 4 game. Sorry team officials, but even a drunken stupor would not make the Jags watchable.

In other news:

– Pick six, the official play of the Houston Texans.

With the Texans leading 20-13 and under 3 minutes left in regulation, Matt Schaub marched his offense to the line on 3rd and 4. Instead of calling a running play to keep the clock moving and try to preserve the lead, Schaub dropped back and threw a horrifically bad pass that was picked off by Seattle’s Richard Sherman. Why did the Texans have to get all pass wacky? Sherman took it to the house, the extra point tied the game, and the Seahawks went on to win in overtime. The shot of Schaub laying on the field on his back, hands on his head, was depressing. I can only imagine what he must have been thinking after tossing a pick six for the third game in a row. After winning their first two games, the Texans lost their last two and are now 2-2. Meanwhile, the Seahawks are 4-0 for the first time in franchise history.

– If I had a seat in the suite, I sure wouldn’t complain!

After Bucs coach Greg “Big Bully” Schiano announced he was benching QB Josh Freeman, bad blood immediately began to boil. Rumors began circulating that Freeman missed photos and meetings and wasn’t exactly a model team leader. In fact, Freeman was inactive for the game and, according to his agent, was “forced” to sit in a suite at the stadium to watch the game. Poor thing, having to be stuck in a luxury box for hours! A/C and food aplenty – what’s he griping about? Oh yeah, the whole benching thing. This week, Freeman released a statement saying he’s never tested positive for any illegal drugs and that he entered the league drug testing policy voluntarily because he has ADHD and has been taking prescribed medication his entire NFL career. I’m not really in tune with what the Bucs are doing here. Why would you start painting Freeman as a flawed character if you’re hoping to trade him for something of value? Does Schiano dislike him so much that he just wants him out at any cost? Freeman is clearly doing damage control by releasing statements, but maybe more damaging than any words by him or his coach is Freeman’s actual on-field performance. With a few weeks left before the trading deadline ends, we’ll see what happens to Freeman.

– A rule so obscure even I, your future NFL commissioner, had to look it up!

Last Thursday night, football fans witnessed a rarity. The elusive fair catch kick. The what? Any team that has just made a fair catch has the option to attempt a free kick from that spot. The kick attempt is pretty much like a field goal, only the defense can’t rush. Actually, this rule is always in effect – any team who makes a fair catch can attempt a fair catch kick, but in the practical confines of the game, there is usually never a good time to try this. On Thursday, however, the 49ers called for a fair catch of a Rams punt on the 39 yard line with a few seconds left in the first half. Jim Harbaugh called for Phil Dawson, his kicker, to head out and try a fair catch kick, or a 71-yard field goal. I’m pretty sure that Harbaugh, Dawson, and the referee were the only ones who knew what was going on at first. Many of the Rams players were just standing around looking confused. Although in a league where there are still players who don’t know games can end in ties (the most recent admission of this was last year), I don’t find it surprising that many players and fans were absolutely clueless. And I must give props to my husband on this one – he knew immediately what the 49ers were planning to do, and once he mentioned it, I immediately Googled it – along with several tens of thousands of people in the stadium. Google is my friend.

Several interesting games are lined up for week 5, including the Pats at Bengals and Chiefs at Titans. In the NFC, Green Bay had an extra week to prepare for their matchup against division foe Detroit, while the Saints battle the Bears. Interconference-wise, Seattle travels to Indy. And for you night owls, the Chargers-Raiders game was moved to 8:35 p.m. Pacific time due to the Oakland A’s baseball game the night before (apparently it takes 24 hours to convert the field from baseball to football). That’s an 11:35 p.m. start for us East Coast folks, which means, even though the game is airing on the NFL Network, most people east of the Mississippi will not be subjected to seeing the Raiders or the Chargers. Happy day! And thanks to bye weeks, the Vikings, Steelers, Bucs and Redskins will all probably be asleep for the late late Sunday game too. East Coast bias? Nope, no bias here! I just like bedtime.

Until next week, enjoy the games, my friends!