Once again, what we thought we knew about the location of the NFL's power base was wrong.
In the NFC, it's apparently not in Dallas.
In the AFC, it's apparently not in Denver.
At least not this week.
The previously unbeaten Cowboys and Broncos had their respective bubbles burst with surprising losses to the Washington Redskins and Kansas City Chiefs.
The Cowboys got away from what they do best. They did not make good use of their massive offensive line, which is supposed to allow them to pound the ball and set a physical tempo. Marion Barber, the hammer of their backfield, carried a mere eight times for 26 yards. Felix Jones, the explosive rookie capable of going the distance on any run, didn't have a single carry -- or a single reception, for that matter.
Without any offensive balance, the Cowboys were a bit too dependent on the passing arm of Tony Romo. He did play reasonably well, throwing for 300 yards and three touchdowns. But he was intercepted once, accounting for the game's only turnover, and he worked without the advantage of sustained drives that would have helped wear down the Redskins' defense. The Redskins held a significant edge in time of possession, 38:09 to 21:51.
Give the Redskins, and especially Jason Campbell, credit. They registered a massive divisional win on the road to improve their record to 3-1. Campbell threw for two touchdowns and is the only quarterback in the league with a minimum of 50 pass attempts to avoid throwing an interception. The real key for success for Campbell and the Redskins offense was the fact that Washington was committed to the run. Clinton Portis finished with 121 yards on 21 carries, an average of 5.8 yards per rush.
The Cowboys showed defensive vulnerability in their Week 2 victory over Philadelphia. Apparently, that was not an aberration for a team that has enough talent to do a better job of stopping opponents.
However, what seemed genuine about them was their offensive production. Against the Chiefs, they managed only 19 points. The biggest problem was that Jay Cutler, whom some analysts anointed as this year's version of the 2007 edition of Tom Brady, wasn't the dominant force he had been in three previous games. Yes, he did throw for 361 yards, but he had only one touchdown pass and was intercepted twice.
So where does the power reside?
Until Sunday night's loss to Chicago, Philadelphia would have been a good epicenter of power in the NFC. But the Eagles squandered too many opportunities against a team they should have been able to beat. Late in the game, when they were on the doorstep of the end zone, they failed to punch it in with a running game missing its best player, injured Brian Westbrook. Did anyone consider running Donovan McNabb on a QB sneak?
So, for the time being, the power in the NFC has to move to East Rutherford, N.J., home of the 3-0 New York Giants.
The Giants have played well on both sides of the ball. They had a bye in Week 4, after barely surviving an overtime win against the still-winless Bengals. Plaxico Burress' off-field issues present a headache the Giants don't need, although they probably can overcome it against the Seattle Seahawks in Week 5. Meanwhile, the Cowboys have a likely rebound game at winless Cincinnati.
The Titans have the dominant defense that a true championship contender must have. They put it on display once again in beating another team with a quality defense, the Minnesota Vikings. The Titans limited the Vikings' best player, Adrian Peterson, to 80 rushing yards. Peterson lost a fumble and Gus Frerotte threw an interception.
The 4-0 Bills aren't too far behind the Titans, though, in the AFC. For the third consecutive week, the Bills rallied for a victory. For the second week in a row, that rally came against a league bottom-dweller. The Rams held the edge for much of the first half, but it was less a case of outplaying the Bills as it was the Bills beating themselves. In the second half, Buffalo made necessary adjustments on both sides of the ball and showed the kind of poise and maturity necessary to score 25 unanswered points.
Reminder: Quarterbacking depth is critical
The Chiefs, Titans, and Buccaneers continue to remind us of the importance of having good depth at quarterback. Do you hear that, Green Bay Packers?
If Aaron Rodgers' shoulder is seriously injured (Packers coach Mike McCarthy reported that it was bruised after Green Bay's loss to Tampa Bay, but Rodgers told reporters he thought it might be dislocated or separated), the Pack potentially has a huge problem. Rodgers' backup is a rookie, Matt Flynn, who hardly seems ready to lead Green Bay very far.
Not that Rodgers was all that special against the Buccaneers. He threw for 165 yards and two touchdowns, but was intercepted three times.
Damon Huard became Kansas City's starter after coach Herman Edwards determined the team was better off with his experience rather than the raw skills of young Tyler Thigpen, who had replaced injured Brodie Croyle. It was a good call. Huard was steady and efficient, throwing for 160 yards and a touchdown. He kept the Chiefs on track and didn't allow them to become too giddy as they found themselves with the chance of knocking off the mighty Broncos.
Kerry Collins, who is starting in place of injured Vince Young, continues to provide stability to Tennessee's offense. He has grown into a tremendous leader, and, with the help of a solid running game, he is capable of leading this team to the Super Bowl.
Brian Griese led Tampa Bay to victory for the second straight week while starting in place of Jeff Garcia. But his performance against Green Bay was shaky. Like Rodgers, he was picked off three times. Still, Griese did throw a touchdown pass and has won eight of his last nine starts for the Bucs.