Week 4 NFL Roundup: Division of Labor


The Browns and their fans finally had a win soaked Monday morning to enjoy. The victory was even sweeter because it came in the Battle of Ohio against a division rival… And they weren’t the only ones who defied the odds-makers with an unusually strong showing within their division.

Perceptions are shifting, winning has a way of doing that – Here’s what else happened Week 4:

Bengals 20 @ Browns 23
Peyton Hillis and the Browns were due in this one, and finally hung on to a fourth quarter lead to vanquish the Bengals Sunday. The win ended Cincinnati’s eight-game AFC North winning streak, and dropped them to 2-2.

Carson Palmer had his best game of the year against the Browns (a disappointing trend considering the revamped secondary) but this time the defense was able to do just enough to survive. A crucial Matt Roth sack on 3rd and long and two Kenyon Coleman fumble recoveries counted big.

In the end, the Bengals are more like the Browns than they realized: a grinding running and defense team that is otherwise limited on offense. The difference is Peyton Hillis is this year’s version of Cedric Benson, and Benson is last year’s version of Jamal Lewis.

Other points:

  • Terrell Owens logged 222 receiving yards, but lost for the first time ever in Cleveland Browns Stadium.
  • Another worrisome performance by cornerback Eric Wright, but it’s funny how a win lets you see the sunny side of things. There wasn’t that one play that beat them, there were those few plays that helped them win.
  • Peyton Hillis has been the starting running back for two games, yet is tied for eighth in the league in rushing and has four TDs.
  • Seneca Wallace is the definition of a capable back-up. Why? Because he just won a divisional game. The Browns could not possibly have gotten more value out of a player taken with the 7th round draft pick they used to acquire him.
  • The Browns have played their best games thus far against divisional opponents. Could it be we look back in a few months and equate those first two losses against Kansas City and Tampa as examples of the Browns just not matching up well with two younger, faster teams they rarely see?

Bottom line: T.J. Ward’s so called cheap shot on Jordan Shipley in the end zone is the perfect metaphor: 1 – The Browns are legitimately tougher than last year; 2 – Those costly penalties are always going to be there; and 3 – The Steelers, Ravens, and Bengals have been doing this to the Browns for years; as soon as we do it to them they cry foul. People fear change.

Ravens 17 @ Steelers 14
Every Ravens Steelers game seems to be this competitive and stiff. This time Joe Flacco was the one engineering a game winning drive in the final two minutes to steal a game from the Steelers in Pittsburgh. The national media seems to award Flacco a career-defining moment ever year; aren’t most guys supposed to get just one?

The Ravens get to play host for the Steelers’ AFC North rebuttal, which underscores how big the win was for them. Derrick Mason led all receivers with six catches for 80 yards, while Pittsburgh’s Rashard Mendenhall rushed for 79 yards and two scores.

Bottom line: No matter how they try to deny it, all four AFC North teams are old-school, smash mouth squads.

Lions 26 @ Packers 28
Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers jumped out to a huge lead, and ended up having to scramble for their lives to escape with a two point win against divisional dog Detroit. The Lions are 0-4 but have put the fear into every team they’ve played. The Packers picked as Super Bowl contenders, are in the precarious position of being unhappy with themselves despite scoring a win.

Calvin Johnson is simply unguardable, catching six passes for 86 yards and two scores. A Charles Woodson interception returned for a score was simply the difference.

Bottom line: The Lions are not as bad as their record. They had 200 more yards of total offense, were +1 in turnover differential, and possessed the ball 15 minutes longer than the Pack, yet still lost.

Panthers 14 @ Saints 16
The Panthers are 0-4 just like the Lions, but gave their divisional foes the New Orleans Saints a run for their money Sunday as well. The Saints didn’t take the lead until they kicked the game winning field goal with just over three minutes left.

Drew Brees’ high powered offense was only able to find the end zone once. Rookie QB Jimmy Clausen was not spectacular by any means, but had his best day as a pro thus far and was in a position to defeat the defending Super Bowl champs, until his team faltered in the fourth quarter.

Bottom line: If you couldn’t tell by now I am building to my upset pick of the Browns defeating the Steelers in two weeks. Everyone in your division knows how to beat you. The Browns aren’t the same team that got trounced by 30 points every Sunday last year. They are going to be in these AFC North games, weather the AFC North likes it or not.

Colts 28 @ Jaguars 31
Kicker Josh Scobee nailed a 59 yard field goal as time expired to shock the Colts and somehow move the Jaguar’s record up to 2-2. Meanwhile the Colts are also 2-2, and have lost both their divisional games in the AFC South. Did you pick the Jags in this one? No team rebounded from a worse performance last week than they did. The league has no idea who they are now, but the Colts should have their full attention now.

Reggie Wayne nearly eclipsed 200 receiving yards while Joseph Addai scored twice, but David Garrard never turned it over.

Bottom line: Divisional games are always tough to call, but this is downright preposterous: The Jaguars had scored 16 points the past two weeks combined, then doubled down on that by dropping 31 on Indy!?

Redskins 17 @ Eagles 12
Ahh the suddenly sloppy NFC East. Donovan McNabb’s return to Lincoln Financial Field was a triumphant one, but this game lacked the panache billed once Michael Vick left the game with an injury. McNabb threw for a measly 125 yards and one score, but built a 14 point lead the deflated Eagles couldn’t overcome.

I can’t tell if Kevin Kolb is the backup or the starter now, but once he relieved Vick the Eagles turned into dink and dunkers. They hung an ugly 12 points on an ugly Redskins team, and never seemed to be close despite being a Hail Mary away from winning the game.

Bottom line: Are the Eagles in a good spot or a bad spot? They can see what they have in Kolb now, as he’ll get a few starts with no controversy because Vick is injured. That’s good for the coach and everyone’s psyche. But Kolb might also wind up showing the league he isn’t worth trading for.

Patriots 41 @ Dolphins 14
The Dolphins fail to become the seventh team on this list to defy the odds-makers and upset division rival New England on Monday night. This one turned into a laugher fast in the second half, as the Patriots became the first team in NFL history to score a touchdown rushing, passing, on a kick return, an interception, and a blocked field goal all in the same game.

With all that Tom Brady didn’t have to do much to earn his 100 career win. Chad Henne threw for over 300 yards, but was picked off three times and yanked for backup Tyler Thigpen late. Amazingly, New England also tied the highest score of the NFL season with 41 points, yet Randy Moss did not record a single catch for the first time ever in his Patriots career.

Bottom line: The Patriots have six players who have scored more than one touchdown this season; the Browns have one.