Even the NFL losers get lucky some­times

Richmond Times-Dispatch Weekend - - SUNDAY PUNCH -

What I learned in sports this week was that we’ve reached the quar­ter pole of the NFL sched­ule and my out­look on this sea­son is as un­clear as it was a month ago be­fore a game was even played.

Thought by some to be on track to go 16- 0, New Eng­land is barely 3- 2 af­ter sur­viv­ing Tampa Bay on Thurs­day night. The Dallas Cow­boys are a loss away from match­ing their num­ber of de­feats from last sea­son. Even the New York Jets, a pop­u­lar fa­vorite to have the worst record in the league, pos­sess two more vic­to­ries than the other squad in New York, which was thought to be a po­ten­tial Su­per Bowl con­tender.

Sadly, we also learned this week the world lost Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Tom Petty at the age of 66.

To honor the Su­per Bowl XLII half­time act, since ev­ery NFL team is try­ing to go “Run­nin’ Down a Dream” of raising a Lom­bardi Tro­phy, here are some early sto­ry­lines for NFL teams and their re­spec­tive Petty clas­sic.

‘Learn­ing To Fly’

“I’m learn­ing to fly, but I ain’t got wings. Com­ing down is the hard­est thing.”

De­shaun Wat­son hasn’t come down since lead­ing Clem­son to the na­tional cham­pi­onship last Jan­uary, then be­ing drafted 12th over­all by the Hous­ton Tex­ans in March. He cer­tainly wasn’t show­ing signs of de­cline af­ter his five- touch­down per­for­mance last week against Ten­nessee.

Af­ter be­ing in­serted into ac­tion dur­ing Week 1 vs. Jacksonville, Wat­son has im­proved his com­ple­tion per­cent­age, touch­down to in­ter­cep­tion ra­tio, and in the past two games, the Tex­ans have scored 76 points on of­fense.

Wat­son’s ca­reer is in its way early stages. Yet it’s one that looks like it’s just tak­ing off.

‘Free Fallin’ ’

This re­quest and ded­i­ca­tion goes out to the Giants at 0- 4.

Lack of pass pro­tec­tion, in­ef­fec­tive ground game, please stop me if you’ve heard this be­fore?

Since the NFL- AFL merger, only the 1992 San Diego Charg­ers made the play­offs af­ter start­ing 0- 4. With a trip to Den­ver and vis­its from the Chiefs, Rams, and Sea­hawks, sorry G- men, the fu­ture isn’t look­ing much brighter.

‘TheWait­ing (is the hard­est part)’

Feel free to ar­gue whether the Kansas City Chiefs are the best team in the NFL. The fact is they’re the only re­main­ing un­de­feated.

What’ll be held against the Chiefs is — no mat­ter how good they look in the reg­u­lar sea­son— it’ll be dif­fi­cult for many to be­lieve in K. C. as a Su­per Bowl con­tender un­til they reach the AFC cham­pi­onship game, some­thing that hasn’t hap­pened since Joe Mon­tana was un­der cen­ter in 1993.

Also an un­de­feated start hasn’t al­ways paid off for Kansas City. Four times be­fore in the Su­per Bowl era, the Chiefs were the last un­beaten team of the sea­son. In all four sea­sons, they did not win a play­off game.

‘Change­ofHeart’

Raise your hand if you wrote off Jared Goff as a draft bust last sea­son.

For the ad­just­ments in just months with the sopho­more quar­ter­back and how he’s used Todd Gur­ley to ig­nite the Los An­ge­les Rams’ of­fense ( 35.5 ppg), Los An­ge­les head coach Sean McVay is the early fa­vorite for coach of the year.

The Rams have al­ready turned heads at 3- 1. A win over Seat­tle to­day, will have peo­ple talk­ing about a power shift in the NFC West.

‘I Won’tBack­Down’

A main rea­son the Den­ver Bron­cos are 3- 1 is a de­fense that ranks tops in rush­ing and to­tal yards al- lowed while al­low­ing just 18.5 ppg.

Four weeks in, the Den­ver run de­fense has halted run­ning backs Melvin Gor­don ( 54 yards), Ezekiel El­liot ( 8 yards), LeSean McCoy ( 21 yards), and ganged up on Mar­shawn Lynch ( 12 yards).

Not good news for those on Den­ver’s sched­ule in Novem­ber and De­cem­ber when the weather will force an op­po­nent to run.

‘Into the Great Wide Open’

Four Weeks in, 13 left to go. Will the Cow­boys‘ El­liot still be sus­pended games? Are Car­son Wentz and the Ea­gles the sur­prise NFC con­tenders or is it the Detroit Lions with their op­por­tunis­tic de­fense ( 11 take­aways)?

Are the Bills for real? Are the Raiders in for a rocky road? What di­rec­tion will the Red­skins go af­ter a 2- 2 start?

To al­ter a Petty lyric, “Into the great wide open, un­der those skies of blue. Out in the great wide open” and I haven’t got a clue.

Wes McEl­roy hosts a daily sports talk showweek­days from6-9 a.m. onWRNL(910).

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Tex­ans quar­ter­back De­shaunWat­son has im­proved his com­ple­tion per­cent­age and his touch­down to in­ter­cep­tion ra­tio as the sea­son has pro­gressed.

McEl­roy

Wes

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