Posted by Barrie on Tuesday, 29 September 2009

NFL Season Starting to Take Shape

Only 3 games into the season, some teams in the NFL have put their foot down with an impressive starts, while others have a lot of work to do to overcome their slow starts.

None more can be true than of the Tennessee Titans. Defeated by 7 points, as predicted in our NFL Expert's Picks. A tough overtime defeat on the opening game of the season in Pittsburgh, before being upset at home to the Houston Texans in week 2, Jeff Fisher's team who didn't lose until week 12 last season have started the season 0-3, opposite to the AFC South leaders, Indianapolis Colts at 3-0. The Titans face a tough trip to Jacksonville this coming weekend while the Colts host Seattle before the two division rivals meet in the late Sunday night game at LP Field. After that game the season could be as good as over for the Titans if they don't pick up a victory with other tough matches in New England, San Francisco and Indianapolis still to come, while they host the San Diego Chargers on Christmas day. The Indianapolis Colts have a much easier schedule on paper and a comfortable victory in Arizona on Sunday shows what they are capable of. The Colts can still be found at 8/15 to win the AFC South, with Houston shortly behind them at 2-1 but unlikely to maintain a serious challenge.

The New England Patriots looked better this week, although quarterback Tom Brady isn't anywhere near his best since his since his surgery (despite throwing over 300 yards in week 1), but Fred Taylor is helping them out in the backfield and their defence held Atlanta to 10 in their victory on Sunday that moves them to 2-1. The AFC East leaders, New York Jets are looking very good at 3-0 with back-to-back victories over New England and Tennessee now, behind the rookie head coach and quarterback partnership of Rex Ryan and Mark Sanchez. 4-0 looks unlikely with a trip to New Orleans this weekend, but a run of winnable games follows that before 3 tricky games at the end of the regular season, facing Atlanta, Indianapolis and Cincinnati. The Patriots host Baltimore and Tennessee within the next 3 weeks and still have to travel to New Orleans. The Dolphins and Bills don't have easy schedules either and these two don't look like strong competitors in this division this season. The AFC East won't live up to it's dramatic end last season, but looks set to be interesting none-the-less. The Patriots are currently the favourites for the AFC East division crown at 8/13.

In the AFC North, the defending Superbowl Champions went down late against the Cincinnati Bengals who our NFL Tipster described as a "potential surprise package" ahead of that game. The Steelers are now 2 games behind the Ravens who became favourites for the AFC North after this weekend's results. With the AFC North facing the NFC North and AFC West divisions this season, I can see all three of the aforementioned teams finishing on a winning record, should the Bengals offence perform as they did late on Sunday, throughout future matches. Ultimately, I cannot see them keeping up with the Ravens and this division will be between the same 2 teams as last season.

The Chargers are the only team in the AFC West. How long will Oakland stick with JaMarcus Russell, who is ready to be on the list of biggest disappointments in future lists that are currently filled with Cincinnati Bengals players over the last decade or so?

In the NFC there are many tight divisions. Start up North first, the Vikings maintained their winning record thanks to Brett Favre's incredible touchdown pass to Greg Lewis with 2 seconds left on the clock. Favourites for their division aided by Adrian Peterson at running back, and with Green Bay having suffered a defeat to Cincinnati already this season and the Bears going down at Lambeau Field in week 1 leaves the Vikings as solo division leaders. It should be a close tussle between these 3 teams all season however. I couldn't leave this division without mentioning the Detroit Lions ending their 19 game losing streak with a victory over the disappointing Washington Redskins on Sunday. Congratulations to them.

The Saints are looking good in the NFC South, the highest point scorers through the opening 3 weeks. They came into the season with the most-impressive offence and are failing to disappoint with Drew Brees in charge. They look much improved on defence too this season which will not only help them win their division, but gives them a chance of going far in the playoffs. The Falcons are their only threat to prevent them winning the division with Jake Delhomme's days number with a 0-3 Carolina and the Buccaneers just a very poor team right now.

The hardest division to predict is the NFC West. The 49ers are looking very good despite an unfortunate defeat in Minnesota on Sunday. The only team with a winning record after 3 games in this division and are at a good price to win it. The Cardinals have got off to a slow start, but will remain contenders with their great receiver trio and experienced quarterback, despite a non-existent ground game. Defensively they're capable of creating turnovers to win games. The Seahawks lost late to Chicago on Sunday and face a tough couple of games over the next few weeks which could leave them playing catchup. The St Louis Rams remain the dismal team that they have been over the past few seasons.

Finally, the NFC East. The New York Giants produced the only shutout of the weekend, winning 24-0 in Tampa Bay as they remain favourites in this division. The Philadelphia Eagles are a strong force at 2-1 and will be looking to challenge the Giants for the title and hoping to make it into the post-season again. The Dallas Cowboys aren't to be ignored either despite the criticism going around of Tony Romo. They may go unnoticed for a while as the Giants and Eagles headline this division, but don't count them out just yet.

The NFL promises to be exciting as always. While I'll do my best to keep up updated with my opinions on it, don't forget to check out our weekly NFL Picks to help you make money from it while enjoying the action across the pond!

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