Are the 49ers going to lift the Vince Lombardi Trophy this Year?

25 Aug
Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers celebrates with teammate Michael Crabtree after a touchdown was scored against the Baltimore Ravens during Super Bowl XLVII at the Mercedes Benz Superdome on February 3, 2013 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (February 2, 2013, Source: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images North America)

The San Francisco 49ers have the best record in the NFL since head coach Jim Harbaugh took over in 2011. The team won 36 of their 48 regular season games but suffered three heartbreaking playoff losses (twice in the NFC Championship Game and once in Super Bowl XLVII) and essentially finished each season empty-handed. Is this the year the Niners will finally succeed?

Improving the roster is imperative when you compete in the strongest division in the NFL and the 49ers had quite the turnover in the offseason.

A lot has been made about the departures of S Donte Whitner, CB Carlos Rogers and CB Tarrell Brown, presumably making the secondary weaker, but the acquisitions of S Antoine Bethea (Indianapolis) and CB Chris Cook (Minnesota) are adequate replacements. San Francisco's defensive backfield may lack a superstar but its depth is extraordinary, which is a true asset in a pass-happy league.

C Jonathan Goodwin left for the New Orleans Saints. C Daniel Kilgore, his replacement, comes from within the team's own ranks. He is a versatile offensive lineman but new to the center position. There may be a learning curve involved but the Niners are confident that he gets the job done.

In recent years San Francisco's receiving corps suffered injuries that left the unit thin at this position. The Niners lost WR Mario Manningham to the New York Giants in the offseason but acquired WR Stevie Johnson (Buffalo), WR Brandon Lloyd (New England) and WR Bruce Ellington (Draft) and now appear extremely deep at the wide receiver position. QB Colin Kaepernick has plenty of reliable targets to excel as a passer and San Francisco's aerial attack should become much more dangerous this season.

One big area of concern are the contract negotiations with head coach Jim Harbaugh. He wants to be paid like a Super Bowl winning coach (his brother earns $2m more per year and has actually won a Super Bowl with the Baltimore Ravens) and the 49ers want him to bring the Vince Lombardi Trophy back to San Francisco before they give him a pay rise. This must not become a distraction because Harbaugh's main concern should be winning ballgames.

There have also been reports of a growing rift between the head coach and several key players. Whether those reports are true is a different story but good team chemistry is necessary in order to achieve the goals.

The competition did not sleep either. The Seattle Seahawks may have lost some solid contributors but the Denver Broncos and New England Patriots look better on paper than they did one year ago.

49ers Keys to Success

Colin Kaepernick's progress needs to continue. He is a great scrambler but the option offense is so much more effective with great pocket presence.

RB Frank Gore must not slow down. Last year his numbers were down compared to previous seasons, though 1,128 yards, 4.1 yards per carry and 9 rushing touchdowns are still good statistics. Gore's backups are more or less unproven players, hence the Niners rely on another productive season from the 31-year old veteran.

A healthy roster. Derrick Deese, Super Bowl winning right guard with the 49ers in 1995, believes that the Niners should have a great shot at going to the dance again as long as the injury bug doesn't bite them. ILB NaVorro Bowman will miss half the season with a knee injury, so it's important that the rest of San Francisco's key players stay healthy.

All things considered, the 49ers are one of the favorites to win Super Bowl XLIX but the road to Glendale, Az is going to be long and tough. Winning the NFC West and clinching home-field advantage are important to avoid going to hostile places. After that, everything is possible.  

When will Buffalo's Playoff Drought end?

03 Aug
ORCHARD PARK, NY, May 18: Sammy Watkins #14 of Buffalo Bills pulls in a pass during the Buffalo Bills rookie minicamp on May 18, 2014 at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, New York. (May 17, 2014, Source: Brett Carlsen/Getty Images North America)

The NFL is all about parity. With the introduction of free agency and a salary cap 20 years ago dynasties like the 70s Pittsburgh Steelers, the 80s San Francisco 49ers or the 90s Dallas Cowboys became a thing of the past. Still, the Buffalo Bills, a great franchise themselves in the early 90s, have been struggling to make the playoffs since 1999.

The Bills are in a difficult position. For the fans it's all about a return to the postseason as soon as possible. For the organization it's about building a team that can compete for many years to come.

With their all-or-nothing approach in the offseason the Bills made it clear that ending the playoff drought is the number one priority. They traded up in the draft to acquire WR Sammy Watkins with the fourth overall pick. The deal came at a price though, costing the Bills a first and fourth round pick in next year's draft.

Sammy Watkins has all the tools to improve last year's fifth worst passing offense significantly but his impact will largely depend on the further development of second-year QB E.J. Manuel.

MLB Brandon Spikes was another great and necessary acquisition. Buffalo's run defense ranked 28th last season and the former Patriots standout is known as one of the best run stopper in the NFL.

CB Corey Graham is a solid addition to Buffalo's talented defensive backfield, though his role seems to be unclear at this point. He may end up playing nickelback but there are speculations that he will replace the departed FS Jairus Byrd at the safety position. Either way, Buffalo's pass defense, which ranked fourth last season, will probably not be quite as good it was last year.

Whether the WR Mike Williams trade was a wise move remains to be seen. He was acquired from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for a sixth-rounder but he comes with an expensive contract, as he signed a six-year deal worth $40.25m in 2013. It did, however, help the Bills to offload WR Stevie Johnson to the San Francisco 49ers for a fourth-round pick in 2015. Williams will primarily be used in three-wideout sets and the red zone offense.

The spot behind the New England Patriots in the AFC East is up for grabs and the AFC in general is rather weak but I don't think the Bills did enough to end their playoff drought. Too much depends on an immediate impact from rookie Sammy Watkins and the progress of E. J. Manuel.  

How does an Injury affect Betting Odds?

13 Mar
Shea McClellin #99 of the Chicago Bears tackles Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers during the first quarter at Lambeau Field on November 04, 2013 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (November 3, 2013, Source: Mike McGinnis/Getty Images North America)

The Green Bay Packers were a Super Bowl contender in 2013 with a 5-2 record going into week 9 of the season. Aaron Rodgers had another stellar season up to this point completing 67.1% of his passes for 313.0 yards per game. Then the nightmare began.

In the game against the Chicago Bears Aaron Rodgers suffered a shoulder injury, which would sideline him for several weeks. This wasn't only a big deal for the Green Bay Packers and their fans but it also changed the odds relating to the team.

Initially, Green Bay's odds to win the Super Bowl dropped from 9-1 to 14-1 in week 10. This was a cautious approach because nobody knew when Rodgers would return to action. The odds of Green Bay's division rivals improved from 75-1 to 33-1 (Chicago) and 40-1 to 33-1 (Detroit).

Oddsmakers in Las Vegas ranked Aaron Rodgers as the third best quarterback in the league before the season. His Per-Game Value was 6 points, meaning he is almost worth a touchdown compared to his potential backup. If you subtract a touchdown per game from an 11-5 team, which the Packers arguably were, you will end up with an 8-8 record.

Without Aaron Rodgers the Packers went 2-5-1 but still managed to clinch the division title upon his return in the final week of the regular season by defeating the Chicago Bears. Green Bay finished the season with an 8-7-1 record.

Quarterback is the most sensitive position in football for oddsmakers. They don't get as nervous if a non-quarterback misses a game through injury. If Adrian Peterson were to be sidelined Minnesota's game odds would drop by 2.5 points. The likes of A.J. Green or J.J. Watt have a Per-Game Value of 1 point. Their injuries would be a big concern for their respective teams but for oddsmakers they are rarely the difference between a win and a loss.  

Boston Red Sox Outlook for 2014

01 Mar
Jackie Bradley Jr. #25 of the Boston Red Sox scores as Matt Wieters #32 of the Baltimore Orioles applies a late tag in the 2nd inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Fenway Park on September 19, 2013 in Boston, Massachusetts. (September 18, 2013, Source: Jim Rogash/Getty Images North America)

The Boston Red Sox are getting ready to defend their World Series title as the start of the new season is fast approaching. After a turbulent offseason that saw CF Jacoby Ellsbury leave for their bitter rival the New York Yankees, Boston assembled a team good enough to compete for a repeat.

Boston's lineup is pretty much set and remains one of the strongest in the league as spring training is underway. The only position battle will be between Jackie Bradley Jr. and Grady Sizemore at centerfield. Bradley is a highly touted talent but struggled last season with a batting average of .189 and spent a lot of time playing Triple-A baseball.

Grady Sizemore has a history of injuries and hasn't played in the MLB since 2011. Last month he was signed to an incentive-laden contract, with $750,000 guaranteed and as much as $6 million in bonuses, depending on plate appearances and days on the major league roster. The former Cleveland Indian can only challenge for the starting job if he manages to shake off the injury bug.

LF Daniel Nava and LF Jonny Gomes will platoon in leftfield, with Nava getting the nod against right-handed pitching.

C A.J. Pierzynski was signed to a one-year, $8.25 million contract in the offseason. He replaces C Jarrod Saltalamacchia behind the plate and provides veteran leadership.

Projected Lineup:

RF Shane Victorino

LF Daniel Nava

2B Dustin Pedroia

DH David Ortiz

1B Mike Napoli

SS Xander Bogaerts

C A.J. Pierzynski

3B Will Middlebrooks

CF Jackie Bradley Jr.

The Red Sox possess one of the best rotations in the MLB. SP Ryan Dempster announced that he will sit out this season due to health issues and decided to stay with his family.

LHP Jon Lester and RHP Clay Buchholz have ace potential and could turn out to be a dominant one-two punch throughout the season if Buchholz manages to stay healthy.

RHP John Lackey exceeded expectations in Boston and proved to be a rock-solid middle-of-the-rotation pitcher. The same can be said about RHP Jake Peavy. 26-year old LHP Felix Doubront completes Boston's rotation.

Projected Rotation:

LHP Jon Lester

RHP Clay Buccholz

RHP John Lackey

RHP Jake Peavy

LHP Felix Doubront

The Boston Red Sox might have the best bullpen in the AL, if not the MLB. RHP Koji Uehara is the designated closer but nowhere near assured of this role.

RHP Edward Mujica was acquired from the St. Louis Cardinals and could step into the closer role should Uehara struggle or get injured. LHP Andrew Miller is another setup guy capable of closing out games for the Red Sox.

Projected Bullpen:

RHP Koji Uehara (closer)

RHP Edward Mujica

LHP Andrew Miller

LHP Craig Breslow

RHP Junichi Tazawa

RHP Burke Badenhop

RHP Brandon Workman

All things considered, the fans will more than likely see postseason baseball at Fenway Park in October. The AL East looks very competitive with the Tampa Bay Rays and New York Yankees in particular but even if the Red Sox fail to win their division their record should be good enough for a wildcard.  

NFL's Mount Rushmore

21 Feb
Mount Rushmore

Chidi Ahanotu, former defensive end with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, recently raised the question, if the NFL had a Mount Rushmore whose faces would be carved into the granite?

It's a very good question and a very hard one to answer. Many players achieved exceptional success in the NFL, re-wrote the record books, changed the way of play considerably or were exciting to watch like no other. It's tough to keep this limited to four players but here is my selection:

Joe Montana

Am I biased here? Maybe a little but his achievements speak for themselves. "Joe Cool" won four Super Bowls with the San Francisco 49ers, three Super Bowl MVPs, two NFL MVPs, eight Pro Bowl selections and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2000.

What struck me most about Joe Montana was that I always had the feeling anything was possible at any time, regardless of the score. "The Catch" is one of the greatest plays in NFL history and refers to Montana's touchdown pass to Dwight Clark in the NFC Championship Game in 1982. The 49ers defeated the Dallas Cowboys 28-27 and went on to win their first Super Bowl two weeks later by beating the Cincinnati Bengals 26-21.

Barry Sanders

I am sure we could have an endless discussion about this selection and still not come to an agreement in this lifetime or the next. Many great athletes have played at the running back position, Jim Brown, Walter Payton, Emmitt Smith to name a few, but I'll explain why I chose Barry Sanders:

Sanders could cut like a rabbit and change directions faster than anyone I've ever seen. He was almost impossible to tackle and made running plays every bit as exciting as pass attempts over 20 yards. He was one, if not the most aesthetic player in the history of the NFL and was a pure joy to watch. He was simply elusive.

Barry Sanders retired under controversial circumstances and unfortunately left the NFL much too soon. He was the league MVP in 1991 and 1997. He won the rushing title four times and was selected to 10 Pro Bowls. In 2004 Sanders became enshrined in the Hall of Fame.

Jerry Rice

I don't think there could be an NFL Mount Rushmore without the face of the wide receiver. His records for career receiving yards, career receptions and career touchdown receptions are basically untouchable.

Jerry Rice won three Super Bowls with the San Francisco 49ers and was the MVP of Super Bowl XXIII. He was selected to 13 Pro Bowls and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2010.

I once read about Jerry Rice that he is a neat freak and this is exactly what his yards after the catch looked like. It seemed as if he had the undying urge not to get touched or tackled and often he wouldn't. As elusive as Barry Sanders was as a running back the same could be said about Jerry Rice.

Lawrence Taylor

"L.T." was a disruptive force throughout his 13-year NFL career and reshaped the linebacker position as well as the pass rush. He won two Super Bowls with the New York Giants and was selected to 10 Pro Bowls. He was the league's Defensive Player of the Year three times and led the NFL in sacks in 1986, the same year he won the MVP title. Taylor is a member of the Hall of Fame class of 1999.


Five Things we learnt from Super Bowl XLVIII

03 Feb
Wide receiver Golden Tate #81 of the Seattle Seahawks carries the ball while being tackled during Super Bowl XLVIII at MetLife Stadium against the Denver Broncos on February 2, 2014 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (February 1, 2014, Source: Win McNamee/Getty Images North America)

1) The Seattle Seahawks played the game of their lives:

The Seahawks played an almost mistake-free game on both sides of the ball. They allowed 27 yards on the ground and intercepted QB Peyton Manning twice. On offense they rushed for 135 yards and QB Russell Wilson finished with a rating of 123.1. Those numbers, however, don't even demonstrate the true dominance of the Seahawks. Not for a second did you think the Broncos could move the chains – and they couldn't. Not for one moment did you think the Seahawks could be stopped – and they couldn't. This game is teaching material because I don't think any team will ever play any better than Seattle did on Sunday.

2) NFL Experts and Denver's game plan could not have been more wrong

Most NFL experts discarded, almost disrespected the Seahawks. Frankly, how could you possibly stop a record breaking offense led by QB Peyton Manning who was out to prove a point, which he did but for all the wrong reasons? I bet the Broncos neglected studying Seattle's offense and paid dearly for it. Surely, the Seahawks are a team built on defense but look at their offensive roster and you will find one of the best players in the league at every single position. Seattle may have the best defense in the NFL but their offense is right up there as well. I will never understand how this seemed to be news until yesterday.

3) Peyton Manning's legacy WILL be tarnished

Peyton Manning will go down as one of the greatest ever to play the game. He re-wrote the record books almost by himself but it was painfully evident that he has trouble winning the biggest games. There is not the slightest doubt about his skills and game-IQ but the same could be said about the likes of QB Joe Montana or QB Tom Brady, who have the rings to show for.

4) Seattle's and San Francisco's rivalry may well become the best in the history of the NFL

Who is laughing about the NFC West now? For years this may have been the weakest if not most pathetic division in the NFL. The San Francisco 49ers and the Seattle Seahawks are currently the top two teams in the NFL, and may well be for a very long time. Both franchises are similar in many ways. They are very good at spotting young talent and committed to keeping, as well as rewarding their core players. They have some of the youngest rosters in the NFL and promise to be at the top of their game for many years to come. Both teams are built on defense but have an offense to match. Remember the rivalry between the Cowboys and 49ers in the 90s? Well, there was never any love lost between the Seahawks and the 49ers but with a yearly battle for NFC West supremacy and a potential trip to the Super Bowl at stake this rivalry will only grow more and more intense with every passing year and make the Cowboys and 49ers rivalry look tame.

5) Jorge Diaz is always right with his predictions

For the past three years I've been asking former NFL players for their Super Bowl predictions. Jorge Diaz, former offensive guard with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, not only participated every year but he always managed to predict the winner. Now, if you want to quit your day job and become a professional sports bettor he appears to be your go-to guy. Or do the Buccaneers still have any positions to fill?

Super Bowl XLVIII Predictions from former NFL Players

31 Jan
Wille Williams, former cornerback and Super Bowl champion with the Pittsburgh Steelers

On Sunday the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks will face each other in Super Bowl XLVIII to determine this year's NFL champion. Bookies list the Broncos as slight favorites to win the contest. Both teams couldn't be any more different in terms of their playing style. There is Denver's high-powered offense on one hand and Seattle's uncompromising defense on the other. Nonetheless, it promises to be a close game.

I asked former NFL players for their Super Bowl predictions and here is what they had to say:

Bill Schroeder (former wide receiver with the Green Bay Packers): "I'm going with the Broncos as they have been on such a roll in pressure games."

Tony Bouie (former safety with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers): "Broncos. There is no other player that has the impact on a game like [Peyton] Manning. His statistical year is the best in the history of football. He will cap it with a win in the Super Bowl."

Willie Williams (former cornerback and Super Bowl champion with the Pittsburgh Steelers): "I think Seattle will win because of their defense. The defensive backs match up well with Denver's wide receivers and they have one of the best front sevens in the NFL."

Hillary Butler (former linebacker with the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos): "What an exciting year! Of course I have mixed feelings about this, as it will truly be a win-win situation for me being an alumnus from both Denver and Seattle. However, if I had to pick; it's tough, being that I won a ring with the Broncos. But Denver and [Peyton] Manning experienced Super Bowl wins. I would love for Seattle to experience a parade. My Pick: Seahawks. Go Hawks Go!"

Tom McManus (former linebacker with the Jacksonville Jaguars): "Seattle will win. Richard Sherman, Seattle's defensive line and Marshawn Lynch are the key. It will be a tight game but the Seahawks will win their first Super Bowl. They should have two"

Noah Burr (former NFL player for the New York Jets and Jacksonville Jaguars): "I predict the Denver Broncos will win. Seattle's defense will play a great second half after giving up two early touchdowns, which will prove too much to overcome. The Broncos will win 21- 20. Peyton Manning will drive on the Seahawks defense early in the game confusing them with the new game plan but once the Seahawks defense makes the adjustments the Broncos will stall. On offense the Seahawks will move the ball but because of the inaccuracy of Russell Wilson they will have to punt often due to quarterback pressures and the errant throws of Russell Wilson."

Reggie Givens (former linebacker and special teams captain with the San Francisco 49ers): "I predict Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos will win Super Bowl XLVlll. The Broncos will dominate the offense and special teams phases of the game. WR Eric Decker with his size and speed will be too hard to cover across the middle. K Matt Prater and his strong leg will prove to be the reason why Peyton [Manning] wins his 2nd Super Bowl."

Jorge Diaz (former offensive guard with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers): "I believe the best two teams are playing in this Super Bowl. I also believe the best team is who will win and bring home the Lombardi Trophy. Denver has the best quarterback in the game in Peyton Manning and Denver has an offense that can light up Met Life Stadium without a Bruno Mars halftime show. The best teams win championships and the balance on both sides of the ball that the Seahawks have is why I believe they will win this Super Bowl. A great quarterback can get you to a championship but in a league that has very few great defenses a defense can win you a championship. Seattle can rush the passer and can cover, so Seattle fans, raise your lattes in the air with your best flannel and get ready to welcome the Lombardi Trophy!"

Brandon Williams (former cornerback with the Cincinnati Bengals) "It's a tough choice because I'm a Peyton [Manning] fan. I love his game and I hate how his "legacy would be tarnished" if he lost.  But I love the way Seattle plays. Them and San Francisco both play football that's built for the playoffs. It's a perfect setup: #1 offense vs #1 defense. Seattle has the strong run game so on paper they should run away but that's not accounting for Peyton [Manning] and that offense this season. So long story short, I think it'll come down to things both teams aren't used to doing. Seattle will need some explosive plays on the outside and Denver will need the defense to win the turnover battle. It's a tough call and I won't be upset either way but I'm gonna say Seattle wins 32-28. It's tough because I think weather can definitely be a factor."

NFL - Winners and Losers from Week 7

24 Oct
Quarterback Josh Freeman #12 of the Minnesota Vikings is sacked by defensive end Justin Tuck #91 of the New York Giants during a game at MetLife Stadium on October 21, 2013 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (October 20, 2013, Source: Elsa/Getty Images North America)

Seattle Seahawks Defense

The Seattle Seahawks held the Arizona Cardinals to 30 yards on the ground, which forced their opponent to throw the ball. Seattle's pass rush, however, was equally effective, recording 7 sacks en route to a 34-22 win.

San Diego Chargers

Granted, the Jacksonville Jaguars aren't the toughest opponent but the San Diego Chargers remain a dark horse in the AFC. QB Philip Rivers finished his fourth game of the season with a passer rating over 100, RB Ryan Mathews rushed over 100 yards for the second straight week and the defense accounted for 6 sacks.

Cincinnati Bengals Passing Offense

Cincinnati's aerial attack had to work at the Detroit Lions and it did. QB Andy Dalton completed 24 of 34 passes for 372 yards and 3 touchdowns. WR A.J. Green had 6 receptions for 155 yards and 1 touchdown.

Mario Williams

His second sack of the game at the Miami Dolphins forced a fumble and set up the game-winning field goal for the Buffalo Bills. The 28 year-old defensive end now has 10.0 sacks this season

Harry Douglas

The 29-year old looks like the beneficiary of WR Julio Jones' season-ending injury and someone Atlanta's QB Matt Ryan can rely on. Against the Tampa Buccaneers Douglas caught 7 passes for 149 yards and 1 touchdown.

Jordan Reed

Washington's rookie may wind up the starting tight end, considering that TE Fred Davis was a healthy scratch against the Chicago Bears. Reed recorded his first 100+ receiving yards game on Sunday, catching 9 passes for 134 yards and 1 touchdown.

Cam Newton

The Carolina Panthers win when QB Cam Newton plays well. Against the St. Louis Rams he went 15-of-17 for 204 yards, 1 touchdown and a passer rating of 136.3. This season the Panthers always won when Newton was rated 100 or above.

San Francisco 49ers Rushing Offense

San Francisco's ground and pound offense is still very efficient. The 49ers rushed for 153 yards against the Tennessee Titans and scored 3 touchdowns.

Jarrett Boykin

The breakout performance from the second-year wide receiver clearly shows the depth the Green Bay Packers possess at this position. Without WR Randall Cobb and WR James Jones, Boykin rose to the occasion and caught 8 passes for 103 yards and 1 touchdown.

Tamba Hali

The league-leading pass rush applied enough pressure to come away with a 17-16 win against the Houston Texans. Kansas City's OLB Tamba Hali recorded 2.5 sacks and now has 9.0 sacks on the season.

Ben Roethlisberger

A stellar performance by QB Ben Roethlisberger secured the 19-16 victory against the Baltimore Ravens. The 31-year old completed 17 of 23 passes for 160 yards, 1 touchdown and a passer rating of 107.2. It was Roethlisberger's second consecutive game with a rating of over 100.

Robert Mathis

They say defenses wear down as the game progresses but OLB Mathis may have saved himself for the decisive phase of the game against the Denver Broncos. He wound up sacking QB Peyton Manning twice and currently leads the NFL with 11.5 sacks.

New England Patriots

It wasn't just the mishap that led to New York's game-winning field goal, but New England simply didn't have much going for them on Sunday. QB Tom Brady completed an uncharacteristic 47.8% of his passes and threw an interception for a passer rating of 53.5. The Patriots managed to convert only one 3rd down.

Matt Barkley

The Philadelphia Eagles can only hope that QB Michael Vick returns from a hamstring injury this weekend because QB Matt Barkley is not yet ready for the NFL. Against the Dallas Cowboys he completed 55% of his passes and had 3 interceptions in relief of a concussed QB Nick Foles, who didn't fare much better.

Josh Freeman

Whatever the Minnesota Vikings saw in QB Josh Freeman it certainly did not show on Monday night at the New York Giants. Freeman completed only 20 of 53 passes for 190 yards and threw 1 interception. The 25-year old will miss Sunday's game against the Green Bay Packers due to a concussion.  

NFL - Winners and Losers from Week 4

03 Oct
Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints drops back to pass against the Miami Dolphins during a game at the Mercedes Benz Superdome on September 30, 2013 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The Saints defeated the Dolphins 38 to 17. (September 29, 2013, Source: Stacy Revere/Getty Images North America)

San Francisco 49ers

The 49ers responded to the crisis by thumping the St. Louis Rams 35-11. QB Colin Kaepernick was his usual self again, RB Frank Gore ran for 153 yards and 1 touchdown, the pass rush sacked QB Sam Bradford 5 times and the defense held St. Louis to 18 yards on the ground.

Reggie Bush

The 28-year old may have underachieved throughout his NFL career but this could be his year. On Sunday he ran for 139 yards and 1 touchdown and offers an option to Detroit's otherwise pass-heavy offense. 

Jordan Cameron

Is this going to be the breakout-season for Cleveland's third-year tight end? Against Cincinnati he caught 10 passes for 91 yards and 1 touchdown. He now has 5 touchdowns this season and is on pace for 120 receptions and 1,440 yards.

Robert Mathis

Indianapolis' veteran linebacker accounted for 3 of the 4 sacks against Jacksonville, bringing his tally to a league-leading 7.5 quarterback take-downs after the first quarter of the season. He will become the 30th member of the illustrious century club when he records his next sack.

Patrick Peterson

Most people will say that Tampa Bay's QB Mike Glennon's 2 interceptions were game-changing but this won't do Arizona's CB Patrick Peterson any justice. Peterson is developing into an elite defensive back and his 2 interceptions were ultimately game-changing as well as game-saving.

Jared Allen

Minnesota's veteran pass rusher was all over Pittsburgh's offensive line and QB Ben Roethlisberger and recorded 2.5 sacks. It looks like this is going to be his 7th consecutive season with 10+ sacks.

Washington Redskins Pass Rush

Washington's pass rush terrorized Oakland's QB Matt Flynn all day long on Sunday and sacked him 7 times. They are second in the NFL with 15.0 sacks. OLB Ryan Kerrigan, who had 2 quarterback take-downs against the Raiders, leads the team with 5.0 sacks.

Peyton Manning

Denver's quarterback may not end up having the most rings when he's elected into the Hall of Fame but he may well be the best ever to play this position. Against the Philadelphia Eagles he went 28-of-34 for 327 yards, 4 touchdowns and a passer rating of 146.0. On the season he is 117-of-156 for 1,470 yards, 16 touchdowns, 0 interceptions and a rating of 138.0.

Philip Rivers

The San Diego Chargers will compete for a playoff spot if Philip Rivers continues to deliver. Against the Dallas Cowboys he completed 83.3% of his passes for 401 yards, 3 touchdowns, 1 interceptions and a passer rating of 120.3. It was Rivers' third consecutive game with a rating of over 100.

New England Passing Offense

QB Tom Brady and his receivers are finally starting to connect. The 36-year old completed 64.5% of his passes for 316 yards, 2 touchdowns and a passer rating of 119.8. WR Kenbrell Thompkins caught 6 passes for 127 yards and 1 touchdown. WR Julian Edelman had 7 receptions for 118 yards.

Drew Brees

QB Drew Brees was on fire and unstoppable on Monday night when the New Orleans Saints demolished the Miami Dolphins 38-17. He went 30-of-39 for 413 yards, 4 touchdowns and a passer rating of 144.5.

Houston Texans

The Houston Texans played extremely well against the Seattle Seahawks and should have won the game. In the second half, however, they faltered and stopped scoring, allowing the Seahawks to tie the game and eventually win it in overtime.

New York Giants

The New York Giants went 5-of-37 on third downs in their past three games. This does not bode well for Eli Manning and Co. Not to mention, they've only scored 7 points in their last two games.

Baltimore Ravens Offense

I don't understand the play calling. Surely, the Ravens trailed for almost the entire game but it's not like they had to overcome a huge deficit at any point in the game. Nonetheless, they only called 9 running plays, compared to 55 passing plays. As a consequence, QB Joe Flacco was intercepted 5 times, resulting in 13 points for the opponent. By the way, Buffalo called 55 running plays versus 24 passing plays.

Geno Smith

I don't mean to disregard Tennessee's performance on Sunday but New York Jets QB Geno Smith's 4 turnovers helped them greatly, leading to 28 points. The rookie already has 11 turnovers this season.  

NFL - Winners and Losers from Week 3

26 Sep
Peyton Manning #18 of the Denver Broncos runs the offense against the Oakland Raiders at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on September 23, 2013 in Denver, Colorado. (September 22, 2013, Source: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images North America)

Justin Houston

The Kansas City Chiefs sacked QB Michael Vick six times and OLB Justin Houston accounted for 4.5 of them. Including the 3 sacks he had in the season opener at Jacksonville, the third-year pro leads the league with 7.5 sacks.

Jimmy Graham

New Orleans' wide receiver caught 9 passes for 134 yards and 2 touchdowns against the Arizona Cardinals. It was his second 100+ receiving yards game in a row. The 26-year old is averaging 119.3 yards per game after three weeks.

Andy Dalton

For the Cincinnati Bengals to become a serious Super Bowl contender QB Andy Dalton needed to make further progress, and it appears that he has. On Sunday he led the team to a marvellous come-from-behind win over the Green Bay Packers and finished with a passer rating of 105.5.

Dallas Cowboys

I am not yet prepared to call the Cowboys a contender. They beat two teams with a combined record of 1-5 and lost at the unbeaten Kansas City Chiefs but QB Tony Romo looks less erratic and more in control. Subsequently, he gives the team a chance to win. Not to forget, DE DeMarcus Ware is his usual unstoppable self.

Ziggy Ansah

The Detroit Lions may have lost DE Cliff Avril to the Seattle Seahawks but they won't miss him if their first-round pick of this year's draft continues to play like he has. On Sunday he had the first multi-sack game of his NFL career, giving him 2.5 sacks this season.

Michael Bennett

Signing the 27-year old defensive end to a one-year deal looks like a great move now. Bennett is playing for a bigger contract and makes Seattle's pass rush more dangerous. He isn't even a starter, yet he leads the team with 2.5 sacks.

Peyton Manning

The veteran is on a mission. On Monday he completed 86.5% (!) of his passes for 374 yards and 3 touchdowns. He is completing 73% of his passes for 1,143 yards this season, has 12 touchdowns, 0 interceptions and a passer rating of 134.7. MVP anyone?

Carson Palmer

After a good showing in the season opener Carson Palmer has regressed gradually. In week 3 he completed 51.4 of his passes for 187 yards and threw 2 interceptions. Arizona's search for a quarterback continues.

Josh Freeman

I still believe that the Buccaneers have the pieces to be a contender but they won't fit as long as QB Josh Freeman is at the helm. Surely, it's no shame to lose at New England but the 25-year old passer has failed to complete at least 50% of his passes in each of the three starts this season. His passer rating of 59.3 is abysmal to say the least.

New York Giants

Some experts tipped the New York Giants to win the NFC East but this team truly is in shambles. At the Carolina Panthers QB Eli Manning completed 52.2% of his passes for 119 yards and a passer rating of 49.0. He was also sacked 7 times. The rushing offense accumulated 60 yards. The defense allowed 194 rushing yards. With trips to Kansas City and Chicago and a home game against Philadelphia in between you have to fear the worst.

Atlanta Falcons

The Atlanta Falcons should have won at the Miami Dolphins. Instead, they allowed their opponent to score the game-winning touchdown with 38 seconds left and already trail the undefeated New Orleans Saints by two games. Unless they start winning the playoffs will take place without the highly talented Falcons.

Buffalo Bills Defense

Buffalo's defense, and this includes pass protection, made the New York Jets look really good. They surrendered 182 yards on the ground, gave up 331 passing yards and allowed EJ Manuel to be sacked 8 times. It looks like the Bills are going to finish last in the AFC East for the sixth consecutive year.

San Francisco 49ers

Surely, the 49ers are hit by the injury bug and LB Aldon Smith's theatrics off the field have to be a distraction but that's no excuse to look as bad as the 49ers did these past two weeks. QB Colin Kaepernick is too talented to struggle like this, however, unless the entire team gets its act together the 49ers are no Super Bowl material.

Pittsburgh Steelers

The last thing you want to do against the Chicago Bears is to turn the ball over. The Steelers did it five times on Sunday, leading to 24 points for the Bears. It was always going to be a difficult season for the Steelers but this could easily get ugly.