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Joe Nelson - Blogs

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BETWEEN THE LINES 9/24

By Joe Nelson
Posted 09/26/2007 at 02:28 PM

Between the Lines...

Five teams are still undefeated in the NFL through three weeks of the season. The Colts, Patriots, and Steelers are no real surprise in the AFC as those have been the three elite teams of the last five years, with five of the past six Super Bowls won between them. In the NFC the Cowboys are not a major surprise as they have been a competitive, playoff-caliber team in recent seasons, and they faced a fairly weak opening schedule. The Packers however are a huge surprise to be 3-0. It’s not that Green Bay was expected to be a bad team this season but the Packers faced a tremendously difficult opening schedule. Green Bay had to play the Eagles at home, the Giants on the road, and the Chargers at home, all three playoff teams from a year ago. Green Bay is getting the job done with a very weak running game as well. Fluky turnovers did help the Packers in week one but last week they flat out beat a San Diego team that went 14-2 last season. Green Bay is off to a commanding lead in the NFC North with Chicago starting 1-2 but the Packers are yet to face a division game.

Four teams have started 0-3 so far with the results pending Monday night for the Saints. Two of the teams reside in the AFC East as the Patriots look to be on cruise control to another division title. The Falcons are not a huge surprise to be struggling out the gate with a new coach and more than a few distractions in the off-season. The most disappointing team this season is the Rams who have seen horrible offensive performances from QB Bulger and RB Jackson. Injuries have played a role but this team looked much more promising at the start of the year. St. Louis started 4-1 last season but ended up out of playoffs so as always, too much should not be read into poor starts.

In college football there were some shocking results last week highlighted by Louisville, losing outright at home as a more than five touchdown favorite. Syracuse had presented virtually no positive results on offense in the first three games but Louisville’s defense was the perfect remedy. Another outcome that may have slipped past your radar was Central Michigan, a ten-win team from a year ago and the Motor City Bowl champions, losing 44-14 at home to North Dakota State. The early season darlings from the lower-division Appalachian State, was also a loser last week.

Four teams are still undefeated in the eight-team Big East with South Florida and West Virginia sorting the early front-runner position out this Friday night. Rutgers appears to be very dangerous and Cincinnati is a team that could surprise. The Big Ten features an undefeated showdown with Michigan State and Wisconsin facing off this week and the Pac-10 also features a huge game with California visiting Oregon. On the other end of the spectrum, several struggling programs have picked up wins already this season to avoid talks of a winless season. Syracuse, Buffalo, and Duke all have more wins than Notre Dame. Good Luck.

Free Pick for Saturday: Iowa - over Indiana

The Hawkeyes have some concerns on offense but the defense has proven that it is likely among the best in the Big Ten. Iowa looks to avoid a three game losing streak and they catch Indiana coming off a disappointing performance in a big game for the Hoosiers. Indiana upset Iowa last season 31-28 and there will be considerable focus on this match-up. The Hawkeyes are 21-7 in home games and this becomes an absolutely critical game for Iowa. Indiana has a solid all-around team but key deficiencies were realized last week. Look for the Hawkeyes to dominate.

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