Posted 10/15/2008 at 01:09 PM
As was the case when he was with the Rams and the Lions, the 49ers will live and die with the Mike Martz offense. Despite running the ball with great success and moving the ball successfully with great balance against Philadelphia last week the 49ers opted to call pass plays on each of their first five offensive plays in the 4th quarter despite having the lead and momentum. Those plays went for a total of negative 16 yards and resulted in two weak punts and eventually allowed the 49ers to turn a nine-point lead into a 14-point loss. Had Correll Buckhalter gained a few more inches on the 3rd and 2 play after the two-minute warning the 49ers would have still held on to the cover but he was just short and the late-game J.T. O’Sullivan turnover circus continued.
In a week of some odd final scores four games were decided by just two points or less on Sunday. All four games featured lead changing scoring plays in the final seconds and two of the victors earned win #1 on the season. Two NFC divisions now feature 3-way ties with Minnesota, Chicago, and Green Bay all knotted up at 3-3 in the NFC North and most surprisingly the NFC South features three teams at 4-2, none of them being the Saints who were projected by many as the top team in the division. Carolina and Tampa Bay are not major surprises but Atlanta has impressed with back-to-back wins over the Packers and the Bears.
The biggest division leads in the league belong to Pittsburgh, Tennessee, and the Arizona Cardinals who delivered an OT win over the Cowboys. The NFC West is far from a powerful division but consider that only one of Arizona’s wins came against a division opponent. That means that the Cardinals have five games remaining with the Seahawks, 49ers, and Rams, teams that are a combined 4-12. The Cardinals must face the Giants, Eagles, and Patriots yet this season but Arizona could end up with one of the better records in the entire NFC.
If there was a major shake-up in the NFL standings last week, there was an earthquake in the college polls. It is only mid-October and every team in the preseason AP Top 10 has lost a game. This week’s new #1 team Texas checked in at #11 in the preseason poll. Odds are that the Longhorns will not stay there for long as they face a Big 12 gauntlet with Missouri up next and then the two other undefeated Big 12 teams, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech in the next three weeks. More interesting is that there are six teams that were in the preseason AP Top 20 that now have at least three losses. It is a list of the most disappointing teams in the country: Clemson, Auburn, Wisconsin, Arizona State, Tennessee, and Illinois. The landscape at the top of the polls is likely to change considerably, consider that at this point in the season last year South Florida and Boston College were both ranked in the top 3.
The teams that will benefit the most from all the one-loss powerhouses are the non-BCS conference teams looking make undefeated runs. When they made their respective runs to BCS bowls the last two years Hawaii and Boise State were ranked 17th and 18th at this point in the season. This week BYU, Utah, and Boise State are all already in the top 15 of the AP poll. Ball State and Tulsa would both be interesting cases should they make it deeper into the year without a loss. The resumes would not be impressive with very few quality wins but it did not hold Hawaii back last season. The advantage Hawaii had was a bit of buzz going into the year that helped the Warriors enter into the rankings a bit sooner. Ball State and Tulsa started this year from a much deeper place in the college football consciousness but both could have an advantage at the end of the year with a conference championship game to build some support and national attention.