- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 29, 2009

STORY OF THE WEEK

Remember the Titans? Remember the team that went 13-3 last season — including a win over the eventual Super Bowl champs?

Three weeks into the season, much of that has been forgotten, with Tennessee buried in an 0-3 hole after Sunday’s loss to the Jets.

“No panic stage — nothing,” Titans coach Jeff Fisher told reporters afterward.

Maybe it’s time for a little dose of panic in Nashville. Since 1990, only three teams have made the playoffs following an 0-3 start. Only one (the 1992 Chargers) went on to win the division.

So why isn’t Fisher flipping out over his team’s start? Well, perhaps the Titans just haven’t gotten it all together yet.

In Week 1, the offense struggled while the defense held Pittsburgh to 13 points. In Week 2, running back Chris Johnson pretty much couldn’t be stopped — only to be upstaged by Houston and the Matt Schaub show. And Sunday, the Titans may have just run into a hot start for rookie coach Rex Ryan, rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez and the undefeated Jets.

Tennessee has lost its first three games by a combined 13 points, so this isn’t exactly a team that is getting blown out every week (hello, Cleveland).

But if panic is not the right word, maybe frustration is.

“It’s frustrating,” quarterback Kerry Collins said Sunday. “By no means can we start pointing fingers and start pushing panic buttons. We’ve just got to stay together and keep believing in what we are doing and we’ll get it turned around.”

And to stave off more of it, the Titans must turn around their season soon, with the next three weeks featuring matchups with Indianapolis and New England.

Five trends from Week 3

1. (up) Baltimore under coach John Harbaugh and quarterback Joe Flacco can pile up the points. The Ravens are averaging 34.3 a game after crushing the Browns 34-3 on Sunday. Flacco threw for 342 yards against Cleveland, showing each week why he belongs in the discussion as one of the NFL’s top young quarterbacks.

2. (down) The Steelers haven’t been terrible, but the defending Super Bowl champions’ offense has been largely missing in the season’s first three weeks. Pittsburgh is putting up yards but is ranked 25th in the league with 15.7 points a game. Losing to the Bengals… that’s also cause for concern.

3. (up) Reggie Wayne is a known commodity, but Peyton Manning has to be pretty great to make Pierre Garcon look like Marvin Harrison. Garcon had 64 yards receiving in the Colts’ 31-10 blowout of the Cardinals on Sunday night, perhaps keeping Indianapolis from missing Anthony Gonzalez.

4. (up) Maybe this Kevin Kolb guy will turn out to be something after all. And DeSean Jackson. And LeSean McCoy. Point is, the Eagles aren’t just about Donovan McNabb and Brian Westbrook, since both were out Sunday and Philadelphia crushed Kansas City anyway. Oh, and they have Michael Vick.

5. (down) This is nothing new, but the Raiders stink. Lucky to beat the equally bad Chiefs in Week 2, Oakland couldn’t even hang with the Broncos on Sunday. That JaMarcus Russell experiment is working out well, too, as the former No. 1 pick threw for 61 yards (that’s no typo) against the Broncos.

Hot seat

Whose performance in Week 3 puts him in the spotlight for next week:

Eric Mangini

A couple of other coaches (cough, Jim Zorn) could be here, but Mangini has managed to cause even more embarrassment in Cleveland in just three games. There was the $1,701 fine for an unnamed player who took a $3 bottle of water from a hotel minibar, the mini-scuffle in the team’s locker room last week and then Brady Quinn being a total disaster.

Mangini has already shown he can A) be a jerk, B) lose control of his players and C) make terrible personnel decisions. He benched Quinn on Sunday in favor of Derek Anderson. If that change doesn’t produce better results, Mangini could be one-season-and-done with the Browns.

Team of the week

New York Giants

Sure, the Buccaneers are terrible, but you can only play who’s on your schedule and elite teams need to beat up on bottom-feeders. When it comes to that, the Giants don’t mess around.

Sunday’s 24-0 blanking of Tampa Bay was just the latest evidence that New York deserves consideration as the best team in the NFL. The one-two combination of Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw brings up memories of how the Giants were able to roll through the playoffs and upset the Patriots two seasons ago. Also, Mario Manningham and Steve Smith have kept Plaxico Burress’ name from even coming up aside from court stories.

And then there’s the defense, which is scary. The Giants allowed a grand total of 86 yards by the Bucs, the fewest for New York since 1983 when it allowed 79 to the Eagles. That was also the last time the Giants had a road shutout.

Numbers game

Interesting stat from the Week 3 games:

1,000 Days between regular-season games for Michael Vick, who played in the Eagles’ win against the Chiefs on Sunday. Vick, who last played on Dec. 31, 2006, didn’t do a whole lot in his Philadelphia debut, running once for 7 yards and going 0-for-2 passing.

Next man up

List of big injuries from Week 3:

RB Frank Gore, 49ers (ankle): Gore aggravated his right ankle injury Sunday and is expected to miss three weeks with a strain of the ankle that was revealed during an MRI on Monday.

CB Leodis McKelvin, Buffalo (leg): The Bills cornerback He is out indefinitely with a broken leg bone, and he is likely to be replaced by Drayton Florence or Reggie Corner.

QB Chad Pennington, Miami (shoulder): Reports indicate Pennington may be out for the season after injuring his shoulder. Chad Henne is the backup.

DE Dwight Freeney, Indianapolis (quadriceps): Freeney said he “felt something pop” in his right quadriceps in the third quarter Sunday night against Arizona. He underwent an MRI on Monday, but his status was still unknown.

LB Hunter Hillenmeyer, Chicago (rib): Already filling in for Brian Urlacher, Hillenmeyer hurt his rib in the second quarter Sunday. The Bears hope he will play this week, but if he doesn’t, Nick Roach would likely start.

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