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Injuries, Ties, and FitzMagic


When the season started the NFC North looked to be a battle between Green Bay and Minnesota, but now, not so much. Packers' quarterback Aaron Rodgers looks wobbly and admits he is still in pain after his return from last year's season-ending ACL tear. The Vikings just lost at home in their state-of-the-art stadium to the previously winless Buffalo Bills. Both the Packers and Vikings have given up more points than they’ve scored. Something's not right at U.S. Bank Stadium and the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field. And that's why both are tied for second place at 1-1-1, with Chicago sitting atop the division. Bears linebacker Khalil Mack is proving to be on a mission to not only destroy opposing offenses but also make Oakland head coach Chuckie Gruden suffer for trading — instead of paying him. Mack has as many QB pressures (15) as the entire Raiders defense. Speaking of regret, Detroit is again making fans pine for the glory days of Barry Sanders.

Ryan Fitzpatrick was living up to his nickname Fitz-Magic both on the field — and when he donned DeShaun Jackson’s threads and bling for that epic press conference (only the chest hair was his). Then he reverted to Ryan Fitz-Yeah-It-Would-Be-Great-If-You-Could-Throw-Another-Interception-To-That-Defender-This-Weekend against the Steelers. He found the magic in the second half, but it wasn’t enough to beat Pittsburgh. And that’s always the fear with Fitzpatrick. You never know which quarterback you’re going to get: the laser-sharp Harvard graduate field general or the bearded lumberjack who can’t see defenders lurking in the secondary. Regardless, it’s tough to see him going back to the bench when Jameis Winston returns from his suspension this week. With a record three-straight 400-yard passing games, he’s more than earned the starting role for now. Despite his play, there's still a logjam at the top of the South. The Bucs are tied at 2-1 with New Orleans and Carolina. Saints QB Drew Brees just broke the record for most completions all-time with no end in sight, besting former Packers legend Brett Favre who sat at 6,300. Atlanta fans can take some small comfort knowing they are only one game back at 1-2.

Has any team had as much bad luck as San Francisco? First, running back Jerick McKinnon sustained a torn ACL during the final week of preseason. Then QB Jimmy Garoppolo suffered the same injury as he was driving the team towards a potential score late in the fourth quarter on Sunday. Cornerback Richard Sherman also left the game with a calf strain and is expected to miss a few weeks. The 49ers are now tied for second place in the West at 1-2 with the Seahawks. While Seattle might have been correct in letting Sherman walk in the off-season, they look like a shell of their former champion selves. Things might get worse if they can’t protect Russell Wilson who has been sacked 14 times in three games. Considering their similar styles of play, maybe unemployed Kaepernick shouldn’t stray too far from his cell phone. The winless Arizona Cardinals have scored 20 points through three weeks. Yeah, 20 points. So it’s no surprise they announced rookie QB Josh Rosen will start over veteran Sam Bradford against Seattle this week. Larry Fitzgerald deserves better. Are the Rams as good as their undefeated record suggests? Only Kansas City and New Orleans have scored more points and coordinator Wade Phillips' defense has given up a league-low 36 total points this season. So yes, they are that good if they can stay healthy.

Philadelphia is tied with Washington for the lead in the East. Like Rodgers, Eagles QB Carson Wentz is coming back from a torn ACL but looks far more medically sound in his return. Understudy Nick Foles had performed well enough in his absence including that Super Bowl victory last February, but the team should look much better now that last year’s number one pick is back behind center. Alex Smith is looking like his usual competent self, throwing for 767 yards, four touchdowns with only one interception through three weeks. Adrian Peterson rebounded from his so-so performance in Week 2 against the Colts with 96 yards and a score. And what to make of the Cowboys and the Giants? Does anyone outside of the mega-money-making markets of Dallas and New York care? Both teams are tied for last place in the East, with unexpected questions at quarterback and elsewhere. It’s a sad state of affairs for two teams with rich histories and some great fans.


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