Before we get all hyperventilated and whatnot over the replacement officials turning the NFL on its ear, maybe we ought to sit back and process the big picture here.

Atlanta, thus far, has proven to be the best team in the NFC; Houston likewise in the AFC. Arizona arguably has the game’s best defense, and Baltimore has its best offense.

Huh? If you think the mistakes, legit or overblown, by the boys in black stripes are causing havoc, just let those realities sink into the synapses.

There is little argument that some shady business went down Monday night in Seattle. Even the most staunch Seahawks fans would have a hard time keeping a straight face while saying his or her squad “earned” the victory. But the irony is, the real blown call was not the end-game TD, it was the pass interference that wasn’t called on Golden Tate. Amazingly, Mr. Tangent himself, MNF announcer Jon Gruden was the most cogent of all while offering that up as Exhibit A for what just wasn’t right.

OK, the rationalized uproar is that such egregious whistle work has cost a good team, Green Bay, dearly. The reality is, has it … really? The Packers proved no match for San Francisco in their opener, hardly were impressive in beating turnover-prone Chicago last week and then were even less so in Seattle. Put it this way, if the Pack puts the onus on, say, not making the postseason on that one play, well, then Aaron Rodgers, Clay Mathews and the boys must be seeing some mirage when they look in the mirror these days.

Point is, we’re missing the good stuff, people. Sure, whine, moan, complain all you want about commish Roger Goodell’s insistence on holding firm ground with the regular officials and their pay. You will get no argument here. As head of a multi-billion dollar industry, his stance comes across as beyond silly. But getting so wrapped up in that … well, you are failing to experience the positives, the excitement, the drama, the entertainment that remains and continues to flourish in the NFL, circa 2012.

The Falcons’ Matt Ryan appears to be emerging as the league’s best QB, the current generation’s version of Peyton Manning, if you will. He makes all the throws, directs traffic like a New York City cop. He runs the show, and it is a show worth watching as Atlanta has stormed out to a 3-0 start. Fellow 2008 first-round pick Joe Flacco is having a similar coming-out party in Baltimore, sparking the Ravens’ offense to an NFL-best 98 points in three games. Included in that run was his late-game heroics Sunday night that saw the hosts give a little payback to New England for last season’s playoff loss.

All right, Houston was expected to be good. But Arizona, with the QB position in such disarray … and, well, given the Cardinals’ overall history? No one expected a 3-0 start by them, especially after Kevin Kolb couldn’t even beat out John Skelton for the starting job behind center … and then had to relieve him in Week 1. Since then, all Arizona has done is beat the Patriots on the road and Philly at home, as Kolb got a little payback of his own against the team that ditched him in favor of Michael Vick.

He ranks third in passer rating in the NFL (108.6), behind only Ryan (114.0) and Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger (109.2), and the Cardinals’ D has given up fewer points (40) than any team other than – drum roll, please – Seattle.

It just had to come back there, didn’t it?


Life in the NFL is never a guarantee, especially when it comes to RBs. Between the pounding they take and the speed, power and quickness needed to maintain success, the shelf life can be a fleeting proposition at times. Usually, when injuries take a toll, they do so in a way that means an exit strategy might not be far beyond.

But, with Kansas City’s Jamaal Charles, jeez, you just never know. Something always seems to be nagging him, or, in the case of last season, shutting him down for 14 games (ACL tear). The fantasy geeks never really know what to do with him – sit him or play him. Because the moment he appears healthy, boom, something happens … or he doesn’t perform. Or, he’s questionable … and then he rips off a ridiculous effort.

Take, for instance, this past Sunday. Coming off a dreadful 6-carry, 3-yard contest the week before, and nursing a supposedly sore knee, the fifth-year pro out of Texas erupted for 233 yards on 33 carries in a 23-20 OT win at New Orleans. He even blistered the Saints for a 91-yard score in the third quarter.

Thing is, when this guy gets going, watch out. The aforementioned isn’t even his best game as a pro. That occurred in the 2009 season finale when he went off for 259 yards and two scores on 25 carries against Denver. He had a couple 170-yard-plus outings in 2010, too.

For proponents and detractors alike, Charles truly is a maddening cat to comprehend. He only has 10 games of 100 yards or more in his 52-game career. But then he averages 6.0 yards per carry, plus he’s capable of busting the big one on any snap … or busting a bone or a ligament or something else.