By Jonathan "Colonel" Comey
Cold Hard Football Facts mess hall cook
The Jets have feasted on the early opposition and sit atop our rankings for the second week in a row. That seems like pretty good news in New York ... until you examine Jets history.
Let's just say that an early battlefield feast for the Jets usually means a lethargic end as their slovenly campaign bogs down in the mud of November and December.
Since the dawn of the Live Ball era (and 16-game schedule) in 1978, the Jets have been 4-1 or better only five times.
The good news is that the Jets made the playoffs in four of those five seasons. Huzzah! The bad news is that the Jets faded down the stretch all five seasons and fell short of the promise they displayed early.
Those five teams started out a combined 21-4, then finished their seasons a combined 25-23, failing even to win 12 games even once.
1982: In a nine-game strike season, Walt Michaels' Jets start 4-1 and are dominant on both sides of the ball. But they lose two of their last four and finish 6-3, a game-behind the 7-2 Dolphins. But wait! They make the AFC title game. Maybe?! Nope. They get shutout in rainy, mud-soaked Miami. Too bad they couldn't manage home-field advantage.
1985: Joe Walton's Jets are 4-1 and have turned the ball over just four times – this is the year! Great idea. Except they turn it over 25 times in their last 11 games, go 6-5 and lose at home to the Patriots in the playoffs.
1986: Wow. Not only do the Jets start 4-1, they actually start 10-1! What a team ... until they lose their last five, somehow recover to beat the Chiefs in the wild-card round, before falling at Cleveland, 23-20, in double overtime. The Browns famously lost the following week in the AFC title game courtesy of John Elway and "The Drive."
2000: Why did Al Groh only last one season with the Jets? Probably because the Jets won their first four games and were 6-1 at one point. But they went 3-6 over their last nine and missed the playoffs.
2004: OK, now it's the Jets' year! They start 5-0, the offense is explosive and the defense is getting it done. Sigh. Another 5-6 finish and a crushing overtime playoff loss in Pittsburgh.
As for 2010, we'll have to wait and see. After all, history is made to be broken, right? Or turned into a broken record.
On to the rankings ....
1. N.Y. JETS (4-1)
Last week: 29-20 win vs. Minnesota
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: LaDainian Tomlinson's YPA averages over his last four seasons in San Diego were like a math SAT series: 5.2, 4.7, 3.8, 3.3. Yep, he was clearly done ... and now he averages 5.7 YPA and even exists on the fringes of the MVP discussion. What a difference a team makes.
2. PITTSBURGH (3-1)
Last week: Bye
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: In the nine games Troy Polamalu has played over the past two seasons, Pittsburgh forced 23 turnovers. In the 11 games without him, they forced 11.
3. BALTIMORE (4-1)
Last week: 31-17 win vs. Denver
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The remarkable part of Baltimore's excellent start is that they're doing it despite a No. 30 rank in turnover margin (-6). Under John Harbaugh, they've forced a little more than two turnovers per game; this year they have only three total in five games.
4. NEW ENGLAND (3-1)
Last week: Bye
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: With the exception of 2009 starters Ty Warren, who is on injured reserve, and Logan Mankins, who is a holdout, all of New England's last 11 No. 1 draft picks dating back to 1999 started for their teams last week (or the week before in the case of byes).
5. INDIANAPOLIS (3-2)
Last week: 19-9 win vs. Kansas City
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Need more proof that Peyton Manning is a one-man wrecking crew? The Colts lead the NFL with 15 dropped passes.
6. ATLANTA (4-1)
Last week: 20-10 win at Cleveland
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Falcons are off to a solid start and have a fairly soft schedule ahead, but here's a troubling stat for Atlanta fans pricing plane fares to Dallas in February: they average 5.0 yards per play (26th) and allowing 5.5 YPP (20th). P.S.: Continental will get you there for $287, plus fees.
7. N.Y. GIANTS (3-2)
Last week: 34-10 win at Houston
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: In their last three games, the Giants have outgained their opponents by 200, 262 and 219 yards – all against teams with winning records.
8. CHICAGO (4-1)
Last week: 23-6 win at Carolina
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Todd Collins is the worst ball thrower from Chicago since President Obama threw out the first pitch before the 2009 baseball season.
9. GREEN BAY (3-2)
Last week: 16-13 loss at Washington
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Aaron Rodgers has had a couple of shaky games thus far, but it's worth noting that he's had only three regular-season game passer ratings under 70.0 in 37 starts since taking over in 2008. Compare that with fellow iron-men Brett Favre (8), Drew Brees (8), Eli Manning (7) and Peyton Manning (6). Only Philip Rivers (2) has been so consistently non-terrible.
10. PHILADELPHIA (3-2)
Last week: 27-24 win at San Francisco
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: No one has forced more turnovers since the start of 2009 than Philly (51). Also, no one has booed more Santas.
11. KANSAS CITY (3-1)
Last week: 19-9 loss at Indianapolis
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Chiefs have held all four opponents under 20 points this year; in all of 2009 they accomplished this feat only five times.
12. TENNESSEE (3-2)
Last week: 34-27 win at Dallas
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Chris Johnson's last 16 games: 393 carries, 2,013 yards, 5.12 YPA, 18 TDs, 14 100-yard games and 11 Titans victories.
13. SAN DIEGO (2-3)
Last week: 35-27 loss at Oakland
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Chargers are first in yards per game on offense and second in yards per game allowed on defense. How that translates to a 2-3 record is up to Norv Turner to answer.
14. NEW ORLEANS (3-2)
Last week: 30-20 loss at Arizona
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Saints are shockingly dead last in yards-per-catch at 9.9; of last year's bottom 10 in this stat only Arizona finished over .500. And this fact comes despite the fact that Saints receivers lead the league with 783 yards after the catch.
15. WASHINGTON (3-2)
Last week: 16-13 win vs. Green Bay
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Redskins have been outgained in all five games this year. But wins over 2009 playoff teams Philly, Dallas and Green Bay are nothing to sneeze at.
16. TAMPA BAY (3-1)
Last week: 24-21 win at Cincinnati
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Bucs can thank a rejuvenated secondary for much of their success – they're No. 2 in Defensive Passer Rating (65.1) after placing 21st last year (87.2). A strong season would be another feather in the Hall of Fame cap of Ronde Barber.
17. MINNESOTA (1-3)
Last week: 29-20 loss at NY Jets
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: For all of the crap we've handed out to BrettFavre over the years (more to come), 501 career touchdown passes is still pretty incredible. Over their 34+ years of franchise efforts, Tampa Bay's quarterbacks combined only have 585 touchdown passes.
18. HOUSTON (3-2)
Last week: 34-10 loss vs. NY Giants
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Quick, name Houston's 42-year-old three-time Pro Bowler. Yes, it's punter Matt Turk, whose career total of 44,895 punting yards is enough to get you .00003 percent of the way to the moon. In other news, Houston's defense sucks.
19. DALLAS (1-3)
Last week: 34-27 loss vs. Tennessee
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Despite possessing arguably the best receiver (Miles Austin) and pass rusher (DeMarcus Ware) in the game, and dominating every stat except the scoreboard, the Cowboys are 1-3. Hi, Wade Phillips! Guess you should've let Doug Flutie play over Rob Johnson!
20. MIAMI (2-2)
Last week: Bye
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Dating back to last season, the Dolphins have failed to crack 30 points in 13 straight games – despite topping 400 yards four times and 300 yards 11 times. Clearly, they need lessons in Scoreability.
21. CINCINNATI (2-3)
Last week: 24-21 loss vs. Tampa Bay
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The squeaky wheel gets the grease? Terrell Owens has been targeted 60 times this year, most in the league. Not bad for a 36-year-old who was homeless well into the summer. The Bengals have a 2-3 record and the 17th-ranked offense (20.0 PPG) to show for their devotion.
22. DENVER (2-3)
Last week: 31-17 loss vs. Baltimore
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Through five games, the Broncos have only four runs of 10 yards or more, last in the league by a wide margin (three teams tied with eight). They also have a grand total of 114 first-down rushing yards (22.8 per game), also last by a wide margin. In a fun twist, Mike Shanahan's Redskins are second worst with 34 yards a game rushing on first down.
23. JACKSONVILLE (3-2)
Last week: 36-26 win at Buffalo
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The ground game brought back memories of the Mau-Fred Jones-Taylor-Drew days with 216 yards rushing against the Bills; the Jags had three 200-yard rushing games in 2006 and 2007, but only one in 2008 and one in 2009.
24. SEATTLE (2-2)
Last week: Bye
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Seattle's run D has been impressive (2.7 YPA against) after an average showing in 2009 (4.1). Other than that, Seattle is mediocre in just about every major category.
25. ARIZONA (3-2)
Last week: 30-20 win vs. New Orleans
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: 25th in scoring offense (17.6 PPG); 31st in scoring defense (27.6 PPG); 24th in turnover margin (-3); 28th in Passer Rating Differential of (-23.3); outsacked 19-8; outgained by a full yard per play (5.4 to 4.4). And, of course, first in the NFC West.
26. ST. LOUIS (2-3)
Last week: 44-6 loss at Detroit
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: A reminder that Sam Bradford is just a rookie – in the fourth quarter, he has a passer rating of 36.9.
27. OAKLAND (2-3)
Last week: 35-27 win vs. San Diego
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Last year, the Raiders claimed all they needed was a good quarterback to win games, because their defense was so solid. Well, this year, they allow 5.0 YPA on the ground and a passer rating of 101.2 ... and they're still not getting good QB play (73.3 rating). Apparently, all they need to win games is two blocked punts and a fumble recovery for a TD.
28. DETROIT (1-4)
Last week: 44-6 win vs. St. Louis
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: L! I! O! N! S! What does that spell? Lions! Heeeeeeeeeeey, LIONS!! Oh, right, the facts – that 44-6 win was the sixth such score of all time, and four of the five winning teams made the playoffs. In other words, Detroit is going to win the Super Bowl!
29. CLEVELAND (1-4)
Last week: 20-10 loss vs. Atlanta
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: If Colt McCoy starts at quarterback this weekend, he will be Cleveland's fifth different starter in the team's last 17 games. He will be the first named "Colt," however, so there's that.
30. SAN FRANCISCO (0-5)
Last week: 27-24 loss vs. Philadelphia
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Frank Gore has been thrown to 45 times, the only RB to place in the top 30 in targets, and is on pace for 106 catches. And the 49ers are on pace to lose 16 games.
31. CAROLINA (0-5)
Last week: 23-6 loss vs. Chicago
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Panthers defense is truly having a remarkable season. Despite being on the field for 34:06 per game, fourth most in the league, they allow only 4.6 yards per play (fourth best in the league). Put their defense in Indianapolis or New England and you've got this year's elusive superteam.
32. BUFFALO (0-5)
Last week: 36-26 loss vs. Jacksonville
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Bills stayed competitive last year with turnovers, forcing 33 of them including 28 interceptions. This year? Not so much – one INT in five games, second worst in the league.