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Week Four GameDay Thoughts…before NFL GameDay Morning

Nothing like coming to work and seeing a beaming crescent moon hanging high in the sky, but such is the early-bird call-time for NFL GameDay Morning on an NFL GameDay. McNabb v. Eagles has taken up most of the NFL oxygen leading up to Week Four and that’s quite understandable. Throughout his occasionally rocky tenure in Philly, most folks figured McNabb would never play his whole career for the Eagles and that notion became reality exactly 182 days ago in a shocking Easter Sunday trade to the Washington Redskins, of all teams. But that may not be the biggest surprise surrounding McNabb’s return to Philadelphia today. I think that involves the fact that McNabb’s young, green, hand-picked successor lasted a grand total of two quarters before losing his starting job. On its face, that sounds as if the Eagles franchise would be in complete disarray, with the coach on the hot seat for back-tracking at the first sign of trouble and tacitly admitting the trade of McNabb was a mistake. But that is not even close to the case. And THAT may be the biggest surprise surrounding the Super Five Reunion Hoopla-palooza — Michael Vick is balling out, taking the wisdom of trading away McNabb off the table as an issue when he returns to Philadelphia today. Now, had Kevin Kolb been the starter today, that would be a hot-button topic of discussion on NFL GameDay Morning this morning. But Kolb and his benching and his readiness as a full-time successor to McNabb is all moot for the moment and for the foreseeable future, certainly if Vick continues to play at the level that rightly earned him the NFC Offensive Player of the Month honors for September. And Vick, not Kolb, will be all over NFL GameDay morning today as we air a sprawling, must-see, two-part Sunday Sitdown between Vick and our Jim Mora, the man on whose watch Vick was sneaking off to tend to Bad Newz Kennels in the woods of Virginia back in the day. Sure, Vick has been questioned on the subject of his depraved activities by many members of the media, but Mora is the first to whom Vick has personally lied to and disappointed. It’s a dynamic that drips throughout the entire conversation and makes it all the more riveting. As far as the gut-wrenching decision to trade away McNabb within the division, Andy Reid lets us in on that one as he sits down with his former Green Bay colleague, Steve Mariucci. Good stuff all around as we get you set for that monster game today.

Of course it’s not the only game on the GameDay docket today. The clash across the Keystone State in Pittsburgh would have been the marquee matchup of the day had McNabb not been returning to Philadelphia as a Redskin. The AFC North leading Steelers have a chance to sweep all the games of Ben Roethlisberger’s suspension, a stunning development that few saw as a possibility. Of course, the Ravens have no intention of allowing that to happen on their watch as we get set for another paint-swapping chapter in this rivalry. We could very well have a 3-way tie atop the AFC North at 3-1 between the Ravens, Steelers and Bengals by the end of the day. By the way, the last time a division suffered such gridlock was back in 2002, when the Buccaneers, Panthers and Saints all started 3-1 in the NFC South. It should be noted two teams made the playoffs from that scrum after such a start. We could see that 3-team, 3-1 start again…or the Steelers could be heading into their bye, handing an undefeated team off to a 2-time Super Bowl champion quarterback with a chip on his shoulder and a heck of a lot to prove.

Redskins-Eagles and Ravens-Steelers account for two of the nine division games this week (capped off by the Patriots-Dolphins Monday Nighter) and interestingly enough, four of the 5 teams sitting at 0-3 are involved in these games. The Bills and Browns are fortunate enough to be playing at home in these must win games for the winless. They host the Jets and Bengals, respectively while the Lions and Panthers have awful tough assignments in Green Bay and New Orleans, with both the Packers and Saints coming off of smarting, mistake-filled losses. Good luck to those teams.

The last two division contests have lots riding on them too. As difficult as it sounds, the Jacksonville Jaguars must stop their two-game slide by beating the Colts at home. David Garrard has looked so awful that the team claimed Trent Edwards off of waivers this week and because of the ineffectiveness of the passing game, Maurice Jones-Drew has essentially disappeared from the fantasy and reality-based football scenes. If Jacksonville wants to have a chance in a division in which every other team currently sits above .500, they must take advantage of their one shot at the Colts on their own turf. Just look at what succeeding at that opportunity did for the Texans, who visit Oakland later today. And as for the last division game on the docket, yes, the Rams have a chance to even their record at .500 with Seattle in their house today. If they could beat the Seahawks, forget about the cellar — the Rams would be in 2nd place in the NFC West after 4 games. How about them apples?

On the flip side, you’ve got some truly desperate teams out there, including the 5th and final 0-3 team to be mentioned here: the San Francisco 49ers. When I appeared on his radio show Friday, Dennis Miller said the 49ers appeared to be in full-on "Hide the Strawberries, Captain Queeg mode" right now. After falling to 0-3, Mike Singletary fired his offensive coordinator and threatened to bench two of his veteran starters on defense: linebacker Takeo Spikes and safety Michael Lewis. By Friday, Lewis cleaned out his locker and essentially quit the team, a day before the team left for Atlanta to face the surging Falcons. No team has had a more dismaying first 3 weeks than the 49ers, whose ship, as Michael Ray Richardson might say, be sinking. And for those scoring at home, Dennis was making a Caine Mutiny reference. Dennis Miller will be appearing as my guest on Episode 4 of The Rich Eisen Podcast this week, by the way. An episode on which The Worm might explode if his G-Men can’t rebound and hang the first loss of the season on the Bears tonight. Yes, the G-Men are that other highly desperate team to take the field today. With all the talk that Tom Coughlin has lost the grip on his team, they need to harness all the energy that will be in the building tonight from the franchise’s first-ever Ring of Honor Ceremony. Otherwise, they’ll fall to 1-3 with a trip to Houston on the docket slated for Week Five.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. As this blog post points out, there’s quite a Week Four to get to today. And let it all sink in. Because after today, the season is one-quarter over. What’s more depressing than that?! Enjoy the GameDay people.

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