09/24/08 — Opinion Ñ Current NFL start has one thinking of previous decade

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Opinion Ñ Current NFL start has one thinking of previous decade

By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on September 24, 2008 11:21 AM

Thanks to the NFL I feel like a teenager again living in the 90s.

With a quick glance at the standings names like Elway, Aikman, Favre, Kelly, Simms and McNair begin racing through my mind.

The Cowboys, Giants, Bills, Broncos and Titans are each 3-0 and the whole thing has me feeling a bit nostalgic. The last time Buffalo and Tennessee began 3-0 was in 1992 and 1999, respectively, and they each reached the Super Bowl in those seasons.

Trent Edwards is doing his best Jim Kelly impersonation in Buffalo, engineering an offense that's ninth in the league with 26 points per game. Meanwhile, the Bills' defense is the league's best on third down and fifth best overall.

With games against St. Louis and Arizona remaining before a bye in Week 6, Buffalo could easily begin 5-0 and be a legitimate contender in a wide-open AFC East thanks to Tom Brady's season-ending knee injury.

The Titans and Goldsboro's own David Thornton, have survived a knee injury and mental meltdown from quarterback Vince Young. Kerry Collins has proven to be a serviceable backup by throwing for over 300 yards and two touchdowns in two starts thus far.

Collins has gotten Tennessee receivers much more involved in the passing game. Six different players have caught five or more passes in just three games.

With annual front-runners Indianapolis and Jacksonville both at 1-2, the Titans are momentarily in the driver's seat in the always strong AFC South.

Thanks to the elevated play of quarterback Jay Cutler, gutsy two-point conversion calls late in ballgames and blatant miscues by officials, the Broncos look like legit contenders for the first time since some guy named Elway rode off into the sunset.

Cutler's 110.6 quarterback rating is third in the league. The Vanderbilt product has thrown for over 900 yards and 8 touchdowns with just two interceptions. Denver receiver Brandon Marshall is second in the league in catches with 24 and in yards at 321.

The Broncos' 38 points a ballgame is tops in the league and they trail only Dallas in yards per game. With wins over divisional foes San Diego and Oakland in its pocket, and the remainder of its divisional schedule to play in a very weak AFC West, Denver should be a factor in the AFC all season.

The Giants, the defending Super Bowl champions, appear to have avoided an early letdown with the losses of Michael Strahan to retirement and Osi Umenyiora to a season-ending injury.

New York's defense has already recorded 13 sacks and is giving up just over 14 points a contest. Running backs Brandon Jacobs and Derrick Ward have combined to average over 5 yards a carry. Quarterback Eli Manning continues to mature as a quarterback with just one interception in his first three outings.

Dallas may be the most complete of the 3-0 squads. The Cowboys won their opener against Cleveland with stingy defense. They won a scintillating shootout with the Eagles and then used a bruising running game to overpower the Packers. Dallas wins when quarterback Tony Romo plays great or when he's average, and looks like a guy that went to Eastern Illinois.

Marion Barber punished Green Bay on Sunday night for 142 yards and a touchdown. Rookie Felix Jones has added a nice change of pace to the Cowboys' running attack.

So, dust off your Nintendo 64 or your Hootie and the Blowfish albums and squeeze into your faded T-shirt of your favorite NFL team and party like it's 1999.