Victories for the underdogs in another wild NFL weekend
I'm not very good at making predictions, I have to admit. But I'm quite proud of a couple that came to fruition over the weekend.
On the eve of the 2009 NFL campaign, I predicted this would be one of the most open races in recent league history. And it is proving to be the case after another wild set of games on Sunday night.
Who would have thought the Denver Broncos and New York Jets would be 3-0 while three playoff teams from 2008 - Tennessee, Miami and Carolina - would be waiting for their first wins at 0-3?
I also predicted that the Cincinnati Bengals would push the Pittsburgh Steelers very hard and make a competitive game of what some were suggesting might be a blow-out. Well, the Bengals went one step further than that and pulled off a stunning upset on BBC 5 live sports extra, clinching a 23-20 win on Carson Palmer's touchdown pass to Andre Caldwell with 14 seconds remaining.
And finally, I predicted that the Detroit Lions, who had not won an NFL contest since December 2007, would end their 19-game losing streak by defeating the Washington Redskins. Behind the passing of rookie quarterback Matthew Stafford and the rushing of Kevin Smith, the Lions did just that by a 19-14 scoreline.
First to the Bengals, who are officially the least experienced team in the NFL with an average of 3.7 years of experience per player. They fell into an early 13-0 hole against the Steelers and that was not good news.
Carson Palmer had an outstanding game for the Bengals
But the Bengals didn't panic. They could easily have abandoned the ground game - especially against Pittsburgh's brutal run defense - but that would only have invited the Steelers linebackers, led by James Harrison, to pin their ears back and go after Carson Palmer on every play.
Instead, Cincinnati mixed in Cedric Benson runs with accurate passes from Palmer. And they got their reward with that late game-winning score. It's hard to believe but had it not been for a miracle Denver touchdown in week one, the team lovably known as the Bungles could be top of the AFC North with a perfect 3-0 record.
The Lions are also a young team in rebuilding mode and for such an inexperienced club, they played a very clean game against the Redskins. Head coach Jim Schwartz would have been pleased with the form of Stafford, who took care of the football and didn't throw an interception or lose a fumble.
The running game produced 154 yards, the offense held the ball for 37 minutes and the linemen took care of business up front, restricting the Redskins to just two quarterback sacks.
While the Bengals and Lions were rejoicing after Sunday's action, Pittsburgh and Washington would have been distraught.
The defending Super Bowl champion Steelers have worrying problems. Their offensive line remains an area of weakness and the fact that unit was not upgraded in the off-season is frankly shocking.
And Pittsburgh find it hard to finish drives. They settled for two short field goals in the first half in Cincinnati because they couldn't punch the ball into the end zone from inside the five-yard line. Had those early opportunities resulted in touchdowns, the Steelers would have led 21-3 at the half rather than 13-3 and the game would likely have been all but over.
As for Washington, head coach Jim Zorn will be feeling the heat. Redskins owner Daniel Snyder is losing patience and is probably already thinking about a high-profile replacement for 2010, namely Bill Cowher, Mike Shanahan or Jon Gruden.
You can catch Neil commentating on an NFL game every Sunday on BBC 5 live sports extra throughout the season.(UK users only).