San Antonio.- It’s still early in the season and anything can happen. And now things can only get better – at least for the integrity of the game – with the official refs backs on the field. Monday Night’s Football debacle even had President Obama weighing in, and this time the NFL didn’t drop the ball. The refs and the NFL signed an eight-year contract. With the replacement refs retired, here’s what to look for in Week 4. Thanks to the NFL and Terence Malangone for all the stats and info. (Photo of Drew Brees with teammates courtesy NewOrleansSaints.com by MC Herbert) Click the headline for the rest of the story.
By Angela Covo, email@example.com
IT’S STILL EARLY: In the first three weeks of 2012, 30 of the 32 clubs (93.8 percent) managed one or more wins, and 27 clubs (84.4 percent) own a 2-1 or 1-2 record. Both are the highest such totals in a season through three games since realignment in 2002. The 30 teams with at least one victory through Week 3 tie 2005 (30 teams) for the most through four games since realignment in 2002. If CLEVELAND (at Baltimore on Thursday Night Football)or NEW ORLEANS (at Green Bay) wins this week, 2012 will have the most teams with one or more victories through four games since realignment.
FINE FINISHES: Close games have been a staple of the 2012 season and 28 games have been decided by eight points or fewer, tied with 1988 for the most such games through a season’s first three weeks. If 10 games in Week 4 are decided by eight points or fewer, it will mark the most such games through the first four weeks of a season in NFL history.
PERSISTENT PASSERS: Last week, New Orleans quarterback DREW BREES recorded his 46th consecutive game with at least one touchdown pass, while New England quarterback TOM BRADY extended his streak to 35 games. With one touchdown pass at Green Bay, Brees can tie Pro Football Hall of Famer JOHNNY UNITAS (47) for the most consecutive games with a touchdown pass. Tom Brady has a shot at tying BRETT FAVRE (36) for the third-longest such streak when the Patriots travel to Buffalo to face the Bills. The quarterbacks to throw one or more touchdown passes in the most consecutive games include Johnny Unitas (47), Drew Brees (46), Brett Favre (36), Tom Brady (35), Dan Marino (30).
SCORES GALORE: NFL teams scored 731 points in Week 3 to bring the season total to 2,287 points, the most scored in any three-week span of an NFL season. Teams combined to score more than 725 points in three consecutive weeks (791, Week 1; 765, Week 2) for the second time in NFL history (Weeks 10-12, 2010) and the first time to begin a season. With 675 points in Week 4, the 2012 season will feature the most points of any four-week period in NFL history. The current record is 2,961 in 2004 (Weeks 12-15). If 725 points or more are scored, it will be the first time the mark is reached in four consecutive weeks.
TOP CARDS: Sparked by the team’s best start (3-0) since 1974 (7-0), ARIZONA can become the ninth NFL franchise to reach 500 regular-season wins with a victory against Miami on Sunday. The Cardinals, who have won 10 of their past 12 games, can also reach 4-0 after starting the 2011 season 1-3. With the win, Arizona would become the 11th club in the past nine years to start a season 4-0 after beginning 1-3 or 0-4 the previous year. Nine of those 10 teams qualified for the playoffs. Since 2004, the ten teams include: Atlanta (1-3), NY Jets (0-4), Cincinnati (1-3), Tampa Bay (0-4), Baltimore (1-3), Green Bay (1-3), Chicago (1-3), Buffalo (1-3) Minnesota (1-3) Detroit (0-4).
CHARGING CHARLES: Kansas City RB JAMAAL CHARLES rushed for 233 yards and scored a 91-yard touchdown in the Chiefs’ 27-24 overtime win at New Orleans. Charles, who rushed for 259 yards on January 3, 2010, has two career games with at least 230 rushing yards. Only Pro Football Hall of Famer JIM BROWN (three) has more. Charles followed his first 230-yard rushing game with 92 rushing yards and one touchdown against San Diego in the 2010 season opener. In this week’s game against the Chargers, he looks to surpass Pro Football Hall of Famer O.J. SIMPSON (203 rushing yards) for the most rushing yards following a 230-yard performance.
NFL Network for everybody! Looks like the NFL is getting got lots of things worked out in the past couple of weeks. Football fans who are Time Warner Cable customers in San Antonio can break out the champagne ... or the beer. NFL Network is now live on channel 280 (or channel 496 for HD) on the Digital Basic and Sports Pass tiers. Sports Pass customers can also get NFL RedZone (channels 281 and 487). The brand new agreement makes the programming available to more than 350,000 Time Warner Cable subscribers in the Alamo City. Everybody should be able to see the new football channels this weekend.
FINALLY, A WORD FROM THE COMMISSIONER: In a note to fans early Friday morning, Roger Goodell wrote: “I believe in accountability, not excuses. And I regret we were not able to secure an agreement sooner in the process and avoid the unfortunate distractions to the game. You deserve better.” He also commended the replacement refs and explained that the negotiations were about more than money. The NFL will be hiring some of the officials full-time year round starting in 2013 and training and developing new talent for the future. With the “finest officials in sports back on the field” it’s time to “ut the focus where it belongs – on the clubs and players and our magnificent game, with a special thanks to our fans for their passion.”
Apart from their improved benefit package, the game officials' compensation will increase from an average of $149,000 per year in 2011 to $173,000 in 2013, rising to $205,000 by 2019. Oh and the replacement refs? The NFL will be paying all 112 of them not to show up for Week 4 -- NFL Network and NFL.com's Albert Breer reported the league said Friday it will pay $3,500 to referees and $3,000 to other officials. In spite of the rough start - the season wouldn't be in Week 4 without them.