Forget parity; Pats, Colts are in a different league

The Baltimore Sun

Parity is no longer in vogue in the NFL.

There can be no parity as long as the New England Patriots and the Indianapolis Colts are playing like All-Star teams from another league, hammering everyone they face.

Or when the Miami Dolphins and St. Louis Rams are both 0-8, staring at a season when the best they might do is win three games if they get really lucky.

The Patriots flogged the Washington Redskins, 52-7, yesterday while the Colts crushed the Carolina Panthers, 31-7. Next week, they renew their AFC hostilities in Indianapolis in the closest thing to Armageddon the NFL has.

There appears to be no stopping the Patriots. Two weeks ago, they hung 48 points on the Dallas Cowboys, presumably the NFC's best team. Yesterday they increased that by four, working over the No. 5 defense in the NFL. In fact, the Redskins had given up the fewest points in the NFC coming into Week 8.

Washington coach Joe Gibbs learned that even a bust in Canton, Ohio, doesn't carry any water in Foxboro, Mass. Gibbs watched Tom Brady throw his third touchdown pass of the day with the Patriots leading 38-0 in the fourth quarter. Then he watched Brady's backup, Matt Cassel, throwing the ball with a 45-0 lead. Cassel got the Patriots to the end zone again with a determined 15-yard sprint to make it 52-0.

Look at it this way: Eight weeks into the season, it's way past obvious that this rampage is Bill Belichick's answer to the NFL's punitive reaction to him trying to steal the New York Jets' signals. If he can rub your nose in it, prepare for a big whiff of blowout.

The Patriots have scored a league record 331 points through eight games. More impressively, that translates to 662 points for the season and that would shatter the Minnesota Vikings' 1998 mark of 556 points.

Brady is on pace for 60 touchdown passes, which would obliterate Peyton Manning's league record of 49.

You think Belichick and the Patriots don't want to remove the odor the signal-stealing episode left on their three Super Bowl trophies? This is their message.

They'll take no prisoners this season.

Around the league

How long will the winless streaks of the Dolphins and Rams last? They each get a bye next week. Miami has two games left with the Buffalo Bills, one against the spiraling Jets and a season-ending affair with the Cincinnati Bengals, who should be in total disarray by then. There might be two wins there.

The Rams have winnable games at San Francisco (Week 11), Cincinnati (Week 14) and Arizona (Week 17), and a home date with the Atlanta Falcons in the middle. The Falcons should get the Rams into the win column if they don't make it before then.

Isn't it amazing that no one can find Patriots linebacker Mike Vrabel when he impersonates a tight end on goal-line offense? He caught his 10th career touchdown pass yesterday, and the Redskins didn't bother to cover him off the line of scrimmage. What is he, invisible?

The Bills have an interesting situation brewing at quarterback. When Trent Edwards left yesterday's game against the Jets late in the third quarter with an injured right wrist, the game was very much in doubt. J.P. Losman, demoted to Edwards' backup two weeks ago, removed doubt with an 85-yard touchdown pass to Lee Evans and secured a 13-3 victory. Who does coach Dick Jauron start next week against the defense-challenged Bengals? Jauron has done a wonderful job, by the way, of holding the team together in the wake of their injury epidemic.

The New Orleans Saints have recouped a bit of their swagger with three straight wins, including a 31-10 demolition of the 49ers in San Francisco yesterday. In a division that features quarterbacks Vinny Testaverde or David Carr in Carolina, Jeff Garcia in Tampa Bay and Joey Harrington or Byron Leftwich in Atlanta, it's not too late for the 3-4 Saints.

The Kellen Clemens era started for the Jets in Week 8, but judging from his two-interception relief job behind Chad Pennington, fans shouldn't expect any miracles. He has a better arm than Pennington, but there's still the problem of the rest of the offense, which stinks.

The San Diego Chargers hardly had to work for their 35-10 romp over the Houston Texans. Defensive back Antonio Cromartie scored on a fumble recovery (after a bad punt snap) and an interception, and quarterback Philip Rivers only needed 11 passes to get three touchdowns. It was a remarkable performance considering the team was uprooted by the wildfires in California last week.

At first glance, the fact that nine road teams won yesterday looks like an extraordinary day for upsets. But six of the nine teams were road favorites. The three teams that won as road underdogs were the Detroit Lions, Jacksonville Jaguars and Bills, winning by nine, one and 10 points.

Now that Manning has surpassed Johnny Unitas' franchise record for career touchdown passes at 288, maybe the Indianapolis Colts could give us back Unitas' records because they have no need of them any longer.

The Tennessee Titans' 13-9 win over the Oakland Raiders was noteworthy for its bad quarterbacking. Daunte Culpepper fumbled four times, losing one, and threw an interception for the Raiders. Vince Young, back from a quadriceps injury, completed six passes for 42 yards. Young has thrown for only three touchdowns in his six games.

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