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Lies, damned lies and statistics: Here's the NFL Quarterly Report

With the NFL season in full flow, the teams’ recent progress (or lack thereof) is assessed.

The Dolphins have endured a poor start to the season.
The Dolphins have endured a poor start to the season.

IT DOESN’T TAKE a Mangenius to decipher the NFL standings one month into the wildest NFL season in recent memory. The winners and losers certainly have separated themselves.

Shockingly, occupying the higher reaches of the league are the Lions, Bills and 49ers. Buried with the dregs are the Vikings, Colts and much-hyped Eagles.

There are overachievers (Tennessee, Washington, even Cincinnati) and underachievers (Cowboys, Jets, Steelers, Falcons, Cardinals).

A breakdown of the first month of the season, in reverse order of the standings:

TURNOVERS:

There is no other way of describing Minnesota, Miami, Indianapolis, Philadelphia, Kansas City and St. Louis. At least the Colts (0-4) have the most valid of excuses: no Peyton Manning, who is making a case for his fifth MVP award by not being available because of neck surgery.

As for those other cities:

—The Vikings have flopped in virtually every area, most notably in the second half of games, when they have been outscored 67-16. They have blown leads of 10, 17 and 20 points after halftime. It seems a matter of days before Donovan McNabb is benched for first-round pick Christian Ponder, but the problems go much deeper.

Minnesota lacks cohesion and confidence. With Adrian Peterson, Jared Allen, Percy Harvin and Antoine Winfield, this roster has too much talent to be winless.

—With the countdown begun in Miami for when the Dolphins (0-4) fire coach Tony Sparano, there’s already thought that the team could lose enough games to win the Andrew Luck Draft Derby. Miami is awful on third downs and gives up too many big plays in all areas.

—The Eagles have the people to get a lot of things done, but they aren’t meshing. A third straight defeat was the most embarrassing because Philadelphia (1-3) botched a 23-3 second-half margin against San Francisco.

Their secondary, with three standout cornerbacks, including CB Nnamdi Asomugha, the top prize of free agency, has been a sieve. And the offence, aside from Michael Vick, has been inconsistent, with a penchant for big mistakes.

—St. Louis knew its division was for the taking, especially after the Rams went 7-9 a year ago and lost a tiebreaker for the NFC West title. Instead of progressing behind Offensive Rookie of the Year QB Sam Bradford and a young defence, the Rams (0-4) have regressed so badly they already might be out of the race in the league’s worst division.

(The Miami Dolphins and the San Diego Chargers met over the weekend – AP Photo/Denis Poroy)

___

TOUCHDOWNS:

—Considering Detroit’s recent history, four wins through half the schedule would be impressive. These Lions score in bunches behind emerging star QB Matthew Stafford, outstanding WR Calvin Johnson and a surprisingly agile and tough defence, with tackle Ndamukong Suh the centerpiece.

And they never give up: the Lions became the first team in NFL history to rally from 20-plus point deficits in consecutive victories and its 24-point comeback at Dallas matched the largest one on the road in league history, according to STATS, LLC.

—Matt Hasselbeck has made all the difference in Tennessee (3-1), where the rebuilding is going at a rapid pace. The franchise has a new coach, new coordinators and two new quarterbacks, with Hasselbeck having the best start of his 13-year career. The Titans also have the NFL’s stingiest scoring defence.

—Despite its late flop in Cincinnati, Buffalo (3-1) has displayed resilience, a strong and versatile offence, and no fear of opponents. The Bills’ comeback win over New England in Week 3 to break a 15-game slide against the Patriots showed that, even if the loss to the Bengals diminished its impact a bit.

—Stepping into the void the Rams, Seahawks and Cardinals have created with slow starts is San Francisco. The Niners’ attitude and work ethic under rookie coach Jim Harbaugh showed best in the surge past the Eagles on Sunday.

Sure, the Eagles’ floundering defence made Alex Smith look like Joe Montana and Frank Gore like Emmitt Smith, but give the 49ers (3-1) credit for never losing faith.

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Associated Press

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