Sunday 17 December 2017 / 05:49 AM

Airing It Out: Week 4 – Packers and 49ers

83,436 of our distant cousins were on hand at Wembley Stadium as the NFL kicked off this season’s international series with the first of three games in London.

NFL marketing gurus will surely be hoping for a more competitive game when the Lions take on the Falcons next month, because the Dolphins’ 38-14 laugher over the Raiders is no way to invoke passion in America’s favorite sport (they call baseball America’s game but I’m not buying.)

Then again, UK sport fanatics have been known to riot over a nil-nil draw, so perhaps the excess of scoring on Sunday was a welcome relief?

Ryan Tannehill got back on track with 278 yards and a pair of touchdown passes. Now back to .500 at 2-2, we should see a little less panic in Miami.

The Fins scored 5 TDs, including one on defense by Cortland Finnegan:

In Oakland, on the other hand, there ought to be panic and then some

After a flurry of off-season moves, the Silver & Black was supposed to be much-improved, but one quarter of the way into the season it’s looking grim.

Along with the Jacksonville Jaguars they are the only other winless team and it’s only uphill from here. They’ll take a rest in week 5 before taking on the Chargers and Cardinals at home and then traveling to Cleveland and Seattle.

In short, 0-8 could be just around the corner, with the second half of the season featuring another match-up with San Diego, two against KC and two against Denver. Speckle in a road game at St. Louis and a pair of home games against the Niners and the much-improved Bills, and we could be looking at the second team to ever go 0-16 (2008 Detroit Lions).

BREAKING NEWS: Four games into his third season in Oakland, Head Coach Dennis Allen has been fired. Tony Sparano has been named as the interim coach.

Team on the rise

The Packers and the Niners both succeeded in crawling back to 2-2 with big wins over quality teams (GB 38 – 17 CHI, SF 26 – 21 PHI), but stopping the bleeding doesn’t quite qualify your club for being “on the rise”.

With more reports coming out in Frisco that Harbaugh treats players “like children” and that veterans are calling for his head on a platter, the 49ers will need more than just one win for us to be convinced that they are back on track.

There are less cause for concern in Green Bay but one victory does not equate to a win streak.

So let’s talk for a minute about the Baltimore Ravens.

Since losing the opener to the Bengals, the Ravens have won three straight, including a 38-10 drubbing of the Carolina Panthers last Sunday.

As predicted, Steve Smith Sr. delivered on his “blood and guts” promise against his old team. The 35-year-old receiver hauled in seven catches for 139 yards and two touchdowns.

Team on the decline

The Carolina Panthers started the season off 2-0, looking to prove that they could get back to the playoffs by riding the shirt tails of their vaunted defense.

Two blowout losses later, including this weekend’s disaster in Baltimore, this team looks to have lost its identity.

With New Orleans flailing and Atlanta playing the “win one, lose one” game, the Panthers are still miraculously tied for first place in the NFC South after giving up 75 points over the past two weeks.

It doesn’t get any easier going forward as Carolina will take on the Bears next week at home before traveling to Cincinnati and then on to Green Bay.

Commentary Box Sports Top 10 Power Rankings

Rank 1 – Bengals     —        

Cincinnati enjoyed an early season BYE week. With Philly dropping from the ranks of the undefeated and Arizona also taking a rest, there’s no reason to see any shift here up at the top.

Rank 2 – Cardinals     —

The Cards will have their work cut out for them in week 5 if they hope to stay here in the #2 slot. They travel to Denver to take on Peyton Manning and the Broncos at Mile High.

Rank 3 – Seahawks     Up 1

The Hawks jump up a position here as they sat at home painting their nails blue and green.

Rank 4 – Broncos     Up 1

Same goes for Denver, who climb up the ladder during their BYE week by virtue of the Eagles’ inability to score an offensive touchdown.

Rank 5 – Chargers     Up 1

After a slow start, Philip Rivers has been on fire. He torched the Jaguars for 377 yards and 3 touchdowns as San Diego routed Jacksonville 33-14. After four weeks he leads all NFL starters with a QB rating of 114.5.

Could this be Rivers’ year for making a charge at MVP?

Rank 6 – Eagles     Down 3

Philadelphia rushed for 22 total yards against the Niners on Sunday. Twenty-two.

Chip Kelly’s team has needed to stage a comeback in all four of the team’s games this season. Sure, they were successful three times, but they’ll need to learn to take an early lead and hold onto it if they hope to repeat as NFC East champions.

Rank 7 – Ravens     New to List

Two years ago Joe Flacco proved he was a top-tier (notice my avoidance of the word elite here) quarterback when he led his team to an improbable Super Bowl victory as a Wild Card team.

Last year? Not so much.

‘Unibrow Joe’ is back, with a new favorite target in Steve Smith Jr.

Rank 8 – Cowboys     New to List

I’m really laying myself out there by putting the ‘Boys all the way up at #8, but at 3-1 they’re looking good.

Dallas demolished the Saints 38-17 under the NFL’s most ridiculous Jumbotron.

Rank 9 – Lions     New to List

Plenty of options at #9 and #10 but we’ll give the nod to the Lions here as they’re 3-1, in sole possession of first place in the NFC North and are the only team in the division that has scored more points than they’ve given up (+23).

Rank 10 – Colts     New to List

The Packers, Niners and Colts all got big wins to pull back to .500, but Andrew Luck leads the NFL in passing yards (1305) and has a neck beard.

Fell out of the top 10: Patriots, Panthers, Falcons, Bears

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Michael Airhart

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