NFL's road to respect

KEN FIDLIN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:29 AM ET

This was an NFL Sunday about respect: Earning it, losing it, retaining it.

The New York Jets have established themselves as the yappiest mob in the entire league, reflecting the personality of their new coach, Rex Ryan. They challenged the Patriots verbally all week, then backed it up yesterday with a 16-9 victory.

The Jets are the only unbeaten team in the AFC East and are earning respect along with their wins. Their defence has not yet given up a touchdown and yesterday stopped two Patriot drives in the last five minutes, snapping Tom Brady's personal string of wins as a starting QB at 21 games.

"The big deal is, we're a football team that should be respected," Ryan said. "Sometimes we talk a little bit, but only because we have confidence in our football team."

Saints, not ain'ts

So, too are the New Orleans Saints, who have piled up 93 points in the first two weeks of the season, including a 48-22 mugging of Philadelphia.

Okay, the Eagles' offence is going to struggle with Donovan McNabb on the shelf. But their defence still is playoff-worthy. So, maybe it's just time to start taking the Saints seriously. Last week, they beat up on the Detroit Lions. No big deal. This week, they walked right into South Philly and trashed the Eagles in their own house. Drew Brees threw six TD passes last week, three more yesterday.

"If you look at our skill group, each game no one knows whose day it's going to be," said Brees. Yesterday, it was Marques Colston's day, with eight catches for 98 yards and two TDs.

Falcons flying

The Atlanta Falcons earned respect by making the playoffs last year, coming off a four-win season in 2007. So far, this year, they have been able to hold on to that respect with wins over Miami and Carolina.

QB Matt Ryan has a new friend in Tony Gonzalez, re-energized now that he's out of KC. His new team already has matched the Chiefs' 2008 win total and Gonzalez has 12 catches and two TDs.

Boston College product Ryan will be ratcheting up the respect metre this week as he and the Falcons prepare to go into Foxborough to face the Patriots.

Ray-vens

The Baltimore Ravens still are smouldering from their defeat by the Steelers in last year's AFC Championship. They got to their 2-0 record by holding off San Diego down the stretch and while their trademark defence has been giving up points, they finally have an offence to be proud of.

And when the Chargers were driving, they hoped, for the winning score late, there was all-world linebacker Ray Lewis flashing through a gap to annihilate Darren Sproles on a last-ditch play that ended San Diego's hopes. Just to show that the Ravens' defence is not to be disrespected.

Going up? Going down?

And what about the Denver Broncos, who seemed so dysfunctional throughout the off-season but who are the only unbeaten team in the AFC West? Or the San Francisco 49ers and their meat-and-potatoes approach, who sit atop the NFC West, also unbeaten?

And then there are the Tennessee Titans, who reeled off 10 straight wins to start the 2008 season. So far this year, they are 0-2 and have fallen off their pedestal, especially after a 34-31 eye-opener against Houston.

The Patriots are now 1-1 and should be 0-2 if a certain Buffalo kick returner had used his brain last Monday.

Respect in the NFL is big stuff. You not only have to earn it, you have to hold on tight to keep it.

KEN.FIDLIN@SUNMEDIA.CA


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