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That's some outfit Jeff Fisher is running

October 25, 2009|SAM FARMER

The Tennessee Titans' Jeff Fisher was dressed for success at a recent charity event, removing his button-down shirt to reveal a Peyton Manning jersey underneath. The coach joked he wanted to "feel like a winner."

Fisher is a no-nonsense guy who takes his job very seriously -- part of the reason he's the NFL's longest-tenured coach -- so a little humor was refreshing in these dismal times for his winless franchise.

Tennessee's collapse tops our list of the biggest surprises through six weeks of the 2009 season:

Dismember the Titans

Since starting last season 10-0, Fisher's team has lost 10 of 13 and eight in a row. Mercifully, the Titans get an open date today after the humiliation of last Sunday's 59-0 rout at New England. Tennessee ranks 31st in defense and last against the pass -- by an average of more than 40 yards per game! Thanks, Tom Brady.

Trend-bucking Broncos

Take heart, Titans, a turnaround is possible. Just look at what Denver has done so far. The Broncos were supposed to be a bad team, considering all the turbulence that led up to the season -- the Jay Cutler trade, new Coach Josh McDaniels stomping on toes, the antics of Brandon Marshall, and the difficulty of transforming a bad defense from a 4-3 to a 3-4. So what happened? The Broncos are 6-0, Kyle Orton is playing like a Pro Bowl quarterback, that defense has yielded a league-low 11 points a game, and McDaniels looks like coach of the year -- with a road win over old boss Bill Belichick under his belt.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Saturday, October 31, 2009 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 4 National Desk 1 inches; 39 words Type of Material: Correction
Denver Broncos: In Sunday's Sports section, the NFL column for Week 7 said the 6-0 Denver Broncos have a road win over New England and Coach Bill Belichick. The Broncos' victory over the Patriots was at home in Denver.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday, November 01, 2009 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 4 National Desk 1 inches; 42 words Type of Material: Correction
Denver Broncos: In the Oct. 25 Sports section, the NFL column for Week 7 said that the 6-0 Denver Broncos had a road win over New England and Coach Bill Belichick. The Broncos' victory over the Patriots was at home in Denver.

Slammed Diego

Those star-studded Chargers are 2-3 for the third time in Coach Norv Turner's three seasons. They can't pressure the passer or protect their own, they can't run the ball or stop the run, and their best chance to catch up to Denver in the AFC West just blew past them like Elvis Dumervil past a flat-footed tackle.

Even if the Chargers won, say, eight of their last 11 games, they couldn't bank on a spot in the postseason. Remember, the 11-5 Patriots were left out last season.

Striking Viking

As amazing as it sounds, Brett Favre has gone from gunslinger to game manager. The quarterback with the most interceptions in league history has only two, putting him on pace for five this season. OK, so he'll surely finish with more than that -- he has never had fewer than 13 as a starter -- but it sure helps to have a running back like Adrian Peterson.

The replacements

Somehow, without No. 2 receiver Anthony Gonzalez, Manning and the Colts haven't broken stride. Little-known receivers Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie have picked up the slack. It's a reminder that personnel whiz Bill Polian knows what he's doing.

Something wild

The wildcat might be a fad to some teams, but it's a way of life for the Miami Dolphins, who continue to use it with remarkable effectiveness. Miami leads the league in rushing, and won the last two games by averaging 200.5 yards on the ground.

Blowout city

Doesn't the NFL pride itself on having competitive balance? Well, there have been plenty of tilted tilts so far. According to the Wall Street Journal, the six shutouts this season are the most since 1994, and the number of blowouts by at least 21 points (20) is the second-highest number in 39 years.

Baltimore stun

After going 39 games without allowing a 100-yard rusher, the Ravens allowed two in two games (Cincinnati's Cedric Benson and Minnesota's Peterson.) It was the first time since 2005 that Baltimore yielded three-digit rushing games in consecutive weeks. Next up after a week off: Denver's Knowshon Moreno, the leading rookie runner.

Money for nothing

Once again, after Dan Snyder spent all that loot to assemble his fantasy team, the Washington Redskins are sinking. Despite playing a winless opponent every week, they are 2-4, Coach Jim Zorn has been stripped of his play-calling duties, and the fans are fed up.

Johnny on the spot

What a bonus! As part of the trade for Cutler, the Bears got a fifth-round pick that they used to draft receiver Johnny Knox of Abilene Christian. He has been sensational, scoring touchdowns in four consecutive games, tying Chicago's rookie record set by Walter Payton.

Three up, three down

Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez has encountered the spectrum of fan emotions, where his team followed three wins with three losses. The same Gotham newspaper that breathlessly deemed him "San-chise!" on the back page one week called him "Broadway Schmoe" another. Welcome to New York.

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sam.farmer@latimes.com

twitter.com/LAtimesfarmer

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