Despite mounting evidence to the contrary, there are excellent coaches walking NFL sidelines. Jeff Fisher of the Tennessee Titans is one of them.
Fisher has earned lots of respect over the years, thriving in a profession in which few survive. He's tough, but his players like him. He succeeds when he doesn't have the best talent. His decisions are rarely second-guessed. His teams win on the road, an indicator of a truly good coach.
A roll call of the league's elite coaches includes Bill Belichick, Tom Coughlin, Mike Tomlin, Sean Payton, John Harbaugh, John Fox and Andy Reid.
Close to joining that group are Mike Singletary, Mike McCarthy and Rex Ryan.
The dunces in the class are Tom Cable, Dick Jauron, Wade Phillips, Norv Turner and Jim Zorn. It's too soon to grade some of the newcomers, Eric Mangini is fading fast, and Lovie Smith is one of those drifting somewhere in the gray area.
And, finally, four of the finest coaches -- Bill Cowher, Tony Dungy, Jon Gruden and Mike Shanahan -- are not even in the game, but hopefully will return soon. Jerry Jones should write a fat check to Cowher, Dungy or Gruden to take over the Dallas Cowboys today.
Fisher's formula for success in Tennessee has been based on a run-stopping defense and a run-first offense. He's more about wins than style points.
Lately, though, the Titans are rolling up a lot of nothing and losing ugly. They are one of seven 0-3 teams, one season after going 13-3. The bottom line is the Titans are too good for this to continue.
It's obvious veteran Kerry Collins is a mediocre quarterback, and he's hurting the team more than helping it, but Collins is still capable of executing a game plan. The running backs are there, the defense remains strong, and it's time for Tennessee to get it together.
I'm backing Fisher and the Titans to win and cover as 3-point favorites at Jacksonville on Sunday.
The Jaguars, who can brag about running back Maurice Jones-Drew and little else, are 1-8 against the spread in their past nine home games. The Titans have won and covered five of seven at Jacksonville.
My top play last week, Arizona over Indianapolis, was a spectacular failure. Expect Tennessee to get me back on track.
The Colts should win in another blowout this week, as should Houston, Cincinnati, San Francisco and the New York Giants. But I'll look past the big favorites to some tough underdogs.
Four more plays for Week 4 (Home team in CAPS):
• Ravens (+2) over PATRIOTS: New England ranks sixth in the league in total defense, and Baltimore ranks seventh. The surprise is that Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco is playing better than Tom Brady, who still might be missing favorite receiver Wes Welker. Baltimore has the more confident, well-rounded team right now, and Harbaugh is a remarkable 17-5 against the spread.
• Jets (+7) over SAINTS: It's not all about Drew Brees, and I said it before the season: New Orleans can run the ball, and its defense is much improved. But the Jets' defense is allowing 11 points per game. This has the look of a close one as long as rookie Mark Sanchez stays steady and doesn't hurt the Jets with mistakes.
• DOLPHINS (+2) over Bills: The Buffalo defense, punished on the ground by the Saints last week, is depleted by injuries. The Dolphins will rely on Ronnie Brown's hard running to control the clock, knowing that Trent Edwards is no Peyton Manning. Miami is another desperate 0-3 team.
• BRONCOS (+3) over Cowboys: Dallas is far more talented, and quarterback Tony Romo has the ability to beat a Denver defense that ranks No. 1 in the league. But the Cowboys are not well-coached, their defense has holes, and Romo is shaky. The Broncos, to a certain extent, are for real because of their defense. Still, this is probably my weakest play.
Last week: 1-4 against the spread
Contact reporter Matt Youmans at email@example.com or 702-387-2907.