Fans greeted the return of the regular refs last weekend with a standing ovation. Not long after, the heroes had turned right back into goats.

In other words, it's business as usual again in the NFL.

It's still too early to gauge whether the replacement officials' worst gaffes (see: Packers, Green Bay) will cause irreparable damage. We won't know for certain until the playoff picture unfolds, but the potential is there.

The last-second play on Sept. 24 that gave the Seahawks a game-deciding touchdown instead of the Packers a game-clinching interception could ultimately decide the playoff fates of both teams.

Coincidentally, the Packers were involved in another controversial play that went against them last Sunday, underscoring the fact that even the regular officials aren't infallible. (And, fortunately for the Packers, that blown call against the Saints didn't cost them the game.)

Beyond that glaring exception, observers seemed mostly pleased with the improved officiating of the regulars. But love of officials only goes so far.

Witness Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers' message to the officials: "I told (referee) Jeff Triplette, 'Hey, it's great to have you back. ... (but) that doesn't mean we're not going to yell at you.'"


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  • Good news for the Raiders and the 11 other teams with a losing record after the first four weeks this season: Since the league expanded to 12 playoff teams in 1990, 23 teams with losing records at a similar juncture ultimately qualified for the playoffs.

    OK, so that's an average of slightly more than one team per season. But, hey, the Patriots started 1-3 in 2001 and wound up hoisting the Vince Lombardi Trophy -- not that Raiders fans need reminding.

    There's even hope for the 0-4 Browns and Saints. The 1994 Chargers started 0-4 and rebounded to make the playoffs.

  • Call it parity, mediocrity or just a plain oddity, but none of the 14 games this week features two teams with winning records.

  • Think the NFL isn't a passing league these days? If so, that leaves you in the minority.

    Consider, before last season no quarterback passed for more than 1,000 yards in his first four games as a rookie. Carolina's Cam Newton became the first in 2011.

    Last Sunday, Washington's Robert Griffin III and Miami's Ryan Tannehill joined Newton in the 1K club.

    Colts rookie Andrew Luck needs only 154 yards against the Packers on Sunday to make it a quartet.

  • Enjoy it while you can. On Sunday, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning square off for the 13th time.

    Brady's team prevailed eight of the first 12 games, when Manning was with the Colts and the teams faced each other almost on an annual basis.

  • Your weekly Los Angeles update. Now that the Los Angeles City Council has signed off on the building of Farmers Field, the prospect of a team relocating there appears as likely as it has since the Raiders and Rams bolted Southern California almost 20 years ago.

    The project won't move forward until the ownership group gets a team to commit to relocating.

    With that in mind, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell sent a memo to the league's 32 teams in July informing them that any team interested in relocating for the 2013 season has to apply between Jan. 1 and Feb. 15, 2013, and prove that it has exhausted attempts to make it work at their current location.

    Word has it that, barring any legal challenges to the proposed plan, builders are prepared to break ground on Farmers Field in March.