The first quarter of the NFL season is done and in the books. Some teams have risen to the challenge while others have shriveled under the spotlight.

We know there are contenders and pretenders mixed in amongst the 32 teams. So what has the first four weeks taught us thus far? Here are three lessons that the opening month has revealed. Some are fairly obvious, others not so much.

3. We learned that while those who don the referee uniform are rarely liked before, during and in most cases, after a game, we fans learned that we missed our real referees (until they blow a call that loses a game for our team).

The NFL referee lockout showed a clear disregard for the product by the NFL owners. Commissioner Roger Goodell is a spokesman hired by the owners and is largely a representative of the owners. So,† it is no surprise to me that not until the Seattle Seahawks won a game against the Green Bay Packers on a blown call by a replacement referee, did the league finally step back to the table to end the lockout.

We fans are just as much to blame for the lack of respect the league shows fans as the owners are for allowing the replacement refs to stay. When the season started, did the viewership numbers dip? Nope. NFL viewership grew. Evidently we didnít mind replacements enough to stop watching. I didnít miss one game because of the replacements.

2. While parity is more prevalent in the NFL than ever before, well-run teams continue to prosper and poorly run teams continue a downward spiral.† Some teams continue to be the front page of excitement while others continue to hang in the back cover for the absurd.

The New England Patriots, the New York Giants and Green Bay Packers continue to be models of success while the Cleveland Browns and the Jacksonville Jaguars continue to meander in the basement of football success. The formula is no longer hidden.

3. Everyone thought the Saints would struggle, but no one knew to what degree. For a team that has largely returned all of its pieces from last year minus head coach Sean Peyton and defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, the Saints are on the fast track to becoming the Aints, at least for this season.† If fans ever wondered what good coaching looks like, take a hard look at the Saints without Peyton. This yearís Saints are an example of what a good team looks like without a leader.