Well I am 16 days back into college, it feels weird being back, and the first week of the NFL season is in the books. I’m just going to go down through the games and give some quick thoughts on them. The more of the game I saw, the more in-depth I will be able to go.
Lets start at the beginning, the season opener between the defending Super Bowl Champion New York Giants and the Dallas Cowboys.
Before I go into the game, I have to give props to Jason Witten, quite possibly the toughest S.O.B. in the entire league, maybe the country. In the Cowboy first preseason game Witten lacerated his spleen and, as of the afternoon of this game, only 23 days later, he was not yet cleared to play again. So determined to get on the field, reports were that Jason offered to sign a medical release waiver. Needless to say, Jason was on the field for the game, blocking the likes of Justin Tuck and Jason Pierre-Paul and managed 2 catches for 10 yards. Amazing.
Final Score: Cowboys 24 – Giants 17
What we saw: The champs came out a bit flat and the Cowboys, always a team with a lot of talent, took advantage. The Giants had issues running the ball last year but Eli and the strong passing attack carried them when they needed it. The run game issues do not seem to be fixed and to make matters worse, Hakeem Nicks did not look like he is fully recovered from his foot issues and Victor Cruz spent the night worrying about where he was going to run once he caught the ball, forgetting to actually, you know, catch it first.
On the Dallas side Tony Romo played alright, several dumb throws but he got lucky and only one of them was intercepted. Kevin Ogletree, taking over the role Laurent Robinson played last season, looked up for the task and DeMarco Murray looked like he was playing against the Rams again. The additions of Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne really paid off in the secondary.
I expect both of these teams to remain competitive, but the Giants cannot keep relying on late season surges and the Cowboys need to find a way to keep from falling about late in the season.
Final Score: Bears 41 – Colts 21
What we saw: The Bears are for real this year but again that hinges on the health of Jay Cutler. Alshon Jeffery made a quick impact in this first game and Michael Bush, who I think is extremely underrated, will be a force to be reckoned with tandem with do-it-all Matt Forte. The Cutler to Marshall connection is still alive and strong.
Meanwhile Andrew Luck managed 300 yards passing and scored 21 points against the Bears defense but also threw 3 interceptions. I didn’t see the game to know if they were rookie mistakes or good plays by the defense, but regardless, reception totals indicate that he seems to have a good rapport with veteran Reggie Wayne and his college teammate Coby Fleener. This team will continue to grow with Luck all season and will look much better next week against the Minnesota defense.
Final Score: Falcons 40 – Chiefs 24
What we saw: The Falcons are going to score a lot of points this year. The problem is that their defense is very suspect as Curtis Lofton left in free agency and franchise player Brent Grimes is out for the season. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a gamble by Asante Samuel cost them a game somewhere down the line but hey, he could win them one too. I would be concerned with their lack of a run game considering 25 of their 84 yards on the ground and their only rushing touchdown came from Matt Ryan.
On the other side the Chiefs are trying to find an identity. They signed Peyton Hillis to pair with Jamaal Charles as a powerful 1-2 punch in the run game but then got behind and couldn’t run the ball as much as they would have liked. Utility man Dexter McCluster lead the team in receptions and receiving yards and looks like he will be a big part of their offense this year as well.
Final Score: Eagles 17 – Browns 16
What we saw: The definition of bad quarterback play with 4 interceptions from each of them. Michael Vick looked beyond rusty and even I was grumbling to see Nick Foles close out the game. Vick managed to finish it up and pick up the win but he has some serious work to do if he wants to keep his team in the game against the Ravens. On the plus side, however, the defense was phenomenal, even though it was only the Browns, it was a tremendous start for this unit.
For the Browns, good luck. Brandon Weeden looks lost, even getting stuck under the American flag before the game. With no passing game, teams will be able to stack the box and leave Trent Richardson with no where to go. The defensive line looks to be a strong point with underrated guys like Sheard and Rubin and I love the way TJ Ward plays up in the box from the safety position. Too bad you just lost Joe Haden for 4 weeks now. Expect another top 10 draft pick and several starts from Colt McCoy.
Final Score: Redskins 40 -Saints 32
What we saw: Raise your hand if you saw this coming. Now anyone who has their hand up can use itto slap themselves and stop lying. I love RGIII and have since before most people had ever even heard of him but he was impressive. By all accounts (I didn’t see the game, only highlights), he was poised, calm and collected and looked the part of a great quarterback. The Redskins also have 3 relatively talented running backs with different skill sets that I’m sure Shanny will use throughout the year. Their special teams are weak and the secondary is a liability but with a strong front seven, this team could actually compete for a winning record this year and surprise quite a few teams.
The Saints, are still the Saints, but an opening game loss to the Redskins at home of all places, adds to a laundry list of issues they need to overcome. Drew Brees will keep them in most games but they might be lacking their edge this year.
Final Score: Lions 27 – Rams 23
What we saw: The Rams kept it close, thanks in large part to 3 early Matt Stafford interceptions. But talent prevailed and Stafford turned it on in the end to get the win. The running game wasn’t great but Kevin Smith was serviceable and scored 2 touchdowns to go with almost 100 total yards. I don’t see any way that he plays 16 games though. The Lions were a nice story last year and their passing game is ridiculous but I just don’t seem them doing more than playing spoiler this season to a few teams.
The Rams, meanwhile, are a team that cannot seem to find talent. Steven Jackson has been working his ass off for years but their best receivers are still Danny Amendola and Brandon Gibson, two Eagles castoffs and rookie Brian Quick doesn’t even show up in the box score. The core of the defense is in place but they are a few pieces away from being considered good. I expect another top 10 pick for this team again this year.
Final Score: Patriots 34 – Titans 13
What we saw: The Patriots are good and Tom Brady has options galore. Surprise Surprise. Brandon Lloyd runs deep, Wes Welker short, Hernandez and Gronkowski eat up the rest of the space and create mismatches and lost in all that, Steven Ridley goes for 125 yards and a score on all but 6 yards per carry and adds 2 catches for 27 yards. Good luck stopping this offense this year and with the additions of rookies Dont’a Hightower and Chandler Jones and a healthy Jarod Mayo on defense, this team figures to go late into the playoffs again this year.
The Titans are on the other end of the spectrum. Jake Locker is going to continue his development on the go this year, whether or not its the right choice. The defense is also fairly young and will continue to grow. Chris Johnson was held to a miserable 4 yards on 11 carries, I don’t project another 2000 yard season for him anytime soon. The Titans aren’t there yet but if Locker plays up to his potential, they are not too far away.
Final Score: Vikings 26 – Jaguars 23
What we saw: The game no one watched. The Vikings won in Overtime thanks in large part to a strong performance by Adrian Peterson. No one expected him to be back by now after a devastating knee injury last year, much less touching the ball 18 times for 87 yards and 2 scores. Despite AP being back I still think this team needs help and is looking at a top 10 draft pick. Their division will be brutal to them.
For the Jags, MJD is obviously back and still the guy. The additions of Laurent Robinson and Justin Blackmon and the development of Cecil Shorts in addition to slot receiver Mike Thomas and tight end Mercedes Lewis give Blaine Gabbert everything he needs to succeed and he had a good start, albeit against a terrible defense.
Final Score: Jets 48 – Bills 28
What we saw: Another case of raise you hand if you saw this coming. The Jets couldn’t find the endzone with a cannon in the preseason but perhaps it was all a ruse. Or maybe the Bills defense is that bad. I still don’t trust Mark Sanchez as a professional quarterback but he had a good game, Shonn Greene was also solid on the ground and rookie wide out Stephen Hill had an impressive 5 catches for 89 yards and 2 scores. I didn’t see it but that is a great game on paper. If the Jets can find this kind of offense regularly and the defense holds up, they can get back into playoff consideration.
The Bills were a mess and they lost Fred Jackson and David Nelson to injuries. CJ Spiller managed to go 14 for 169, with a large chunk of it coming on a 56 yard touchdown run, but overall their offense wasn’t great and their defense couldn’t stop the Jets so they could be in for a long season. First bold prediction of the year…Michael Vick will be a Bill next season.
Final Score: Texans 30 – Dolphins 10
What we saw: The Texans very well could have been in the Super Bowl last year had Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson not missed significant time and they come back with the same strong all around play to open this season. Nothing flashy outside of a 24 point 2nd quarter and Ryan Tannehill’s welcome to the NFL was a rough one. The Texans will be back in the playoffs again this year.
The Dolphins are a rebuilding team. A rookie quarterback with limited college experience and a lack of weapons (his best receiver is his running back) to go with a first year head coach. The Dolphins have a lot of good pieces in place but this won’t be a great year for them.
Final Score: Cardinals 20 – Seahawks 16
What we saw: Another of the nobody watched games, Kevin Kolb came in the game and led the Cards to a win over the more talented Seahawks. Andre Roberts might finally emerge as the option across from Larry Fitzgerald that they have sorely lacked since losing Anquan Boldin. I don’t expect the Cards to finish inside the top 20 teams though.
The Seahawks, meanwhile, have a fairly talented, although un-flashy roster. If Russel Wilson can make plays from the quarterback position, their strong running game and sturdy defense can keep them in most games. I don’t see them cracking the top group for a playoff spot but they are one of the teams that can surprise some people.
Final Score: 49ers 30 – Packers 22
What we saw: The Niners success last season was not a fluke. While the Packers weren’t very sharp, the Niners were. Alex Smith completed over 75% of his passes and the ground game was effective, with nearly 200 yards. I was happy to see Randy Moss back in the endzone and suddenly the Niners have a deep set of passing options with Vernon Davis, Moss, Michael Crabtree, Mario Manningham, and rookie AJ Jenkins. Their defense will be strong again as well with the best set of linebackers in the league.
The Packers have no running game, Greg Jennings was ineffective then got hurt, Donald Driver was on the field for 3 total snaps and their defense still sucks. They already have the same number of losses as last season and I can see quite a few more headed their way. If the Packers don’t pull it together quickly they could be fighting for a wild card spot after seeing the Bears win the division. Randell Cobb looks like a legit talent though after not being used on offense very much as a rookie.
Final Score: Buccaneers 16 – Panthers 10
What we saw: The Buccaneers were not lacking on talent last year, they simply didn’t play as a team and reportedly gave up on their coach. Enter the new regime with Greg Schiano and a new personality. The defense allowed Cam Newton to pass for 303 yards with 1 score but picked him off twice and held the team to 9 rushing yards, no small feat for a team with Cam Newton, Deangelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart and Mike Tolbert. Doug Martin had a solid pro debut and Josh Freeman limited risks and kept from turning the ball over.
For the Panthers, Brandon LaFell and Louis Murphy might finally draw attention away from Steve Smith. Both of these teams will be factors this year and potential wild-card challengers.
Final Score: Broncos 31 – Steelers 19
What we saw: Peyton Manning is back. The Broncos had enough talent to beat the Steelers in the playoffs last year with Tim Tebow at the helm and with Manning throwing to Decker and Thomas, they can be even better this year. Von Miller is scary good, Tracy Porter was a good addition and Wesley Woodyard just keeps getting better. If the defense can keep up the strong play and Peyton can deal with the cold weather playing the majority of his games outdoors for the first time in his career, this team could make a run.
The Steelers are always a competitive team and will be contenders all season. Mike Wallace didn’t miss much by sitting out. I like Jonathan Dwyer to be their best running back when its all said and done.
Final Score: Ravens 44 – Bengals 13
What we saw: As good as AJ Green may be, he and the Bengals will take a backseat to the Ravens in the AFC North this year. The Ravens are angry and Joe Flacco is out to prove himself. With few weaknesses in their team, consistency and play calling are all that will keep the Ravens from a long postseason run.
The Bengals are a still a good team and I expect a winning record and a bid for a wild card spot. Andy Dalton, AJ Green and Ben-Jarvis Green-Ellis give them a solid offense and they have 7 former first round picks in their secondary, 9 in all on a defense with a good amount of talent.
Final Score: Chargers 22 – Raiders 14
What we saw: The last game of the first week was between two irrelevant teams that might have outside shots a wildcard spot if things fall the right way for them. On offense they lost Vincent Jackson in free agency and Vincent Brown to in jury. Neither Malcolm Floyd nor Ryan Mathews are models of good health and Mathews has 10 fumbles, 5 lost in his two years already. Both teams had trouble finding running room. Carson Palmer was better than expected after looking lost in the new offense during the preseason.
I feel bad that both the best kicker and the best punter in the league have been stuck in Oakland for this long, at least that get a lot of play time.
-With the first week in the books I can’t say anything was too terribly shocking. RGIII had an amazing start to his career and the Panthers getting shut down on the ground were the most surprising to me. I didn’t expect the Niners to look this good already or the Eagles to look that bad, in what was actually a great game on defense and in terms of total offensive yardage. There were a ton of interceptions thrown throughout the league, maybe an indication that defenses are catching up to the advanced passing games. I can’t wait for more.
UPDATE: By the time I finally finished this post, the Packers had defeated the Bears 23-10. The Packers played a much better game both defensively and with their ground game. They were able to sack Jay Cutler 7 times and picked him off 4 times with 3.5 sacks credited to Clay Matthews. This was the perfect rebound game for the Packers as they found a pass rush, affected passing lanes and picked up a victory in their division.
For the Bears this game was a clear sign that their offensive line is still not fixed and Jay Cutler could be running for his life again this season. They need to give him time and keep him healthy. To make things worse Matt Forte suffered an ankle injury, although they are better equipped to handle this with Michael Bush in place as the backup.