Tuesday, September 11, 2012

NFL Week 1: What do we think learned?

Ahhhh football, the sweet aroma of the grills, the swirling towels upon the wind, the overwhelming stench of testosterone and beer.  NFL football is up on us, and it is now that the overall IQ of our fair country goes down as we try to extrapolate every week into the end of the world.

Well, I know that week 1 is awfully early to try to figure out the NFL, but after this crazy first week I just can't resist taking my shots.

So, what did we see out there, and what do I think it means?  Well.....

We saw the Cowboys go into the Meadowlands and beat the New York football Giants, with Kevin Ogletree exploiting a shorthanded Giants secondary who was throwing a 5th string corner at him.  What does this mean?  It means nearly nothing.  Romo is not suddenly clutch because he made a play in week 1.  The Giants were not exposed in any way other than they need to get their starters back on the active roster, especially in the defensive backfield.  Both of these teams are loaded, and I would say that the only question that got answered was who is going to play the 3rd receiver spot for the Cowboys. 

The Jags went to Minnesota and lost in OT.  Oddly, this game between 2 mediocre teams showed me more than most of them did.  Blaine Gabbert is better, and so are the Jags overall.  Mind you, they have a ways to go, but they are better.  Gabbert played well in this game.  He was efficient and accuragte, while spreading the ball around to 8 receivers with none catching more than 5.  MJD is back and will be starting, which is good for the Jags, and their D was OK.  On the winners side of the ledger, the Vikings got some good news too.  Ponder completed 20 of 27, and Adrian Peterson played and looked like himself.  They are still very short on skill position players and are getting old on defense in a hurry, but if Ponder can complete 74% while average 10 yards per attempt, they might be a thorn in the side of the rest of the NFC North.
What in the hell happened to the Jets?  Or maybe I should ask what happened to the Bills.  Well, Mark Sanchez apparently put in some work in the off-season because that was the best game I have ever seen him play, and he seems to like Stephen Hill.  Of course, what's not to like about a fast, tall receiver who catches the ball and scores TD's for you.  Ryan Fitzpatrick, on the other hand, appears to have forgotten how to not throw the ball to the other team.  You can't throw 3 picks and win, well not unless you are the Lions or Eagles.  Also, if the Bills D doesn't turn it around quick, look for a D-Coordinator to be looking for a job.  There is way too much talent and money on that side of the ball for them to be giving up 40+ points, even if 14 it was not their fault.  Oh, and in case Jets fans forgot, Shonn Greene is still a bum. 

It's too early to sign a season away.  Miami needs to start Matt Moore, and let Tannahill learn how to look off a receiver every now and again.  He has 1 season starting at quarterback above the high school level.  That's bad enough, but he was not even practicing at QB prior to that season.  He was a Wide Receiver.  Hell, if I am them, I would consider putting him at Wide Receiver.  He could probably start for them on the outside.  Oh, and the Texans are still good.  They need to find a second outside receiver to keep the heat off of Andre Johnson.  No offense is intended to Kevin Walter, but a good slot receiver does not keep a safety from helping on the #2 wideout in the league, or exploiting that double team.  Course, when you have Arian Foster and Ben Tate to run the ball and are living on your opponents half of the field, that's not really an issue anyway.

What did we learn from New England's pasting of Tennessee?  Well, we learned that you can't give Tom Brady extra possessions...wait we knew that.  We learned that the Tight Ends for New England are really good...wait nevermind.  Seriously though, The Pats look to have found a lead back in Stevan Ridley, but with this being the Patriots, you have to assume that you will see a platoon system according to matchup.  Still, the potential for them to have a back that they can use to closeout games is scary for the rest of the league.  We also got a glimpse of the potential of their retooled front 7.  Chris Johnson was held to 11 rushes for 4 yards.. Yup 4, count em 1, 2, 3, 4!!!  A lot of that was because the Titans were playing catchup most of the game, but it really shows the athleticism that the Patriots are trotting out there when a player with Johnson's speed has a long rush of 5 yards.  A nice piece of advice for the rest of the league. If you need linebackers, draft the best one out of the SEC 3 years in a row, and you will be ok.

Well, Andrew Luck looked like a rookie.  There is no denying that.  He showed poise, and he showed some fight, but he was definitely a rookie.  The problem there is that they didn't have the rushing attack to take the load off of him so he was forced to try to make throws against a defense that is built distinctly to kill you when you try to make throws down the field.  He will be fine.  As for the winning team, the Bears looked very good.  Cutler to Marshall has not lost it's shine in their time away from Denver.  They were right back in sync, with Cutler hitting Marshall in stride and throw back-shoulder for TD's.  With Alson Jeffry and Cutler's college buddy, Earl Bennett, around, the Bears have a legit receiving corp.  Toss in Matt Forte as the do-everything back and suddenly it looks like the age of their defense is their biggest concern.  That's a crazy thought huh....really makes the Lions and Packers struggles in the first week a bit more interesting too.....course they were playing the Colts.

Like you would rather see Matt Stafford's face.
Matt Stafford proved again that he, more than anyone else, is the bell cow for the Detroit Lions.  They are going to throw the ball  all over the field.  When he struggled in the first half, they trailed.  When he came out sharp in the second half, they came back and won.  Credit where it is due though, the Rams coaches had a great scheme to start the game, and Cortland Finnegan and the rest of the defense executed it.  Stafford and Lions just adjusted well enough and came back.  If the Rams are going to make any noise, they need to find a way to get some production out of the passing game though.  Danny Amendola cannot be your leading receiver. 

Man, that was a great first half in Kansas City huh, and then it was over.  The Chiefs do not have the depth or playmakers to make up for the injuries that keep hitting them.  They have not found a second, consistent pass rusher.  They lost their second corner to free agency, and Matt Cassel is just not going to be "the guy".  He can make some plays, but he should be a backup.  That said, the Chiefs need to lean hard on their running game.  It looked dynamic in the first half and will simplify the game for Cassel to get the ball down the field to Dwayne Bowe and the rest of the Chiefs receivers.  Their defense, well it needs work, but I expect to see the Falcons make a handful of defenses look bad this year with that no-huddle they trotted out.  Their skill players, especially Roddy White, Julio Jones, and Tony Gonzalez, are just too good.

I know Andy Reid loves to throw the ball around the field, but when  you have a QB who is as rusty as Michael Vick was, and you have a running back like LeSean McCoy, you should give the running back the damned ball.  I know he carried it 20 times, but when you have a QB in the middle of a 4 pick kind of day, you take the air out of the ball.  That said, the Eagles turned the ball over 5 times and won.  That says something about their talent level, and they should be happy with what they saw from their defense.  However, they better clean up their mistakes because they won't get away with this kind of sloppy play when they aren't playing Cleveland, and the NFC East is full of a whole lot of not Cleveland this year.

You can't blame Skins fans for being excited.  It's been awhile.
Speaking of the NFC East, the Redskins shocked the nation huh.  I didn't hear a single person saying that they would be able to go into New Orleans and win, let alone win going away.  RGIII showed every bit of his upside in his first game in the league.  Toss in a 2 TD performance from his fellow rookie at Running Back, Alfred Morris, and the Redskins should feel good about their future this morning.  Now that we have given the young Skins their credit, I have to touch on what I saw when I saw this game.  The Saints did not run the ball.  I know they are known for Drew Brees throwing it around the yard, but they usually spread a couple dozen carries among their stable of backs.  In this game, they ran the ball 10 times total.  When  you are playing a 3-4 defense, you run the ball.  You have to, or all the wrinkles available to that scheme come into play.

Coach Schiano loves his defense, and it showed in week one as the Buccaneers beat their NFC South rival Carolina Panthers.  They were flying to the ball and caused 2 turnovers on defense while their offense ran the ball 36 times as they did their damnedest to keep Cam Newton off the field.  It was enough but they are going to need to get a little more down field production from Josh Freeman if they want to significantly change their fortunes.

Kevin Kolb finally looked like the Quarterback that the Cardinals thought they were trading for, if it was only in relief of the injured John Skelton.  Kolb was 6 of 8 for 66 yards and a TD to Andre Roberts on the drive to the go ahead touchdown.  It was almost spoiled though as Russell Wilson led the Seahawks right back down the field and had 3 balls slip through his receivers' hands in the end zone, leaving the Seahawks just short.  What does this mean for these 2 teams?  Well, the Cardinals have a QB controversy, or might, depending on how much time gets and how he plays before Skelton is back.  As for the Seahawks, they should have won this game.  They shut down Larry Fitzgerald.  They shut down the meager rushing attack of the Cardinals, and they had a chance at the end.  The good news is, I think that final drive gave this team even more faith that Russell Wilson has a legit shot to be "the man" in Seattle.

Now, the game that everyone in the NFC was watching.  The winner of the Green Bay vs. San Fran game was destined to be christened as the NFC Super Bowl favorite.  San Fran had it rolling on Sunday.  Their staunch defense was at it's best, Alex Smith was efficient and effective with 2 TD's and just shy of a 77% completion rate, and Frank Gore was healthy.  After all, when Gore is healthy, he's always a beast.  Their physical play took away the middle of the field and they prevented YAC.  Flat out, they manhandled the Packers.  For their part, the Packers did not quit, and the nature of their explosive offense had them in the hunt till the end.  It will be interesting to see how the Packers respond, especially their defense which was largely manhandled by the Niner front line.

What did we learn in Denver, with the Steelers in town for a visit?  Well, we got confirmation that Peyton is just fine.  He looks to already have developed timing with Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker, with the former going for 110 yards and a 71 yard TD.  Big Ben, quite obviously, not at mid-season form as he missed reads and throws, including a late throw on a out that Tracy Porter returned 43 yards to seal the game for the Broncos.  I think we learned more about the Broncos than we did the Steelers.  The Donkeys are going to have a balanced offense with solid defense which will be especially effective against the pass.  As for the Steelers, they need better athletes at corner, but they may have found their tailback as Jonathan Dwyer made a strong push for the job.

Much like Kansas City, the Bengals hung tight for about a half.  They could do much in the second half as the Ravens channeled the Ravens defense of a few years ago to throttle down the young Bengals offense.  Much has been said already about the night the Joe Flacco had, but I would like to be the first to say that if he keeps throwing the ball off his back foot, this night will be aberration.  He is a supremely confident young man, and he can helm an explosive offense, but he needs to be careful not to become too much of a gunslinger.  The Bengals are going to be fine, they played it tight, the Ravens were just that good Monday night.  The Ravens, on the other hand, have a chance to be the team to beat if they can play smart, efficient, games like they did last night.

The Raiders were sloppy on Monday night against the Chargers.  That said, Raider fans should feel good about a few things.  First, Carson Palmer looked like himself.  He completed over 2/3 of his passes with no picks, and seems to have a good deal of trust in Darren McFadden who had 28 touches for a combined 119 yards.  He did not have great success running the ball, but there were not many creases open for him.  As for the Chargers, they were not the explosive Chargers team that we are used to seeing, and some credit for that should go to the Raiders defense.  However, most of it is going to all the new personnel and backups that had to play.  They missed Ryan Matthews, and they are still trying to figure out what to do without Vincent Jackson.  It was good to see Antonio Gates out there though, and I still expect that Eddie Royal will become one of Philip Rivers' favorites working out of the slot.


You know, so we can make brand new theories when the leagues turns itself on it's head.
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