NFL 2012 Season: Wildcard Weekend in Review

RAMBLINGS

I really got tired of hearing pundits say how the Cincinnati Bengals were a hot team coming into the playoffs. I’ve seen a lot of the Bengals this year and even the games the one in the last quarter of the season they played inconsistently and somewhat poorly. So did the Texans.

Mike Maycock is the worst worst worst color commentator I have ever heard. I am so sick of him saying how every player he mentions is the greatest of all time at this, the best at his position in college, a future Hall of Famer. Knock it off, you sound stupid. Last night he said J.J. Watt has had the best year as an “interior” defensive lineman in the history of the NFL. Idiot. First, Watt mainly plays as a defensive end. Second, tell that to Randy White, Manny Fernandez, Bruce Smith (a defensive end), and Michael Strahan (defensive end). He had a great year, but probably not the best ever in the NFL history.

I got a big laugh listening to NBC talking heads try to make the scratch of Christian Ponder last night seem like it was a good thing for the Vikings and giving them a BETTER chance to win. What??? Granted that must have been NBC’s worst nightmare having a prime time game that everyone with any sense knew was over before it started. When I saw that Joe Webb was going to be the starter I knew that the Vikings had almost zero chance to win that game. They would have been better off with a Tim Tebow who is at least marginally more accurate than Webb. The Vikings really should be kind of ashamed they have such a lousy back-up quarterback on their roster. I don’t know how much control they had over the schedule but I would have made the Washington Redskins/Seattle Seahawks tilt the prime time game.

Ray Lewis is retiring with dignity and class. Regardless of what you think about him, he has probably been the best defensive football player of his generation. Even I got goose bumps watching his pregame introduction.

Redskins’ coach Mike Shanahan should be fired. I kept telling my wife they needed to take Robert Griffin III out of the game in the third quarter. He couldn’t effectively run or throw the ball. And he was a sitting duck. Later in the game, torn LCL and ACL.

 

Houston Texans over Cincinnati Bengals, 19-13

Houston thoroughly dominated the Bengals but didn’t have much to show for it on the scoreboard as they settled for field goals through much of the game. But the Bengals offense was so bad it didn’t matter much. Andy Dalton was just terrible in both his decision making and the accuracy of his deep throws. This whole season, in fact, he hasn’t really played up to the level of expectations based on his fine rookie outing. And A.J. Green has just disappeared from the offense lately because teams double up on him but Dalton can’t seem to get the ball to anyone else. The Bengals biggest mistake on offense, in my view, was not establishing the running game in the first half. They were very successful with the run but didn’t stick with it. That could have changed the outcome of the game. The Texans defensive line was extremely disruptive in the passing game but the Bengals insisted on spreading the field, which the Texans exploited at the line of scrimmage. I wonder if this game impacts Joe Gruden’s chances at a head coaching job.

While the Bengals defense gave up a lot of yards, they did play reasonably well in the red zone and kept the game close. But Dalton and the offense simply didn’t take advantage of it.

Frankly, Houston, despite the win, didn’t impress me all that much either. A better opponent could have spelled doom for them. I think they probably were well served to have played a Wild Card game and get a win instead of having a bye week because had they played the winners of the Wild Card games with two weeks off after a lousy end of season swoon they likely come out flat and get smoked. I hope the Patriots come out and lay a beat down on them again. We’ll see.

I know Arian Foster had over 170 total yards in offense, but this was a defensive game and my MVP is Jonathan Joseph for shutting down A.J. Green.

MVP: Jonathan Joseph, CB

 

Green Bay Packers over Minnesota Vikings, 24-10

As I mentioned earlier I knew this game was over before it started. The Vikings had a decent drive at the start of the game but other than that it was a rather painful, and frankly somewhat boring game to watch. Even the Vikings defense played more poorly than I expected them too. I wonder how much having Webb in there was a downer emotionally for them as well.

There isn’t a whole lot to be said about this game. The Packers had a workman like performance for the win. It was almost like getting a bye week anyway.

The most intriguing part of this game was seeing DuJuan Harris come out of nowhere to put up 108 yards of total offense running and receiving.

MVP: DuJuan Harris, RB

 

Baltimore Ravens over Indianapolis Colts, 24-9

This game played out pretty much like I expected it to. Ray Lewis once again found a fountain of youth and was the emotional leader on a defense that bent a lot, but never broke in the red zone. The offense didn’t do a whole lot in the first half but then Anquan Boldin looked unstoppable in the second half. Where did that come from?

MVP: Anquan Boldin, WR

 

Seattle Seahawks over Washington Redskins, 24-14

This game became very difficult to watch in the second half. After getting up to a 14-0 lead at some point Robert Griffin III hurt his knee and the Redskins put him back in the game. In the third quarter I sat there watching his play and he threw the ball poorly with all arm, and except for one limping nine or ten yard scamper down a wide open sideline, he couldn’t run the ball effectively or escape the sack. Why coach Shanahan, sitting on the sidelines watching it live could see what I did, is beyond me. The Redskins would have had a better chance to win by putting Kirk Cousins in the game. Griffin was just awful. With no solid footwork or base to throw the ball, he armed his throws and they were inaccurate. Granted the receivers should have caught some of them, Griffin clearly was hurting his team and was a sitting duck in the backfield. He certainly paid the consequences eventually.

While this game also played out about how I expected other than the Redskins fast start, the Redskins might have had the chance had Shanahan been smart and put Kirk Cousins in before it was too late.

Despite a goal line fumble, Marshawn Lynch fueled the offense with his running game and was the MVP.

MVP: Marshawn Lynch, RB

 

PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

Offensive Player of the Week: Anquan Boldin, WR, Baltimore Ravens
Defensive Player of the Week: Jonathan Joseph, CB, Houston Texans
Offensive Lineman of the Week: Duane Brown, Houston Texans
Special Teams Player of the Week: Jacoby Jones, WR/KR, Baltimore Ravens
Rookie of the Week: Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle Seahawks

2012 NFL Season: Week One Observations

Before launching into the games I watched a few comments on some major themes at the start of the season.

Replacement Referees: Granted watching on television you can’t see everything that goes on on the field but so far I think the replacement refs are doing okay. Granted there are some glitches but that is to be expected with officials with no NFL experience and probably have not worked together before. The blown reversed holding call on Green Bay’s punt return for touchdown is a good example of where one official was probably looking at one set of players where there was no holding/block in the back but the call was actually on another set of players. Thankfully it didn’t affect the outcome of the game. And I’ve seen regular officials make the same mistakes. It’s just magnified in this situation.

RG III and Andrew Luck: Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck will be tied at the hip for the rest of their lives. Not just their NFL careers, but their lives. I continue to see stories about the bust Ryan Leaf and Peyton Manning, much to Leaf’s deteriment. These two will share the same experience. So far so good but if one game is any indiacation RG III came out of the gate with a small grasp on Rookie of the Year after his performance against the New Orleans Saints. He was phenomenal. He reminds me of a MATURE version of Michael Vick as a rookie, which should be very scary for NFC East foes. I was stunningly impressed. Okay, it’s one game I am not putting him in the Hall of Fame yet but everything points to him being the real deal, including, shall I say it again? His maturity. I did not see Andrew Luck but the Redskins putting it to a discombobulated Saints team was kind of fun to watch.

Super Bowl XLVII: No comment.


GAMES I WATCHED

New England Patriots over Tennessee Titans, 34-13

Are we going to have some kind of defense this year? Please? After this game, despite some shakiness, the defense looked rather improved from the debacle of last year. We STUFFED the run but at times struggled in pass coverage. But that has been a league wide trend this week so I am not overly worried about that.

I was really pleased to see a running game develop with Stevan Ridley but I am a bit worried about our depth at that position. I am MORE WORRIED about Nate Solder’s ability at left tackle. He missed or was late on too many blocks and he let Cameron Wimbley get a shot on Brady from behind that bloodied him up. We will miss the reliable Matt Light at left tackle this year. I pray that Solder steps it up.

The offense seemed decent but a bit shakey. Brandon Lloyd really had extremely poor technique in missing an easy touchdown bomb from Brady and there were a few other uncharacteristic drops as well. But overall we moved the ball well and finally got a little running game going.

While this was a team win with now true standouts, my MVP has to go to Ridley for making believe we might be able to run sometimes this year.

MVP: Stevan Ridley, RB


Dallas Cowboys over New York Giants, 24-17

Dallas put on a surprise showing for most in this game although I really was not that surprised by the outcome. Dallas defense was much improved over its inconsistent performance from last year and wide receiver Kevin Ogletree kind of came out of nowhere to be a force on offense. Overall it was a very efficient game for the Cowboys with mostly decent offensive line play, although the Giants Jason Pierre-Paul still looks to be the best defensive lineman in the league, and a solid running game. But really the key to the game was Tony Romo’s mobility. He was harassed often but used his feet to extend plays.

The second major factor in the game was the Giants defense was clearly sucking wind late in the third quarter and really didn’t do much to stop Dallas’s offense.

It will be interesting to see how these teams progress as the season wears on. The Giants always seem to start slow then finish strong, and Dallas has a habit of collapsing.

MVP: Kevin Ogletree, WR

San Francisco 49’ers over Green Bay Packers, 30-22

Solid defense, a decent running game, and a few big plays still equals a win in today’s NFL. And that is what the 49’ers brought to the table I this game. I keep wondering when Frank Gore will suddenly get old but he looked solid today. And the much maligned Alex Smith was hitting on his passes and even the mecruial Randy Moss got himself a touchdown pass.

The defense for the 49’ers was very solid and impressive.

Green Bay suddenly doesn’t look like the hot team everyone favors for a Super Bowl run. And frankly their defense looked pretty ragged and their running game non-existent. If they hope to the big game again, they probably are going through San Francisco (or maybe Atlanta)?

MVP: Frank Gore, RB

Denver Bronco over Pittsburgh Steelers, 31-19

Denver already had a solid defense. Now they have Payton Manning, who makes any offensive automatically better. They schooled the Steelers whose defense is growing ancient before our eyes and their offense was anemic at best. The Broncos defensive backs really shut down the Steelers recievers and I thought Tracy Porter was the best player on the field other than Manning.

The other thing that stood out to me in this game is Willis McGahee. I mean this guy is old and washed up right? I’ve never seen him play better.

After this performance the Broncos, so far, look like a force to be reckoned with. And despite the offense clicking, I thought the defense was even better!

MVP: Tracy Porter, CB

Baltimore Ravens over Cincinnati Bengals, 44-13

If you asked me right now who the best team in the NFL is it would have to be the Baltimore Ravens. Flacco played as good a game at quarterback as I have ever seen him play. He was poised, made great decisions and seemed much more calm in the pocket that is his norm. Ray Rice was running well, Torrey Smith had a few big plays, and Michael Oher at left tackle seemed to be getting off the ball faster and be more comfortable on that side of the line that he as been in the past.

And the never aging Ray Lewis? Are you kidding me? And Ed Reed (who keeps getting hurt but so what?). It’s week one but this team was clicking on all cylinders.

MVP: Joe Flacco, QB

San Diego Chargers over Oakland Raiders, 22-14

This was a very painful game to watch at times. The Raiders early on in the game constantly kept shooting themselves in the foot with stupid penalties. And then by now everyone probably knows of the fiascos in the punting game that occurred after the regular long snapper went down with an injury. I don’t think I have ever seen three botched punt attempts in one game. Two, yes. Three? Never that I can recall. And those were as good as turnovers. But the Raiders defense hung as tough as they could throughout the game. A big shout out to former Patriots defensive lineman Richard Seymour who had a great game in a losing cause.

I do have to say, without any vulgar references, what does Trent Dilfer have for Philip Rivers? For the past few years, hearing Dilfer talk, you’d think Rivers walks on water. Trent Dilfer is the most idiotic, worthless, know nothing announcer in the game today. I got sick of hearing him blather on senselessly throughout the game.

But back to the game! If San Diego barely escapes winning a game with a mistake prone Raiders, and Kansas City can’t do much more than they did against Atlanta, then those three teams are probably just conceding the division the Payton Manning lead Denver Broncos in the AFC West.

MVP: Antonie Cason, CB


Washington Redskins over New Orleans Saints, 40-32

Robert Griffin III had the best rookie quarterback debut I can ever remember. He really reminds me of a much, much, much more mature version of Michael Vick. He was poised in the pocket, has a rocket arm, and for the most part made good decisions. Across the board the Redskins looked better in this game than I have seen in a long, long time. The offensive line, a big question mark coming into the season, played mostly very well with a few glitches. Left tackle Trent Williams played well, of course against a rust Will Smith, and out of nowhere for most Alfred Morris, the sixth round draft pick from Florida Atlantic showed why he is the starting running back.

The Saints, meanwhile, looked as discombobulated, mistake prone, and had scads of penalties which fueled the should have been blowhout. While one can see how explosive this offense can be, this game would not have been nearly as close had it not been for a blocked punt and poor calls by the referees.

After bounty gate I am glad to see the Saints get there cumuppance. And while I am not, by far, any kind of fan of the Redskins, they suddenly look intriguting.

MVP: Robert Griffin III, QB

 

PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

Offensive Player: Robert Griffin III, QB, Washington Redskins
Defensive Player: Tracy Porter, CB, Denver Broncos
Offensive Lineman: Manny Ramirez, G, Denver Broncos
Special Teams: David Akers, K, San Francisco 49’ers (Tie NFL record with 63 yard field goal)
Rookie of the Week: Robert Griffin III, QB, Washington Redskins

2010 NFL Football Season: Week Ten Observations

General Observations

Michael Vick. I hereby officially and unequivocally eat my words. When Michael Vick took over the starting job for the Philadelphia Eagles I said he would never be more than a running quarterback. I predicted he would look brilliant at times and has a cannon for an arm but would make bad throws and poor decisions just like he did in Atlanta not allowing the Eagles to get over the hump. I couldn’t have been more wrong. When Vick has been healthy he is the best quarterback in the league. He brings an unprecedented threat of the run at the quarterback position but now makes good decisions in the pocket and throws the ball more accurately than I ever saw from him in the past. He has always had an unbelievable arm. The only reason he didn’t make my Midseason All Pro team is because he missed too many games because of injury. Were I picking the team after Philadelphia and Vick embarrassed the Washington Redskins I’d go Vick, Brady, Manning (Peyton). I must say that I have a hard time getting over his abuse of poor dogs, but he has been simply amazing this year when healthy.

Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboys showed up against the Giants after being railed on in the press all week about being quitters. I wonder how long it will last?

Brett Favre. Brett Favre stunk, throwing three interceptions in the Vikings loss to the Bears. Now he says he needs an MRI on shoulder. I wonder what excuse he will come up with next. Brad Childress is gutless or Favre would be on the bench. Neither Childress or Favre are likely to be back next year with the Vikings.

Terrell Suggs. Suggs should keep his fat, ugly, slobbery lips closed and quit making a fool of himself. Shut up already.


GAMES I WATCHED

New England Patriots over Pittsburgh Steelers, 39-26

I was really worried last week that the embarrassing loss to the Cleveland Browns exposed our young defense for what it really has been all year, a bit undisciplined, a bit out of place, and at times a bit soft. This game proved otherwise. As in the game with the Minnesota Vikings the Patriots defense played tough, hardnosed, disciplined football, while the offense found some rhythm, built a lead, and never looked back.

The offensive line of the Patriots played a wonderful game. Left tackle Matt Light has struggled more than I am used to seeing this year but he did a great job against James Harrison. Granted he often had a little help from Algae Crumpler and the Steelers attempted to play more coverage than blitz, nevertheless Light handled himself well. And Logan Mankins added that little bit of toughness and meanness to the offensive line that was sorely needed against a team like the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Overall I thought the Patriots game plan on both sides of the ball was excellent and Tom Brady played a great game. Of course you give just about any quarterback the kind of protection Brady had they are going to slice you up.

The only bothersome part of this game was the defense playing so soft in the second half keeping the Steelers in the game and making me nervous until the final seconds ticked off the clock.

MVP: Tom Brady, QB

Atlanta Falcons over Baltimore Ravens, 26-21

The Atlanta Falcons are an impressive team and will be a real threat in the playoffs. Matt Ryan is a calm, cool customer at quarterback and Roddy White is having a career year at receiver. Along with a solid offensive line, a thumper in running back Michael Turner, and a very good, solid defense, other NFC teams better take notice.

After building a 13-7 halftime lead that really should have been more, the Falcons let the Ravens back in it in the second half. Both teams hds very nice drives for touchdowns in the fourth quarter, but Atlanta had the last laugh with the last score and the win. Both teams are upper echelon teams.

Roddy White had a great outing with 12 catches for 138 yards and two touchdowns, including the game winner. He has always been a very good receiver but this year he is having the best of his career.

MVP: Roddy White, WR

Indianapolis Colts over Cincinnati Bengals, 23-17

Cincinnati is fun to watch, mainly because it is so comical watching them beat themselves week after week. The defense and Chad Ochostinko played well enough to win this game. Ocho was making great catch after great catch. But five turnovers, including three interceptions by Carson Palmer, one that was returned for a touchdown, just doomed the Bengals.

The Colts played well enough, especially on defense. Their offense, significantly hampered by so many injuries, was a bit mistake prone. There were a lot more dropped balls and miscues than I am used to seeing from a Colts team on offense, but they were good a lot of the time and excellent at other times.

But this game was very winnable for the Bengals. They gave up five turnovers, one an instant touchdown, and still only lost by six points. Carson Palmer was just simply horrible in the second half. And Terrell Owens, after a great outing last week, didn’t even look like he showed up for the game. He clearly short armed a few balls, one which lead to a Palmer interception.

MVP: Kelvin Hayden, CB

Dallas Cowboys over New York Giants, 33-20

You never know what is going to happen when two bitter division rivals meet. Records don’t matter. With new coach Jason Garrett at the helm and players admitting they didn’t show up last week in an utterly unprofessional, embarrassing outing against the Green Bay Packers, the Cowboys woke up and played football. The Giants, on the other hand, did their best imitation of the Dallas Cowboys this season and were just plain awful in nearly every phase of the game.

Many pundits touted the Giants as the best team in the league before this game but they have had some major clunkers this season.

Dez Bryant, the Cowboys rookie wide receiver is about the only player that has showed up week in and week out and this week as no exception.

MVP: Dez Bryant, WR

Chicago Bears over Minnesota Vikings, 27-13 (DVR)

Brett Favre’s three interceptions plus a couple of nice kick returns by the Bears’ Devin Hester doomed the Vikings to another loss. I really am sick of the Favre soap opera this year. I’ll be glad when he is finally gone.

While the Bears looked pretty decent at times in this game Cutler just doesn’t cut it for me as a quarterback. While he had a decent outing he too threw a few interceptions. While his offensive line is a struggling mightily, he doesn’t help them much as he seems to run right in to trouble. And let’s face it this team just does not have the personnel to run a Mike Martz style offense. They are not fast enough, their offensive line isn’t good enough, and they don’t frankly seem smart enough to get it done.

MVP: Devin Hester, WR/KR

Philadelphia Eagles over Washington Redskins, 59-28

This game was simply mindboggling. I don’t believe I have ever seen an offensive performance as unbelievable as the one the Eagles put up against the Redskins. From the first play from scrimmage, an 88 yard touchdown pass from Michael Vick to DeSean Jackson, through a lighting quick 35-0 lead, the offense just embarrassed the Redskins. I frankly don’t know if the Eagles are this frighteningly good, or the Redskins defense just had a horrible off day.

Vick played as well both passing and running as I have ever seen a quarterback play. It was simply amazing to watch.

I will give this to the Redskins, I never throughout the game got the feeling that the team quit. They fought hard and played hard throughout. This just very clearly was not their night.

And let’s face it, as bad as McNabb has played this year, the offensive line is a disaster, he has what would be a fifth or sixth running back on most teams, he has no good receivers except maybe the aging Santa Moss and the dinged up tight end Chris Cooley. He really is in a no win situation. Now, maybe if he were a Peyton Manning or Tom Brady. But he never has been, never will be.

MVP: Michael Vick, QB

PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

Offensive Player: Michael Vick, QB, Philadelphia Eagles
Defensive Player: Kelvin Hayden, CB, Indianapolis Colts
Offensive Lineman: Max Jean-Gilles, Philadelphia Eagles
Special Teams: Devin Hester, KR/WR, Chicago Bears
Rookie of the Week: Dez Bryant, WR, Dallas Cowboys

2010 NFL Football Season: Week Two Observations

I know this is coming grievously late this week but I was out of town without Internet access.

What a wild week this was with two things standing out strongly, many starting quarterbacks being pulled or losing their jobs and Super Bowl aspirants Dallas and Minnesota staring off 0-2.

Quarterback Shuffle

I cannot remember seeing this many starting quarterbacks pulled or losing their jobs this early in the season. Most of the quarterbacks benched or losing their jobs are marginal starting quarterbacks or ones we have a lot of questions about. Let’s look at the list.

Vince Young (Tennessee) was pulled against the Pittsburgh Steelers after multiple interceptions but will retain his starting job. While there are a lot of questions about Young, he was facing one of the top three defenses in the league and really had a poor outing. While I am not a big believer in Young, he should bounce back from this one.

Jason Campbell (Oakland) was pulled in favor of Bruce Gradkowski in Oakland’s close win over the St. Louis Rams. To top it off, Campbell has now lost his starting job, after being signed to be the man in Oakland. While I like Jason Campbell a lot as a person, I have never been sold on his abilities as a starting quarterback in the NFL and it looks like this may be his last stand as a viable starter in the league, although I would not be surprised to see him back behind center at some point this year.

David Garrard (Jacksonville) was pulled out of the game against Denver but there really are not great options behind him. He has been a steady, if not stellar, quarterback for the Jaguars.

Trent Edwards (Buffalo) has lost his job to Ryan Fitzpatrick after a rather shaky start to the season. I doubt this will help the Bills woeful offense.

Matt Moore (Carolina) lost his job to rookie Jimmy Clausen out of Notre Dame so we will now have two starting rookies in the league to watch get pummeled.

And of course the change everyone is talking about is Michael Vick replacing Kevin Kolb as the starting quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles. Last week I said Vick is not a long term option at quarterback because of his poor decision making and teams being able to scheme against his running. Time will tell if I am right.

Dallas and Minnesota

Dallas and Minnesota both entered the season with high expectations. Now they have both started 0-2 and staring 0-3 in the face. Of the two Dallas seems better positioned to turn things around quickly. While they have problems on the offensive line, they have great talent at skilled positions on offense and an outstanding defense.

Minnesota is in trouble. Brett Favre is clearly not in sync with is injury depleted receiving corps and they could be in for a long, miserable, season.

GAMES I WATCHED

New York Jets over New England Patriots, 28-14 (On NFL Game Rewind)

The loss of Kevin Faulk to a season and possibly career ending ACL injury is a devastating blow to the Patriots offense. This 12 year veteran has been one of the most reliable third down backs in the league for years and is Brady’s go to guy on third down. He is going to be sorely missed.

The Patriots simply looked lost on offense in the second half of this game and did nothing right. With Darrelle Revis out of the game the Jets double teamed Randy Moss and did a good job of covering Wes Welker. And without being able to establish any kind of run, the Patriots simply couldn’t get anything done offense.

Unfortunately, the Patriots’ young defense was exposed in the second half, especially cornerback Darius Butler. They made Mark Sanchez look like the second coming of a young Joe Namath. Hopefully the defense will improve under the tutelage of Bill Belichick. They better.

LaDanian Tomlinson looks to have young legs and his 31 yard run setting up the go ahead score got it all started for the Jets. Of course it didn’t help that linebacker Rob Ninkovich missed the tackle on the play.

MVP: LaDanian Tomlinson


Cincinnati Bengals over Baltimore Ravens, 15-10

Joe Flacco looked awful in this game. He looks uncomfortable in the pocket, even with a “normal” pass rush, misses open receivers, and seems to be rushing his decisions even when he doesn’t have too. Something is going on with Flacco and whatever it is isn’t good. There is no reason an offense with this kind of talent should be struggling to move the ball and in this case a lot of blame has to be placed on Flacco’s poor play.

On the other side of the ball, despite all the talk about this being a down year for the Ravens defense, they are playing at an extremely high level and had an excellent game. The Ravens just could not overcome the four interceptions and poor offensive play.

The Bengals bounced back after last week’s loss to the Patriots but like the Ravens, it’s their defense that is turning in stellar play. The offense with Chad Ochostinko, Terrible Terrell Owens, and Cedric Benson really did not get much done against the Ravens defense. It was an unimpressive performance by both teams on offense.

MVP: Jonathan Joseph, CB

Houston Texans over Washington Redskins, 30-27

The Redskins somehow blew a 17 point third quarter lead to lose to the Houston Texans in overtime. That somehow was Andre Johnson, who right now may be the best receiver in the league. He had a monster game against the Redskins, particularly in the second half when the game was on the line, and on a twisted ankle at that. It was a gutsy performance by the entire offense and proves the Texans may have finally turned the corner and become an elite team. But they need their big name defense to step it up more if they hope to challenge for the AFC crown.

Washington played a surprisingly excellent game on offense. Donovan McNabb looked as good as I have ever seen him. While the Redskins did not do much in the running game, their passing game was clicking but just could not quite get it done. The loss of rookie left tackle Trent Williams really hurt them as backup Stephon Heyer simply is not all that great at pass blocking. Jamaal Brown will likely move to the left side, a position he played at an All Pro level in New Orleans before suffering a knee injury.

The question for the Redskins is was their offensive performance because of a weak defense or do they really have something going?

MVP: Andre Johnson, WR

Indianapolis Colts over New York Giants, 38-14

There really isn’t much to say about this game except that the Manning Bowl turned into the Stupor Bowl. The Colts just smashed the Giants from beginning to end. The Giants defense could do nothing to stop the Colts and the Colts defense was determined to redeem their embarrassing performance last week against the Texans. And as soon as the Colts got a big lead and the Giants were forced to pass it was all over. Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis just pinned their ears back like rabid dogs and attacked Eli Manning.

MVP: Peyton Manning, QB

New Orleans Saints over San Francisco 49’ers 25-22

The 49’ers handed the Saints an early Christmas present. They gave this game away. A snap over Alex Smith’s head for a safety and multiple turnovers doomed the 49’ers to defeat. Otherwise, they played quite well and could have, should have won the game but for the mistakes.

The Saints, like last week, looked amazing on offense on some drives, and totally out of sync in others. You can still see this team slowly coming together on offense and their defense is vulnerable but opportunistic. Having received two early passes in games they could have lost bodes well as they start to coalesce on offense. And while the loss of Reggie Bush for several weeks to injury will hurt, they have a lot of talent on offense.

The 49’ers just need to clean up their mistakes. They looked solid and well rounded on offense and their defense played well for the most part against one of the best offenses in the league. But you can’t win games making stupid mistakes.

MVP: Garrett Hartley, K


PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

Offensive Player: Javid Best, RB, Detroit Lions
Defensive Player: LaRon Landry, SS, Washington Redskins
Offensive Lineman: Duane Brown, T, Houston Texans (now suspended four games)
Special Teams: Mike Nugent, K, Cincinnati Bengals
Rookie of the Week: Javid Best, RB, Detroit Lions

2010 NFL Football Season: Week One Observations

Wes Welker Scores Against the Bengals

A new season is upon us and it should be an exiting one.

In the NFC we wonder if the New Orleans Saints can repeat as Super Bowl champions, if all the hoopla over the Dallas Cowboys will end again in ignominy, if Brett Favre can take a depleted receiving corps back to the playoffs, if the San Francisco are as good as advertised, and how will the only rookie starting quarterback in the league, Sam Bradford, fare in St. Louis?

The AFC appears to be even more wide open than the NFC. Several teams have a legitimate shot at Super Bowl glory. The New England Patriots with a healthy and hot Tom Brady, Wes Welker, and Randy Moss and a young defense should improve over the year and be a contender. The New York Jets and their slothful undisciplined coach say they are the heirs to the AFC East. The Baltimore Ravens are loaded on offense and their defense looks as good as ever. The Pittsburgh Steelers defense has proven to be as formidable as ever and when Big Ben gets back their offense should improve. The Indianapolis Colts are always a tough team and the Houston Texans are emerging. Meanwhile, the San Diego Chargers may or may not slip. They are in the weakest division in the AFC and despite losing their opener, will likely have a spot in the playoffs.

Before jumping in the games I watched this, a few big picture headlines that week one revealed.

  • Brady, Welker, Moss and the offense are back and as good as ever.
  • New Orleans appears to have started right where they left off last year, with a powerful offense and defense that is solid. They are the favorites to emerge from the NFC.

  • Minnesota, after the tiresome annual saga of Brett Favre’s retirement dance, suddenly found themselves without receivers. Their defense is solid but their opening salvo on offense bodes ill for their chances this season.

  • Thankfully, for once, we won’t have the annual will the Indianapolis Colts go undefeated as they spank the teams in their weak division. Houston hung a loss on the Colts, and if their offense line continues to struggle, Peyton Manning is in for a long season.

  • Will Michael Vick be the Eagles starter this season?

  • San Francisco is not as good as we thought they were.

  • Dallas continues to shoot itself in the foot.

  • Finally, for the most part the defenses in the league seem to have started the season a step ahead of the offenses. This is likely to change as the season progresses but as someone who loves the defensive side of the ball, it was refreshing to see.


GAMES I WATCHED

New England Patriots over Cincinnati Bengals, 38-24

One word: Welker.

It was a very happy sight to see Wes Welker looking like, well, Wes Welker, after his amazingly fast recover from reconstructive knee surgery after suffering an injury in the last game of the season last year. WELKER! WELKER! WELKER!

Tom Brady also looked very sharp in this game, as did the entire offense. It was good to see a little bit of the running game back in the game plan, although I still think they could run the ball even more. Fred Taylor seemed to have fresh legs in the first half and the running back by committee approach worked. And I continue to be amazed at how older players like third down back Kevin Faulk can continue to be so effective.

What was also heartening to see is the very young defense with two rookie starting cornerbacks holding up well against the powerful Cincinnati Bengals offense with two of the best receivers in the league. I did get somewhat worried in the second half when the Bengals had two back to back sustained scoring drives. Barring injury I expect the defense to continue to improve as the season progresses. While it was not a lock down defense, it was good enough to win this game.

And Brandon Tate! His kickoff return for a touchdown to start the second half was crucial, as it turned out, to extend the lead. Instead of providing even more momentum for the Patriots, it almost seemed like the Patriots players thought the game was over and played really rather poorly in the third quarter. The defense suddenly looked vulnerable and the offense didn’t do much either.

The Patriots played a very good all around game while the Bengals really didn’t get started until the second half. But for us Patriots fans the story was Wes Welker.

As a side note, good riddance Baloney Lauren Maroney. And don’t worry about Randy Moss, he’ll be fine.

MVP: Wes Welker, WR


New Orleans over Minnesota Vikings, 14-9

There are really a lot of storylines to this game.

The Saints look like a Super Bowl team. While their offense did struggle a bit their two scoring drives were dominant and once they started running the ball in the second half, they locked the game up. If they can continue to mix in a solid running game with their vaunted passing attack they will be very difficult to beat this season.

The Saints’ offensive line was the most dominant unit in the game and the best I saw all weekend. Guards Carl Nicks and Jahri Evans, along with center Jonathan Goodwin, completely dominated Minnesota’s defensive tackles, Pat and Kevin Williams. Maybe the Williams boys need to get back on that supplement that almost cost them a suspension. They got punked in this game. And I really have to give a huge shout out to Jermon Bushrod. He totally handled my 2009 defensive player of the year Jared Allen entirely on this own. Last year I got a lot of criticism for favoring Carl Nicks over Jahri Evans as my All Pro guard. I did so because last year Nicks often had to help Bushrod, who really was the weak link on the offensive line. I don’t know if this is a one game stellar effort by Bushrod or if he has really improved that much. If continues this level of play the Saints may even be better this year than last.

In the second half the Saints finally started running the ball with Pierre Thomas, who ate up the clock and moved the chains. He has solid performance behind the dominant offensive line and I felt it was a great change of pace by Sean Peyton.

Minnesota, meanwhile, looked awful on offense. With Sydney Rice out for at last half the season and Percy Harvin ailing and running lousy routes, there really were no receivers open to throw to. Bernard Berrian looked awful in preseason and woeful in this game as well. He seems to have completely disappeared. I was surprised Greg Camarillo did not see more action in the slot.

Minnesota’s defense did not play up to their usual standards on the defensive line but they settled down and did manage to hold the Saints to 14 points. They are battling injuries in the secondary and Antoine Winfield is also coming off an injury plagued 2009 and really did not play up to his usual standards. It was great to see linebacker E.J. Henderson back in the lineup and playing extremely well after suffering a gruesome broken femur last year. I though his career was likely over, but clearly it’s not.

Minnesota is likely to continue to struggle on offense unless the receivers get their heads out of their ass and start playing football.

While Carl Nicks and Jahri Evans are better and played wonderfully, I am giving the most valuable player award here to Jermon Bushrod for handling Jared Allen.

MVP: Jermon Bushrod, T

Green Bay Packers over Philadelphia Eagles, 27-20

Let the quarterback controversy begin! The Eagles offense looked absolutely miserable in the first half. Kevin Kolb was harassed and the receivers weren’t really getting open but he wasn’t doing much either. I am not sure if it is because Michael Vick kept entering the game and did not allow Kolb to establish a rhythm or something else, but once he sustained a concussion and Vick took over the offense came to life. But, that was mostly because of Vick’s legs. His running really broke the game open for the offense even though they still fell short in the end.

It will be fascinating to see what transpires this season now that Kolb might be out for a few games and Vick will be the starter. If Vick is successful it will be hard for Andy Reid not to keep him behind center once Kolb is healthy. But you know what? Vick will never lead a team to the promised land (although he has sent quite a few dogs to doggie heaven). His success in this game was mostly his running ability. Just like in Atlanta, once teams scheme against him, his inaccurate passing and poor decision making will catch up with him. Yes, he may have a rocket arm and can throw the ball 60 yards with a flick of the wrist, but Eagles’ fans should not get too giddy over the possibilities. Unless he continues to be a running quarterback he will not be that dynamic, and eventually teams will catch up with the Eagles if Vick is at the helm.

Green Bay didn’t really look all the wonderful either. The offensive tackles had a hard time handling the rush but they did manage a couple of really nice touchdown drives. The star of the game was Clay Matthews, Jr. who was all over the place on defense and recorded a couple of sacks.

MVP: Clay Matthews, Jr., LB

Washington Redskins over Dallas Cowboys, 13-7

GOAT: Jason Garrett. And no, that is not for “greatest of all time” but idiot. I am sure everyone has seen the play by now, but at the end of the first half, in bad field position, with little time left on the clock, the Cowboys ran a short sideline route to Tashard Choice who ended up fumbling the ball which was returned for a Redskins touchdown and was the difference in the game. What made this play so stupid? First, the Redskins offense was doing absolutely nothing and had only a 3-0 lead. Scores were clearly going to be a premium in this game and with so little time left on the clock, the smart move was simply to run the time off the clock and regroup in the second half. Secondly, the play had no chance of even netting enough yards to get into field goal range. It was stupid play call, period, for that situation.

What this play and head coach Wade Phillips’ comments after the game shows is that Wade Phillips is not in control of this team. He basically threw Jason Garrett under the bus by saying they should have kneeled on the ball, didn’t know why the ran a play there, and tersely said the defense (which he runs) did its job and did not give up a touchdown. I believe they will continue to be destiny’s stepchild this season.

Otherwise, both teams struggled a great deal on offense. Dallas’s offensive line did not protect Tony Romo well but they finally got going late in the game to finally make a run for a win, but alas they failed. A holding penalty on the last play of the game negated a would be game winning touchdown. It was clearly holding too so nobody can gripe about the call.

The Mike Shanahan era started off with a win over archrival Dallas on Dallas’s home turf. While it was not a dominating or particularly impressive win, especially on offense, it was a win. As usual, the Washington defense is very solid this year, as they have been in year’s past. While they have sometimes been criticized for not getting enough turnovers, they are basically a very sturdy unit.

The offense, however, was woeful and did nothing. Shanahan needs to find a way to fix that quick because they won’t be winning many games like this otherwise. He can thank DeAngelo Hall for the fumble recovery and touchdown, which was the difference in the game. Or, send Jason Garrett a thank you card for the gift.

MVP: DeAngelo Hall, CB

Baltimore Ravens over New York Jets, 10-9

The New York Jets are an undisciplined team and reflection of their coach, the slovenly Rex Ryan. They shot themselves in the foot with penalties and giving up big plays on third and long when they had the Ravens’ offense on the ropes, which was the difference in the game. Add to that the harassment by Jets players of a female reporter also shows a lack of professionalism, decorum, and discipline, again a reflection of their head coach. The Jets may very well implode this season.

The Jets defense continues to be a stellar unit, one of the best, if not the best in the league. But their offense looks awful and Mark Sanchez has not proven, yet, that he can be a starting quarterback in the NFL. They were facing another top defense in the Ravens, so maybe time will tell.

The Ravens defense played excellent football and Ray Lewis continues, in his fifteenth NFL season, to be one of the best defensive players in the league. He got some great hits on the Jets, and the rest of the unit played excellent as well. I was surprised at how the offense was so throttled, however, even facing the Jets. With Joe Flacco, Ray Rice, and a very good offensive line, Anquan Bolden, Derrick Mason, and Todd Heap, I thought they were loaded on offense. The Jets bailed them out with bad penalties most of the game and Ravens were lucky to escape with a win.

MVP: Ray Lewis, LB

Kansas City Chiefs over San Diego Chargers, 21-14

I was happy to see the Chiefs beat the Chargers on Monday night but Chief’s fans shouldn’t get too excited. It was really two big plays on offense that sealed the deal, a great 56 yard touchdown run by Jamaal Charles and a 94 yard punt return for a touchdown by rookie wide receiver Dexter McCluster were the keys to the game. Otherwise the offense looked anemic and Matt Cassel really did not do much to distinguish himself.

The Chief’s defense did play well. Defensive tackle Glen Dorsey finally looked like a first round draft pick in this game and the defensive backs did a very nice job on the Charger’s receivers, especially Brandon Flowers.

Philip Rivers made himself look like a complete idiot and proved what a jerk he is yelling at his teammates and carrying on a like a petulant child in the second half. While indeed his teammates made mistakes, I can’t imagine that endears him to his offensive line or establishes him as the leader of the team. They did almost come back and win, however. Rookie running back Ryan Matthews had a decent game, but he gave up a fumble that lead to a touchdown, helping the Chief’s secure the win.

MVP: Dexter McCluster, KR/WR

PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

Offensive Player: Arian Foster, RB, Houston Texans (231 yards rushing, 3 TDs)
Defensive Player: Clay Matthews, Jr., LB, Green Bay Packers
Offensive Lineman: Jermon Bushrod, T, New Orleans Saints
Special Teams: Brandon Tate, WR/KR, New England Patriots
Rookie of the Week: Dexter McCluster, WR/KR, Kansas City Chiefs