NFL 2012 Season Week Six Observations: Is Ray Lewis’s Career Over?

Observations from Week Six

Ray Lewis: Hearing that Ray Lewis is probably out for the season with a torn triceps, which could possibly mean the end of his career, is kind of tragic. To me there are only three current NFL players that absolute locks for being first ballot Hall of Famers, Ray Lewis, Tom Brady, and Peyton Manning. (Now I know some will argue that Eli Manning and probably Ben Roethlisberger will get in too because of their Super Bowl wins, but they are not as good as those threes. Eli will probably get in for his last name as much as his heroics in the playoffs.)

In my time watching football only two linebackers jump out as being otherworldly, Lawrence Taylor and Ray Lewis. It will be a shame if we suddenly no longer see Ray Lewis on the field again. He has been the heart and soul of the Ravens entire team since its beginnings in 1996 and his name will forever be linked to the franchise that he has been the face of for nearly two decades.

I’m obviously not a Ravens fan, but you can’t help but be a fan of Ray Lewis.

Baltimore Ravens: With both Ray Lewis and Lardarius Webb out for the season, and Ed Reed not really playing like the Ed Reed of old, the Ravens could be in trouble. They have world of talent on offense but still don’t seem to get it all together. They are a lucky 5-1, but they have made the plays to win games. But their defense could be in trouble, even if Terrell Suggs does come back soon.

Parity in the League: Everyone thought the Houston Texans were the best team in the NFL but the beat down they received by the Green Bay Packers really exposed them. The Atlanta Falcons are undefeated but won some very close games and are clearly beatable. The 5-1 Ravens are in the same category as the Falcons and look vulnerable, especially on defense with the injuries to Ray Lewis and Lardarius Webb. The San Francisco 49’ers came into the season as the favorite pick as the number one team but they’ve lost two games. Meanwhile, the Patriots look average at 3-3. It should make for an interesting second half of the season.

Thursday Night Football: I’m not sure I am all that in favor of the Thursday Night Football every week. Favored teams seem to play down to the level of their competition and exposes players to injuries.

The Week of Meltdowns: I thought Tom Brady was the goat of the week against Seattle with his two interceptions and intentional grounding penalties essentially costing us the game, or maybe Tony Romo who just can’t get his offense to make the plays necessary to win a game. But Philip Rivers took it to an entirely different level in his complete meltdown against the Broncos Monday night. It was one of the worst quarterback performances I have ever seen. And the Houston Texans added to the trend Sunday night with their own embarrassing performance against the Green Bay Packers.

Russell Sherman, CB, Seattle Seahawks: Keep your mouth shut punk. You’re embarrassing yourself.


GAMES I WATCHED

Seattle Seahawks over New England Patriots, 24-23

I really hate saying this but Tom Brady was the goat in the New England Patriots loss to the Seahawks. Granted our defensive backs, especially our safeties, were atrocious during the game. And letting Golden Tate catch the ball deep in the fourth quarter for the winning score was a total and utter unacceptable blunder by Travon Wilson of the Patriots. That defense is designed NOT to give up the big play.

Nevertheless, Tom Brady’s two poor decisions on the interceptions, one in the red zone, were extremely costly. His intentional grounding at the end of the first half that required a runoff kept us from kicking a chip shot field goal. And his intentional grounding late in the game gave Seattle the ball in really good field position. Eliminate any of those four plays and we probably win the game. Eliminate all of them and might not have even been close.

The most worrisome aspect of this game is it exposed New England as an average team with a weak defense. The lack the killer instinct they had a few years ago to put teams away, and instead of making the two or three key plays a game to pull out close ones, they are the ones making the mistakes that cost them games. It’s real concern.

Seattle’s defense, despite giving up nearly 500 yards on offense, still won the game for them. They may have the best collection of starting defensive backs in the league and they match up well against bigger receivers. I like quarterback Russell Wilson and think he has a very promising future. His mobility and ability to get the ball down the field are impressive. But right now he’s not that great of a quarterback and don’t see Seattle matching up down the line with the hotter teams. But you never know, Green Bay and San Francisco are both struggling, the New Orleans Saints are all but out of it, so it could be one of those years an unexpected and maybe somewhat average teams rises from the pack. We’ll see.

MVP: Russell Sherman, CB

Tennessee Titans over Pittsburgh Steelers, 26-23

Pittsburgh definitely did not have their best outing against the Titans, except for Isaac Redman who had over 100 yards receiving. Once he got hurt, it seemed Pittsburgh’s offense couldn’t do much of anything. Tennessee didn’t really do all that much either. Kenny Britt dropped the ball, ran wrong routes, but still had some key plays to get the win. It was still an entertaining game though since it was close and came down to the wire. Given all the sloppy play though, Rob Bironis and his four field goals win the day.

MVP: Rob Bironis, K

Baltimore Ravens over Dallas Cowboys, 31-29

Baltimore has been really, really lucky to be 5-1. In fact all their games have been close. Dallas rushed for well over 200 yards against the Ravens and still found a way to lose. But on the flip side of that Baltimore has had a knack for making the key plays to win games, in this case a record tying 108 yard kickoff return by Jacoby Jones, which ultimately was the difference in the game.

Both teams came away from this contest with significant injuries, more so Baltimore who lost Ray Lewis and starting cornerback Lardarius Webb to season ending injuries. Defensively, Baltimore may be in big trouble. Dallas lost starting running back Demarco Murray to a foot injury near the end of the first half. Before that he was on pace for a 200 yard plus rushing day.

The story of this game, Dallas continues to be pretenders and not contenders.

MVP: Jacoby Jones, WR/KR

Green Bay Packers over Houston Texans, 42-24

There were a lot of total meltdowns by teams and players this week, and Houston was certainly part of that parade. They got thumped by the Green Bay Packers on both sides of the ball while Aaron Rodgers put on a clinic in his six touchdown performance.

Houston’s defense, presumably one of the best in the league, not only got thrashed, but was undisciplined and completely fell apart in the second half. And the Packers defense shut down the run while Matt Schaub couldn’t get anything going. This really exposed Houston, at the time considered by some to be the best team in the league, as certainly beatable. The Packers simply steamrolled them.

Clay Matthews, Jr. was a beast, as usual on defense for the Packers. But J.J. Watt, Houston’s contender for Defensive Player of the Year, was erased.

For Green Bay, is this a sign they are back on track to where they were the past two years? Was Houston exposed as weak, not well rounded football team? Time will tell.

Denver Broncos over San Diego Chargers, 35-24

The biggest, most embarrassing meltdown of all ended the week as Philip Rivers completely imploded in the second half with five turnovers, poor quarterbacking, and just atrocious play all the way around. The Broncos, led by Peyton Manning overcame a 24-0 halftime deficit to come back and win the game. Of course they were largely aided by two defensive scores for 14 of those points and a tough defense, but the poise of Manning and the offense in the second half was still impressive.

This is typical San Diego and Norv Turner coached football, good solid talent but just get it all together.

Frankly, I found it fun to watch.

MVP: Peyton Manning, QB

Washington Redskins over Minnesota Vikings, 38-26

Robert Griffin III. End of story.

I mean really? The running, the smart passing. RG3 is carrying the Redskins right now and making everyone around him better. If, and that is a big if with his style of play and the Shanahans’ stupid play calling putting him at risks constantly on option plays, he is going to be a phenomenal.

MVP: Robert Griffin III, QB

PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

Offensive Player: Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers
Defensive Player: Clay Matthews, LB, Green Bay Packers
Offensive Lineman: Michael Oher, T, Baltimore Ravens
Special Teams: Jacoby Jones, WR/KR, Baltimore Ravens
Rookie of the Week: Robert Griffin III, QB, Washington Redskins


2012 NFL Season Week Five Observations

Steven Ridley takes handoff from Tom Brady

Some Quick Thoughts on Week Five

Chop blocks: I agree with Clay Matthews — the chop blocking I saw this weekend was troubling.  Brian Cushing was injured, maybe for the season, a block from the side, right on or below the knee, by Jets Guard Matt Slauson.  It was clearly an illegal play.  Ironically, while not illegal, it was the Houston Texans guards I saw going low, from the side, on defenders they were not engaged with.  In fact, that is how just defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson got hurt when he had to leave the game.  Any of these so called “zone blocking” scheme teams are prone to these low blocks on defensive players they are not engaged with.  I saw low blocks by the Broncos as well against Patriots.  Not sure how much can be done about it within the current rules but it’s one that will continue to put defensive players are risk.

Rookie Kickers: I don’t think I have seen a year when you had three such unbelievably good rookie kickers in Matt Blair of Minnesota, Billy Hunter in Baltimore, and Greg Zuerlein with Rams.  And the Rams have a great rookie punter as well in Johnny Hekker.  Makes me wish the Patriots had one now that Gostkowski has a case of the misses.

GAMES I WATCHED

New England over Denver, 31-21

Coming into this game I really wondered how we’d fare against a team with a good offense and defense.  Thankfully, the Patriots look back in some semblance of top form, at least on offense.  I love the balance attack with the running and passing game going.  Not being so one dimensional on offense will serve the team well going throughout the season.  The defense also played reasonably good, opportunistic football.

MVP: Stevan Ridley, RB

Baltimore over Kansas City, 9-6

It was awfully painful to watch the Chiefs utterly self-destruct against the Ravens.  The Chiefs pretty much outplayed the Ravens the entire game except turnovers.  And the turnovers just killed the Chiefs chances of winning.  And I am sorry but Matt Cassel has played terribly this year.  I hated to see him get hurt and think that fans that cheered that should be ashamed.  But, it is time to give Quinn a chance to see what he can do, although if his past performances are any indication, he probably won’t do much better.  It’s a shame too because there is talent this team otherwise.  The Cheifs beat themselves in this game and handed the Ravens a win.

MVP: Ray Rice, RB

St. Louis over Arizona, 17-3

Exposed.  That is what Arizona was on Thursday night.  Not so much their defense, although even that unit has seen it’s better games, but th offense was just awful.  But it has been all year long, the defense just kept bailing them out, until Thursday night’s loss to the Rams.  The Cardinals offensive line is embarassing.  It seems defensive ends have career days against them every week. They can’t run the ball.  And while I don’t think Kolb has much chance back there, even when he does he doesn’t always do much with it.  I feel sorry for Larry Fitzgerald who I think is the first or second most talented reciever in the league (along with Charles Johnson of Detroit).  He has a bad quarterback coupled with a bad offensive line.

I frankly I am not a big beleiver in the Rams or Sam Bradford, which is surely and unpopular stance.  I love Danny Amendola though, and it’s too bad he got hurt this year again and will be out for a while.

Chris Long just schooled the Cardinals tackles.

MVP: Chris Long, DE

New Orleans over San Diego, 31-24

Fair or not, I just can’t root against the Saints after the bounty scandal, not this year at least.  But I like San Diego even less so this game left me wanting both teams to loose, although I probably leaned a little toward the Saints.  The Saints and Drew Brees got the offense rolling late in this one and never looked back, as Drew Brees broke Johnny Unitas consecutive game with a touchdown pass record at 48.

Given the weakness of the AFC West, at least until Denver starts winning some games against good teams, San Diego might be in the drivers seat.  It will be interesting to see how that race plays out this year.

MVP:  Drew Brees, QB

Houston over New York Jets, 23-17

The New York Jets played well enough to win this game.  But they made mistake after mistake after mistake, espeically on offensive, leaving them no chance to beat a good team.  And it was not all Mark Sanchez’s fault.  It was just a sloppy, mistake prone offensive game.  It was also rather poor blocking by the offensive line as well.  Only Nick Mangold is any good.  D’Brickshaw Ferguson has always been wildly overrated.

The defensive backs played really well containing the Oilers passing game with the exception of a few gaffs, but the defensive line and linebackers were just mauled by the Texans offensive line.  They gave us some really big runs to Arian Foster.  But they hung in and kept them to field goals instead of touchdowns enough to give their offense a chance.  Their offense just didn’t take advantage of it.

I don’t think the Jets are as forlorn as many, but this could be a tough year for them.

MVP:  J.J. Watt, DE

PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

Offensive Player: Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, New York Giants [200 yds rushing]
Defensive Player: J. J. Watt, DE, Houston Texans
Offensive Lineman: Eric Winston, T, Kansas City Chiefs
Special Teams:  Johnny Hekker, P. St.  Louis Rams
Rookie of the Week: Andrew Luck, QB, Indianapolis Colts

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 11 Observations

GENERAL OBSERVATIONS

Top Ten Teams

Philadelphia Eagles. While not as dominating a performance as last week against the Redskins, the Eagles won a division game against a tough opponent and shut down Giants’ running back Ahmad Bradshaw.

Atlanta Falcons. I don’t know what the Falcons strength of schedule looks like but it can’t be great. But they keep rolling along with a solid offense and defense.

New York Jets. The Jets’ come from behind wins week after week are pretty amazing. If the Patriots and Jets both win on Thanksgiving the Monday Night match up the following week will be the biggest game of the year so far.

New England Patriots. The Patriots constantly giving up big leads week after week is a real concern for Patriots fan. While the offense seems to have found a rhythm, the defense hasn’t matched up. This could ultimately be their downfall.

Baltimore Ravens. Not much to say about the Ravens game this week against a depleted and woeful Carolina Panthers unit.

Pittsburgh Steelers. After getting convincingly beaten by the Patriots last week the Steelers made a real statement in blowing out the Oakland Raiders.

Green Bay Packers. The shellacking of Minnesota this week must have been sweet for Aaron Rodgers and the Packers.

New Orleans Saints. It will be interesting to see if the Saints can regain their dominant form they showed last year. They seem to be on a bit of a roll now.

San Diego Chargers. San Diego is starting to look like the Super Bowl contender they were supposed to be. This is a very dangerous team in a weak division.

Indianapolis Colts. The Colts dropped a little this week after losing to the Patriots but only because the Chargers played so well.

The New York Giants dropped off the top ten list this week after losing a home game to the Eagles.

Trent Dilfer

Along with Tom Jackson, Trent Dilfer joins my all time least favorite announcers/analysts list. This guy is complete idiot and does not belong on television. The first week of the season he was the announcer for the San Diego Chargers versus Kansas City Chiefs game. I taped the game and watched it the next day and started right at the kickoff so I wasn’t even sure who the announcer was, I just thought he was an idiot. He kept going on and on and on and on ad nauseum about how great San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers is. I thought, gee is this guy married to Rivers?

Every time I see him on television he makes me sick with his stupidity. I turn the channel when I see him now. He was an awful quarterback too.

Brad Childress is Gone, Brett Favre Should Be Next

As soon as I saw that Brad Childress was finally fired from the Minnesota Vikings and Leslie Frazier named the interim head coach, I thought if Frazier really wants to take control of this team he has to release Brett Favre and see what Tarvaris Jackson can do as quarterback. Favre is as much of the problem with that team as Childress was and it will not be resolved until they show him the door. Favre has played horribly this year and clearly is the person who really that runs the team.

GAMES I WATCHED

New England Patriots over Indianapolis Colts, 31-28

After building up a nice 31-14 lead the New England Patriots defense gave up two really quick scores to the Colts in the fourth quarter, and nearly gave up a tying field goal or winning touchdown near the end of the game. This was heart attack city for Patriots fans and a cause for great concern. The defense is clearly still a work in progress but that progress better be a bit quicker as we reach the end of the regular season. The offense is not going to be able to put up 31 points on every team. And if we get behind it seems like the game could be over.

I am a glass half empty kind of fan after years and years of woeful Patriots teams in the late 1980’s and 1990’s, and I complained about the offense not doing more in the second half after a few bad series. But I was reminded that Peyton Manning threw three interceptions and the game loser, so I will just have to take that.

Danny Woodhead’s 36 yard touchdown run in the third quarter with little Wes Welker blocking downfield was a thing of beauty.

MVP: Danny Woodhead, RB

Chicago Bears over Miami Dolphins, 16-0

With third string quarterback Tyler Thigpen starting for the Dolphins off a short week I thought they were in big trouble, and they were. Add to that some injuries on the Dolphins’ offensive line and they were in even bigger trouble. The Dolphins offense just never could get it going and they were giving up a lot of yards on kick returns to Devin Hester that set up Chicago for an early lead that they never relinquished.

I think Thigpen is a decent quarterback and with a regular practice schedule and some protection can win some games for the Dolphins.

MVP: Devin Hester, KR/WR

Baltimore Ravens over Carolina Panthers, 37-13

This game went pretty much as expected with the Ravens dominating the undermanned Carolina Panthers on both sides of the ball. Nothing against Brain St. Pierre but when you sign a perennial backup and third stringer off the street to be your starter you are in big trouble. That goes doubly true if you are facing a ball hawking Ravens defense.

MVP: Ray Rice, RB

Philadelphia Eagles over New York Giants, 27-17

Despite being only a game up on the New York Giants in the NFC East, the Eagles staked their claim to the division title with a win over the New York Giants. While it wasn’t the otherworldly performance of a week ago against the Washington Redskins, the Eagles played good enough, especially on defense, to pull out a tough win. More impressive is the defense is playing better than it has all year long.

While the Giants are a bit banged up they are a strange team to watch week in and week out. Some weeks they look great and other weeks they look awful, even in some of their wins. You never know what Giants’ team is going to show up.

MVP: Jeremy Maclin, WR

San Diego Chargers over Denver Broncos, 35-14

Has a sleeping giant awoken from its slumber? After three straight wins and basically handing a game to the New England Patriots, the Chargers, even at 5-5, are poised to take the AFC West title if they keep winning. They have some tough matchups ahead but I am not a big believer in the Kansas City Chiefs or Oakland Raiders and the Denver Broncos are almost out of it.

This was a very dominating performance in all phases of the game by the Chargers. And while Philip Rivers was brilliant and really is having an MVP type season, backup running back Mike Tolbert set the tone early in the game with tough runs.

MVP: Mike Tolbert, RB

PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

Offensive Player: Steve Johnson, WR, Buffalo Bills
Defensive Player: Julius Peppers, DE, Chicago Bears
Offensive Lineman: Sebastian Vollmer, T, New England Patriots
Special Teams: Devin Hester, KR/WR, Chicago Bears
Rookie of the Week: Gerald McCoy, DT, Tampa Bay

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