COWHEELS' CORRAL: NFL Week 1 Is National Jump to Conclusions Week




Ryan Johnson

The Redskins FINALLY beat the Giants. The last time the Giants dropped a game to the Redskins, George W. Bush was still the president of the United States. A new president, Barrack Obama, is nearing a bid for a second term. I’m sure Redskins’ fans are glad they knocked at least one monkey off of their backs (for now). On the other side of this, the Giants looked hideous. They were held to just one third down conversion in the entire game and didn’t put as much as a field goal on the board in the second half of the game. I’m not ready to jump on the Redskins’ wagon or declare the Giants dead in the water, but this is something to monitor. 

Two of last year’s surprise teams; the Cleveland Browns and Kansas City Chiefs dropped “gimmie” games. In Cleveland’s case, they were competitive, but there were certainly indications that they have to keep chopping wood. At worst they have the excuse of the Bengals being a divisional rival in the back pocket. The Chiefs weren’t so fortunate; they got absolutely run off the field by a team that won 4 games a year ago. It’s not yet time to panic in Kansas City because the NFL evolves from week to week much more from year to year, but they may be further away than it initially appeared. I certainly don’t think teams with real playoff aspirations or at least ones that don’t have tons of work to do get blown out by Chan Gailey-coached teams.

The NFC West will continue to be a blight on the NFL. The Cardinals were victorious, but allowed controversial rookie QB Cam Newton to pass for a rookie opener record of 422 yards, 2 TDs (with an interception) and ran another in for a score. It wasn’t just the raw numbers that were impressive about Cam’s performance, but the nonchalant manner in which he went about it. It appeared that the Cardinals were no different than LSU or Arkansas to him. Who knows what Cam will end up being at the NFL level, but in any case I think it says a lot about where the Cardinals are. To be dominated by a rookie QB playing his first game in a year where development for these types of players has probably been stymied doesn’t bode well for their prospects this season. Elsewhere in the division, the Rams predictably got rolled over by the “Dream Team” tour bus. Offensively, it still doesn’t appear that they have any reliable targets for Sam Bradford and defensively, they were overmatched. I don’t think anyone could get upset at the Rams for losing this game, but unfortunately for them, Sam Bradford and Steven Jackson suffered injuries during it. For the Rams’ sake, I hope their recoveries are speedy. 

Rounding it all out was a BARN BURNER between the Seahawks and 49ers. And when I say BARN BURNER, I mean a game where one team’s QB sported a 5.3 YPA and the other team kicked 4 field goals. Predictably, the team with the 5.3 YPA QB lost, but amazingly his team was in the game until they gave up two punt return TDs in the final five minutes of the contest. As you may or may not have noticed, I haven’t referred to either team by name. Would you be surprised if the events had unfolded either way? The 49ers still being quarterbacked by Alex Smith for reasons currently unknown and the Seahawks have been known for their special teams prowess. But largely, it doesn’t matter which team did what.

And speaking of blight upon the NFL, the Indianapolis Colts sans Peyton Manning look like front-runners for Andrew Luck. I think the AFC South is largely a trash division and if Manning could’ve missed like 4 games, they would’ve still been in the thick of it. Doesn’t appear that will be the case and he’ll miss a significant portion, if not all of the season. With that being the scenario, it’s hard to envision the Colts not hitting double digit losses and not just ten, I’m thinking twelve or thirteen at least. I read a tweet prior to the Colts-Texans game starting that proclaimed “this is the year we find out that Peyton is a 7 WAR player” (for you non baseball fans, 7 wins above a player of replacement ability and for the sake of this let’s assume Kerry Painter is replacement quality). Seems apt enough to me. I’m sure the Colts would’ve won at least 10 or 11 games with Manning healthy, without him 3 or 4 seems pretty realistic. The entire football watching public is about to come to realization once and for all that Peyton Manning is the most dominant individual athlete in the NFL and it’s not really close (sorry Pats’ fans).

In closing, it wasn’t a very good week for some so called “contenders”. The Falcons got clown stomped by a Bears team that many includi
ng yours truly have pegged for some major regression. Their OL looked completely over-matched and their secondary covered absolutely no one. Again, not time to panic in Atlanta, but that was a head scratcher. The Pittsburgh Steelers were another one. Their issues seemed to have more to do with just running into a buzzsaw. There are some games where one team is just at a higher intensity level than the other. I felt like the Ravens from kickoff took this game a lot more seriously than the Steelers took it. I’m sure the dominance the Steelers have displayed in this rivalry played a factor in it. They had to be thinking, we’ll find a way to win this like we always do, but it never materialized and the snowball kept rolling in Baltimore’s favor. On the cooler side of the pillow, some other “contenders” did what they were supposed to do. First off, team that I’ve pegged as possibly the new “model franchise”; the Green Bay Packers looked just short of unbeatable against New Orleans to open the season on Thursday night. True enough, New Orleans gave them a scare, but New Orleans also features one of the better offenses in the league. In the end, Green Bay was just too complete for them and I don’t think many teams will be able to match up with them totally. Elsewhere, AFC East powers the New England Patriots and New York Jets defeated the Miami Dolphins and Dallas Cowboys, respectively. For New England, it was a bit easier as Tom Brady finished the night with one of the better performances by a quarterback in the history of the league, throwing for an unreal 517 yards with 4 touchdowns (1 interception), a 66.7 completion percentage and over 10 yards per attempt. In a week where the world is beginning to see just how dominate Peyton Manning is by watching his team play without him, Brady answered by playing one of the best games of his career. For the Jets, it was a narrow escape from the middling Dallas Cowboys. No shame at all in what the Jets were able to accomplish though. They did the most important thing on Sunday night, leave victorious. Down by 14 points in the 4th quarter, they did the very improbable. They combined a “clutch” Mark Sanchez touchdown, a blocked punt for a touchdown and a 50 yard field goal to score 17 points in the final frame. When the story of the 2011 NFL season is told for the Jets, this will be one they were glad to have put in the bank. I don’t think many would argue that the teams who go far have to take a few like this. Sadly (though not surprisingly), it was against the team I root for.

Heel Out.

_________________

Follow Ryan Johnson HERE, and check out John Hathwell’s game-by-game musings HERE.
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