Surprising upsets, shocking blowouts, and yet another collapse from Tony Romo. Let’s review the NFL’s opening weekend.
Week One Headlines
Dallas Rolls… until terrible Tony strikes again
At around 10:50PM ET, I started writing about how improved the Dallas Cowboys looked. About how the defense had a spark to it, a swagger, if you will. About how deep and talented the offense was and how hard it’d be to contain Dallas. About how Tony Romo appeared composed and confident, ready to finally lead the Cowboys back to the top of the NFC East and possibly further. Less than 20 minutes later, I deleted everything I wrote. That’s how long it took for Romo and the Cowboys to violently collapse and revert back to form.
Mistake #1: The, “I’m feeling too good tonight, I can’t be stopped,” mentality pushed Romo to take an ill-advised run at the goal line, ultimately costing the Cowboys three points and the momentum they owned the entire game to that point. When Romo is on, there are only a few quarterbacks better. However, the difference between Romo and say, Tom Brady, is that when Romo is cruising, he gets goofy. Almost like he’s having too much fun and ignoring how fast everything could fall apart. Brady is notorious for keeping his foot on the gas, wanting to score even when up 30. Running up the score isn’t in Brady’s vocabulary. There’s winning, and there’s losing. That’s it. Romo needs to maintain the focus and intensity he displayed in the first half for 60 minutes.
Mistake #2: Obviously, the blocked punt. Scrappy teams like the Jets rely heavily on special teams turnovers. Nothing swings momentum like a blocked punt, especially when returned for a touchdown. The Chargers missed the 2010 playoffs simply because of special teams. Don’t underestimate the significance of a punt in the 4th quarter, especially when on the road.
Mistake #3: The “Brett Favre-ian” interception to essentially seal Dallas’ fate. Tony Romo is Brett Favre. He’s a great quarterback who improvises better than most at the position. He’s not afraid to take chances or force a ball here or there. Favre did the same thing for 517 years and we loved him for it. And yet, most of us loathe Romo. Why? Hardware. Attitude. Brett Favre won a title, multiple MVP awards, and led his team to postseason victories. Even when struggling, he looked unshakeable. Romo, on the other hand, has yet to reach even a conference championship, has no accolades, and only one career playoff win. On the field, his demeanor is nonchalant and at times, fragile. Favre earned the leeway given to him. We’re still waiting to see Romo accomplish anything noteworthy.
Tables turn in AFC North battle
Clearly, the Green Bay Packers aren’t suffering from any kind of Superbowl hangover. Conversely, the Steelers appear extremely hungover. In getting shellacked on Sunday, Pittsburgh surrendered all the Big Brother mojo they had accumulated from owning Baltimore the past two years. The Ravens looked unstoppable offensively, quicker and tougher defensively, and more focused overall, to put it nicely. Once again, the relentless Terrell Suggs terrorized Ben Roethlisberger. Roethlisberger’s five turnovers made Jake Delhomme and Derek Anderson wonder why they’re unemployed this NFL season. It’s way too early to write anyone off (except maybe the Manning-less Colts), so ignore the “world is coming to an end” coverage surrounding the Steelers for the next few days. However, it’s no secret Pittsburgh’s defense is getting old. Ray Rice sliced and diced the slower Steelers, and Joe Flacco found little resistance from Pittsburgh’s secondary. Sunday’s beating was probably an aberration. Regardless, the Steelers age could cause more trouble than anyone expected.
Youth movement proves effective in week one
Have a struggling franchise and need a change at quarterback? Ignore the veterans and go young. As Sunday showed, opting for the proven, veteran quarterback over the young, oozing with potential, bright-eyed prospect, isn’t the best idea. Minnesota (Donovan McNabb), Tennessee (Matt Hasselbeck), Seattle (Tarvaris Jackson), and Indianapolis (Kerry Collins) all fell in defeat while Jacksonville (Luke McKown), Arizona (Kevin Kolb), and Cincinnati (Andy Dalton) all won with relatively inexperienced quarterbacks running the show. I understand the thought process behind signing a veteran instead of handing over the reigns to a greenhorn, but if winning is the ultimate goal, and you’re not going anywhere that season anyway, why not help your team down the line instead of salvaging 5-7 wins and weakening your draft position? The last decade has proven over and over and again that you simply cannot win without a solid quarterback. Aging veterans don’t join new teams and all-of-sudden turn into MVP candidates (except of course, Kurt Warner). Draft or trade for a young quarterback who can lead your team for several years and hope you did enough homework to choose correctly. It may not payoff right away, but at least your building toward something and not getting worse with an aging veteran in the meantime.
Someone take them to Chick-fil-A (NFL’s top 5)
1. Packers – Green Bay has won seven straight dating back to last season. Although the defense looked shaky in week one, the Packers stay number one until defeated.
2. Ravens – Undoubtedly the most impressive performance of week one. Baltimore DOMINATED a team many believed to be Superbowl contenders. It’s only one game, but impressive nonetheless.
3. Saints – The defense, once again, won’t win them any games. With Drew Brees at quarterback, they won’t have to.
4. Patriots – If they somehow lose tonight, just pretend you didn’t read this.
5. Bears – The Eagles, Chargers, or Jets could have easily been selected here. I chose Chicago because their defense manhandled what was thought to be one of the NFL’s best offenses. I’m not yet sold on the Bears as contenders because I don’t trust the offense, but Sunday’s win earned them the fifth spot.
(Last Week: N/A)
Hardly Ramen Noodle worthy (NFL’s bottom 5)
28. Rams – Obviously, this list is based on only one week, so it’s hardly indicative of how each team’s season will actually play out. Regardless, someone needs to make up the bottom five. St. Louis is here because they looked more out of sync than they did at any time last season. Injuries didn’t help, either.
29. Titans – Kenny Britt had a brilliant game. Unfortunately, he was alone in that department.
30. Seahawks – Seattle finally showed life in the 4th quarter. By that time, anyone watching was already bored to death.
31. Chiefs – Kansas City managed to out-suck the Steelers en route to claiming “Miserable performance of the week.”
32. Colts – And you thought the stock market took a tumble.
(Last Week: N/A)
Stock rising (but not in top 5, yet)
Panthers – Whoa, Cam Newton. Whoa.
Bills – I watched very little of this one, so I have no idea whether the Chiefs are that bad or Buffalo is better than expected. Still, the Bills dominated a 2010 playoff team from start to finish, on the road, nonetheless.
Redskins – Washington’s defense was incredible on Sunday. Rex Grossman wasn’t bad, either. I’ll give it another week or so before I declare Mike Shanahan may actually be sane.
Stock falling (but not in bottom 5, yet)
Giants – Eli Manning came out over the offseason and said he belonged in the same tier as his brother and Tom Brady. Good Call, Eli. Good call.
Buccaneers – As I preached all summer long, the Bucs smell like 6-10. Sunday proved me right, at least for now.
Falcons – Maybe it was a bad week. Maybe all those critics who said Atlanta would miss the playoffs (including myself) were right.
Things I thought and would’ve said on TV if someone paid me…
- Most depressing thing about Cam Newton’s exhilarating NFL debut: Watching a rookie making his first NFL start run the two minute offense better than Donovan McNabb did at any point in his NFL career. Sigh. (By the way, more on this game later in the week.)
- A friend and I had this conversation not more than two weeks ago:
Me: Who’s Ted Ginn with?
Friend: No clue.
Turns out, Ginn is in San Francisco where he squashed the Seahawks’ chances of a comeback by returning a kickoff and punt for a TD on subsequent possessions in the last five minutes of the 4th quarter. Ohio State considered Ginn’s performance the University’s highlight of 2011.
- Dez Bryant lit up the Jets on Dallas’ first drive of the game. New York responded by sticking Darrelle Revis on Bryant. Bryant had once catch on the next drive and zero after. Cramps, fatigue; blame whatever you want on Bryant’s disappearance. Revis shut him down before, during, and after his “injury” situation.
- I flip-flopped on Mark Sanchez six or seven times throughout Sunday’s game. I’m still undecided. Also, Plaxico Burress looked old. He didn’t have an impact until Dallas started pulling fans from the crowd and throwing them in at cornerback.
- The Bengals are 1-0 and could legitimately be 6-2 when they host Pittsburgh on November 13th. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
- It’s been a nice run, Donovan McNabb. (Has anyone thought to tell McNabb to release the ball a second earlier so his passes don’t one-hop to receivers?)
- I don’t at all understand the thought process of the Carolina Panthers on the team’s final possession. With 1st and 10 from inside the 15, Carolina threw two fade routes. With Cam Newton at quarterback, why eliminate his athleticism by wasting two of your last four plays on a fade? Newton can’t improvise or extend a play with that play call. Plus, he’s not Peyton Manning. The fade takes years to perfect. The probability of a rookie completing that pass is unlikely. Play to Newton’s strengths. As the most athletic player on the field, Carolina should have given Newton a chance to make a play instead of getting the ball out of his hands a second or two after the snap.
- I thoroughly enjoyed the beating Chicago put on Atlanta. However, I’m not looking forward to my Eagles bearing the brunt of Atlanta’s pent up frustration.
- Oh yeah, remember when I told you the Eagles, even on a bad day, would roll by the overrated Rams? Well, the Eagles had a bad day. And they rolled. So there.
- I caught only a few plays of the Titans/Jaguars thriller (yes, that was sarcastic), and from what I saw, Tennessee still stinks. And so do the Jaguars. Congratulations, Houston Texans on FINALLY winning the AFC South.
- Kevin Kolb didn’t find Larry Fitzgerald that often, but he did find eight different receivers while completing 67% of his attempts. Based on Sunday’s results, Arizona again has the division’s best quarterback.
- Nice to see Tony Soprano at the Jets game. I thought for sure he was in jail or dead.
- Well done, Budweiser and State Farm. Your 9/11 memorial commercials were moving and inspiring.
- Not well done, Verizon. You’re “come to me, now come, come” NFL Mobile commercial was enjoyable the first 43 times, but the 44th through 992nd times were too much.
Things I never thought and would not say this week…
- It was nice to see the Colts didn’t miss a beat without Peyton Manning.
- Shonn Greene is clearly the Jets feature back. (Seriously, he knows the goal is to make it beyond the line of scrimmage, right? Because I’m not convinced he does.)
- Talk of the Eagles suspect linebackers can finally be put to rest
- The Redskins won’t win six games with Rex Grossman at quarterback
- Calvin Johnson and Matthew Stafford can be added to Detroit’s long line of first round draft busts.
Fantasy Nightmare Football update of the week…
- For the second consecutive season, I had a running back score three touchdowns in week one. For the second consecutive season, that running back was on my bench. Well done, me. You’re an idiot.