NFL Week 1 In the Books
In keeping with recent tradition, I am once again late to the party with my Week 1 NFL recap post. I'm not sure exactly what I'll do during the season this year, but whether it is weekly "Winners and Losers" reports or something completely different, I will definitely be writing about The League Where They Play For Pay for the next 22 weeks or so right here at the blog.
So, Week 1....I've read some places about how great the week's play and the week's games were, but I have got to disagree with that. In fact, I almost can't believe how predictably horrible most of the play was. Except that I can believe it. Every single year it seems these days, the Under bettors make a killing in these early weeks, as teams are flat out just not ready to play. This is why I kind-of chuckle when people talk about eliminating two more of the preseason games. Every year it takes a good month or so for even the good teams to truly shake off the rust and start playing good football. In fact, this season's Week 1 was the most predictable of all, in that, just like every single year, the good defenses looked pretty good, but it was the offenses that were just completely out of sync. Many of the thought-to-be big offensive teams -- teams like the Saints, the Vikings, the Cowboys and the Chargers -- laid absolute eggs in Week 1, other than maybe a random scoring drive here or there somewhere in the game. And even the matchups themselves were really not all that compelling, outside of the Thursday night, Sunday night and Monday night matchups which were really hand-picked to showcase the league as the NFL season kicked off last weekend.
Biggest Win: What was the biggest win of Week 1? There are a few notable contenders (Seattle crushing the 49ers in Pete Carroll's first game back in the NFL after dumping-and-running on USC, the Steelers winning one in overtime against a strong Atlanta squad during Big Ben's four-game absence), but I think the winner here has got to be the Houston Texans finally getting over the hump and beating the Colts to start the season. Texans quarterback Matt Schaub did not have the biggest game of his life, but he protected the ball well, and in the end did a great job handing the ball off to his backs who absolutely shredded the Colts' run defense which looks to be starting off in 2010 right where it left off late in 2009. And the most important point of all is that Houston just won baby. After taking the Colts to the brink in the regular season in each of the past couple of years only to let Peyton Manning snatch away a victory in sometimes miraculous fashion at the end, this time it was not one, not two, but three touchdown runs from Arian Foster in the second half -- two in the fourth quarter alone -- that neutralized Manning's incredible late push and lifted the Texans to a huge win in what could be a big season this year after a lot of people forget they posted their best season record ever last year at 9-7. Playoffs anyone?
Biggest Loss: What was the biggest loss of Week 1? It's not the Colts, whose defense got pretty much embarrassed by a no-name back but who can and almost surely will still come back and win 11 or 12 games this season. Not the Vikings or Cowboys, for the same reason (although their offenses did look pretty damn anemic). Ultimately, I think this comes down to two contenders. The runner-up to the biggest loss has got to be the hapless Detroit Lions, who had a win pried out of their dead hands by -- you're not going to believe this now -- an overzealous referee who decided with zero time left on the clock to take a game that the Lions had won, and instead decide in his own judgment that the Bears were now the winners. That was one of the sickest instances of referee abuse I've seen in the NFL since...well...at least since the Superbowl last year.
Anyways, the Lions' loss of that game in that fashion, in addition to losing starting quarterback Matt Stafford, was a crushing blow to a team and a city that really could use some good news for a change. But the worst loss of Week 1 I think has got to go to the San Francisco 49ers, who
"The Call": How sad is it that here we are in Week 1, and we've already got the referees completely and utterly ruining and reversing the overall winner of a game, and doing so like complete and total baboons? You can tell me till you're blue in the face, Fox Sports or ESPN or Rich Eisen, that the touchdown rule is that possession must be retained until after the player hits the ground in the end zone, but you can't ignore this one simple cold, hard fact: Calvin Johnson's catch at the very end of the Lions game has been a touchdown several times a season for the past thirty years. Period. It is a touchdown, it's always been a touchdown, and you can trot out any rulebook you want now but nothing can change the fact that Calvin Johnson caught that ball in the end zone, it was the go-ahead score and time expired on the play. Just like with the idiot ump with the perfect game for the Tigers earlier this summer, there's no room for error here -- this referee single-handled altered the result of this game, and it's just Week 1. And a team that desperately needed to win this game given how close they came and their recent history. Anybody gonna be surprised when it comes out in five years that this referee actually intentionally fixed this game under pressure from organized crime or something? How much you wanna bet?
QB Controversy: Hard to believe it, but there really is already a quarterback controversy brewing strong in Philadelphia. Starting quarterback Kevin Kolb looked like an abject doofus in there for a half until he suffered a concussion that is all but sure to keep him out of the Eagles' Week 2 matchup in Detroit, while backup qb Mike Vick came in and looked really good both passing and running the ball while still not able to climb all the way back from the 20-point hole that the Eagles' non-existent defense let them team into early. Now the fans of Philadelphia are in an uproar, Vick should be the starter, he's better anyways.
He's better anyways? Did you not watch Vick in there last year over several games? The universal conclusion is that he was great as a change of pace guy, but as a regular starting quarterback? That seems very iffy, even after seeing him admittedly play pretty great in one game in Philadelphia. But I mean, didn't this team just anoint Kevin Kolb its quarterback of the future? Hasn't Andy Reid spent the summer extolling the virtues of "his guy" Kevin Kolb and how excited he is to begin the Kolb Era in Philly? And hey, correct me if I'm wrong here, but wasn't this team so sure about Kolb's prowess throwing the ball that it trade away its star quarterback to another team in the division at a time when he is still far and away the most athletic guy on the field most days when he plays? And now you want to replace him based on a little more than one quarter in to the new season? These guys must be from Philadelphia. I've made no secret here that I don't love Kolb at all and that I'm not at all comfortable with him as our Quarterback of the Future. But even I know that once the team has made this kind of commitment to him, it would be pure moron to even consider switching Kolb out now for anything other than medical reasons. This team's priority right now has to be clearly to get Kolb healthy and get him back out there to keep executing on its stated strategy of Kolb Forever. Mike Vick played well the other day and I am really glad he is on this team as our backup. But Eagles management made its bed with Kevin Kolb the day they signed on the dotted line with the McNabb trade, and replacing him after 20 minutes of football would be just about the dumbest ending to that story in NFL history.
JaMarcus Russell Award: Here is one I will probably keep up from last year heading in to the 2010 NFL season, and you know, I thought about renaming it since Russell will pretty much never even sniff another NFL game again in his life, but in the end I just don't want the award to lose its cachet. What JaMarcus Russell did last year in Oakland was pretty much the stuff of legends, and I want to keep that memory alive by retaining JaMarcus's name in this award as well as through my coverage during the 2010 season.
So who are Week 1's contenders for the JaMarcus Russell award to the worst quarterback performance of the week? There are lots of options:
1. Shaun Hill, Lions. After Matt Stafford injured his leg early in this game, Shaun hill came in and posted some remarkable stats: 9 for 19 passing for 88 total yards, no touchdowns, and one interception. QB rating: 38.9.
2. Matt Moore, Panthers. 14 for 33 (42% completions) for 182 yards, 1 touchdown and 3 interceptions. Plus 4 sacks. QB rating: 32.6.
3. The aforementioned Alex Smith, 49ers. 26 for 45 for 225 yards, 0 touchdowns and 2 picks. QB rating: 52.5.
4. Matt Cassel, Chiefs. 10 for 22 for 68 yards, 1 touchdown and 0 picks. QB rating: 68.0.
5. Mark Sanchez, Jets. 10 for 21 for 74 yards, 0 touchdowns and 0 picks. With his 2 sacks on the day, Sanchise's QB rating is 56.4 so far in this young season.
As bad as Sanchise was on the day -- and he pretty much could not possibly have looked worse -- I think this one has to go to Jake Delhomme's replacement in Carolina, Matt Moore. Although you have to admit, Cassel and Sanchise's lines of 10 completions for around 70 yards on the day are chuckle-inducing, it's just those the three interceptions that really put Moore over the edge, and help keep his qb rating at that impressive 32.6. At 32.6, it's hard to argue that Moore did anything well on the day at the Giants.
All that said, let's not forget the greats, the old-timers, who always did it better than it gets done today. JaMarcus Russell's line from Week 1 last season for the Raiders? 12 of 30 passing (ha ha!) for 208 yards, 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions, for a final QB rating of 47.6. Now there's a man who truly knows how to suck in style.