Monday, September 12, 2011

NFL Is Back and Just Like Before

Although I still have not posted my completed set of predictions for this year's twelve NFL playoff teams -- that should definitely be done within the next day or two -- I just had to mention a couple of things I noticed from the Week 1 games. It's amazing really, how much the more things change, the more they stay the same in a lot of ways, and the beginning to the 2011 NFL regular season so far rang very similar in a lot of ways to what we saw in 2010 in corresponding situations.

For starters, the Saints-Packers game last Thursday to start the 2011 NFL regular season, if that was not a continuation of 2010, I don't know what is -- in particular for Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense. But both quarterbacks and both offenses, really -- Rodgers went an extremely efficient 27 for 35 for 312 yards, 3 touchdowns and no picks, and Saints qb Drew Brees chipped in at 32 for 49 for 419 yards, also with 3 touchdowns and no interceptions. If those two teams had played at the end of the 2010 regular season, we probably would have seen the exact same thing, with more or less the exact same outcome. But when Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees battle it out to a 132.1 and 112.5 qb rating, respectively, I'm definitely getting shades of last year all over again.

I should also mention along these same lines that that entire Cowboys / Jets game last night was like one big massive glitch in the matrix deja vu. I mean, the Jets pretty much got outplayed from start to finish. The Jets defense simply could not come up with the big play when they needed it through 58 minutes in the field, and they allowed the opposing offense to move the ball enough to grab and maintain a fairly comfortable lead. Jets qb Mark Sanchez made a couple of crucial mistakes and led the team on a couple of inept drives in huge spots, including late in the 4th quarter when the game should have been by all rights over. But then suddenly it's a ridiculously bad play leading to a touchdown runback for the Jets' defense late in the game, and then the opposition completely collapses again on offense in an unthinkable, Brett Favreian moment for Tony Romo. Even that pick by Romo, over to the sidelines, in the final minute of a game, with the game tied so that the only thing Romo cannot do is throw an interception, haven't we seen that exact thing not all that long ago our of the exact same quarterback in Romo, in that exact same, tie-game-final-minutes-drive spot? I definitely remember it, I think against the Giants a couple of seasons ago on a national game. So the Jets pull out a victory after sucking it up pretty much on both sides of the ball for 98% of the game, and Tony Romo steps down hugely and ridiculously in the biggest moment of the game. Sound familiar?

The Bears were another team that basically picked right up here in 2001 where they left off in 2010. As I wrote about last week, if there was ever a team with low expectations after making the NFC Championship game the year before, and basically losing nobody of real significance in the offseason, it is this year's Chicago Bears. And yet, despite once again being picked against by basically everybody this week with the Falcons coming to town -- just like we saw everyone doing last year whenever the Bears played in a big game, over and over again -- Jay Cutler did the same thing he did over and over again in 2010 that led his team to the conference finals in the first place -- he played great. Just as I felt watching Atlanta get drubbed out of the postseason at home by the Packers in the first round of the playoffs last year, it was clear right from the getgo that the Falcons were outmatched this weekend, and just like last year, it was Brain Urlacher and the Bears' ferocious defense making the big plays to make sure the team held on for the big victory.

Even the Eagles basically showed up in St. Louis for the start of the 2011 regular season the same way they played through most of 2010. Philadelphia fell behind early after the defense gave up a gaping hole and a nearly 50-yard run on the very first defensive play from scrimmage on the season -- with the big play being a constant problem for the Eagles; defense all through 2010 including especially in the postseason against the Packers -- but then the Eagles turned it on and basically blew out the Rams from then on. Michael Vick threw for 187 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions -- recall Vick's amazing touchdown to interception ratio in 2010 -- and Vick chipped in with 98 yards rushing as well on the day, joining with 122 yards on the ground and two total touchdowns from runningback LeSean McCoy, and 6 catches for 102 yards and a score from star wideout DeSean Jackson to create a three-headed onslaught on offense that no team could withstand.

And speaking of the Eagles, then there was Donovan McNabb, the aging, too-old-for-the-league veteran. D-Mac's line on the day with his new team in Minnesota? 7 for 15, for 39 yards, one touchdown and one pick, for a passer rating of 47.9. And this guy was behind center for every offensive snap for his team on the day, which mustered a total output of 28 yards in the air. 28 yards passing, with McNabb at the helm all the way through. This is like Washington from 2010 all over again for Donny Mac, isn't it? Only this time, we might need to rename the JaMarcus Russell award if things don't pick up in what could be a looong year for McNabb and the Vikings.

Of course, there were a few areas where things were completely different from 2010 as well, including the bitter blowout of the colts at the hands of the Oilers, and the Bills absolutely schmeistering Todd Haley and the Kansas City Chiefs. I was also surprisingly impressed by Rex Grossman and the Redskins, who took it to the New York Giants and called into question just how good the men in blue will be in the NFC East during 2011, what is likely to be head coach Tom Coughlin's last season in charge in the Big Apple. But for me, it was more the similarities than the differences that stood out about the Week 1 action this year as compared to my recent memories of a lot of these teams and a lot of the players making the big plays for them.

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Blogger lightning36 said...

Could you believe that when the Cowboys had a chance to pass into Jets territory for a possible last-second game-tying field goal ... Romo is surprised by the snap?

The Bears offensive line still has questions, but this team played a great game start to finish. The next two games against the Saints and Packers will tell how real the Bears are.

Oh -- and speaking of Rex Grossman -- he had a steady learning curve heading straight up with the Bears, and then one day he seemed to forget everything. Rex is capable of having very good games, but unless things have changed, expect that the old Rex will start showng up fairly soon, making poor decision, throwing off his back foot, and generally lose his confidence.

8:28 PM  
Blogger Hammer Player a.k.a Hoyazo said...

Yeah, I picked the Cowboys as an Over this year, but I have to admit, seeing Tony Romo go right back to his old non-clutch self at the end of that game definitely had me reconsidering my pick. I just cannot believe some of the poor decisions he makes or the big-time flubs he has been a part of in huge spots.

Maybe this will be the year that the Eagles clinch the NFC East in Week 10 and don't have to sweat a bunch of games at the end of the season or rely on a late-second dramatic punt return to nail it down.

10:22 PM  

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