Tuesday, September 13, 2011

NFL Week 1: Keep Your Pants On

Ah, week 1 of the NFL season is always a wonderful time of year. Sure it's still 100+ degrees in Texas and our houses are, literally, catching fire, but somehow Fall is still in the air. And it all started with a tremendous Thursday night game between the past two Super Bowl Champs that featured one of the best kickoff returns for a touchdown I have ever seen, in fact kickoffs is where it all begins.

NFL Returners to New Kickoff Rule: ROFL
Certainly it started with the Randall Cobb's sick kickoff return for a TD on Thursday night, but throughout the weekend we saw some remarkable kickoff returns. And this in the face of the new rule that should have made touchbacks as popular as John Lackey at an infielders convention. Yet there were folks running them out of the end zone like quick snapshot of average starting field position for the four teams over this past game 1:

Minnesota Vikings 37.6
Green Bay Packers 34
Detroit Lions 20
Chicago Bears 15

If you look across the league the over reaction to the kickoff rule was intense, and that might just be why kickoff teams were not as agressive as in past years. Look again at both the Harvin return and the Cobb return, in both cases they have clear daylight until at least the 20...so why not return it out of the end zone? The true test will be next week, and I expect to see the kickoff rule go into deeper effect, simply because the kickoff team will actually get down the field.

Don't Over or Under React
Driving home from work on Monday night and avoiding any mentions of the Pats game so I could watch it without knowledge on the DVR I dialed up my friend who is a Redskins season ticket holder. When he answered I asked one simple question;

"Be honest. After yesterday's win did you check the schedule on the way to the car and calculate how many wins you guys will have now?"

He admitted he did exactly that and talked to me about how the entire stadium slowly filled with optimism throughout the game. Something that has not been in FedEx field for quite some time.

Last night I headed out to the local pub to watch the second game with a friend, who is a Cowboys fan. He was still rocked by the Sunday Night loss, acting as if a family member had perished in a tragic blimp accident over the Orange Bowl. He muttered throughout the conversation about his Cowboys and how they have no chance and "we'll be lucky if we get to .500".

And therein lies the challenge of judging week 1. The winners are in pure ectasy, making plans for the Super Bowl. The losers are depressed, thinking that they will be going through another long season of, well, losing. The truth is, you can't really measure a lot from week 1. Teams are rusty, especially this year. You have rookies who are nervous and vets that are over confident. You have coaches trying to implement new systems in a matter of weeks, and teams that have been together for a while.

My advice, wait until after game 4 to make a true judgement on your team. You'll know at that point if they are a contender or pretender.

Speaking of Rust: Uglies Missed Camp
WOW did offensive lines play poorly in week 1. The biggest offender? No surprise, Philly. That offensive line is suffering, but it doesn't get revealed due to the athleticsm of Michael Vick. Rewatch that game and you'll see pockets folding nearly instantaneously and zero push against a defensive line that isn't exactly a brick wall. But Philly wasn't the only one. Overall offensive lines seemed to have been the group that missed an extended camp the most. It takes these guys a while to get into game shape, and right now they are playing their way into game shape, and it shows.

Five for the Prize
  1. Green Bay -- Looking strong in defense of their crown, but more importantly they seem like they still want to prove something. On paper this team is better than last year, simply because they are healthy. It will be fun to watch.
  2. Houston -- My preseason pick to make the Super Bowl looked dominant against an Indy team many thought would be at least decent without their leader. Was it a fluke blow out or a testament to the fact that Houston has finally made the leap? We'll see, but I'm still on board with this team.
  3. New England -- As long as Tom Brady is alive and kicking this team will be in charge of their own destiny. The defense looked really bad at times, especially the d-line and the secondary, but they will gel over time. And the offense is clicking already.
  4. Baltimore -- WOW that was an ass kicking of a conference rival, with a bit of salt thrown into the wound at the end. I loved every minute of it, even if I can't stand the Ravens and their obnoxious fan base. This team is for real and I might just put them ahead of New England if it wasn't for my homerism.
  5. Philly -- I've been critical of their off season moves throughout, I just think they are putting together a Frankenstein rather than a team, but you cannot deny the raw talent and athleticsm of this team. They can out run, out jump, out throw, and out tough you. I'd say that is a sure recipe for a strong season.

Five for the Draft
  1. Giants -- Injuries are not helping this franchise, in fact they are hurting them (see what I did there?). If they can get healthy on defense they might be able to win 6 or 7 games. If not, you are looking at hiring Coughlin for your next company retreat as a motivational speaker.
  2. Kansas City -- Are we ready yet to crown Belichick as the king of the Pats and relinquish any credit from Scott Pioli? Can you imagine being a sports fan in that town right now? Painful.
  3. Seattle -- I don't even know what to say about this team, but the fact that Pete Carroll is still running around the sidelines as a mad man and giving crazy speeches post game has to count for something. Right? Right?
  4. Cleveland -- Granted Cincy is the next big juggernaught in the NFL...OK, even with my ongoing bet with Strout I can't even joke. Browns, how do you lose to Cincy that way at home. You are a bad team, and having watch Colt McCoy play several games in college and last year I'll tell you it's not getting any better. He'll have great weeks, and you'll get excited, but overall he'll dissapoint you.
  5. Denver -- You lost to an Oakland team that had better odds of going winless than pulling out three games this year. A team that's owner is older than Jerry Lewis. And you were at home, and you have a proven QB and head coach. Your team is terrible.

Oh, and Jaws said shit. That was fun, huh?

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