NFL Week 1: What We Learned

The SportmeistersAnalyst ISeptember 14, 2009

HOUSTON - SEPTEMBER 13:  Quarterback Mark Sanchez #6 of the New York Jets leaves the field with the game ball after defeating the Houston Texans 24-7 at Reliant Stadium on September 13, 2009 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

By Ryan of The Sportmeisters


With week one of the NFL season almost in the books, let’s take a look back at some key events that happened that could shape the rest of the year.


Rookie Quarterbacks

It seems like just yesterday that first round QBs were spending their first year on the bench, waiting and biding their time during their rookie campaign. Thanks to successful seasons in 2008 by Joe Flacco and Matt Ryan, teams aren’t necessarily waiting to open their prized package.

Look no further this season than Matt Stafford of the Detroit Lions and Mark Sanchez of the New York Jets. Both were thrown right into the fire as opening day starters, and both responded with solid debuts.

Despite being the first ever rookie to start at QB for the Jets, Sanchez played like a true game manager, throwing for 272 yards and his first career touchdown. He allowed the running game, led by RB Thomas Jones’s two touchdown performance, to take control and made his moves only when necessary.

While Stafford couldn’t lead Detroit to their first win, or stop them from getting closer to the longest losing streak ever, much has to be said about his performance.

Despite losing to New Orleans 45-27, Stafford kept the offense in the game for most of it, refusing to falter when the lead grew insurmountable at times. He did make a few mistakes, throwing three interceptions, but he did have his first rushing touchdown.

The Lions still have a ways to go, especially behind the arm of their number one pick, but they are making progress.


A Tip Drill

I’ve seen football games end in a number of ways, but after the Denver Broncos-Cincinnati Bengals ending, I don’t know what can top it.

With seconds left on the clock, new Broncos QB Kyle Orton threw a ball to WR Brandon Marshall. Bengals DB Leon Hall tipped the ball into the air, and right into the arms of WR Brandon Stokley.

Stokley then raced 87 yards down the field and into the end zone, giving the Broncos a 12-7 lead, and the victory by the same score.

For new head coach Josh McDaniels, this has been a trying offseason, and getting the win to start the season was a huge step for him. I don’t think he can win every game this way, but it doesn’t hurt to get the first one out of the way.

Also, a key element of that play was Stokley, who saw no Bengal around and ran down the two yard line, milking precious seconds off the clock before heading in for the score. Kudos to Stokley for a heads up play.


Madden Curse Strikes Again

Fans and athletes are superstitious. It’s a way of life. One of the more prominent superstitions is, if you’re on the Madden video game cover, you’ll have a poor season.

It’s a highly discussed topic because it does have a semblance of legitimacy. That was proven again during week one of the NFL season.

Safety Troy Polamalu of the Pittsburgh Steelers, one half of the Madden 2010 cover, was injured during his opening game against Tennessee Titans. He sprained his MCL, and will be out up to six weeks.

This is a crushing blow, as Polamalu is a huge presence in the Steelers secondary, and adjustments will have to be made for his absence.

The other cover boy, Arizona WR and highly touted fantasy football option Larry Fitzgerald, didn’t suffer an injury, and had a decent game, pulling in six catches for 71 yards and a touchdown.

Could the Madden Curse strike both cover boys? This is the first season with two of them. Or has Fitzgerald gotten off scot free thanks to Polamalu? This will be a story to watch.


Bye-Bye, Wildcat

Many teams lined up in the new fad offense, the “Wildcat”, but no team had any real success using it.

The best use of it came from Cleveland, who had WR Josh Cribbs in the backfield, and he was able to get a first down from it. Other than that, teams who used it didn’t find much success.

That can be attributed to defenses now practicing against it, as offenses plan on using it during this NFL season. I think the fad is going to wear out as the season rolls on, personally.


Contenders and Pretenders

Teams play four preseason games to shake the rust off, so when the regular season starts, they’re ready to rumble.

Thanks to the media, much hype is given to certain teams. So who lived up to the talk, and showed themselves as a contender after week one?

The Saints are an offensive powerhouse, and behind Drew Brees’s six-touchdown game they keep cementing their status as Super Bowl contenders with their win over Detroit 45-27.

The Brett Favre-led Vikings managed a 34-20 victory over Cleveland after a slow start. Adrian Peterson was a beast with 180 yards rushing. And Favre did the right things, managing the game effectively, and showing that Minnesota can beat you with a number of weapons.

Behind a rookie head coach and a rookie QB, the New York Jets proved a lot of doubters wrong with a convincing 24-7 victory over Houston. The AFC East is still Patriot Town, but the Jets could turn some heads in the wild card race.

As always, there are teams struggling to live up to the hype early on this season as well.

The Miami Dolphins led off their AFC East Championship defense with a flat showing at Atlanta, and with Indianapolis on the schedule next week, an 0-2 start could be looming.

The Chicago Bears were supposed to be studs after bringing in QB Jay Cutler. Well, Cutler looked shaky, LB Brian Urlacher was hurt, and the Bears fell to Green Bay 21-15. Cutler has to spread the ball around and this team has to get better, fast!

Coach John Fox of the Carolina Panthers has to be the first one with his head on the chopping block. The Panthers were horrible against Philadelphia, and QB Jake Delhomme fell apart again, committing five turnovers before being yanked.

With such a solid running and receiving game, why is Carolina struggling so much?