NFL Week 1 Stock Report: Whose Value Is Up and Whose Is Down?
Well, Week 1 of the NFL season is just about in the books, and there have been several revelations.
We'll get to those in a second, but here is what we expected and what was delivered as promised:
The 9/11 celebrations were moving. I got chills listening to Jim Cornelison belt out the "Star-Spangled Banner" and teared up at virtually the same time as I thought about the images of that fateful day.
As for football, it was pretty sloppy. It wasn't so much the penalties that caught my eye, but the big plays on kick returns. Ted Ginn Jr. was barely touched on his two touchdown jaunts, and it looked so easy that I couldn't help but feel that special teams will be a work in progress for the first couple of weeks.
Now for the more startling revelations...
Stock Up: Joe Flacco and the Baltimore Ravens
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It would have been very reasonable to predict that the Baltimore Ravens would have beaten the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday, but to embarrass them 35-7?
I think not.
Yet, that's exactly what they did, and Flacco was arguably the biggest reason why (other than the seven turnovers Pittsburgh committed).
I have been hard on Flacco in the past, especially for his work in the playoffs, but his effort in completing 17-of-29 passes for 224 yards and three touchdowns against no interceptions was impressive against a defense of the Steelers' caliber.
Stock Down: Tony Romo
You never like to put the loss of a team on just one player.
Tony Romo had no such problem.
"We lost this game because of me," he said.
You know what? He's right.
His late fumble near the goal line that prevented the Cowboys from taking a two-score lead and his interception that led to the Jets' winning field goal were inexcusable.
Romo was 5-of-12 in the fourth quarter for a passer rating of 39.6.
It's time to come to terms with what insiders have known for years: Romo is not and will not be a clutch player.
In fact, he'll lose the close game, which is why the Cowboys have to look long and hard about going to Jon Kitna and/or drafting a new franchise quarterback.
Stock Up: Detroit Lions
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Fans spent much of the offseason listening to how the Lions had improved and were ready to shake up the NFC North.
Now, I might believe it.
The 27-20 victory over Tampa Bay was Detroit's fifth victory in a row dating back to last season, and it revealed two important things in evaluating the Lions' prospects:
First, Detroit won a big game against a conference rival on the road.
Second, when Matthew Stafford is healthy, look out. His 24 completions out of 33 attempts for 305 yards and three touchdowns provided a stark contrast to Tampa Bay's Josh Freeman (28-of-43, 259 yards and a score).
Freeman has been hyped as one of the next superstar quarterbacks for a while; Stafford actually looked like one.
Stock Down: Kansas City Chiefs
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The Chiefs' 41-7 loss to the Buffalo Bills at HOME on Sunday was easily the most embarrassing loss of the weekend.
Even if you believe the Bills have improved, there simply isn't an excuse for how the Chiefs played, which would be apparently disinterested and lacking any sense of cohesion.
"We had a chance to make some plays, and we didn't make them," Chiefs coach Todd Haley said.
That might be the understatement of the season.
Jamaal Charles had an opportunity to build up big statistics against the worst run-defense in the NFL last season—he came up with 56 yards. The Chiefs only had journeyman tight end Scott Chandler in check; he caught two touchdown passes.
To make matters worse, Kansas City has apparently lost free safety Eric Berry for the season due to a torn ACL.
Stock Up: Ted Ginn Jr.
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Ginn Jr. recently agreed to take a salary pay cut for the final year of his contract to be voided in 2012. This makes him a free agent after the current season.
Seems like a good move right now.
Ginn's kickoff return of 102 yards and punt return of 55 yards for touchdowns ensured San Francisco 49ers new head coach Jim Harbaugh his first professional victory.
In fairness, Ginn's returns were no-brainers considering the poor special teams coverage by Pete Carroll's Seahawks.
In other words, a blind squirrel looking for a nut might have scored on those plays.
Stock Down: Arizona Cardinals' Pass-Defense
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Look, Cam Newton might be a very good quarterback one day, but allowing him to complete 24-of-37 passes for 422 yards and two touchdowns was a disgraceful effort by the Cardinals, win or no win.
If you looked at Newton in the preseason, you saw a quarterback who was rarely accurate and was most comfortable throwing to his tight ends.
Yet the Cardinals' defense made him look the second coming with loose coverage and an unexpected lack of pressure.
Stock Up: Chicago Bears
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The Atlanta Falcons are a talented football team, and yet the Chicago Bears completely manhandled them in a 30-12 romp. Linebacker Brian Urlacher had an interception and returned a fumble for a touchdown.
But that was hardly the only story.
Bears quarterback Jay Cutler threw for 312 yards and two touchdowns. Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan threw for 319 yards, but no touchdowns, an interception, the aforementioned fumble and was sacked five times.
Overall, Chicago gave a sterling effort on both sides of the ball, and Atlanta did not. It's really that simple.
One more thing—call it a message to the Atlanta Falcons' Sean Weatherspoon:
You can be a pretty good linebacker in this league, but not if you bounce off running backs like you did when trying to tackle the Bears' Matt Forte. Wrap up and go lower, son.
Stock Down: St. Louis Rams
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The St. Louis Rams were one of the trendy picks for a "breakout" team in 2011.
I never bought it.
This is what you saw in a 31-13 loss to Philadelphia:
The same unreliable Rams receivers who had at least seven drops.
The sophomore quarterback in Sam Bradford who has a lot to learn about being a quarterback in the NFL.
The same Rams defense that lacks the athleticism to keep up with weapons like Michael Vick, LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson.
The Rams suffered a bunch of injuries in this game (Steven Jackson, leg; Sam Bradford, finger; and Jason Smith, ankle), although it looks like they may have dodged a total disaster with cornerback Ronald Bartell possibly being the only apparent serious injury with neck fractures. This team lacks depth as is and can't afford to lose starters this early in the season.
Stock Down: Jon Beason and the Carolina Panthers
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I went with two stock down's in a row here, and you will see why on the next slide.
Beason's stock is down obviously because he suffered a torn Achilles' tendon in the team's loss to Arizona and will miss the season.
Carolina will not only miss Beason, but will also have a constant reminder of the $51 million deal with a $20 million signing bonus they gave the standout a month ago.
Stock Up: Football Fans
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The last one is important.
We missed our football, and we're glad to have it back—watching a bunch of full stadiums with appreciative fans was all the proof you needed of that.