It is the beginning of another NFL season and every team has optimism that they might make a playoff run. The fans, the players, the coaches, even the referees are anxious to dip their toes into the exciting pool, which is the NFL season.
But after Week 1, some teams' expectations are sky high while other teams' fan bases are already giving up on the season.
Here are five observations I made of each team after their opening game and keys they will need to follow in order to have a successful season.
Larry Fitzgerald has got to get the ball more than three times a game. Granted, he did have 62 yards receiving, but he is the Arizona Cardinals' top playmaker. Run some receiver screens or even a reverse, just get the ball in his hands.
- Kevin Kolb has got to stretch the field more. His stat line is very misleading, considering he went 18 for 27 for 309 yards and two TDs. But take away two extremely bad blown coverages and he's 16 for 25 for 193 yards and no touchdowns. Beanie Wells can not be your leading receiver.
- Speaking of Beanie Wells, the run game was a huge positive. Wells had 18 carries for 90 yards and maybe should have gotten the ball handed to him even more. When your back is averaging 5 yards a carry, you need to milk it.
- The pass defense was horrible! You can not let a rookie come into your house and throw for 422 yards, or let anyone come into your house and throw that many yards for that matter. It must improve in order for the Cards to be successful. A defense with Joey Porter, Kerry Rhodes, Adrian Wilson and Darnell Dockett has plenty of leadership to rally the D.
- Special teams must continue to be special. Patrick Peterson's punt return for a touchdown was the difference in this game. If the special teams can stay consistent, it will give this team a huge boost.
- Eight out of Atlanta's 11 possessions ended on the Atlanta 45 or better. The Atlanta Falcons must get more than six points out of that
Matt Ryan has got to protect the ball better. He had an interception on Chicago's 35-yard line and a fumble on Chicago's 42-yard line. The Chicago Bears got 14 points off of those two turnovers.
- Matty Ice did have a solid game otherwise, going 31 for 47 with 319 yards. However, that big goose egg can't be in the touchdown column if the Falcons want to make it to the Super Bowl
- Matt Ryan must stretch the field when in the opponent's territory. Every pass Ryan threw once he crossed the 50 was short. With Julio Jones, Roddy White, Michael Turner, Tony Gonzalez and Harry Douglas, the Falcons have more the enough fire power to go down field.
- The Falcons' defense got torn apart by the screen play. In a West Coast offense heavy league, your defense can not be successful if you can't defend the screen. You better believe next week against the Philadelphia Eagles, the Falcons will see a lot of screens going to LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson.
The Baltimore Ravens' defense will continue to carry this team. They won't have to force seven turnovers like they did against the Pittsburgh Steelers, but they will have to win the turnover battle in order to make it to the big game.
Haloti Ngata is the best defensive tackle in the game. He caused an interception and had two fumble recoveries and will continue to cause havoc against offenses. As long as he stays on the field, the Ravens' D is in excellent shape.
The rest of the defense wasn't too shabby, either. Terrell Suggs forced two fumbles and had three sacks and Ed Reed had two interceptions. If the Ravens keep this up, they may give that 2000 team defense a run for their money as the best Ravens' defense ever.
A defense's best friend is a good running game on offense. It gives them a chance to rest and gives the team complete control over the game clock. Ray Rice provided that running game, having 19 carries for 107 yards and a touchdown. Ricky Williams also had 12 carries for 63 yards. If they can do that against a very good Steelers' defense, imagine what they'll do to the Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns.
Joe Flacco also had a great game. He was 17 for 29 for 224 yards and 3 TDs and he hasn't even found newly acquired Lee Evans yet. As long as the run game produces and Flacco stays sharp, this offense could be unstoppable and very frustrating to any defense it goes against.
- The Buffalo Bills may not win the division, but they will no longer be pushovers if Ryan Fitzpatrick continues to be this efficient. He was 17 for 28 with 208 yards and four touchdowns. He also went through his check downs very well and didn't force anything.
- Of course, it always helps a quarterback when your running back goes for over a hundred yards. Fred Jackson had 20 carries for 112 yards and with Johnny Miller and C.J Spiller behind him, the run game should be something the Bills should do consistently, especially during those winter games in Buffalo.
- It also helps Fitzpatrick to have a receiver like Stevie Johnson. He had four catches for 66 yards and a touchdown. The Bills may have also found a diamond in the rough with tight end Scott Chandler. His five catches for 63 yards and two touchdowns were all career highs and he must continue to play well to give Fitzpatrick a security valve.
- The Bills' defense was very solid, only giving up 213 yards. The Kansas City Chiefs' offense is nothing to sneeze at, and if they can control people like Bowe, Breaston, Charles and Cassel, who is to say they can't shut down the New York Jets and Miami Dolphins?
- The Bills must continue to win the turnover battle to be successful this season. They caused three turnovers to their one against the Chiefs and can not have any slip ups if they want to make some noise in the AFC.
- Cam Newton in one game already has an NFL record: most passing yards in a rookie debut. Newton had 422 passing yards on 24 for 37 passing and two touchdowns to one interception. His numbers won't be nearly as good against the Green Bay Packers, however
- The run game has to help Newton out. Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams combined for 19 carries for 56 yards. For a rookie quarterback, the run game is his best friend, and they need to run the ball more than 19 times to make sure Cam still has an arm by the end of the season. Plus, there is no way Cam Newton should have more carries (8) than Jonathan Stewart (7).
- The defense must step it up. Kevin Kolb had 309 passing yards and Beanie Wells averaged 5 yards a carry. The New Orleans Saints, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Atlanta Falcons will do much worse if they don't fix the problems they have now.
- Special teams must be special for this team to win. Letting Patrick Peterson run a punt in for the game-winning touchdown is inexcusable.
- This is a small note, but a very important one: Although it was nice for Newton to get a rushing touchdown, having your franchise jump over a pile to get into the end zone is never a good idea.
Jay Cutler went 22 for 32 with 312 yards and two touchdowns. But what was surprising is how much touch Cutler showed in his passes. It can be very hard for a quarterback with a big arm to have the right touch on screens or fades. Cutler proved he can make those passes, and made it look easy.
Matt Forte continued to impress, carrying the ball 16 times for 68 yards and had 5 catches for 90 yards and a touchdown. The Chicago Bears have a lot of fast weapons, but the offense must run through Forte in order for the Bears to continue to have offensive success.
- The defense is back to being the monsters of the midway. It shut out a very good Falcons' offense from the end zone. If It continues playing this well, it should have double digit wins.
- The defense does need to improve in the yards department. It's nice to have a bend but don't break attitude, but giving up 429 yards to the Detroit Lions or Green Bay Packers will defiantly lead to more than six points, unlike the Falcons.
- The defense also had three takeaways. It needs to stay productive in the takeaway department in order to make a run at the Super Bowl this year.
- Cedric Benson had a great game, getting 121 yards and a touchdown on 25 carries. He will continue to have to be a workhorse if the Cincinnati Bengals want to even be .500.
- Rookie quarterback Andy Dalton was 10 for 15 and only had 81 yards and a touchdown before getting injured, and that's OK. Dalton needs to be protective of the ball and manage the game well to keep the offense going. He doesn't need to be a superstar.
- Jermaine Gresham is going to have a huge year. He had six catches for 58 yards and a TD and has quickly become Dalton's safety valve.
- The Bengals' run defense was impressive, holding Payton Hillis to 57 rushing yards on 17 carries. They'll need to keep the run defense stingy to have a fighting chance to have a winning record this year.
- AJ Green does need to get the ball more. He only had one reception this game, and that was on a quick snap. He wasn't drafted to be a decoy.
Colt McCoy must complete more than 50 percent of his passes. Going 19 for 40 is not going to cut it.
- Payton Hillis needs to get going. He did have 17 carries but only had 57 yards. If Hillis doesn't get into a groove, it's going to be a long day for the Browns' offense.
- Joe Haden was a bright spot for the Browns. He shut down AJ Green for all but one play. The Browns haven't had consistent corner play in recent years and will need it in order to slip into the playoffs.
- The run defense has to improve. Giving up 139 rushing yards will cause you to lose the time of possession battle. With an offense that is built to run first, you must control the ball to be successful.
- The Browns are going to need a better performance from punter Richmond McGee. The average start for the Bengals after a punt was their own 36. That field position is too good, especially for the better teams in the league.
This team currently lives and dies with Tony Romo, and that's a bad thing. He has a bad habit of not protecting the ball late in games. A fumble and a interception in the fourth quarter did the Dallas Cowboys in
Romo was effective most of the game, going 23 for 36 for 342 yards and two touchdowns.
Not to pile on Tony Romo, but his decision making has got to be better. Everyone watching this game knew Dez Bryant had nothing left late in the game. Yet, Romo kept looking for him and throwing his way.
The Cowboys must run the ball more, especially if they have a lead. If you have a 14-point lead heading into the fourth quarter, the Cowboys need to feed it to Felix Jones and Tashard Choice. Actually, Choice needs to touch the ball more. Three carries is not enough.
The defense was good and bad. The good; they only gave up 42 rushing yards. The bad, they gave up 335 passing yards. The passing D has got to tighten up.
- The Denver Broncos must run the ball better to be successful. They only had 13 carries for 38 yards and Kyle Orton had one of those carries for 13 yards.
- The Broncos must protect the ball better. Four fumbles (two lost) and one interception is being way too loose with ball security
- They had way too many penalties in order to win the game. The Oakland Raiders just had more penalties, which helped off-set their own undisciplined play.
- The offensive line has got to play better. Kyle Orton was sacked five times and hurried all night. Yet, he still had over 300 passing yards in the game.
- Eddie Royal has got to be more involved in the game. He only had two catches all game. Eric Decker was a bright spot and looked impressive even when he wasn't catching the ball.
- Matt Stafford had a great game, going 24 for 33 with 305 yards and three touchdowns. If he stays healthy, he should continue to have games like this.
- The run game must continue to be a presence for the Lions to win. Jahvid Best and Jerome Harrison combined for 29 carries for 99 yards. With an injury prone quarterback, the run game has to continue to produce.
- Calvin Johnson keeps meeting high expectations. He had six receptions for 88 yards and two touchdowns, including one amazing leaping grab.
- Special teams has got to be better. There was only one kick return, and it went 78 yards. You can't spot offenses that kind of yardage.
- The Lions must hold onto the ball. Four fumbles (two that were lost) and an interception that went for six the other way is what kept the Bucs in this game. The Bears and Packers will cash in on second chances like that and those are the teams they gotta beat in order to make the playoffs.
Aaron Rodgers looked like the future MVP of the league. He went 27 for 35 with 312 yards and three touchdowns.
- However, all three touchdown passes were in the first quarter. If Green Bay is going to repeat as champions, it'll have to go for the jugular when it has a chance.
- The run game was a huge plus. The combination of James Starks, Ryan Grant and John Kuhn had 23 carries for 102 yards and two touchdowns. The run game is what carried this team in the playoffs and it will have to continue to be in this offense for the Pack to be back in the Super Bowl.
- Special teams has got to step it up. They can't be giving up touchdowns on punt returns and letting teams back into the game.
- The pass defense has got to be better. I know it was Drew Brees, but giving up three touchdowns and 419 yards to anyone is never a good thing.
- Matt Schaub must cut down on the interceptions. Although he had a solid game, having two picks is something he needs to work on.
- Houston's run game is going to be the staple of this team. Without Arian Foster, the Texans ran the ball 37 times for 167 yards and two touchdowns. With Foster, Tate and Ward, the run offense is in great shape.
- Yet, the pass game will not be ignored because of Andre Johnson. He had seven receptions for 95 yards and a touchdown and will continue to get his catches.
- The defense must keep their game at a high level. They had three sacks this game, but only faced 16 rush attempts. They will be tested more with Chris Johnson and Maurice Jones-Drew in their division.
- The Texans must win the turnover battle. Although they lost it this game, they will not win many games if they lose the battle of takeaways.
- Kerry Collins has got to hold on to the ball. He had three fumbles this game.
- Although the defense caused three turnovers, the run defense must be better. You can't give up 167 rushing yards when your offense is struggling.
- Reggie Wayne was the one bright spot for the Indianapolis Colts, he had seven receptions for 106 yards and will continue to get his catches.
- The time of possession battle is huge for this team. Only having the ball for 23 minutes a game will not get the Colts many wins.
- There has been rumors that many Colts players are behind Curtis Painter to be the starter. Maybe they should give Painter a chance.
- The Jacksonville Jaguars' defense has got to play a full game. In the first half, they only gave up 95 yards. In the second half, they gave up 197 yards and two touchdowns.
- Maurice Jones-Drew continues to be a workhorse for this team. He had 24 carries for 97 yards and a touchdown.
- Luke McCown played better than expected. He was 17 for 24 for 175 yards and no interceptions. He must continue to protect the ball for the Jags to stay competitive.
- However, The Jags do need to find a way to get into the end zone. Mike Thomas and Marcedes Lewis are nice targets for McCown to have. Thomas had eight catches but Lewis only had two. If they want to win games consistently, McCown has to find these two guys in the end zone.
- Speaking of Mike Thomas, he is going to blossom into a star this season. If Thomas ends up in the Pro Bowl this year, along with Jones-Drew, expect to see the Jags in the playoffs.
- Jamaal Charles must get more carries. He only had 10 carries but did have 56 yards. The Kansas City Chiefs were playing catch-up all game, but if Charles can continue to average over 5 yards a carry, this offense will be able to get going.
Matt Cassel, on the other hand, must get more yardage out of his passes. He was 22 for 36 but only had 119 yards.
- The Chiefs must hold on to the ball. They had two fumbles and one interception, which led to 17 points for Buffalo.
- The Chiefs must maintain drives. Giving your opponent 14 possessions will wear down any defense.
- The Chiefs must win the field position battle in order to be successful. Buffalo's average starting position was their own 43-yard line. That is hard for a defense to overcome, especially one that just lost Eric Berry for the season.
Tom Brady set a Monday Night Football record against what the Miami Dolphins declared to be the best cornerback tandem in the league. They won't win many games giving up 517 passing yards.
- The defense has got to be able to think on its feet. It was obvious that Miami's defense was confused many times during Brady's hurry up offense. Teams will do that all day against the Dolphins if they can't adjust.
- Chad Henne looks impressive. He had 416 yards against a pretty good New England defense and had two touchdowns and one rushing touchdown.
- However, Chad Henne can not be your leading rusher if your going to win. Reggie Bush only had 11 carries for 38 yards. The Dolphins must give Bush more carries if they are going to maintain drives and let their defense catch their breath.
- -The Dolphins must figure out how to score in short yardage. On 4th and a half a yard Miami decided to throw the ball even though the Patriots were in a coverage defense. You have to be able to gain a yard or less when you need it
- It was understood that Donovan McNabb was going to be doing a lot of what he is doing in the picture, but he has got to have more than 15 passing attempts to be affective.
- The Minnesota Vikings need more production in the second half. There is no way you are going to win if you only get 26 yards in the second half.
Adrian Peterson was a bright spot for the Vikings. He had 16 carries for 98 yards and might start getting the ball even more if McNabb doesn't get his act together.
- The Vikings' defense has to do a better job against the pass. Although they had two interceptions, they still gave up 335 passing yards.
- The Vikings just need to control the ball better. Only running 41 plays all game is not going to lead to many wins this year.
- Just look at Brady's stat line: 32 for 48 for 517 yards and four touchdowns. If Brady plays like this all year, the Patriots will win their fourth Super Bowl.
- The run game was also doing well. The combination of Danny Woodhead an BenJarvus Green-Ellis had 103 yards and a touchdown. The run game must be a presence to keep defenses honest.
- Where was Chad Ochocinco? With 517 passing yards of offense, it is surprising to see Chad only get one catch for 14 yards.
- The pass defense has got to be better, especially the safeties. Giving up 416 passing yards to Chad Henne is something the Patriots do not want to be associated with.
Wes Welker is on his way to another Pro Bowl. Eight receptions for 160 yards and two touchdowns is not a fluke. Expect to see him suited up in Hawaii come February.
The Saints' D can't give up 415 yards and 35 points. Although they have an explosive offense, that is too deep of a hole for them to dig out of.
Brees may have benefited the most from his offseason workouts. He was 32 for 49 for 419 yards and almost pulled off an amazing comeback.
The Saints must get better at short-yardage running. They were last in the league last year in those situations and it cost them the win in this game. They couldn't get the first down on fourth and 1 in the Packers' territory or get the one yard needed at the end of the game to potentially tie it.
Darren Sproles and Jimmy Graham will be superstars for the Saints this year. Sproles had seven catches for 75 yards and a punt return for a touchdown. Graham had four catches for 56 yards and a TD. If both of these guys remain productive, the Saints' offense will be even more dangerous then what it already is.
The special teams has to tighten the screws. You cannot, I repeat, cannot give up a 108-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, ever.
- -The New York Giants must get better production out of their second-half offense. They only had 102 yards in the second half.
- Special teams have got to improve. You cannot let field goals get blocked.
- The Giants have got to run the ball better. Only having 19 attempts for 73 yards will not do. Especially considering big Brandon Jacobs only got 6 carries
- The defense cannot give up 305 passing yards and can't let people like Fred Davis run free off the line and get 105 receiving yards.
- The offensive line must step up their game. Eli Manning was sacked four times and hurried even more. If defenses are going to be in Manning's face every game, it will be a long year for the Giants.
- The New York Jets must protect the ball better. They fumbled the ball three times (one lost) and had an interception
- The Jets have got to run the ball better. Only having 15 attempts for 42 yards will not lead to many wins.
Mark Sanchez had a very good game spreading the ball around. Seven different receivers caught the ball and he had 335 passing yards.
- The pass defense has got to play better. You cannot give up 342 passing yards.
- The Jets must get a faster start to their offense in order to make it to the Super Bowl this year. Late interceptions, blocked punts and fumbles will not happen against better teams in the AFC.
- Special teams are truly special. Sebastian Janikowski hit a NFL-record tying, 63-yard field goal and the punt team had a blocked punt. If the punt coverage team can stop returns for touchdowns, they will be truly special
Darren McFadden is a beast! He had 22 carries for 150 yards. Then Michael Bush comes in to close the game out with tough running. It's a good formula to control the clock.
- Must get better production out of Jason Campbell. Going 13 for 22 for 105 yards isn't going to get it done the whole season.
- Defense provided a lot of pressure. If they continue to have five-sack games, they will be a nightmare for opposing offenses
- Team must be more disciplined. Fifteen penalties is way too much for any team. The Raiders actually had more penalties and yardage (15 for 131 yards) then Jason Campbell had complete passes and yards.
Michael Vick must do better than a 43 percent completion percentage.
- The offensive line has got to protect Vick better. The versatile quarterback took way too many big hits and will not last the season if he keeps taking hits like that.
- The linebackers got to be solid for this defense to work. Giving up 169 rushing yards is never good, and this young linebacker corp must buckle down to stop chunks of yardage like that from hurting the team.
- The rest of the defense, however, played superb. They had five sacks and a touchdown against the St. Louis Rams. If they keep up that kind of pressure, the Eagles should be fine.
LeSean McCoy is going to be the key to this offense. He had 15 carries for 122 yards and two touchdowns, including a receiving touchdown.If McCoy continues to get 15 or more carries, the Eagles will be able to balance out the offense. Ronnie Ball should touch the ball more than four times a game.
-The Steelers need to hold onto the ball. 7 turnovers is way too much for this team. They have lived for years on being smart, if they lose that edge they become an average team.
-The Steelers need to run the ball more. 15 attempts will not cut it. Expect to see more runs in the future, as they shouldn't be going into many games down 21-7 at the half.
-The offensive line needs to improve in a hurry. Terrell Suggs had 3 sacks by himself. Big Ben will not last if he keeps getting hit like this.
-The Defense must step it up against the run. Giving up 170 rushing yards will not lead for many wins.
-Mike Wallace is a major bright spot. Expect to see more games where he has over 100 yards receiving this year.
Sam Bradford has to have more than 188 passing yards for this team to be successful. Then again, the offensive line must keep the defense off of him.
Bradford must also protect the ball. This team is too young to overcome turnovers. If they lose the turnover battle, they will lose the game.
- The run game was a major bright spot. They had 25 carries for 167 yards and Steven Jackson is likely out for next weeks game.
- Danny Amendola is a huge loss for this team. Josh McDaniels said he wanted to turn Amendola into the next Wes Welker. Losing your slot receiver in this offense is going to be hard to overcome.
- Defense has got to buckle down on the run. Giving up 200-plus yards rushing will not lead to many wins.
- Phillip Rivers had a good game going 33 for 48 for 335 yards, but he did have two interceptions. Rivers must cut down on the picks for the San Diego Chargers to be effective.
- The special teams unit cannot be the weak link of this team again. They started the game by giving up a 103-yard return for a touchdown.
- Kicker Nick Kaeding should be back for next week's game. If he wasn't hurt, this game may not have been as close
- The defense played great. Only giving up 39 passing yards is a huge accomplishment. They must keep up the play.
- San Diego must run the ball more. They have two backs who can carry the load and 24 attempts is not enough for both of them combined.
- Special teams needs to continue to be special for this team to compete. They may not need two touchdowns every game, but it doesn't hurt.
- The defense had five sacks and must keep pressure on its opponents to win
- The San Francisco 49ers need more out of Frank Gore and Alex Smith. Smith was 15 for 20 but only had 124 passing yards and Gore only had 59 yards rushing. This combination has to have at least 225 yards combined to beat teams in this league that's not in the NFC West.
- Vernon Davis is in mid-season form. He had five catches for 47 yards and needs to continue to be one of Smith's favorite targets to get this offense running.
- Tedd Ginn Jr. needs to get the ball on offense. He was huge in the special teams game, but not having a single touch on offense is something Harbaugh needs to fix.
-Marshawn Lynch must get the ball more. 13 carries for 33 yards for a guy who was a playoff star last year is not enough
-The special teams can not continue to give up big returns. 268 return yards and two touchdowns is way too much
-Tarvaris Jackson has got to be smarter. He had a fumble and an interception to to go along with his two touchdowns. He's not going to pass for over 200 yards much this year, so he has to keep his mistakes to a minimum.
-The defense was a positive, being very solid this game. They must continue to be to give this offense a chance to gel.
-Jon Ryan must be a better punter. Having an average of 32.9 yards per punt is not going to do your punt coverage any favors, and they are already struggling.
LeGarrette Blount must touch the ball more. Only getting 11 rushing attempts does not bode well for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' offense.
- Josh Freeman must find a way to hold on to the ball better. Although he didn't lose a fumble, he did fumble twice and threw an interception.
- The defense has got to play better. The Lions only punted the ball once the whole game. You won't win if the punter doesn't come out on the field more often
- The Bucs need more scoring drives that end in the end zone. Only being 1 for 4 in the red zone will not do your defense any favors.
Tampa Bay must win the time of possession battle. Only having the ball for 23:35 will not get you a win in this very tough NFC South.
- Chris Johnson must touch the ball more than nine times in order for this team to win. Even if the Titans didn't want to push Johnson's limits considering he missed almost all of training camp, they'll have to run the ball more than 12 times
- On a good note, Matt Hasselbeck and Kenny Britt have developed a good connection. If that continues, the Titans will end up with more wins than people think
- Hasselbeck must get more people involved in the passing game. Only three people had more than one catch and he completed 21 passes. Better defenses will catch on that Hasselbeck is locking on to one receiver.
- The Titans must hold onto the ball longer. They only had the ball for 20:22 the whole game.
- The defense must work on its run defense. You can't give up 163 rushing yards and expect to win.
- Rex Grossman must continue to protect the ball and make smart decisions to keep this team competitive. He was 21 of 34 for 305 yards and two touchdowns.
- The Washington Redskins did a great job staying dedicated to the run, even though it didn't work most of the game. Tim Hightower only had 72 yards on 25 carries, but it kept the defense honest.
- The defense is going to have to carry this team this year and it did a great job against the New York Giants. Only giving up 73 rushing yards is a huge positive for this team.
- Anthony Armstrong must catch the ball. He had a couple of very key drops in the game, including a deep ball that hit him right in the hands.
- Fred Davis must continue to play well for this team. He had five receptions for 105 yards and needs to be a dangerous weapon for Grossman all season long.