Important Takeaways from Each NFL Game
This had to be one of the most interesting opening weeks in recent NFL history. We saw a historical performance from one of the greatest quarterbacks in the game's history, we saw a rookie quarterback set records and give hope to a hopeless franchise, we saw another team struggle without its franchise quarterback and we saw a rivalry completely change.
It was a very entertaining first week and here are important takeaways from each game.
New Orleans at Green Bay: Welcome to the Machine
The Green Bay offense is more than great—it is a machine. This offense has one of the best quarterbacks in the league in Aaron Rodgers, two skilled running backs who can also catch passes, five very good wide receivers, one of the best tight ends in the league and an offensive line that is great at pass protecting.
Green Bay also has a great front four on defense but still could use some fine-tuning in the secondary. It is easy to see why many people believe that the Packers will repeat this season.
Atlanta at Chicago: The Motivational Media
The Bears proved to us just how powerful the media was Sunday. All offseason the Bears heard that Jay Cutler was a underachieving wuss, that they did not have the skill players to compete at the highest level, that their defense was aging and going to fall off dramatically and that they were going to go from first place in the division to last place in the division in just one year.
The Bears used all of this motivation to put together a really complete performance against one of the NFC powers in the Atlanta Falcons. The Bears were able to get pressure with their front four, were able to cause tons of turnovers, were able to get a great performance out of Jay Cutler and dominated just about every facet of the game.
Cincinnati at Cleveland: The Missed Opportunity
If Cleveland is the up-and-coming team that many people thought they could be then they not only needed to win Sunday's game but they needed to start the season at least 6-2. The Browns started the season with one of the easiest eight-game stretches in recent memory and now that they lost to Cincinnati, it looks like they will not be able to take advantage of this easy schedule.
The Browns look like a sleeper instead of a playoff sleeper as they really have no skill weapons besides Peyton Hillis and still have a very young defense.
Kansas City at Buffalo: The Pride of Harvard
Throughout the offseason analysts questioned why the Buffalo Bills did not try to draft or sign an elite quarterback. Well, Sunday the Bills proved that they did not need to acquire a solid quarterback because they already had one in Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Fitzpatrick made the Bills offense look like a poor mans Packers offense and the Bills scored at will on a defense that won the division for the Chiefs last year. The Bills might not be a playoff type of surprise team, but if they can continue to be this efficient on offense they might have a chance to be a .500 team.
Philadelphia at St. Louis: The Flawed Dream Team
The Eagles blew out what still should be a playoff team in the St. Louis Rams and proved that they might be worth every bit of praise they received this offseason. Mike Vick was at his best and made plays with his feet and his arm. The running game was unstoppable, and the defense gave up nothing to a pretty talented offense.
The Eagles still have some flaws though even though they looked great Sunday. The Eagles offensive line is letting Vick get hit a little too much, the linebackers missed way too many tackles and the play-calling could have been better on both sides. The Eagles may have the talent of a "dream team" but they will not accomplish their dream of winning the Super Bowl until they fix a few of the chinks in their armor.
Detroit at Tampa Bay: The Week One Elimination Game
The Detroit/Tampa Bay game was the only game in Week 1 where both teams really had to win. The NFC North and the NFC South are arguably the two best divisions in football and both of the teams needed to get off to a 1-0 start if they wanted a real chance at making the playoffs.
The Lions took advantage of this chance and look like they could be a team goes 11-5. They have one of the best defensive lines in football, they have an unstoppable passing game, they have great special teams and they are well coached.
I expect Tampa to bounce back but I think they needed this one-game advantage in the NFC South.
Tennessee at Jacksonville: The Preseason Regular-Season Game
It is obvious that both the Tennessee Titans and the Jacksonville Jaguars needed another two weeks of training camp. The Jaguars relied too heavily on their running game (MJD had 24 rushes and the Jags only attempted 24 passes) and were unable to strike the right balance on offense. The Titans look awful for three quarters on offense only to discover a vertical passing game in the fourth quarter.
Both teams looked unready for the first game and they will have to play better in future weeks.
Pittsburgh at Baltimore: The Statement
The Baltimore Ravens were tired of being pushed around. For years the Steelers had dominated them on offense, smothered them on defense, out-coached them and most importantly, outfought them.
On Sunday, the Ravens were able to throw the ball all over the Steelers, control the line of scrimmage and dominate in the running game. The Ravens were also able to force seven turnovers, and the Ravens outfought the Steelers.
Two key things happened that may have changed this rivalry forever: The Ravens added the best fullback in the league in Vonta Leach who enables them to have one of the best running games in the league and is great in pass protection, and Joe Flacco is now more than a game manager.
Indianapolis at Houston: The Inactive MVP
Sunday's Texans and Colts game proved that Peyton Manning is one of the most important football players in the history of the National Football League. Without Manning, the Colts offense goes from one of the best in the league to the worst in the league, the defense in turn becomes really bad because they are on the field too much and the Colts really have no identity without Manning on the field.
It will be interesting to see if Manning gets any MVP votes when the Colts go 2-14.
New York at Washington: The New 'Skins
The Redskins just needed to get rid of a couple of negative influences. Now that the Redskins have gotten rid of Albert Haynesworth and Donovan McNabb, they look like they have the best team chemistry in all of football.
The Redskins played harder than any team in the entire league in the first week of the season and when their young players get a few games under them, they could develop into a legitimate playoff contender. Not bad for a team many people (including myself) thought would win fewer than five games.
Seattle at San Francisco: Guard Ginn
The San Francisco 49ers proved that they could only win games with incredible defensive performances and two amazing special teams plays. The problem with this formula is that the 49ers are not playing the Seahawks every week.
The Seahawks look like a much worse version of a last year's team that was 7-9 and have absolutely no skill players that scare opposing defenses. It looks like both of these teams are going to be really bad, but that does not meant that they could not win the NFC West.
Minnesota at San Diego: Starting Slow
We all know that as long as Norv Turner is the coach in San Diego, the Chargers are going to get off to some pretty dismal starts. The impressive thing for the Chargers is that they were still able to win Sunday despite a very slow start and they look like a team that should still be a Super Bowl contender. The Vikings still have to be really discouraged by their performance Sunday though.
The Vikings were not able to take advantage of the slow-starting Chargers and Donovan McNabb looked like the worst quarterback in football as he was not able to pass for 40 yards. The Vikings have to get something out of McNabb because if they keep relying on Adrian Peterson to do everything, he may get hurt and the Vikings may be picking in the top five come April.
Carolina at Arizona: Cam, Cam and a Side of Cam
Many Panther fans expected Cam Newton to struggle in his first start in the National Football League because he was a rookie, he had never really had to be a drop-back passer before and because of his preseason performances.
Well, yesterday Newton taught us that age really does not matter when you have the skills of a superstar. He already threw one of the best deep balls in all of football and showed that the preseason is still the preseason. Newton tied a rookie record for passing yards, ran for a touchdown and led the team on drives that Jimmy Clausen can only dream of. He also gave a tribute to Pete Townshend after scoring a touchdown and at the end of the game said it all meant nothing because the team lost.
Dallas at New York: 'Til I Collapse
It is amazing to watch a game when you already have a very good idea of what is going to happen. Coming into this game we knew that Tony Romo was a Hall of Fame quarterback for three quarters and a XFL quarterback for the fourth and we knew that the Jets are the luckiest team in football.
So even when the Jets were down by two touchdowns we should have known that they were going to find a way to win. Thanks to a key fumble and interception in the fourth quarter by Romo and a special teams blunder, the Jets were able to pull out a huge win to start their season. Both teams look to be headed for the playoffs though.
New England at Miami: Peaches and Herbs
Tom Brady and Wes Welker desperately needed to be reunited. Ever since the record-breaking 2007 season, something just seemed off about this dynamic duo. After Monday night, the duo has officially been reunited and their play has ignited the Patriots offense.
Brady had a record-setting game last night but it was also important that he was able to consistently find Welker and even complete a 99-yard touchdown pass to him. The Patriots look like a team that could average 35 points a game this season.
Oakland at Denver: The Boot
It is tough to see why Broncos fans want Tim Tebow to play at quarterback but they were very vocal about their displeasure with quarterback Kyle Orton. Broncos fans might need to accept that Orton is the best fit for John Fox's conservative offense and that Tebow will probably only play in certain packages.
Tebow may get traded this season and if not, he will get traded in the offseason. As long as Fox is the coach of the Broncos, Tebow will not get a chance to shine.