What have we learned - Week 1
Penn State overwhelmed Oregon State, 45-14, a game I thought would be closer. I took nothing from the Lions' 66-10 beatdown of frickin' Coastal Carolina in their season opener, but I thought the Beavers, despite coming to the East Coast, would put up a fight. But this game was over early. Daryll Clark looked great at QB, Evan Royster continued to run well after limited duty last year, and the wide receivers, all seniors, were excellent. I'm not willing to say that PSU will dominate the Big Eleven, but I feel a lot better about them after this game. Yes, JoePa has apparently been recruiting from prisons the past few years, but at least he's willing to suspend or chuck people off the team. In other Big Eleven news, Ohio State barely beat Ohio, 26-14, and they have to go to Los Angeles next week to play USC. Oh dear. Michigan barely beat Miami of Ohio, but of course they'll beat Penn State, even if teams like Utah and Miami can hang with them. And Wisconsin, flying under the radar as usual, torched Marshall, 51-14. the big news from Saturday was East Carolina's beatdown of West Virginia, proving that, like the ACC, the Big East is a joke. Oh, I guess that's not big news at all. And out here in the desert, Arizona State smoked Stanford, 41-17, and nobody noticed. I'm a Sun Devil fan from way back (mostly because they're called the Sun Devils), and it's a shame they don't get more publicity. Their first two wins are nothing big (in Game 1 they beat Division 1-AA Northern Arizona), but it's not that - it's that they play games at 10 Eastern and so nobody from ESPN stays up to watch them. If you don't think there's an East Coast bias, consider that Georgia played a Division 1-AA team on the first weekend, and we saw plenty of highlights. ASU was ranked 15th, and even on Sunday, I not only saw no highlights, they weren't even mentioned. Weird. Finally, there was the controversial ending to the BYU-Washington game. If you haven't seen it, the Huskies' quarterback, Jake Locker, scored a touchdown with hardly any time left to bring Washington within a point, 28-27, of the heavily-favored Cougars. He threw the ball into the air and celebrated with his teammates. The refs called an unsportsmanlike penalty for the throw of the ball. The extra point was from 35 yards away, and BYU blocked it to escape with the win. All weekend ESPN pundits have been blasting the officials because Locker wasn't taunting the opposition or showing them up. The officials responded by pointing out the rule that specifically prohibits throwing the ball up in the air. I have no problem changing the rule - the NCAA can claim it wants to promote sportsmanlike behavior, but it lets big schools (like Penn State) schedule cupcakes (like Coastal Carolina) just so the big schools can put a whuppin' on them (like 66-10). How sporting is that? So change the rule. But what these EPSNers fail to understand (or, more likely, they understand it but ignore it) is that LOCKER BROKE A RULE! He might be a great guy, he might be a saint, but he broke a rule that the NCAA is specifically trying to enforce this year and has emphasized to officials and coaches. I'd be pretty pissed at the call if I were a Washington fan, especially because my team sucks and any chance for a win is slim, but Locker broke the rule and was penalized. Case closed.
Okay, let's check out the professionals!
Philadelphia 38, St. Louis 3. I know that the Rams just aren't that good, but the Eagles dismantled them, and only a wussy field goal when St. Louis was behind 38-0 kept this from being their first shutout since 1996. If McNabb can stay healthy, this team will challenge for the NFC title. They have all the weapons, but it's always about the quarterback (see New England, below). I liked the fact that they were missing their top two receivers but were still able to throw the ball, I liked the fact that Andy actually ran it quite a bit, and I liked the fact that he got McNabb and Westbrook out of the game when it was clear that there would be no comeback. Although the defense didn't get any turnovers (something they failed to do a lot last year, and it hurt them), they had their chances. And I was a bit skeptical about ponying up so much money to Asante Samuel, but he was really good, blanketing whoever he was covering and almost coming up with at least two interceptions. Next week the Beagles head to Dallas, so we'll see if they're as good as they looked, but this was the kind of game that makes me think they're back to 2002-2004 form, and that's not good news for the NFC.
In case Tom still reads this blog, I'll keep track of DeSean Jackson's stats for him (DeSean starred at Cal, which is where Mr. The Dog attended school). Jackson's line: 6 catches, 106 yards (including a 47-yarder for the first catch of his career), 8 punt returns, 97 yards (including a 60-yarder where he weaved through a bunch of tacklers). 203 yards, no touchdowns. Not a bad way to start a career.
Turnovers: Rams 0, Eagles 0. Turnovers = loss? It's a wash. The Eagles, however, had some chances, while the Rams' defense never seemed to be near the football.
New York Giants 16, Washington 7. I didn't watch any of this game. I did see Brandon Jacobs plow over that dude, which was pretty funny, but I kind of had the feeling this would be an uninteresting game. A lot of people said Washington would be pretty good this year. I think those people are incorrect.
Turnovers: Giants 1, Washington 0. Turnovers = loss? No, probably because Washington's offense is so anemic. 0-1.
Pittsburgh 38, Houston 17. I missed the early games because I had to pause the Eagles game (the kids wanted to watch a DVD) and so I couldn't turn that off because I would lose my place. So my trenchant analysis will be lacking this week. I'll try to better next week! Anyway, Houston was a sexy pick to make the playoffs in some circles, but they have to do better than falling behind 35-3 on the road, even if it is in Pittsburgh. As for the Steelers ... which Pennsylvania team was more impressive? The Steelers and Eagles play each other fairly soon. That'll be fun!
Turnovers: Texans 3, Steelers 1. Turnovers = loss? Looks that way. 1-1.
Baltimore 17, Cincinnati 10. This might have been the biggest shocker of the weekend, mostly because the Ravens decided to forego this season in order to get their rookie, D-1AA quarterback some work. But Joe Flacco, the Fightin' Blue Hen himself, led the Edgar Allans to the victory with a 38-yard touchdown run against a defense that, inexplicably, never gets any better even though they're coached by a defensive-minded guy. And Carson Palmer was just horrific - wasn't he supposed to be one of the top quarterbacks in the league? 10-of25 for 99 yards and a pick? That's Trent Dilfer territory! I hate to pile on fine Cincinnati fans like Woody!, but this looks like a long season in the land of WKRP.
Turnovers: Bengals 2, Ravens 2. Turnovers = loss? Another wash.
Atlanta 34, Detroit 21. I kept looking up and seeing these two teams scoring. It was 21-0 Falcons before the Lions could even blink, but then it got back to 21-14 before the Falcons pulled away again. Michael Turner ran for 220 yards and Matt Ryan threw a touchdown pass on his first NFL attempt. I don't think Atlanta is going to be that good, but I bet they're really going to savor this win, especially after last year. Meanwhile, the Lions are ... well, the Lions. They got lucky for a decade with Barry Sanders, but they've been bad for almost fifty years. That has to suck.
Turnover: Lions 1, Falcons 0. Turnovers = loss? Yes, although I don't know the circumstances of the turnover. When will ESPN include "points off turnovers" as a statistic? 2-1.
Buffalo 34, Seattle 10. Seattle didn't look too good going into the season, what with Matt Hasselbeck's back injury, and then they lost Nate Burleson for the season in this game, so things aren't looking any better. Anyway, the Bills are better than people give them credit for, but this beatdown was a bit surprising. But the fake field goal on which Buffalo scored a touchdown was just bad coaching. Come on, Seahawks, pick that dude up! Seattle might have seen their NFC West dominance come to an end. We'll see.
Turnovers: Seahawks 2, Bills 0. Turnovers = loss? Pretty much. 3-1.
New York Jets 20, Miami 14. You know, just when I thought Brett "Risen Christ" Favre was out of my life forever, he comes back and throws a horrible pass that, if anyone else in the history of the NFL had thrown it, it gets intercepted and returned for a touchdown, but because R. C. Favre chucks it, it's a touchdown. So of course all we hear is the gushing about how wonderful he is. GOD I HATE THE GUSHING!!!!! I have always said that I don't really mind R. C. Favre, even though I think he's not as good as everyone says, but I hate the vocal fellatio that goes on whenever he throws one of his ducks in the air and, impossibly, someone from his own team catches it. DAMN IT!!!!! I'm going to loathe this season, aren't I? Well, it was only the Dolphins, so I can still hope that R. C. will throw that pass against a good team and get it picked. Can't I?
Turnovers: Jets 1, Dolphins 1. Turnovers = loss? Another wash. But the Dolphins should have had one more. Just one more!
New England 17, Kansas City 10. The big news of the weekend, of course, is Tom Brady going down for the season. I can't say I'm that upset. You could argue it's the football gods taking their revenge for the Cheaters running up the score against hapless teams last year, but I think the Super Bowl was revenge enough. Shit happens - deal with it. I think if the Eagles had had a healthy Donovan McNabb for the past few years they would have made the playoffs a few times. I do know that if Randall Cunningham hadn't gone down in the first game of the 1991 season, the Eagles, with one of the most dominant defense I've ever seen, probably would have won the Super Bowl. So SUCK IT, PATRIOTS FANS!!!!! The only thing that they can hope for is that the rest of the division isn't really that good. But the Bills might pass the Cheaters this year. That would be neat. Oh, and Randy Moss thinks it's a dirty play. Shut the fuck up, Randy. The only universe where that's a dirty play is one where teams can cheat, get caught, and get a slap on the wrist. Oh, wait a minute. Never mind ...
Turnovers: Cheaters 2, Chiefs 1. Turnovers = loss? No, but only because Kansas City is in the running for worst team in the league. I feel bad for Nittany Lion Larry Johnson. 3-2.
New Orleans 24, Tampa 20. This was another early game of which I saw none. I guess the Saints are good. Who knows. I'll check these teams out next week, I suppose.
Turnovers: Buccaneers 1, Saints 1. Turnovers = loss? Yet another wash.
Tennessee 17, Jacksonville 10. Remember those people who said the Jaguars would go deep in the playoffs? Yeah, okay. You might want to gain more than 33 yards on the ground, Jax. And although the Titans won the game, Vince Young had a weird game. I've never been a fan of Young (check the tape!), but he seems to have gone 'round the bend. Did he need to be coaxed back into the game at one point? He was finally knocked out and will be out for a few weeks, and I really wonder if he'll ever come back. He spoke of retiring in the off-season, and I wish that if he wanted to quit, he would. Football isn't everything, after all, and Young shouldn't be pressured to play.
Turnovers: Jaguars 3, Titans 2. Turnovers = loss? Sure, why not. 4-2.
Dallas 28, Cleveland 10. The Browns, a sexy pick to make the playoffs and the darlings of national television (five appearances this season), looked really awful. Whenever I turned on this game, Tony Romo was dissecting them. Hey, Cleveland - you might want to get a defense! And their offense didn't look that great either, frankly. And I like how the commentators were talking about Romo's poise as he ripped apart the Browns, but they never mentioned the fact that his offensive line gave him what seemed like eight minutes to throw every single time. As we have seen, it's pretty easy to be a good quarterback when your offensive line is so good. Just ask Peyton Manning, who lost his long-time center and looked pretty ordinary in the Sunday night game. Of course, no one cares what Dallas does in September. They haven't won a playoff game in over a decade. You cannot believe how sweet that sentence is to type.
Turnovers: Cowboys 1, Browns 0. Turnovers = loss? Nope. 4-3.
Carolina 26, San Diego 24. Remember those people who said the Chargers would go deep into the playoffs? They still might, be you really shouldn't let a team drive down the field against you with hardly any time on the clock and let them score a touchdown on the last play of the game. At home, mind you. This is another game I didn't watch much, but I still don't buy Delhomme as a great quarterback. It's nice that he's finally healthy, but I'm going to say that the Chargers are a bit overrated this year. Maybe I'll change my tune later in the season with regards to the Panthers.
Turnovers: Panthers 1, Chargers 1. Turnovers = loss? Another wash.
Arizona 23, San Francisco 13. Most people probably ignored this game (I know ESPN did), but it was somewhat intriguing. More than a few people claimed the Niners would be decent, but they're not good. And although it was against a bad team, Arizona did a lot of things right. They went into the half tied 10-10, and the Cardinals got the ball to start the third. They took 6.35 off the clock on a 15-plau drive and kicked a field goal to go ahead. Then they pooch-kicked off, which the Niners fumbled, and recovered. Then they had a 4.22 drive down to the 1-yard line, where they went for it on fourth down and scored a touchdown to go ahead by ten. San Francisco came back and kicked a field goal, and when the Cardinals got the ball back, they went 18 plays in 10.08 and kicked the clinching field goal at the two-minute warning. They held the ball for 23 of the 30 minutes in the second half. That's good stuff. Not only does it destroy the other team's will (and keep Frank Gore, who was gashing Arizona in the first half), but it keeps your defense fresh for next week. I'm not ready to say the Cardinals are a good team, but Arizona in previous years wouldn't have won this game. They play another bad team next week (the Dolphins), and it will be interesting to see how they respond to this early stay at the top of the division.
Turnovers: 49ers 5, Cardinals 0. Turnovers = loss? Pretty much, although the Cardinals didn't capitalize on the three in the first half. They should have won by a lot more. 5-3.
Chicago 29, Indianapolis 13. I was fairly stunned by this score, as I didn't think Da Bears had enough offense to beat the Colts, even though I don't think Indy is as good this year as they have been in the past. As I wrote above, when you put pressure on a quarterback, he usually looks ordinary, and Manning looked kind of ordinary. I never turned the game back on after the Colts scored to make it 15-13, and I wasn't watching a lot before that, but I did see Da Bears defense play well. Will Tennessee win the AFC South by default?
Turnovers: Colts 1, Bears 0. Turnovers = loss? The turnover was returned for a touchdown to make the score 22-13, so sure. 6-3.
Green Bay 24, Minnesota 19. I'm not sure why people thought the Vikings were going to go deep into the playoffs (and some picked them to win the NFC or the Super Bowl). Tarvaris Jackson has never wowed anyone as a quarterback, and we know that you need a good QB to win, and Adrian Peterson, despite his dominating year, looked crappy against some teams (the Eagles, for instance) and did get hurt, just like he did in college. Meanwhile, I still think the Packers are overrated and got lucky last year, but somebody had to win this game, right? So where other people saw a possible titanic matchup between two Super Bowl contenders, I saw a game with two mediocre teams who might win a division by default. Aaron Rodgers didn't embarrass himself, however, so I guess that's something.
Turnovers: Vikings 1, Packers 0. Turnovers = loss? I suppose. 7-3.
Denver 41, Oakland 14. Not unlike the Eagles win, I don't know how much you can take from this. Oakland is probably worse than several college teams, so the Broncos putting the whuppin' on them isn't that astonishing. However, the fact that the Raiders keep bringing in talented assholes (hello, D'Angelo Hall!) who get burned by a nobody (Eddie Royal?) is priceless. I'm not a Raiders fan, in case you're wondering. The Raiders, like the Rams, are looking at a long, looooooong season.
Turnovers: Raiders 1, Broncos 0. Turnovers = loss? Well, I don't think it really mattered, but the stats don't lie! 8-3.
So that's the week in football. Dallas and Pittsburgh were probably the most impressive (Philadelphia and Denver looked better, but their competition was much worse), while San Diego and Indianapolis were probably the most disappointing. And how many games will the Cheaters win? I say seven. I hope this past weekend is the only one they win, but I don't think that's feasible.