What have we learned - Week 1
Anyway, it's time for the NFL (college football, you may have noticed, started last week), and let's try to figure things out from one whole week of games. Jumping to conclusions is p-h-u-n! (One thing I don't say enough: Last week, while watching Penn State trounce Akron, I turned to my lovely wife and said, "Damn, I just love watching football!" I forget how much I love watching games when it goes away. Krys is certainly not a football widow; I turn games off all the time - next week I'm going to miss watching the Penn State game, for instance - but I really, really love watching football. Unless McNabb is gone for a long time. Watching Kevin Kolb run that offense was pretty painful.)
(And, to warn you, since these posts run pretty long with a lot of text, I've dropped in some random cheesecake pictures. Just a warning!)
Eagles 38, Panthers 10. When Carolina took the ball to begin the game and went 70 yards in 8 minutes to score a touchdown, I thought everyone's favorite team was in trouble. Luckily, the defense and special teams took some heat off the offense - in one 5-minute span in the second quarter, the Eagles scored 21 points and ran one (1) offensive play - and all went well ... until McNabb decided to score a touchdown in the third quarter and, while lying in the end zone, was hit by a late-entering defensive player and fractured a rib. The defender wasn't penalized, and I'm not sure he should have been, but he was late, and if McNabb misses significant time, I'll be really upset because it wasn't in the middle of a play. I certainly don't want players to pull up when they have a big lead, but it was 31-10 late in the third quarter, so couldn't McNabb have thrown it away and lived to play another day? Sheesh. (It was third down, so I get why he didn't, but a field goal works there, you know!) I wouldn't mind if they were playing a bad offensive team next week and could maybe survive with Kevin Kolb at QB, but they're playing the Saints, who just hung 45 points on Detroit (yes, it's Detroit, I know, but they're still good) and are firing on all cylinders. I hope the home crowd will inspire the defense and that Michael Vick can play in Week 3 and then the bye gives McNabb a chance to recover. As for Jake Delhomme - I've been saying for a few years that he's overrated, and boy howdy, is he proving me right. In his last game (the playoff loss to Arizona), he threw 5 interceptions and fumbled once. Today: 4 interceptions and 1 fumble. He's kind of like Brett Favre (God, I have to write about him for another freakin' year?) but less talented, and that gets him in deep trouble. Last year, it seemed Carolina didn't rely on him as much, and they were successful. Today, once the Eagles decided to play some run defense, they forced Delhomme to throw a lot, and we saw what happened. Seven turnovers (not all on Jake, of course, as he was benched) will cause you many, many problems.
Steelers 13, Titans 10. I know I should have watched this, because it featured "real-man" football, but I just couldn't be bothered. I will say that I don't understand the love for Ben Roethlisberger. Sure, he makes some plays, but usually there's a reason his team needs him to make a fourth-quarter comeback - because he's played lousy for three quarters and the team is either losing of playing down to the level of their competition. The defense saves that team way too much. Yes, I'm jealous that Big Ben has two Super Bowl rings. That doesn't change the fact that he's not that excellent. He's a top ten quarterback in the league, sure, but he's not top five.
Falcons 19, Dolphins 7. I watched exactly none of this game. Hey, Atlanta won! Good for them! The Dolphins will find out that last year's playoff run is a mirage, I think.
Broncos 12, Bengals 7. Woody! has to be dying inside after the events of this game. I turned it on at the perfect time - the last 30 seconds. Prior to that, it seemed like a snorefest, but a snorefest that it appeared Cincinnati had won when they scored a touchdown with 38 seconds left. Denver was backed up at its 13 and all hope seemed lost. Then Kyle Orton threw a pass to Brandon Marshall, who was covered by three defenders. If he catches it, he probably gets tackled in bounds and I don't think the Broncos could have gotten a few more plays off to get into field goal range. It's no guarantee that he would catch it, either. But one of the defenders in front of him leaps in the air and tips the ball. Unfortunately, he tips it straight up and in front of him a few feet, right into the arms of ... Brandon Stokely, receiver for the Broncos. As everyone appeared to be covering Marshall, there was no one between Stokely and the end zone, and he scored the winning touchdown with 11 seconds left. Man, what a way to lose. I don't think either of these teams has reason to be optimistic.
Vikings 34, Browns 20. Dear sweet Jebus, it's yet another year with Brett "Risen Christ" Favre on an NFL roster. I like how he said that his daughters told him that he should come back to get another Super Bowl ring. Yeah, right. His daughters are probably saying to him, "Hey, are you really my daddy? Because when you're gone for six months out of the year, Mommy hangs out with the landscaper a lot." The nice thing is that there seems to be a bit of backlash against R. C., mainly because of that crackback block he laid on that dude in the preseason game. I'm sure the media will quickly revert to worshipful form, but it was nice them get their heads out of their asses for a bit. Anyway, R. C. is supposed to lead this immensely talented Minnesota team to the Promised Land (that would be just like the Risen Christ, wouldn't it?), but the Vikings are classic underachievers (people claim the Eagles are underachievers, but at least they get to NFC Championship Games and the occasional Super Bowl) and there's no reason to think this year will be any different, especially once R. C. starts seething with jealousy over the attention paid to Adrian Peterson and begins to hurl the ball around like it was 1996. And he will. Peterson, meanwhile, put up typically monster numbers against a completely overmatched Cleveland team. Good job, Adrian - let's see you do that in the playoffs. Speaking of the Browns ... well, maybe we shouldn't. Thanks for playing, Cleveland - better luck next year!
Colts 14, Jaguars 12. I watched one play in this game. Nothing to say, really. It was closer than I would have expected, because I don't think Jacksonville is very good, but maybe the Colts aren't as good we think either. Who knows.
Saints 45, Lions 27. Man, whenever I looked up, Drew Brees had thrown another touchdown pass. Sure, it was against Detroit (I think they're at 18 losses in a row now), but that's still impressive. Next week they invade Philadelphia, and I fear for that game now that McNabb is (probably) out. Of course, any hope New Orleans has a postseason glory rested in their defense, and allowing Detroit 27 points (granted, one touchdown was a fumble recovery) isn't that great. Matthew Stafford got picked three times, but turnovers are largely luck, so I wouldn't hang my hat on that. Detroit was anemic offensively, but they did manage to move it a little bit (thanks to three Saints turnovers), so if the Saints play a team that can play a little defense (like the Eagles), they might be trouble. Still, New Orleans is fun to watch. And they'll probably be right there with Atlanta at the end of the year for the division, because Carolina and Tampa won't be.
Cowboys 34, Buccaneers 21. Right before Tony Romo unloaded an 80-yard touchdown pass that iced the game, the announcers said something to the effect that if you didn't look at the score, you'd think Tampa was winning the game, because they were outplaying the 'Boys. Not 30 seconds later, Romo chucked his backbreaker. I don't think Dallas is going to be very good this year, but they do have big-play capability, which can cover up a lot of flaws. They got three touchdown passes of 42, 66, and 80 yards, which accounted for 188 of Romo's 353 yards - or 53% of his total, in 3 completions. Tampa gained almost as much as Dallas, but couldn't get a play or two that gained big yards, so they couldn't keep up with the scoring. Of course, a team that doesn't give up big plays will pummel Dallas. I'm not a huge fan of Carnell Williams, but it was pretty cool to see him run well for Tampa after two years of recovering from injuries. Gruden ran him waaaaay too much in his rookie year - fans are probably hoping the new coach doesn't make the same mistake.
Ravens 38, Chiefs 24. I guess I should have watched some of this game, because it seems it was pretty entertaining. But I didn't. How impressive is Joe Flacco? Man, if Baltimore's offense plays like that all the time, they could be scary good.
Jets 24, Texans 7. Hey, remember the good old days of, say, Saturday, when all the "experts" had Houston as a sexy playoff pick? And how they were starting the season at home against a rookie quarterback, so it would be easy for them to go 1-0? Yeah, well, Mark Sanchez showed the experts, didn't he? He looked fairly impressive, I'd say. I'm not sure why a lot of people like the Texans. I've never been impressed with them, even when they win. Maybe they'll win someday, but not this year. And Sanchez will come back to earth, I think. Or maybe he's just that good.
Giants 23, Washington 17. New York is good. Washington is not. 'Nuff said.
49ers 20, Cardinals 16. Talk radio folk here in the Basin are living in a dream world, where Arizona didn't barely make the playoffs and just happened to get hot at the right time and instead went 14-2 for the fifth straight year and are shoe-ins to win the NFC West again. Last year they barely escaped one game against San Francisco, and this year they couldn't escape. They were the same old Cardinals - committing 12 (!) penalties and turning the ball over twice. Their defense played fairly well until it really mattered, and then San Francisco, with no help from Frank Gore, drove 80 yards in something like 7 minutes to score the game-winning touchdown. Good job, Cardinals! San Francisco isn't any good, either, but at least they're hungry. Arizona has acted all off-season like a 9-7 record gives them the division this year by default. Um, not quite. I will say that Adrian Wilson was penalized for hitting Vernon Davis under the new rules about not hitting "defenseless receivers." I didn't see the hit, but if the NFL continues "protecting" all the offensive players, why not just make it flag football? Apparently Wilson's hit was perfectly legal under the old rules, and he didn't lead with his helmet and he didn't hit Davis in the head. He hit him in the chest with his shoulder, but because Davis wasn't looking, he was "defenseless." Maybe if I see the hit I'll feel differently, but this is a bit ridiculous. Come on, NFL! Let them play!
Seahawks 28, Rams 0. Man, St. Louis is lousy. Really lousy. When your best offensive weapon is your punter, that ain't good. Seattle looks like they're back, as long as Hasselbeck doesn't get hurt. Of course, it's fairly easy to look good against the Rams.
Packers 21, Da Bears 15. Man, it sucks to be Brian Urlacher today - gone for the season. It seems like, from what I saw of the game, Da Bears played a lot better than the Pack, but of course, it comes down to turnovers, and Jay Cutler kept throwing interceptions. Cutler is just not a great quarterback - he's fool's gold, I tells ya! Chicago will probably still be pretty good, but they're not going far in the playoffs if they even make it. And it looks like it's Green Bay's division to lose. Now that R. C. Favre is gone, I no longer hate the Pack, so that's cool with me.
Over in college football, Penn State was on cruise control for the second straight week in dominating Syracuse. I'm not convinced they're the fifth-best team in the country, but they haven't played very well at all and they've still cruised. And they won't be tested next week against Temple, for crying out loud. The other "good" team in the Big Eleven, Ohio State, played amazingly conservatively at home against USC, which is never a good idea, and they lost late. Fortune favors the bold, Jim Tressel! Ohio State played better than the Trojans for 50 minutes, but couldn't put them away. I was rooting for Michigan against Notre Dame, because I don't hate Michigan as much as Notre Dame, and I always want the Big Eleven to win those high-profile games. I still don't think the Wolverines are all that great, but I think this game may have killed Charlie Weis. Houston beat Oklahoma State in Stillwater, but do we hear how lousy the Big XII is? UCLA beat Tennessee in Knoxville, but do we hear how lousy the SEC is? I just get tired of the Big Eleven bashing. Yes, Michigan State should have beat Central Michigan, but CMU is a pretty good team. It's just annoying that everyone bashes the Big Eleven, even if the conference often deserves it. The way parity has come into college football, there are very teams that are completely easy wins. And Florida schedules all of them!
So that's the week. Not a bad one in football world, in terms of entertainment. Your opinion may vary based on how your team did, but the games in which I had no stake were pretty entertaining. We'll just see if Kevin Kolb can actually play next week! Yay!
(I got the image from here, where they have 101 attractive and probably faux redheads. Just in case you were wondering.)