Tuesday, September 9, 2008

NFL Week 1 Recap

Some random thoughts and observations after the first week of the 2008 NFL season:

Offense?: What happened to Jim Zorn being such a good offensive mind? What happened to how he was supposed to help Jason Campbell develop as a young quarterback? In Thursday's 16-7 loss to the New York Giants, Zorn and his Redskins looked downright lost, and I have to admit: I don't see it getting better any time soon.

The Redskins only amassed 209 yards of offense against the defending Super Bowl champions, but the last two minutes of the game were even more distressing: down by nine, Washington showed no urgency on offense. No hurry-up, no no-huddle ... and at one point, it took Campbell 18 needless seconds to spike the ball. If this keeps up, Zorn could be looking at a 5-11 season -- and maybe a pink slip.

New Beginnings: Aaron Rodgers looked quite impressive in Monday night's 24-19 win over the Minnesota Vikings. Rodgers did not throw a pick and was never sacked, even rushing for a touchdown and doing his first Lambeau Leap. It's only the first game of the season, but between Monday night's game and last year's performance against Dallas, maybe Rodgers is more ready than the Green Bay faithful think.

Which shouldn't be that surprising; Rodgers was a first-round pick and was so good at Cal, many thought he'd be the top overall pick. He wasn't -- how's Alex Smith working out, San Francisco? -- but I think over the course of the season Rodgers and the Packers will be just fine.

AFC Least?: All those preseason predictions of the New England Patriots running away with the AFC East don't look so good now. With reigning NFL MVP Tom Brady out for the season with a knee injury (coach Bill Belichick still won't tell us what the injury is), it's up to Matt Cassell -- who hasn't started a meaningful game since high school -- to keep the ship afloat. While Brady started his career in a similar, I don't expect similar results.

Does Brady's injury suddenly make Brett Favre and the New York Jets the favorites? Hard to say; New England still has a ton of talent. But it will make the division more interesting -- particularly if Buffalo's pasting of Seattle turns out to be a pattern. If I'm New England, I start looking for another QB ... and hope Daunte Culpepper hasn't yet filed his retirement papers with the league.

Vick who?: Michael Turner rushed for 220 yards in his Atlanta Falcons debut, and rookie quarterback Matt Ryan led Atlanta past Detroit 34-21. Ignoring for the moment all the jokes regarding the Lions (Matt Millen is a joke in and of himself), Ryan deserves note.

The rookie from Boston College, whom Atlanta selected with the No. 3 overall pick in April's draft, went 9-for-13 for 161 yards and his first career touchdown pass -- which actually came on his first pass, a 62-yard strike to Michael Jenkins. It was a nice tone-setter for a Falcons team trying to move on from the debacles of Michael Vick and Bobby Petrino, and while I don't think Atlanta can challenge for a playoff spot this year, the Falcons will win a lot more than three games.

Da Bears: Matt Forte is a beast, and Kyle Orton doesn't lose football games. This much we learned Sunday night when the Chicago Bears stunned Indianapolis 29-13. While Peyton Manning looked rusty, on the field for the first time since having an infected bursa sac removed from his knee, Orton did the one thing Rex Grossman couldn't: he played mistake-free football.

The Bears have a good defense, even if the secondary is a little suspect. Orton is now 14-8 as a starter for Chicago, and though he didn't throw a touchdown pass Sunday night, he didn't throw an interception, either. And Forte, a rookie from Tulane, impressed with 23 carries for 123 yards. If he can provide the spark Cedic Benson lacks and gives the Bears a consistent running game, that'll make Orton even better and give Chicago an actual offense -- which could make the Bears a contender in the weak NFC North.

Defense, Please: If the Cleveland Browns are going to make the playoffs this season, they might want to think about picking up a defense. Dallas exposed the Browns' biggest weakness on Sunday in a 28-10 win. I realize Dallas is an offensive powerhouse, with Tony Romo, T.O. and Jason Witten, but Cleveland's defense was just pitiful.

Cleveland gave up 487 yards of offense, and even after busting open Romo's chin, the Dallas quarterback torched the Browns for 320 passing yards and a score. Witten had 96 yards receiving, while Owens had 87 yards and a touchdown. Dallas will put up the points, and after the Philadelphia Eagles put up 38 against the Rams, look for next Monday's game to be a shootout.

Defensive coordinators, begin updating your resumes.

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