Opening week is, perhaps, the most exciting time for most NFL fans. Sure if you are a spoiled fan of the Steelers, Colts, or Patriots you might feel that the post season is a foregone conclusion and therefore be looking towards January already (more on that later). But for everyone else week one is the start of exhilaration and heart break. A time when all fans are equal, and when we finally get to see our teams in real action and learn if the preseason hype is the real deal. Week one, or the time immediately following week one, is also a time of hyperbole and over reaction, its important to keep in mind that this was only one game; and just because your team lost or won doesn't mean the Super Bowl or The number one pick is assured. That being said here are some of the things that we did learn:
1)Carolina is in trouble. The Panthers just gave Delhomme a contract extension with nearly $20M guaranteed. He paid them back by throwing four interceptions and dropping one fumble. In his last seven quarters (going back to the post season game last year) Delhomme has thrown Nine, (thats “9”) interceptions! With only Josh McCown (who was hurt late in the game) and Matt Moore behind him, unless Delhomme can return to form this looks like a very long season for Panther fans.
2)Baltimore's defense looked less formidable without Coordinator Rex Ryan and LB Bart Scott. They gave up 16 points to the Chief's offense (one TD came from a blocked punt) without Matt Cassell and made Brodie Croyle, who looked horrendous last year, look like an NFL caliber starter – Allowing him to throw two touchdowns without forcing a single Interception – Baltimore still won, but it was their offense, not their defense, that got them the win.
3)The Bengals proved why they are the Bengals. They finally have Carson Palmer back healthy, they have a winnable week one match up and what happens? With thirty seconds left Leon Hall makes a good defensive play blocking Orton's pass to Brandon Marshall and Stokley comes out of no where to grab the ball and run it in for the touchdown and the win. This makes you ask the question: is there any fan more tortured and pathetic then Bengals fans?
4)Yes, they are called Bills fans. Does any team lose more games in the final seconds then the Bills? Last year it was the J.P. Losmann fumble against the Jets. The year before that it was the Monday Night Football game against the Cowboys where the Bills were up eight points late in the forth quarter, Romo threw a touchdown but the game appeared to be over when the Cowboys missed the two point conversion, a onside kick and a field goal later and the Bills had somehow squandered a 24 – 13 lead in the forth quarter alone. Then of course, there is the Music City Mircle, where a one yard forward pass disguised as a lateral during the last second kickoff, booted the Bills out of their last playoff run, this added with Norwood's “Wide Right” and the other three SuperBowl loses makes you wonder if God, or someone up there, really does hate the Bills. Well you can add Last Night's Monday Night game against the Pats to the list of evidence. Up by 11 with just over two minutes left the Bills allowed Tom Brady to score a touchdown. A missed two point conversion later and it looked as if the Pats were going to have to hang their hopes on a onside kick. They elected not to, and kicked the ball deep, Buffalo's kick return specialist Leodis McKelvin could have kneeled it down in the end zone for a touchback and let his offense ice the game. Instead he tried to return it, fumbled the ball and gave the Patriots great field posistion with over a minute left. Tom Brady did his Tom Brady impersonation and scored a touchdown, winning the game, and keeping their twelve straight against the Bills streak alive. Is there any other team that this would have happened to?
5)Speaking of the Monday night games, The NFL schedule makers are smarter then you, and me. When I first saw the NFL schedule and looked at the first set of Monday games I thought the NFL was getting lazy. Here were two matchups, The Bills versus The Pats and The Chargers versus The Raiders that included two divisional games where the favorites had beaten the under dogs eleven in a row. The games looked as if they were going to be blow outs to the third degree, the kind of games that would force you to relinquish the remote to your wife or girlfriend so she can turn it to “Gossip Girl.” Instead we got two of the best games all week, and while the outcomes were as expected, the way they got there was most unexpected. I can't believe I am saying this but, Thank you NFL for putting the Raiders and Bills on Monday Night.
6)Mark Sanchez did not look like a rookie last night. Against a tough defense Sanchez threw for 272 yards and one touchdown. He certainly did not look like someone who only had 16 starts in college. He had an interception late but then on the following drive drove the Jets down the field for the score. This shows that he has the ability forget his mistakes, something that is important in the NFL, and his mobility to avoid the pass rush was also impressive. He has a bigger test next week against the Pats, but Jets fans are feeling much better about that now then they were 72 hours ago.
7)The advancement of Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco will continue this year. Both shouldered bigger parts of their offense then last year and both had passer ratings over 95. I doubt the “sophomore slump” will hit either of these guys.
8)Brett Farve will do good if he can stop himself from throwing the ball to much. So long as Adrian Peterson is still Adrian Peterson the Vikings will move the ball more on the ground then the the through the air. If Farve can just manage a game and keep his shoulder healthy for the end of the season, Minnesota will be a force in the NFC.
9)LaDainian Tomlinson looked old. I felt that he would have a comeback year this season, after hearing that he was healthy and seeing how angry he was with all the doubters. But against the Raiders he only gained 55 yards on the ground and Sproles looked much more effective. I am still sticking by him (and keeping him in my fantasy team line up) but if he doesn't get it going in a few weeks look for his career to end by the end of next season. If he can get it going next week at home against Baltimore then he will look like his old self.
10) The Steelers, Patriots, and Colts all have concerns. Granted, they all won their opener, but Tom Brady looked rusty, The Steelers' O-line looked suspect and the Colts' Offense looked anemic against a team that won five games last season. Fans that are used to seeing their teams go to the play offs every year (and yes, I know the Pats missed it last season, but Patriot fans will tell you its because they lost Tom Brady) have some cause for concern. I think all three of these teams will figure it out, but it is less of a sure thing then normal.
Now we wait for week two to see how many of these observations are totally wrong.