Below is a very short analysis of each Sunday game from our perspective. There were some pleasant surprises (Cam Newton), some bad performances (Chris Johnson), and some performances so awful that they can be barely mentioned in the same breath as the NFL (I’m looking at you, Donovan McNabb). Here are our analyses:
Pittsburgh 7, Baltimore 35
- Andy- Wow. What was supposed to be the best game of the week was a complete blowout. A team getting 3-4 turnovers almost always wins the game. The Baltimore Ravens got 7. Joe Flacco (17/29, 224 yards, 3TDs) had one of his best games as a Raven, and the O-line played effectively, opening up holes for Ray Rice and Ricky Williams. I wouldn’t expect a repeat of this in Pittsburgh, but this drubbing is something I as a Ravens fan will savor.
- Cole – I spent some time trying to figure out what exactly happened here. The best answer I can come up with is that offensively, all the preseason work the Ravens spent throwing deep balls at Lee Evans opened up the passing game. It felt like there was more room on the field. Defensively, this unit has its ‘swagger’ back. They brought pressure – which former coordinator Gregg Mattisson tended to avoid – and they made plays. This was an incredibly surprising game simply because the intensity was not there from the Steelers. They got punched and didn’t respond. They got punched again and didn’t respond. By the time Haloti blew up back to back plays inside the Steelers 20 yard line, the Steelers were reeling.
Cincinnati 27, Cleveland 17
- Andy- I did not expect Andy Dalton and Bruce Gradkowski to lead this team to victory. Dalton generally played it safe before he got injured, but did not screw up and kept this team in the game. AJ Green showed a flash of why the Bengals drafted him with his 41-yard TD reception for the Bengals to take the lead (although it was mostly blown coverage on that play). Cedric Benson was the workhouse and did well with 128 yards on 25 carries. The Cincinnati defense also performed very well, and Colt McCoy (19/40, 213 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT) seemed to regress from the preseason. Not time to panic yet Cleveland, but this team needs to play better if they want to compete at all.
Indianapolis 7, Houston 34
- Andy- There really is not much to say here. No Peyton Manning, no good game for Indy. The Texans had 3 turnovers (2 Schaub interceptions and 1 Ben Tate fumble), but still dominated the Colts on both offense and defense. Ben Tate and Derrick Ward were able to run all over the Colts in place of Arian Foster. Kerry Collins (16/31, 197 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT) performed admirably, but was hit too many times and fumbled it 3 times (2 lost). This game was a domination
- Cole – The Colts are who we thought they were. Peyton Manning undertakes so much on his own that without him they are lost. They don’t have a rushing attack, they struggled in protection, and most importantly they had to play from behind. This is a defense that is entirely built upon the premise that Peyton can get them a lead. The times when they struggle is when a team jumps out and can hammer this defense up the gut with rushing body shots. Frankly, even when they’re down a lot of teams continue to throw assuming they need to put up more points. Today they got down and could not dig themselves out, especially without Peyton.
Detroit 27, Tampa Bay 20
- Andy- This game was not as close as the score. The Lions shut down the run game early, and then Tampa just gave up even trying. Matt Stafford (24/33, 305 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT) looked like the player the Lions wanted when they drafted him first overall, with over 250 yards in the first half alone. The Lions defense was much improved, and the secondary held together better than I expected. Josh Freeman was kept in check, and never was able to lead the Bucs back into the game until it was too late.
Philadelphia 31, St. Louis 13
- Andy- Let’s hope Sam Bradford gets better. A nerve injury in his hand could be very serious and stop St. Louis’ playoff hopes before they begin. Bradford (17/30, 188 yards) was unimpressive all game. They had more success on the ground with Steven Jackson and Carnell Williams, but couldn’t keep up with the Eagles offense. Vick wasn’t great in the air (14/32, 187 yards, 2 TDs), but also had 98 yards rushing, and the Eagles defense took it to Bradford. Lesean McCoy was strong running, and should get more touches. They need to improve that rush D if they want to win against elite teams, however.
Atlanta 30, Chicago 12
- Andy- There’s no way to put this nicely: the Falcons looked just plain terrible. They were able to gain yards, with Matt Ryan going 31/47 for 319 yards (0 TD, 1 INT) and Michael Turner had 100 yards on only 10 carries, but they could not punch it into the end zone until a defensive TD in dead time. 3 turnovers including 1 for a TD did not help. The Bears defense deserves credit for bending but never breaking, and Jay Cutler (22/32, 312 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT) had a good game. Matt Forte was good as a RB, but was dangerous as hell receiving, with 5 receptions for 90 yards, including an impressive 56 yard TD. The Falcons should not panic, but they need to work on tackling and converting TD opportunities when they have the chance.
Buffalo 41, Kansas City 7
- Andy- If anyone thought Todd Haley wasn’t on the hot seat before, now they do. Ryan Fitzpatrick (17/25, 208 yards, 4 TD) was just fantastic, throwing the ball around to Stevie Johnson, David Nelson, and Scott Chandler. The Chiefs could not get the air game going, and got away from a successful running game once they got behind. Kudos to Chan Gailey and the Bills coordinators for scoring quickly and screwing up the Chiefs offensive gameplan.
- Cole – The Chiefs have not adjusted their style from last season. This team needs to run the ball in order to be effective. The Ravens obliterated the run last year, and the Chiefs couldn’t pass effectively. They haven’t done enough this year to change that. The Bills held Charles down long enough to build a sizable lead and forced the Chiefs to throw and they simply could not.
Tennessee 14, Jacksonville 16
- Andy- I did not see as much of this game, but frankly there was not much to see, even with how close the score was. Both offenses were anemic for the most part. Chris Johnson was a no-show, with 24 yards on 9 carries. MJD had a good game (97 yards and 1 TD in 24 carries), but QB Luke McCown looked very bland and was kept to a very conservative playbook. Aside from his 80-yard pass to Britt, Hasselbeck was just as bland. I do not expect much from either team in the future.
New York Giants 14, Washington 28
- Andy- The game was a draw in the first half, but in the second half it was all Washington. Kudos to the defense, which was stifling and all over Manning in the 3rd and 4th quarters. Rex Grossman was also very impressive in the second half, and TE Fred Davis had an outstanding day. This also exposed the two Giants weaknesses: their offensive line and injury-depleted secondary. A game of hope for the future for DC, of potential future gloom for the G-Men.
- Cole – Two teams I don’t think are going places. Grossman looked good today, but frankly the Giants secondary is so ravaged that its hardly surprising. Add in that Justin Tuck couldn’t play and you see why the Redskins were able to move the ball through the air. I expected them to rush the ball better, but Tim Hightower was only mildly effective at best. On the opposite side, the Redskins defense looked good. Again the Giants have just installed a new offensive line which had to factor in, but I felt that the Giants receivers should’ve been able to do more against this secondary. Next week might not even tell us more about these teams. The Redskins get the woeful pass defense of the Arizona Cardinals while the Giants will get the battered and bruised Rams. Washington vs Dallas and New York vs Philadelphia in week three will be the time to really get a feel for how good or bad these teams are.
Minnesota 17, San Diego 24
- Andy- Is it too early to start calling for Christian Ponder? Donovan McNabb had a pitiful performance, going 7/15, 39 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT. Mike Tolbert was everywhere for the Chargers, with 103 total yards and 3 TDs. The Chargers were able to move the ball, but were not able to secure a win until the very end of the game. They need to not turn it over in key positions and, once again, work on their special teams. They cannot afford to keep games so close if they want to go anywhere this year.
- Cole – Countdown for Christian Ponder is probably at 7 weeks. I think they’ll turn to Joe Webb first in the hopes of salvaging the season first and if they’re out of it by their bye week (week 9), then Ponder will get the call. Of course if Webb is equally ineffective then Ponder’s on his way. McNabb was atrocious. 39 yards. Less than 100… less than 50… less than 40! In a game! Adrian Peterson is a monster and at some point the Vikings coaching staff will conclude that if they can get a game manager they can probably hang around and win games which will prompt the move. McNabb could be cut when that happens seeing as he seems to have an ego problem and doesn’t appreciate getting benched for performance. On the other side, the Chargers were solid all around…. except special teams where they opened the season by allowing a kick return. Remarkable.
Carolina 21, Arizona 28
- Andy- Cam Newton outperformed everybody’s expectations. Going 24/37 for 422 yards and 2 TDs (and 1 INT) isn’t just good for a rookie QB in his first game: it’s unbelievable. He carried this team, and while they did not win, they seem to have been proven right in drafting Cam first overall. Kevin Kolb (18/27, 309 yards, 2 TD) performed just as Arizona wanted, and rookie CB Patrick Peterson’s punt return for a TD was beautiful. In the end, it was Arizona’s big play ability that won this game, and is certainly something to watch out for in the future.
- Cole – Count me among the first to admit I may have been wrong about Newton. I honestly felt like he would come out throwing 3 or 4 picks in this game, or he’d be running around more than throwing. His arm looked impressive, and more importantly, he was willing to make NFL throws. It shows confidence and comfort at this level. He made some mistakes and couldn’t turn 400 yards into more points, but he looked very impressive and that can build momentum for this year. Kolb was alright, but didn’t command the offense as well as Kurt Warner used to. He’s still developing chemistry with his receiver so we’ll give him a pass. He’ll have some tests coming up to prove that he’s the right guy for the job.
Seattle 17, San Francisco 33
- Andy- Ted Ginn handed coach Jim Harbaugh his first NFL win. Ginn had a punt return and a kick return for a TD, both in the 4th quarter. Both offenses were pretty bad, with both QBs (T-Jack and Alex Smith) combining for barely over 300 yards. Tavaris Jackson had 3 turnovers, although the o-line for Seattle was poor all day and deserves some of the blame for his 2 fumbles. 49ers RB Frank Gore and Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch were never able to get started. This was a pretty ugly game until Ginn went crazy.
- Cole – Jim Harbaugh has built… something… I’m not really sure what it is because frankly it doesn’t excel at anything. Alex Smith was efficient and didn’t make killer mistakes, but they didn’t run or throw the ball effectively. Vic Fangio has a nice defense working, and 1st round pick Aldon Smith looked impressive in his debut. With a little seasoning this could be a good defense this year. With better secondary players it could be elite in a few years. Patrick Willis is the heir to Ray Lewis and Brian Urlacher.
Dallas 24, New York Jets 27
- Andy- The Jets managed to pull a victory out of the jaws of defeat. They did receive some help, with the Cowboys ending the game without their top 3 cornerbacks, and Tony Romo made some careless mistakes, most noticeably a late-game INT to Revis that gave the Jets a great shot at taking the lead, which they did. Not surprisingly, neither team ran the ball well, but LT did well on 3rd down situations. Sanchez looked good at the end of the game, but facing 4th and 5th string CBs will help as well. Romo and the Cowboys offense buckled under the pressure.
- Cole – Tony Romo managed to pull defeat from the podium of victory. That’s not fair to him because it’s not all his fault, but he seems to be unable to avoid the critical mistakes late in games. His interception throw to Revis while targeting a limping Dez Bryant with the game tied was unacceptable. Again, his fumble shows an inability to think about the situation and understand that if he simply throws it away or slides down at the 5 or 10 the team likely has a 10 point lead with the ensuing field goal. I’d still say the Cowboys win this game if their corners stay healthy. Losing Mike Jenkins for most of the 4th quarter and Scandrick for most of the game doomed them. Sanchez picked apart their weakened secondary. Still the Cowboys have a lot to be excited about. The defense looks very good under Ryan and the offense looked relatively sharp today for facing a top 5 NFL defense. The Jets offense could use some work, and their transition from a run first team to a 35 throw team seems to be counter intuitive. Shonn Greene looks like a bust at running back. They need to replace him badly going into next year. One can only imagine what Mark Ingram would’ve looked like running behind this line.