Decided we’ll do a weekly Top Players thread, so here’s week one.
MVP – Tom Brady – 32/48, 517 yards, 4 TDs
Not much to say here. This is a very obvious pick. Brady was in mid-season form simply tearing apart a Miami secondary that I thought would be better than they played. Though they had some protection issues early on, Solder picked up his pace and the rest of the line filled in for injuries admirably. Almost impossible to beat New England when Brady’s this good.
Offensive Player – Aaron Rodgers – 27/35, 312 yards, 3TDs
There’s some other players with bigger numbers, but only Tom Brady was more impressive than Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers came out fired up and torched the New Orleans defense. 21 points in the first quarter and spread the ball all over. He was ruthless and poised all night and gave us a great opening night game.
Defensive Player – Terrell Suggs – 5 tackles, 3 sacks, 1 PD, 1 Tackle for Loss, 2 forced fumbles /
DeMarcus Ware – 4 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 tackles for loss, 3 QB hits, 2 forced fumbles
We’ll do a co-defensive player this week with The Suggernaut and Ware. Both were terrors for opposing tackles. Ware abused right tackle Wayne Hunter all night. And he didn’t even target him all night. If they’d left him on Hunter the whole night he probably would’ve accumulated more sacks than he did. Suggs put up another brilliant performance against the hated Steelers. He knocked Willie Colon out of this season (he was placed on IR today), and simply terrorized Ben Roethlisberger all night. And when both of these players hit their quarterbacks, they were looking for turnovers. 5 sacks and 4 fumbles between them is awesome for a week that featured little defense.
Offensive Line Performance of the Week – Oakland Raiders / Baltimore Ravens
In a game that featured some atrocious play, the Oakland Raiders proved that they can dominate without old line coach Tom Cable. This unit plowed the way late for Darren McFadden and Michael Bush to seal the game. DMC posted 150 yards and Bush ran for a tough 30 against 7 and 8 man fronts late. Their pass protection did have some issues (4 sacks of Jason Campbell), but they did enough for Jason Campbell to keep Denver honest most of the game.
Baltimore gets on here because they man-handled the vaunted Steelers run defense. This unit has finished top ten for what seems like forever, but Baltimore churned out 170 rushing yards. If you watch former wash out Bryant McKinnie on James Harrison you’ll see the physicality this unit brought to the table on Sunday. They set the tone for this game with Ray Rice getting 19 carries for 107 (5.6 YPC) and Ricky Williams eating up clock with 12 carries for 6.3 (5.3 YPC). Maybe more importantly, this unit did an amazing magic trick. They made former defensive MVP James Harrison disappear, and Lamar Woodley recorded 1 sack, the only one that day. Keeping Joe Flacco clean is the best way this team can excel on offense and Sunday’s performance was truly epic.
Rookie of the Week – Cam Newton – 24/37, 422 yards, 2 TDs, 1 Int
Hard to top a rookie that comes out setting records. Newton impressed everyone, even his toughest critics (and I’m certainly on that list). He was poised and unafraid to make tough NFL throws. He carried this team that could not run at all. We’re it not for their weak defense and a Patrick Peterson punt return, he might have stolen a victory here from a heavily favored team. He’s set the bar high now, but first indications are promising for Carolina.
Special Teams Player of the Week – Ted Ginn Jr – 4 KR 176 yards, 1 TD, 5 PR, 92 yards, 1 TD
With 157 yards in two returns its hard to top that performance. Add in the fact that he essentially won the game for Jim Harbaugh’s old look offense and it’s clear that Ginn deserves this title. He may be a bust as a receiver, but his return ability makes him a valuable asset to a team with a strong defense.
Defensive Play of the Week – Haloti Ngata on Rashard Mendenhall
Yes this is a homer pick, but I defy anyone to have watched the Ravens – Steelers game and not feel the impact of this play. Opening the 2nd half, the Steelers lined up single back 3 wide. Haloti evaded the center / guard combination in front of him and obliterated Mendenhall milliseconds after he received the hand-off from Ben Roethlisberger. Mendenhall fumbled and Ngata recovered. Following that play, the Ravens threw a play action pass to Ed Dickson to go up 28 – 7 and ease their fears there would be a repeat of last years AFC divisional round. Oh and on the ensuing drive after the touchdown, Haloti deflected a pass into the air that Ray Lewis picked off. Didn’t end up in points, but Haloti essentially destroyed the Steelers hopes of a comeback right there.
Offensive Play of the Week – Tom Brady to Wes Welker for 99 yards
The Patriots abused the Dolphins using dual tight ends as mismatches all night, but on 1st and 10 from the 1 yard line, Tom Brady lined up in an empty set, saw the major blitz coming and threw a perfect pass up to a streaking Wes Welker who promptly stiff armed the recently cut Benny Sapp and jogged 99 yards for the longest touchdown in NFL history. A pretty sweet play.
Hottest Coaching Seat From Week 1 – Tony Sparano, Miami Dolphins
We already know that Dolphins management was aggressively pursuing Jim Harbaugh. Defensive performances like Monday night’s Dolphins game won’t help Sparano keep his job. The team seems like it respects him and plays hard for him, but his ability to coach the unit doesn’t seem up to par with the other three coaches in the NFL. He’s been riding the wave of his quick turn around behind Chad Pennington and the Wildcat, but the Dolphins haven’t sniffed the playoffs since then. Getting passed by the Bills this year could be the end. Sparano needs to put up wins quickly or lose this team and his job down the road.