by MARK GREY
In a man's life, there are few things that are more anticipated then opening week of the NFL. Sure there is the birth of your first child, your first man cave, and the day you get your dream car, but opening weekend happens every year. Every season begins with its own special story lines and questions and this season was no different. There was the debut of 5 rookie quarterback, the return of Peyton Manning, and questions whether two of the games best running backs would even play. With the NFL first week finally in the books, I give you the PlayersVoice Week 1 recap.
The most talked about QB in the NFL last year wasn't even in the NFL, he was still college. The thought of having Andrew Luck as their quarterback for the future had fans all across the country rooting for their favorite team to lose. While half the league was keeping their eye on a Super Bowl title, almost half the league was keeping an eye on the race for the number 1 pick. Oddly enough, the team with the most consistent QB over the last decade ended up with the first pick and just like that a living legend was sent packing and the Andrew Luck era began. In Chicago this weekend, Luck was able to break the 300 yard passing mark in his debut, but it's the 3 interceptions he threw that prevented him and his team from even being competitive against a solid defensive Bears team. While Luck's performance won't remind anyone of Cam Newton's debut last year, he did enough to show that there will be better days ahead. Hopefully he won't be asked to throw the ball 40 times a game with the likes of Julius Peppers breathing down his neck however. On the other side of the game, Jay Cutler showed the reason why many people love him and many people hate him. In the first quarter he hit a Colts linebacker square in the numbers on his own four yard line and watched him jog right into the end zone to give the Colts an early lead. He followed that up with hanging 41 points on the Colts defense and including a 50 yard strike right down the middle of the field that hit Alshon Jeffery right in the hands. Cutler and his old Pro Bowl teammate Brandon Marshall did give Bears fans a reason to think they just might have the offensive firepower the team has been missing for decades.
While Luck was struggling to figure out the Bears defense, his fellow draft mate Robert Griffen III was picking the Saints terrible defense to shreds. The Redskins ran the ball 42 times, helping to take the the pressure off their rookie QB, and RG3 looked every bit as good as advertised. If RG3 had the debut to remember, Drew Brees had a game he can't forget soon enough. Aside from throwing 2 interceptions and completing less then 50 percent of his passes, Brees looked rusty. When he wasn't busy trying to thread the ball in between two and three defenders and getting his teammates drilled in the process, he was bouncing the ball off the turf. For all of those fans who often ask how much of a difference can a head coach really make? I think the Saints are going to show you this season. While RG3 and the Redskins are getting all the praise for their play this weekend, and they should, how bad Drew Brees and the Saints defense played should not go unnoticed.
There is probably only one person in the NFL who knows how to stop LeSean McCoy, and that one person is Andy Reid. In a game where McCoy was averaging more than 5 yards a carry and the Eagles never trailed by more then a touchdown, Reid decided to have Michael Vick throw the ball more than 50 times. Now having your QB throw the ball 50 times normally isn't a good a idea, but it's even more head scratching when your quarterback is having one of the worst passing games of his career. Vick completed just over 50 percent of his passes and threw four interception. Luckly for Vick and the Eagles, Browns rookie Brandon Weeden was determined not to let anyone beat him in a battle of interceptions, throwing four picks of his own. Thanks to the Browns lack of offense from their rookie quarterback and rookie running back, the Eagles were able to pull of a last second win. If Vick and McCoy are wondering if Reid is going to continue this unnecessary passing barricade, I'm sure Brian Westbrook and Donovan McNabb will be more then willing to tell them he's just getting started.
On Wednesday night, the stage was set for the New York Giants to begin their road to defending the Super Bowl title. Although their little brothers the New York Jets had been grabbing the headlines all off season, opening night was about them celebrating their second Super Bowl title of the Eli era. The Cowboys were brought in to be the sacrificial lambs offered up for the Giants and their fans to feast on. The only problem is Tony Romo and the Cowboys had other plans. Romo was his normal regular season self and Demarco Murray was everything he was hyped up to be, but it was Kevin Olgtree who stole the show. While the Giants secondary locked in on Dez Bryant and Miles Austin, they pretty much let Olgaltree run free and it cost them. If there are two teams that know how you play in September doesn't mean much, it's the Cowboys and the Giants, so although the game was entertaining and a nice win to start the season for the Jerry and the boys, I wouldn't put much stock in the result.
Every year the NFL would like to sell you that at the start of the season every team has a shot to make the playoffs. They run all kinds of specials about how this team went from worst to first, or the team no one saw coming, but in week 1 one several teams showed you they have no shot at making the playoffs. Last season, the Jags and the Dolphins took turns looking like the worst team in the league and this year probably won't be much different. The Jags spent the entire offseason and preseason fueding with their best player and the Dolphins don't even have a best player. The Dolphins are throwing a rookie quarterback out there with very little talent around him which is a recipe for disaster, and no one knows that better than Blaine Gabbert and the Jags. In Tennessee, Chris Johnson looks like a shell of his former self, and I can't help but to think he's got the phrase "I got a condo on my wrist and I'm cashing out" tattooed somewhere on his body. Kenny Britt was still getting over a major injury and now their second year quarterback is already banged up, so it's hard to believe the playoffs are in reach for the Titans. If the Browns play like they did this past Sunday, I couldn't see them winning the SEC title game let alone making the playoffs. Fans in St. Louis are waiting for Sam Bradford's break out year where he leads a young Rams team to the playoffs just like Matthew Stafford did last year. Only problem is he has no Calvin Johnson and I just don't see it happening this year. When you start the season with a quarterback controversy, it's normally not a good thing. When the two quarterback controversy includes John Skelton and Kevin Kolb its a terrible thing, and you have no shot at making the playoffs.
Few teams in the NFL grabbed as many headlines as the New York Jets this offseason. By trading for Tim Tebow, Rex Ryan guaranteed his team will be fielding questions about the quarterback position all season long. After the Jets first drive of the season ended with a Mark Sanchez interception, the cameras were already on Tebow, wondering how long before he gets in. If there was any question who was going to be the star QB of this game, they were quickly answered as Sanchez and the Jets scored on their next six possessions. Tebow turned out to be non factor coming in on a handful of plays and luckily never threw the ball. By the time the game was over, the Bills had lost their starting running back, Mario Williams (their biggest off-season signing) had one tackle, and Ryan Fitzpatrick picked up right where ended last season with a 3 interception game. If Fitzpatrick doesn't return to the form he showed before signing his big contract last season, it's going to be a long season in Buffalo.
It's hard to really call any game in week 1 a statement game, but the 49ers win over the Packers in Green Bay was just that. After shocking the entire NFL last year by winning 13 games, many people felt like last year was a fluke. By going into Green Bay in week one and beating a Packers team that won 15 games last year, the 49ers put the league on notice last year was no fluke. On the other side, last year the Packers had to field questions the majority of the year about the possibility of going 16-0, well this year that clearly won't be a problem. Losing in week one to a good team is no need for Packer fans to worry, but their lack of a running game and pass defense is. Look for these two teams to combine for close to 25 wins and meet again in January.
After a full slate of games during the day Sunday, the NFL was nice enough to bless us with the return on Peyton Manning on Sunday night. For Manning it was a chance to show he is still the premier quarterback in this league and for the Steelers it was chance to avenge their playoff lost from last season. Well when a team beats you with Tebow as their quarterback in overtime, chances are if you keep everything the same and replace Tebow with Manning, it's going to be a blowout, and it was. After seeing the way the rest of the teams in the AFC West looked this week, the Broncos have to be the early favorites to win the division if Manning can stay healthy.
This off-season the Ravens Joe Flacco went on record saying he was an elite quarterback, and on Monday night he looked like he was. What was supposed to be a defensive battle quickly turned into a one sided fight as the Ravens beat the Bengals by 31 points. Flacco has had several great games in the past, but if he wants to prove he's an elite quarterback he is going to need to be more consistent and have a great season. It's hard to call the 18th ranked passer in the NFL elite. You don't have to be a math guru to know that 18 out of 32 is far from elite.
Last season, Carson Palmer had three options: play for the Bengals, retire, or play for the Raiders. It's starting to look like he picked the worst of the three. Palmer spent most of Monday running for his life which is really a problem when you're not that fast. Between the Raiders dropping passes and Palmer flat out making bad throws, the Raiders looked like the joke of the NFL they have been for almost a decade now. When you throw in the fact that the special teams couldn't find a backup long snapper to get the ball out of the dirt, the second Monday night game proved to be nothing more than a waste of time. The Chargers didn't exactly look great but they did look better then the Raiders as usual.
Well this concludes the week one recap, make sure you check back next week for more of the same.
Follow Mark on twitter @greyamark.