Week 1 in Review: Back to School
Philadelphia surviving a nail biter, New Orleans going down at home, Detroit finding their offense late in the fourth quarter: any way you slice it, Week 1 did not disappoint. At 1:00 PM on Sunday, with eight games kicking off, I found my senses overloaded. It was almost too much… almost. As I sit and digest the feast, I can’t help but be enamored with the league I love so much. Any team in the NFL can uproot another on a given week. So in the spirit of the school year beginning, I think it’s high time we handed out some grades.
New York Jets Offense – Grade: A
I think the entire Jets team should be tested for steroids. Seriously, I was absolutely flabbergasted at what I was witnessing. The worst offensive showing in the preseason turns into the highest scoring team Week 1? You can’t make this stuff up. The Bills are far from a tough opponent, but the Jets offense hasn’t looked that explosive in a long time. The wildcat was assuredly a pain to game plan for, but Tebow didn’t throw the Bills off, rushing five times for 11 yards (2.2 average). Sanchez threw an early pick, but came back strong making solid throws to break out contributors Stephen Hill (5 Rec, 89 Yds, 2 TDs) and Jeremy Kerley (4 Rec, 45 Yds, TD, Punt Ret. TD). The Jets traded up to get Hill out of Georgia Tech in the second round, and right now it’s looking like a stroke of genius. Kerley, a guy who has never drawn much attention in his two seasons, is looking like a stud slot receiver. For me, the Jets will go as Mark Sanchez goes. As long as he keeps up this steady play, the sky is the limit for a team with all the other pieces in place. If Sanchez slides into his mediocre play of the past, the media and fans will eat him alive. A truer test waits in Pittsburgh next week.
Andrew Luck (QB, Indianapolis Colts) – Grade: B+
The Stanford standout has been taking some criticism from sports media (namely Skip Bayless). For me, he did everything he could to help his team win this game. The three interceptions stand out, but if you watch the tape, it is inches that made the difference. One interception occurred while trying to find Reggie Wayne in the endzone. The ball was thrown on target, but Tim Jennings went to a full lay out, barely touched the ball, and it bounced off to an unsuspecting teammate (not to mention Reggie got held on the play, see refs rant below). The pocket collapsed extremely fast on passing downs, and the Colts were playing from behind most of the game. Luck only handed the ball off 13 times. The Bears, while getting a bit older, are still a top defense in this league. Luck joined a 2-14 Colts team, whose offensive line is extremely poor, and managed to step away from pressure, and deliver the ball on target many times. Call it making excuses if you want, but you can’t expect much more from Luck at this point.
Robert Griffin III (QB, Washington Redskins) – Grade: A+
I don’t think fairy tales could have been written this well. Seriously, I should write a children’s book about this. I could make millions. RGIII went into New Orleans, and had himself a “Welcome to the NFL” party: his own Mardi Gras. On a day where all Rookie QBs threw at least three interceptions, RGIII had none. He made quick progressions and hit his targets, throwing only seven incomplete passes. He was hit in the pocket three times and sacked only once. He also finished his first NFL game fourth all time for most passing yards in an NFL debut. While the Saints aren’t known for their defense, one can’t help but wonder what the ceiling is for Griffin. You know you’re doing something right when Hall of Famer Drew Brees comes up to you after you beat his team, in their house, and tells you he’s “proud” of you. He’s also created a media sensation, this years “tebowing”: “griffining”.
NFL Substitute Referees – Grade: D+
I’m going to get the compliments (sort of) out of the way. The NFL clearly kept the best refs for the Giants and Cowboys opener. As a Giants fan, I can even admit the refs were not all that noticeable in that contest. With that being said, it wasn’t the calls the refs did make, it was the calls they DIDN’T MAKE that have me fuming. Pass interference is the most debatable call in football, perhaps in sports. But, I’m actively trying to calm myself down thinking about the amount of pulled jerseys and cornerbacks not turning to look for the ball that I witnessed. Some of these plays really affected the games. Greg Jennings ran a route, his jersey pulled a good foot off his body, he missed the route, and it cost the Packers big. The same happened with the aforementioned Luck to Wayne connection in the endzone. Wayne was fifteen yards down the field, breaking into his post route when Tim Jennings laid BOTH hands on him, pulling jersey, and got away with it to force an interception. I wanted to call the Chicago Police department and report a mugging. The touchdown catches by Anquan Boldin (clearly dropped the ball, given the TD) or A.J. Green (robbed of a TD) in Monday night’s game? Are you kidding me? The list goes on but you get the idea. Goodell, just get me my refs back and be quick about it.
Peyton Manning (QB, Denver Broncos) – Grade: A-
The bro-mance with Peyton continues to the chagrin of some readers. I hope it never ends. I want to write “ I ❤ Peyton Manning” in my trapper keeper like a 5th grade girl. To watch him come back from four neck surgeries and perform like he did on Sunday night was pretty special. It wasn’t like he threw for 450 yards, or had 5 TD passes; he was just vintage Peyton Manning. Controlling the tempo, calling audibles at the line, and providing a passing threat to compliment an already established run game. He was also throwing at 47.6 mph, which is only two miles per hour off his previous fastballs. Sure, he’s lost a little velocity, but it’s still getting the job done. He may have his best days behind him, but there are still plenty more good ones to come.
Giants Defense – Grade: C-
It pains me to say it, but the Giants defense stunk like meadowlands (for anyone who hasn’t been, the marsh reeks. Bad.). They gave up 307 yards to Tony Romo. Their secondary is in pieces, mostly due to key injuries (something fans will have to bear, and the Giants will try to fix all season). The unbelievably talented defensive line only had two sacks. 2. I’m nauseated by those two facts alone, but DeMarco Murray & Co also gashed the G-Men for 143 rushing yards. All around, this is just one of those games you want to forget and move on. Tom Coughlin called it a “slice of humble pie”. The only positive thing I can say about the performance is the last two times the Giants lost their season opener, they’ve won the Superbowl.
Injuries to Keep an Eye On
- Greg Jennings (Packers, WR) has a groin injury and his status for Thursday’s game against the Bears is in question. He did not practice on Tuesday.
- Fred Jackson (Bills, WR) has a right knee injury. He is expected to miss 3-4 weeks and is targeting a Week 4 return against New England. Look for C.J. Spiller to carry the load in Buffalo.
- Staying in Buffalo, David Nelson (WR) has torn his ACL and will miss the remainder of the year.
- Brent Grimes (Falcons, CB) is out for the year with an ACL injury. This is a big blow to the Falcons secondary. We’ll see how they respond against Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos on Monday Night Football.
- Daniel Thomas (Dolphins, RB), Reggie Bush’s back up has suffered a concussion, his status is still being assessed.
- Darrelle Revis (Jets, CB) also suffered a concussion in Sunday’s game against the Bills. He is expected to play against the Steelers. They will need his help.
- The Pittsburgh Steelers are hopeful to get James Harrison (LB) back for their showdown with the Jets. He worked out on Monday, but I’m not sure we’ll find out his status until the weekend.
With Week 2 around the corner, I’ll be publishing the preview tomorrow. Stay tuned sports fans.