Week One Monday 10-pack

AP

During portions of the offseason, it appeared that some or all of the regular season would be lost to labor unrest.  Even before 2011, there were fears that a lockout could lead to missed games.

In the end, football fans got only one less contest — the ceremonial scrimmage played at the site of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.  All other preseason games were played.  Most importantly, all 256 regular season games will be played.  On Sunday, 13 of them unfolded, a number that was lucky for the winners, not so lucky for the losers, or for the members of the winners who’ll be losing time to injury.

The fans ultimately won the most, because we got to enjoy the games.  And now we get to enjoy highlighting 10 of the biggest story lines emerging from them.

1.  Ryan v. Flacco debate heats up.

In 2008, the Falcons made quarterback Matt Ryan the third overall pick in the draft.  The Ravens held the eighth pick.  They traded down with the Jaguars (who took defensive end Derrick Harvey, a bust), and then the Ravens moved back to the 18th spot to get quarterback Joe Flacco.

In the three-plus-one-game seasons since then, Ryan has been regarded as the better player.  But the facts suggest otherwise.

Statistically, Matty Ice and Joe Cool have generated virtually identical performances.  In his regular-season career, Ryan has thrown 1,503 passes, completing 916 for 10,380 yards, 66 touchdowns, and 35 picks.

Ryan’s career passer rating?  86.6.

Flacco, in turn, has thrown 1,445 passes, with 895 completions for 10,430 yards.  Flacco has thrown 63 touchdowns, and 34 interceptions.

Flacco’s passer rating?  88.5.

In the postseason, Flacco has operated at an even higher level. He has won four playoff games, all on the road.  Ryan, in contrast, is 0-2.

And so, when Ryan hosts Mike Vick and the Eagles next week, in Vick’s return to Atlanta as the starting quarterback, Ryan desperately needs a win in order to maintain his image as a top-shelf quarterback.  Though he may not lose that standing over only one game, Flacco has caught up Ryan — and Flacco could soon pass Ryan by.

2.  Vick is still taking too many chances.

The Eagles routed the Rams, 31-13, in a game that could have been much closer than the final score suggested.  After the final gun, Philly quarterback Mike Vick declared, “It felt great to know that I can go out and play lights out, not have to worry about anything.”

But Vick’s performance suggests not that he played “lights out.”  Instead, his ongoing struggles in picking up the blitz and his willingness to pull the ball down and run could result in an opposing defender eventually turning his “lights out.”  (And . . . now we have to send Shawne Merriman $516.32.)

Vick completed only 14 of 32 passes, a 43-percent percentage.  He passed for less than 200 yards, running the ball 10 times for 98.

As Vick prepares to return to Atlanta, it was an average Falcons-style performance from Vick.  It simply wasn’t “lights out,” and he’ll need to find a way to complete more passes — and to take fewer risks with his body — if he wants to truly earn that label on a consistent basis.

3.  Injured reserve could (or at least should) be coming soon for Manning.

For the first time since December 1997, a quarterback other than Peyton Manning took snaps for the Colts.

And it showed.

The Colts were on the wrong side of a 34-7 loss to the Texans.  But it wasn’t Kerry Collins’ fault.

“It was tough out there,” coach Jim Caldwell said after the game.  “Obviously he had some pressure and some situations where protection broke down on him.  [Collins] didn’t perform as well as he is capable to because of that, but he made some nice throws.  One guy or two guys can’t do it all.  It’s a team game.”

And the team isn’t good.  And if the team doesn’t get better soon, the Colts should simply put Manning on injured reserve and give him ample time to get ready for a return to football in 2012.

With most experts opining that Manning will miss a minimum of three months, there’s no reason to bring him back in December unless the Colts are contending.

4.  Texans should presume nothing.

In Week One of the 2011 regular season, the Texans defeated the Indianapolis Colts in Houston.

In Week One of the 2010 regular season, the Texans defeated the Indianapolis Colts in Houston.

Last year, the Texans won only five of their remaining 15 games.  And so the last thing the Texans should do at this point is assume that they’ll easily control their division.

“[W]e knew we had to improve our defense and I think it’s clear our defense is much improved,” owner Bob McNair said after the game.  But should he or anyone else assume the defense is “much improved,” given that the Texans beat an overmatched Colts team that could have one of the worst offenses the Texans will face this year?

On one hand, it would be wise for the coaching staff to better manage McNair’s expectations.  On the other hand, he already has made his expectations abundantly clear.  It’s playoffs or else for Gary Kubiak and company in 2011.

Still, Sunday’s win does nothing to ensure that the Texans will avoid the “or else.”

5.  It’s way too early to spot trends.

Broadening the point (which also could be described as “recycling”) made immediately above, no team should read too much into a win or a loss in Week One.  The Saints may have lost to the best team they’ll see all year, and the Bengals may have beaten the worst.

It’s way too early to label teams as “good” or “bad,” until more games have been played.  Even then, some teams will get better as the season unfolds, and some teams will get worse.

If that sounds ridiculously obvious, there’s a reason for that:  It is.  But with fans of 14 teams looking for reasons to believe that a Week One win will result in a trip to Indy and with fans of the other 14 teams already looking ahead to 2012, sometimes it’s important to state the obvious.

6.  Steelers still may have something up their sleeves.

Yes, the Pittsburgh defense suddenly looks old.  Sure, the Ravens have a swagger that they didn’t have in prior games against the Steelers.  In the end, however, Baltimore merely held serve in its annual home-and-home series with a key rival.

They’ll meet again, in Pittsburgh.  On November 6, to be precise.  (On NBC.)

If the defending AFC champions can return the favor, all won’t be lost for the losers of the Week One game.

Regardless of whether it feels like it right now.

For the Ravens, they’ll have to learn how to play from the front of the pack, quickly.  If they can’t, they won’t be at the front of the pack for long.

That said, the Ravens look like an elite team, given the way they manhandled the Steelers.

7.  Chiefs could unravel quickly.

Unlike the Steelers, who have veteran leadership that will help them overcome an uncharacteristic 20-plus-point loss (the last one came on December 9, 2007 against the Patriots), the Chiefs are a young team that has had a Buffalo-sized wrench thrown into their plans for a second straight AFC West title.

Losing in Week One is one thing.  Losing at home by 34 points to the 4-12 Bills, whose head coach was jettisoned by the Chiefs coach Todd Haley two years ago, could be the kind of blow that will be hard to overcome.

After losing that badly to a team that was supposedly bad, teams can slide into a funk from which they may not quickly recover.

The Chiefs will need to recover quickly.  In six days, they travel to Ford Field.  Then, they go to San Diego.  In other words, an 0-3 start may be less than two weeks away.

8.  The Civil War, NFC style.

Last year, the NFC South produced a trio of 10-win teams.  This week, the supposedly best division in football was swept.

Those three 10-win teams lost to three members of the NFC North, with the Packers beating the Saints, the Bears knocking off the Falcons, and the Lions beating the Bucs in Tampa for the second time in nine months.  Throw in the Panthers’ 28-21 loss to the Cardinals, and the NFC South is a collective 0-4.

It doesn’t mean that the NFC North is the best division in all of football (even though it possibly is).  But it makes it very hard for the NFC South to lay claim to that crown.

9.  So much for close games.

Last year, Week One of the regular season produced 11 games decided by seven points or less.  This year, the number dropped to five.  But for the Cowboys’ late-game meltdown against the Jets, the number would have been four.

Though the Monday night games could produce two more close games, the gaps between some of the winners and losers seemed to be wider than usual on Sunday.  And five of the teams that lost by double-digit margins (the Steelers, Colts, Chiefs, Falcons, and Seahawks) won their divisions in 2010.

Again, it’ll take time for the dust to settle and for the consistently good and bad teams to emerge.  But the NFL loves nail-biters, and there simply weren’t very many to kick off the 2011 season.

What we got instead, as the league turned a bit upside down, may have been just as good.

10.  Kickoffs remain exciting, despite all the touchbacks.

Yes, the shifting of the kickoff point from the 30 to the 35 has resulted in more touchbacks.  Sure, I continue to be concerned that an inherently dangerous play doesn’t become safer simply by running it fewer times.

But I’m starting to believe that, while there may be less traditional kickoff-return excitement, there’s a new level of excitement that could compensate for the kicks with the only official action coming from an official flapping an arm like a one-winged bird.

With more and more kickoffs sailing into the end zone, and with more and more teams willing to allow their players to run the ball out, that split second of “will-he-or-won’t-he” will happen much more often.

And when the player chooses to come out, the excitement has multiple layers.  Will he get past the 10?  Will he get to the 20?

Or, as we saw three times in Week One, will he take the ball from inside his own end zone all the way to the other one?

So maybe, just maybe, the new procedure has enough new twists to compensate for the increase in touchbacks.

53 responses to “Week One Monday 10-pack

  1. I love how Manning is making all that money to sit on the bench. He is a true hustler.
    “COME ON MAN!”

  2. In terms of a team specific story from Wk 1, the development of Henry Melton has to be as big as anything for the Bears. A former RB, turned defensive end, and now defensive tackle, Melton looked … dominant. Granted, the Falcons interior OL went through changes, but still. If they can get outside pressure from Peppers/Idonije, have a dominant 3 technique in Melton, and good depth with Okoye/Paea inside, and potentially Wootton/Reed outside, the defensive line could really carry the day. Add in the overall talent in the front 7 (although the LB core is dangerously thin) and it could cover up a lot of the Bears DB issues/concerns (along with a scheme that tries to minimize big plays).

    When you look at the Packers and Lions, both squads have legitimate questions on the OL that won’t be answered in one game. A dominant interior to go with their ends could really be critical for the Bears in matchups against those two squads.

    It’s only one game, and we have to see if Melton can hold the weight for the year, but that is as promising as anything from the Bears Wk 1 win.

  3. 11. The Cowboys choked.
    12. Vick is overrated.
    13. McNabb makes Vikings fans wish for Favre to come back.

  4. Oh, as a 2nd point, the Redskins strong win shouldn’t get short-shifted. Sure, there’s a lot of Wk 1 stories that are intriguing, but the Redskins defense looks far improved, and I think people see now why Shanahan and Co. didn’t want McNabb around. The offense should be better simply on account of Grossman knowing the system better.

    If the running game comes around, as I expect it to, the Redskins could be a tough team for anyone in the NFC this year.

  5. “Chiefs could unravel quickly” suggests that they were somewhat cohesive at some point during this postseason. They weren’t. Haley’s Madhouse.

  6. Lions looks pretty good
    Green Bay looked great
    Mcnabb looked horrible
    Collins does what Collins always does, play average with a slow delivery and get sacked and fumbled.
    Indianapolis defense, coaching…the same…terrible
    Chicago……good
    Houston…..It was more Colts that bad
    Philly……….a little dissapointed
    Giants………Too many injuries to tell
    Panthers…….Cam Newton was Warren Moon for a day, pretty impressed.
    Steelers……….Kinda seen the blowout coming
    Ravens………….Defense was best of the day
    Chargers………….Tried to lose in week 1 again
    Seattle………..Overrated
    Dallas…………..Romo choked again
    NY Jets………..Probably the most complete team

    All in all Green Bay was the best team so far I saw. The Ravens defense was equally impressive though.

  7. 5. It’s way too early to spot trends.

    It’s way too early to label teams as “good” or “bad,” until more games have been played. Even then, some teams will get better as the season unfolds, and some teams will get worse.

    Mike,

    Please place this in a memo and distribute to all of the talking heads out there who are sure to over react to this week’s games only to completely flip-flop after next week’s.

  8. My Chiefs are a diseased dog with fleas. If anything happens to Jamaal Charles, they could be historically bad. As it is, they are the new entrant in the Andrew Luck sweepstakes.

    If you’re a fantasy owner, don’t ever let any running back you have sit against KC. They couldn’t keep me under 100 yards.

  9. Anddddd, we’re back. Vick has no sense of reality. “lights out”. Yes we won but come on, you had a 43% competition rate. If that’s lights out I do not want to see your bad game.

    Bottom line this team is heading towards a loss in the 1st round of the playoffs again. LBs will not do it. I’m not as worried about the O-Line. It will get better. But man, the Rams ran on them like they weren’t on the field.

    Oh, and Andy, I’m glad you finally remembered which side of the line was new and started running left towards the end of the game. Man you really do stink Andy.

  10. Typical– Ravens trounce Steelers and get a warning that they need to learn how to play from the front quickly or they won’t be there long. What crap!! At least now the Squealer’s fans should be quiet for a while. And to that guy who alsways says that Pittsburgh will be leaving the NFl next year to start their own league – What league would that be, Allegheny Pop Warner league?

  11. “It doesn’t mean that the NFC North is the best division in all of football (even though it possibly is).”

    Uhmmm yeah it does mean the North is the best division in football this year. Honestly it is not even close. Anyone who says otherwise is delusional. Three out of four teams in the NFC Championship the last two years were from the North. Even our worst team gave the Chargers all they wanted this weekend.

  12. First of all you can’t always believe the media. They are always trying to drum up a “story”.

    Second of all…Flacco is good. There is no doubt about it. You can’t, however, give him as much credit when you consider the strength of defense that he has. I don’t watch as many Ravens games but I’m sure that the defense has him in much better yard situations. Having a strong defense will also give a quarterback a stronger since of confidence.

    Let the Falcon’s defense get to the reputation that the Ravens do (on the field) and then let’s see how well Matt Ryan does.

  13. When it comes to to Flacco and Ryan, these two are right where they belong. Flacco, with his unibrow and gun arm, is perfect for Baltimore and the cold AFC North. Matty “Melted” Ice and his pretty boy noodle arm is perfect for cozy dome Atlanta. They belong with their respective teams, and there really is not much debate. I don’t think either fan base would want the other quarterback.

  14. “Vick completed only 14 of 32 passes, a 43-percent percentage. He passed for less than 200 yards, running the ball 10 times for 98.”

    Did you even watch the game or just pulled the stats from NFL and make up some story? There were several drop balls. which he threw right into the hands of the WR. lights out does not mean “perfect”. Those are not his fault. He played a fairly good game after that first series. Does he have things to work on? Absolutely. But so does everyone else.

  15. Main take away from week one should be that the Squealers were owned. That beatdown was epic.

    Ryan Clark, what’s up? Woodley, something to say? Harrison, where you at? Hey Troy, were not filming another commercial, there’s a football game going on. That’s right Pittsburgh fans, your team was straight dominated.

  16. corrected:
    scudbot says:
    Sep 12, 2011 3:13 AM
    “Chiefs could unravel quickly” suggests that they were somewhat cohesive at some point during this preseason. They weren’t. Haley’s Madhouse.

  17. Who exactly has been debating Ryan vs Flacco?

    And of these mysterious debaters, who actually had Ryan ahead of Flacco?

    This is a mystery to me.

  18. the colts will have one key area exposed because of the manning injury: coaching.

    caldwell has shown nothing in terms of planning or leadership that indicates he is anything more than a figurehead. he has the “lost in the headlights” stare all game.

  19. Yea, I’m concerned about Vick’s inability to pick up the blitz. He is going to get himself hurt out there. And we need him to stay healthy for the whole season. It would help if he would get ride of the ball sooner when he is under duress. Another thing that has been mention is Castillo’s defensive scheme. It seems that if you have a solid run game, you can torch our D all day. Hopefully these things improve as the season goes on. Either way, we got that ‘W.’ Fly Eagles Fly.

  20. The “Ryan v. Flacco debate?” What the hell is that? There was no debate when they were drafted, they play in different conferences, and four years into their career, the fact that they came into the league the same year is a coincidence.

    You might as well play up the vicious Trent Cole-Justin Tuck “debate” — they were both DEs taken in the middle rounds in 2005!!!! … as if anyone gives a crap.

    The NFL has no shortage of real rivalries, animosities, and intertwined stories. There’s no need to keep straining to create narratives. Crap like this is part of why people hate the media.

  21. Ryan and Flacco has never been a debate. Only in the medias and Falcon fans’ eyes.

    Flacco is the ONLY QB ever to win 4 road games in the play offs. Hardly anybopdy has won more games in their first 3 seasons (maybe nobody, I do not have that stat). Nobody has been to the playoffs every year for the first three seasons and won more play off games.

    Flacco is not elite, he is not even top ten at this point, but Ryan is no competition and he does not have to play the Steelers at least twice a year and more often than not three times.

  22. Quick look from Thursday thru Sunday –

    1 – Packers and Saints have issues on defense while the Saints may have an issue on offense with Colston’s injury.

    2 – Baltimore did not merely hold serve – the Ravens had lost six straight to Roethlisberger and for the first time they actually beat him; in the process they made him look stupid.

    3 – Maybe Jacksonville knew what it was doing dumping Garrard. Tennessee meanwhile needs to knock the rust out of Chris Johnson.

    4 – The Falcons may be in trouble if they could make a stupe like Jay Cutler look good.

    5 – McNabb was awful yet the Vikings still played well.

    6 – Vick is regressing more and more – I’m not sure he was even trying to read the Rams defense.

    7 – The Rams got punched out and Sam Bradford’s injury was not a good sign.

    8 – The Chiefs have zero fight.

    9 – The NY Giants are as bad as advertised – 19-19 in their last 38 games and Eli and Coughlin are flops.

    10 – When will the Cowboys give up on Tony Romo?

  23. Ryan: 46/69 66.7% 192 yd/avg 3:4 td:int
    Flacco: 98/184 53.7% 150 yd/avg 4:7 td:int

    Yeah, way better numbers for Flacco…

  24. Why is it in point 5 you say it’s to early to tell if a team is going to be good or bad based on one game. Then in point 6 you say the ravens look elite after beating the steelers?

  25. The only time he Flacco Ryan debate comes up is when the national media wants to overhype Ryan or talk about how over-rated Flacco is. Flacco has never been over-hyped. Even when he throws 3 TDS against the Steelers, the only thing people say is..Flacco has a great defense to work behind.

    Did anyone see Mark Sanchize work with Derek Mason behind a great defense? Derek Mason and an injured Todd Heap is the only receiver Flacco had his rookie year – when Flacco won a playoff game on the road, also when Matt Ryan won Rookie of the Year.

    I am not anti-Ryan, but nobody ever gives Flacco credit for anything. However, the only person truly overrated is Josh Freeman. However, he will be a lot less overrated this year with Cam Newton now in the league.

  26. I don’t see all the “Vick has to pick up the blitz better” stuff. There was only 1 blitz all day that Vick did not see coming, and he was sacked for a fumble. I even find it hard to blame that on him. It was a play action, with a late blitz coming from the weak (back) side. For some odd reason, the Eagles RG and RT doubled down on the end, and Celek didn’t block anybody. If a QB has 3 blockers for 2 guys, and doesn’t assume he is going to get the pass off, he is not going to last in the NFL. Overall, Vick played well, not great. The 2 spots that had the most problems were the ones everyone though would. LB and OL. The OL looked much better as the game went along, the LB looked slightly better (couldn’t look much worse than that start). The OL will get better, 4 days of playing together vs more is no comparison. The LB have to get better. All 3 are young, so they should get better, but they have to stop with the over pursuit on every cut back run.

  27. monkeesfan, add that the Packers have an issue on offense and it’s Mike McCarthy’s second half chicken little play calling. He did the same thing last year till AR got in his face and it cost the Packers a few close games. And I don’t expect the Packers D to get the edge back for a few games.

  28. Week 1 Observations:

    1. It’s Week 1……… relax!
    2. Cam Newton was great. He may suck next week.
    3. The Bengals are in first place. They may be in last place by Week 3.
    4. The Steelers looked old. I suspect they will look younger next week and their fans will be as obnoxious as ever.
    5. The Ravens looked young. I suspect they will look older next week and their fans will be as obnoxious as ever.
    6. Ryan vs. Flacco…….. are you kidding me? Who cares outside of ATL and BAL?
    7. The haters still hate Mark Sanchez. What a surprise.
    8. Rex Grossman silenced the critics…… probably for one week.
    9. Ryan Fitzpatrick threw 4 TD’s. He may not throw 4 TD’s in the next 5 games.
    10. The Texans looked like the Patriots. Next week, they will probably look like the Texans again.

    Let’s wait till Week 4 and then make some meaningful observations.

  29. It just occurred to me that I owe Ravens fan an “I told you so” or two.

    All summer when some of them were questioning Ozzie’s sanity, I kept posting that Ozzie knows what he’s doing and they should stop worrying. And all summer while people were ragging on Flacco, I kept posting that most teams would be thankful to have Joe and he only lost the playoff game to the Steelers because Boldin and Housh dropped his on-the-numbers passes.

    Sometimes I hate being right.

  30. Sad thing about the Cowboys is that they did look improved and tougher in a lot of aspects. They gave up too many 3rd down conversions, but didn’t seem as prone to breakdowns as in recent years.

    They threw well, caught well, ran well, were level-headed and stable on defense, and when you consider how many key defensive injuries they have, that’s no small feat.

    But a few dumb mistakes cost them everything. The Jets fully earned the win with their never-give-up play, but it’s not too much to say that the Cowboys had the game in their hands. Poised to take a 14-point lead with half a quarter to go, moving the ball smoothly against the Jets, and then two unforced turnovers later, the door is open and the Jets charge through it. Elite teams can’t do that.

    W-L-wise, the Cowboys are still fine. If you’re going to screw up like this, just as well it’s outside the division. But by the time they visit Philly in late October, this kind of crap has to be fully resolved. A tall order, that.

  31. The Steelers haven’t suddenly suffered some mass aging disease. Aging isn’t contagious. Overconfidence is.

    After giving up three turnovers in the Super Bowl, we were blessed only to lose by a touchdown. That should have been a humbling experience. But instead of remaining quietly focused on making a comeback, too many team leaders spent the off season talking smack and showing off. And unlike the Ravens, the team didn’t address areas of need: offensive line and corner. One reason Ben gave up those INTs in the Super Bowl is because he had Clay Matthews in his face. As he gets older, he becomes less mobile and less able to make those seat-of-the-pants plays when the protection collapses.

    I love Mike Tomlin. But I don’t want to hear my coach stand at the podium and say our team wasn’t as well-prepared as the opponent. This is opening day of the NFL season against our chief division rival. If you can’t prepare for this game, you’re in the wrong line of work. It’s time the whole team shut the heck up and got their minds on the business of football.

  32. By the way to all u flacco haters 1st of all yes he is better than matt ryan he has never won a playoff game and 2nd of all josh freeman is no where near on joes level so stop trying to compare them and y everybody try to put him down y not put ryan or freeman down and leave joe alone

  33. If you suffer a -3 Turnover differential on the road to a good team, you lose almost every time. If you have – 7, you get blown out every time.

    Steelers know that the goals are simple every year:

    1. Get enough wins to make the playoffs
    2. Play your best ball going into December

    As a Steeler fan, my only concern is that the D looked old and slow yesterday. Is the Steeler D falling off of the age-cliff, or were they just sluggish coming off of a weird offseason?

    Time will tell.

  34. Matt Ryan way better than Joe Flacco , Flacco is only good because he has a good O-line , Great defense , and Ray Rice out of Rugters switch qbs and see how good he is hell he just beat the steelers for the first time with big ben at qb gtfo I wish the falcons had two hall of famers , a sack machine , and a Tongan wrecking machine on defense .

    Falcons fan

  35. Americankris, sorry you haven’t had continuity in the front office, not to mention continuity that knew what it was doing for more than the last 3 years, that’s how you get future Hall of Famers and Tongan wrecking machines.

    Deb, one of the few classy Steeler fans. Good to see someone who can be objective. I have no doubt the Steelers will bounce back, its just a question of how long it takes. I hope they are ready for the November game because they clearly. Weren’t ready yesterday.

  36. @Deb,

    I am deserved of the “I told you so.” At least some. I was frustrated that we had minimal depth at WR and our O-Line was not cutting it. And while I take no credit, Ozzie must have read my comments (that is a joke of course) and got the Evans, McKinnie, and Gurode.

    24 hour rule. Enjoy it for that long then on the next opponent.

    I will say Ozzie needs to get Ngata’s deal done in the next week to keep him off the franchise tag all year. He needs to be thinkng ahead to Flacco, Rice extensions. But again, Ozzie not prone to check with me before he decides these things.

    @holeinone and deb,

    Tough to come in here after a beating. I know I did after the playoffs and made no excuses. You get beat, you get beat. You both are standup guys (and gals – Deb). It took 3 weeks to find a new heart after Ben ripped mine out in the playoffs in January. Long season ahead. 11/6 rematch is circled!

  37. I’m hoping the number of blowouts was just a result of a short offseason and some of those teams just weren’t ready to bring their A game. I really don’t wanna watch blowouts all season long. I’m glad that at least Jets-Cowboys matchup was a nailbiter. I still don’t understand all the hate for Sanchez.

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