So much for preseason predictions, looks like the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins are the teams to beat in the NFC East.
Granted it’s just week one in this 2012 NFL season and four teams still have to play tonite, but what the heck is going on in the NFL? A few games went according to plan, namely: New England Patriots beat the Tennessee Titans 34 -13, and the Houston Texans beat up on the Miami Dolphins 30 -10. Mostly, though, Teams that were supposed to win, lost.
Other ‘good teams’ struggled against perceived inferior opponents. Average quarterbacks outplayed elite ones. (Oh, and NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell, got a little, if temporary, slap down)
Is this just parody? – or what I call former NFL Commissioner, Pete Rozelle’s, perhaps evil plan hatched years ago to even out the talent so the Dallas Cowboys can’t dominate the league -. Or maybe the sports talking heads don’t have a clue, and neither do the rest of us. Maybe, this ironic weekend is just an anomaly and everything will be back to normal in another week or two. I for one, don’t think so. I think, this year, up will be down, out will be in, predictions will go out the window and the 2012 NFL season will be a wild ride.
Whether you agree with me or not about that last thing, this first week of football at the very least threw a wrench in the works. So lets review some of these unexpected happenings, starting with our Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants last Thursday…I mean, Wednesday (see, there’s more evidence, I don’t think an NFL game has ever been played on a Wednesday) to open the 2012 season.
No one (ok, very few) had the Cowboys winning that game. Too many question marks on the Offensive Line and at the Wide Receiver position. Cowboy’s running back, DeMarco Murray was coming off a broken ankle, would he still have IT , or was he a one year wonder like former Cowboys HB, Julius Jones. Injuries plagued Dallas throughout training camp, with the biggest being Jason Witten’s lacerated spleen. Everyone expected Tony Romo to make that critical mistake at the most critical time (come on, if your honest with yourself, you were too).
The Cowboy’s defense was revamped – Out went Terence Newman, Alan Ball (thank God), Bradie James, Abe Elam and Keith Brooking. In came Brandon Carr, Dan Conner, 1st round pick Morris Claiborne, Matt Johnson, Mana Silva and others – with Cowboy’s Defensive Coordinator Rob Ryan having an entire off-season to right the wrongs. No one was sure how the changes would play out in an actual game, especially against the defending Super Bowl Champion Giants. NY Giant’s QB, Eli Manning, and his salsa dancing WR Victor Cruz along with the vaunted Giants pass rush were supposed to be too much for our Dallas Cowboys. Well, what do you know? The Cowboys were up to the task.
Dallas beat New York 24 – 17. Instead of critical mistakes, Tony Romo put on a clinic with 3 TD’s completing 22 of 29 passes for a 129.5 QB rating. (Romo did throw one pick early in the game that truthfully had me wondering if this was the same old Cowboys – it wasn’t). The Offensive Line? Shaky but resilient, with a Center, Ryan Cook, that had been on the team less than a week. Impressive, though Romo really made them look better than they were. DeMarco Murray? No problem, he’s back and turns out he’s not a one year wonder.
The big story for the Cowboys was Jason Witten - well, he played… the whole game. He inspired his team mates with his ‘can’t keep me down’ attitude. Meanwhile, it was the Giants that looked edgy. Eli was OK, but he was sacked three times and was generally outplayed by Romo. Victor ‘salsa’ Cruz dropped three passes, while the Giant’s, still strong, pass rush couldn’t consistently get to Romo. All of those who knew this would be the outcome, raise your hands… Not that many.
Now for the rest of the games…
Sunday’s games just kept the unexpected coming. The NFC East was supposed to be dominated this year by the stacked with talent Philadelphia Eagles and the Giants, the Super Bowl Champs. After week one, it’s the Heisman Trophy winning, RGIII led Washington Redskins and our own Dallas Cowboys that may be the ‘Beasts in the East’. From what I’ve read after the game and what I saw with my own eyes, Robert Griffin III had the best NFL debut performance of any rookie quarterback in history.
The Redskins played the New Orleans Saints in New Orleans. This was supposed to be the Saints game even without their Head Coach Sean Payton. They even got LB Jonathan Vilma back, fresh off a reversal of his NFL ban for his alleged participation in the Saints bounty scandal, for an emotional boost. The boost didn’t work, the Redskins played great and beat a fiesty Saints team in their house 40 – 32, sending a message to the rest of the NFL that they have climbed out of the NFC East basement and all bets are off. Unless I was watching a mirage, RGIII is for real.
As for the QB that will forever be linked with RGIII, Andrew Luck (like Larry Bird and Magic Johnson were in the NBA), well, his debut left something to be desired as his Indianapolis Colts got owned by QB Jay Cutler and his Chicago Bears. Did not expect that. RGIII shined and Andrew Luck struggled, it was supposed to be the other way around.
NFC East preseason favorites, the Eagles, and their QB, Michael Vick, (four interceptions), on the other hand, barely got by the lowly Cleveland Browns. Not only is it not likely Vick will stay healthy for the entire season, considering the hi-lights I saw of yesterdays game, but he and the rest of the team look like they will continue their underachieving ways of 2011.
The most ironic game in week one, by far, was the Buffalo Bills at the New York Jets. First off, the Jets created a circus by bringing Tim Tebow into their QB mix after their starting QB, Mark Sanchez regressed last year. Both Tebow and Sanchez looked like crap all preseason (especially Tebow, I’m sorry, the guy can’t hit the side of a barn, even with his 10 second wind up). The Jets forgot what an end-zone looked like. Meanwhile, the Bills were the hot pick to make it to the playoffs this year what with that shut down defense of there’s. Fast forward to Sunday and the Jets camped in the Bills end-zone beating the Bills 48 – 28, and it wasn’t that close. DE Mario Williams and the rest of the Bills defense were non factors. Their defense scored some points too, but so much for the ‘no offense’ Jets.
Final word on week one – Good luck Vegas bookies and other prognosticators, week two is coming.
POINTS and OBSERVATIONS:
-Jason Witten did exactly what we thought he would. He played. By now, most of you already know there was a note he had on his locker, it read: ‘I will never quit. I persevere and thrive on adversity. My team expects me to be physically harder and mentally stronger than our competition. If knocked down, I will get back up, every time. I will draw on every remaining ounce of strength to help my team and to accomplish our goal…. I am never out of the FIGHT.’ Damn, this dude is intense. Witten is the football player version of the terminator – the liquid metal one!
-The best game yesterday was the San Francisco 49ers at Green bay Packers. The 49ers won 30 -22 at Lambeau Field marked by 49ers kicker David Akers tying an NFL record with a 63 yard field goal. Amazing. The 49ers ‘average’ QB Alex Smith arguably out played ‘ elite’ Packers QB Aaron Rodgers and the 49ers defense reminded the league that, to me anyway, the NFC road to the Super Bowl goes thru San Francisco this year.
-I mentioned in my prediction last Wednesday that I thought that the first 4 or 5 games last year were like Tony Romo’s ‘vision quest’. I’m convinced he came out of those games a better quarterback. His performance against the Giants Wednesday only enhances my belief.
-The Indianapolis Colts have their franchise QB in Andrew luck, but they still need a defense if they want to make any noise.
-Forgot to mention Part I : The awful debuts of a couple rookie QBs. The Seattle Seahawks rookie QB, Russell Wilson had a rating of 62.5. putting on hold for now any talk of a playoff run. Worse was Cleveland Browns QB, Brandon Weeden’s QB rating of 5.1 (that’s not a typo). Even so, The Eagles barely got by the Browns. What does that say about the Eagles?
-Forgot to mention Part II : The replacement refs. After the Cowboy’s game, I would tell you that the regular refs union made a huge miscalculation. After the rest of these games, these replacements are gonna cost some team a game – sooner than later. The NFL needs to get a deal done. Replacement refs – Just one more wacky thing about this wacky week in the NFL.
-Some things didn’t change. Peyton Manning’s still got it. Sam Bradford still doesn’t. The Steelers offensive line will get Ben Roethlisberger killed, it’s just a matter of time. The Atlanta Falcons are good, the Miami Dolphins are bad.
-With this crazy first week so far, I can only imagine what tonight’s games have in store. - Artie Cappello