Following last night’s pair of games, the season is now one full week’s worth of games old. It’s way too early to make any wide, sweeping adjustments to any of my various predictions for how the season will shake out, but we certainly have some things to discuss. I did not make any sort of picks for the first week of games because I am a forgetful dolt who failed to join my co-workers in trying to take each other’s money. If I had, though, I can sum up how I would have fared in two words: not great.
As most of my audience will agree, the performance turned in by the Buffalo Bills ranked among the most disappointing. To be fair, Mark Sanchez did settle down from some shaky decision-making early on and was able to make the Bills pay for some poor coverage. The only other team that I really think fell flat on their face was the Cincinnati Bengals, who completely came apart at the seams in the second half of their primetime showdown with Baltimore. You could throw the disappointing label on the Saints, Packers and Giants as well, but they weren’t embarrassed in quite the same fashion as the two other playoff hopefuls noted above.
Team of the Week: Baltimore
This makes me fairly sick to type, but no one established themselves quite as dominantly in Week 1 as the Ravens did in beating Cincinnati 44-13. While Joe Flacco’s numbers may not make your eyes pop, if you watched him play it was obvious how in command he was. He demonstrated his prowess throwing the deep ball on the first play of the game, hitting Torrey Smith with a beautiful 52-yard strike. Most people would have thought you were crazy if you told them that Baltimore would win by 30+ points with Ray Rice only getting 13 touches, but that’s exactly what happened. Flacco’s play was the main reason for that.
Honorable Mention: San Francisco (won at Green Bay, 30-22)
Offensive Player of the Week: Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta
Here’s a player who looks like he’s due for a big year. Ryan was excellent Sunday, completing 23 of 31 passes for 299 yards and 3 TD’s, adding in 25 yards rushing and another TD for good measure. I openly wondered if the 3rd overall pick of the 2008 draft had already hit his ceiling in my NFC South preview, but he appears to be ready to fully take advantage of his arsenal. The emphasis of the offense has shifted away from Michael Turner, with Ryan being turned loose to utilize wide receivers Julio Jones and Roddy White. He did not disappoint on Sunday, and I’d expect a lot more of the same as the year rolls along.
Honorable Mention: Kevin Ogletree, WR, Dallas (8 receptions, 114 yards, 2 TD)
Defensive Player of the Week: Tracy Porter, CB, Denver
When you line up on the opposite side of the field from future Hall of Famer Champ Bailey, teams are going to test you. Once a Super Bowl hero for New Orleans, this time Porter turned in a huge interception return for a touchdown that Peyton Manning was excited about. In addition to his game-sealing touchdown, Porter also record eight tackles and five passes defended, turning in a huge performance against a deep Pittsburgh receiving core.
Honorable Mention: Cortland Finnegan, CB, St. Louis (10 tackles, 2 PD, 1 INT, 1 TD)
Rookie of the Week: Robert Griffin III, QB, Washington
Griffin was excellent Sunday, completing 19 of 26 passes for 320 yards and 2 touchdowns, and outshining Drew Brees in the process by leading the ‘Skins to a 40-32 win. A lot of the hype surrounding RG3 has been focused on his athleticism, and while his 42 rushing yards were in no way a letdown, he proved that he’s a passer first and a runner second. His style of play should compare more to Steve Young or John Elway than Michael Vick as Griffin develops. He’s a quarterback first who can hurt you with his legs if you don’t respect him, and it’s a lot of fun to watch him do so.
Honorable Mention: Stephen Hill, WR, NY Jets (5 receptions, 89 yards, 2 TD)
- Brandon Weeden looked terrible for most of the Browns 17-16 loss to Philadelphia, but two players in particular helped contribute to his demise. With the game tied 3-3, receiver (technically speaking) Greg Little allowed a very catchable ball to carom off his hands up into the air inside the Philly 5-yard line. It was subsequently picked off, and what momentum the Cleveland offense had up to that point was completely squashed. Two of Weeden’s other three interceptions can be partially attributed to rookie Travis Benjamin making little effort to break up the play. Granted, in both cases the intercepting player was Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who dwarfs Benjamin. Not the greatest decision making, but you have to be willing to fight for your quarterback if you want to continue to see targets.
- Fred Jackson being out for a month could prove to be a problem for Buffalo, but of greater concern is the loss of receiver David Nelson for the rest of the year. Nelson is a reliable slot receiver who is both a great redzone target and a mismatch problem due to his size. The dimension he adds to the offense will be difficult to replace.
- I know that Bills fans are reeling due to their injury news, but for me the biggest loss of Week 1 occurred on the Falcons. Cornerback Brent Grimes – who made the Pro Bowl in 2010 – was lost for the season with a torn Achilles. While this article makes the case that the Falcons defense can withstand this loss, it will certainly put added pressure on fellow corners Dunta Robinson and Asante Samuel, not to mention the pass rush.
Football season may constantly kick me square in the pants, but it’s nice to have it back anyway. Don’t forget, we’ve got Thursday Night Football every week for the rest of the season. Chicago and Green Bay square off at Lambeau Field, where the Pack will look to bounce back quickly from their season-opening loss to the 49ers and avoid falling two games behind the Bears.