Week 1 Observations

It’s good to have football back and week 1 provided exceptionally compelling games.  Here’s what I watched and the snacks (and a few recipes) that accompanied the games.

Games watched intently: Eagles-Rams, Steelers-Ravens, Redskins-Giants, Chargers-Vikings, Packers-Saints, Jets-Cowboys, Patriots-Dolphins

Snacks:

The key to week 1 of every NFL season is to not overreact to everything you see.  It takes at least a few weeks to see trends, but saying that, here’s what I saw from week 1.

Eagles – I’ll always take 1-0 after week 1.  Vick looked at his athletic best, the offensive line didn’t look as bad as expected after a shaky start and the defence was spectacular in an understated way.  My favourite thing watching the defence was the pressure generated by the front 4 without needing to blitz.  I only counted 6 or 7 blitzes all game, and the 4 sacks the Eagles had all came from only a 4 man rush.  The Eagles look like they’ll struggle against the run this year, but that’s a problem to worry about another day.

Steelers – Let’s just say it was an unhappy household after the Steelers got drilled 35-7.  They looked old, slow and disinterested.  I didn’t see anything positive all game.  I’m not reading more into this than it being a one game beat down.  My bet is they take out their frustrations on Seattle at home next week.

O-lines: The guys in the trenches never get any credit.  Loved Baltimore’s LT McKinnie’s work in their run game.   Green Bay’s centre Wells was a beast against the Saints’ D-lineman in their run game.   Tom Brady owes many of his 500+ yards of passing to being able to stand in the pocket without fear of contact.  The Pats pass blocking was outstanding for most of their game.

Redskins defence – Last year the Redskins new coach, Mike Shanahan, blew up what was the previous year a top 5 NFL defence.  After adjusting defensive schemes to fit his philosophy (oh, the arrogance), his team’s defence tanked to be one of the worst in the league.   Against the Giants in week 1, the defence was flying to the ball, looked faster than last year, and generally created havoc.  If the Redskins get the defensive side of the ball right this year, they’ll contend for a wild card.

Tony Romo – Week one showed (again!) that this guy cannot be considered among the elite QBs in the league.  For 3 quarters, he looks like a hall-of-famer, then when the game is on the line, he chokes.  Against the Jets, he threw an inexcusable interception, fumbled in the red-zone and came apart at the seams in the 4th quarter like he usually does.  His ball security is terrible and legendary.  He’s the rich man’s Rex Grossman – a train wreck always waiting to happen.

Special teams and return games – This is an area where the shortened off-season was noticeable.  In week 1, if a team had speed and elusiveness in the kickoff or punt return game, you saw it – a combined 8 TDs on punt/kick returns and many, many more long returns.  The lack of practice time has special teams coverage behind in preparation.   I expect this will tighten up in the coming weeks.

Buffalo Bills uniforms and helmets – Completely love them.  If you squinted your eyes during their unexpected domination of Kansas City, you may have thought you were watching the glory days Bills. 

Brian Billick as TV analyst – He was the commentator in the booth during my Eagles game.  He’s pretty solid as a studio guy for taped segments, but is among the worst live analysts.  He gets names wrong, doesn’t see obvious parts of plays and generally gets in my way of enjoying a telecast.  Every time he calls a game I’m watching I want to unplug the centre speaker from my home theatre setup and listen to the game with crowd noise only.

Passing offence – Week 1 saw the highest passing yardage of any week in NFL history.  Even rookie Cam Newton threw for 400+ yards.   At this point in the season, receivers have the advantage as at least they know where there should be going at the snap – the defensive reactions are literally a step behind right now.

Peyton Manning is the undisputed MVP of the league – When you completely design an offence around the once-in-a-lifetime skills of one person, you get what happened to the Colts when he can’t play.  The entire Colts offence is based on Manning putting everyone in the perfect spot pre-snap to take advantage of the defence then running the play with the utmost precision.  All of the talking heads on TV make you think the Colts run a complex offence – they don’t.  They have something like 6 runs and 8-10 base pass plays.  Manning is smart enough to audible to the best play against the defence.  Their pass routes are precise and Manning is deadly accurate in putting the ball in exactly the right spot on each play.  Kerry Collins (or any other QB available to be picked up) can’t do any of those things – it’s going to be a long season in Indy.

Disappointment of the week: My television provider (Eastlink) didn’t carry the NFL RedZone channel in week 1, and even worse, tweeted out that it was on channel 440 (it wasn’t there or anywhere) then didn’t respond to multiple tweets from a number of football fanatics asking where they were hiding it.  It better show up next week.  I don’t know if I can manage flipping channels on 2 TVs for 6 hours next week.

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