Posted on: September 17, 2008 2:36 am

Carnage's Long and Boring Week 2 Review

         For those of you who read my blog or are interested in starting to read it, I am posting it on the blog section of a free little fantasy/NFL site at http://www.probonofantasy.5u.com/.  I will continue to post it on here, but it's horribly difficult to deal with cutting and pasting out of word compared to just publishing to a blog.  For that reason, it's simply much easier to read. 

         It’s really hard nowadays to tell which teams will actually be “Good” teams.  At least three teams, the Chargers, the Jaguars, and The Vikings, (I’d say the Seahawks too, to a lesser degree.  They were certainly division favorites) who were someone’s chic pick to go to the Super Bowl, are now sitting at disappointing 0-2 records.   Teams expected to lag behind in their respective divisions like the Panthers, Broncos, Bills, Cardinals, Giants, and Titans either hold the division lead outright or are tied for it.  After two weeks it’s too early to determine how the season would unfold.  After all, The 2007 AFC Championship game losers the Chargers as well as the 2007 Super Bowl Champion Giants started out oh for two last season.

Titans over Bengals or “Perhaps this team wasn’t winning because of Vince Young After all…..”
   I will address the Vince Young issue later.  For the time being, I am going to focus on the players that were on the field today.  Frankly, I think the Titans need to stick with Kerry Collins for the remainder of the season unless he looks absolutely terrible in the next three games.  Collins has struggled at times during his career but he’s been on teams that were asking him to go out there and win games for them.  I think in the role of “Game Manager”, which is what the Titans need right now, he works out fine.  He made a few during the first half touchdown drives in less than favorable conditions for passing the ball.
   I know everyone is drooling over Chris Johnson right now, and he is a fantastic player, but some of the holes the line blew open for him so wide that he didn’t get touched until well downfield.  On the other hand, I don’t think LenDale White would get through those holes.  Johnson’s explosiveness was something that the Titans needed.   The Thunder and lightning approach is favorable for fantasy owners, as the Titans appear committed to the run and both backs could very well see 15-20 touches a week.   Johnson has 34 so far (Not counting his five receptions) and White has 33.
  The Titans are benefitting from superior play by the line on both sides of the ball.  Running yards are hard to come by (Their momentary lapse to let Chris Perry go 13 yards and score) as the longest rushing play they’ve given up in the first two weeks.
    Miraculously, the Bengals were down by only 13 points heading into the fourth quarter.  Unfortunately a 70 yard punt by Craig Hentrich left the Bengals at the two yard line.  Watching this sequence I thought “Just gain some yards.  You are still in this.  Don’t get pinned.  Miraculously enough, Chris Perry gained five yards to get some breathing room.  Next play…pass interference by Chad Johnson to push them back to the four.  It’s ok.  2nd and eight.  Run forward and get some of that room back.  Nope.  Carson Palmer to Chris Perry for -3 yards.  3rd and 11.  Run Forward and get some space to punt.  Nope.  Incomplete to Kenny Watson.  You don’t have to be a genius to figure out what happens when the Bengals try to punt from their own 1 yard line.
    The Bengals, a team usually heavily invested in by fantasy owners, is a wreck.  At this point, Chad Ocho Cinco would probably be willing to accept a trade to the Dolphins.  They can’t run, they can’t pass, they can’t keep from turning the ball over, they can’t play defense, and most of all they probably cannot win many games.   I don’t know how this team became such a mess, but I do know I would be planning on firing Marvin Lewis hopefully by mid season to start the house cleaning.  It’s time to rebuild.
Statistical Notes – At this point last year, Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmanzedah had combined for 33 receptions, 424 yards and 6 TD’s.  This season?  11 catches for 129 yards and 0 scores.  The Titans have ran the ball 73 times at an average of 4.3 YPC.  8 of the Bengals 42 rushing plays this year have been for losses.   The Bengals have 8 more yards in two games than Kurt Warner passed for this week.  Kerry Collins threw more TD’s (1) than INT’s (0) this week.  Vince Young only did that twice in his last 13 regular season games.  Third Year CB Cortland Finnegan (Whose name sounds more like that of an accountant or something) leads the league with 3 INT’s.    He had one in the previous two seasons.

  Panthers over Bears or “Are you sick of the color yellow yet?”
     This was a sloppy game on the part of both teams.  22 total penalties were enforced.  A great amount of the flags were thrown on the annoying little things that can kill a team.  False start, off sides, illegal procedure, etc.    The Panthers and Bears offenses constantly were constantly in need of an extra five yards to move the chains. 
      The Bears defense played well again, bringing the pressure to get three sacks and a blocked punt for a touchdown.   A Panthers player, whose name I just did not catch, fell down without being touched to allow Darrell McClover an unimpeded path to the punter.   You simply cannot fall down on dry grass when protecting the edge in a punt situation.
       The Bears draft scouting team needs to do a little better with their #1 picks.  2008 #1 pick Chris Williams isn’t contributing as he had back surgery preseason.  They had no first round pick in 2006.  2005 #1 pick David Terrell is probably selling hot dogs on the streets of Chicago. Finally, 2007 #1 pick Greg Olson had 2 catches for 7 yards and fumbled them both this Sunday.  On the Bears first possession, they marched from their own 11 yard line to the Panthers 29, close enough to smell three points (The margin they lost by).  On both of his fumbles, the defender made a token punch at the ball while tackling him and Olson easily coughed up the ball.  The Bears offense is not really high octane and can’t afford to lose opportunities like this.
      Neither offense looked very good.  The Panthers had 0 yards of offense in the first quarter (Drives of -3, 3, and 1 yard).   The Panthers 2nd quarter encore of 20, -7, and 4 put them at 17 yards for the half….but they came away with three points anyway!   They had five negative yardage drives in total.  The Bears had -8 yards of offense in the second quarter on drives of -5, -2, and -1.  Their fourth quarter consisted of drives of 15, 3, -4, and 9.  Yup.  That is 12 yards in 30 minutes of football.
    The high point of the game offensively was Jonathon Stewart.  He scratched and clawed to manage 77 yards and two TD’s on 14 carries.    Seriously.  He put a lot of effort into gaining that yardage.   The Panthers get Steve Smith back next week.  He’s probably itching to get in there after his team won two tough games without him.  If he can open up the running game, Stewart may be huge this season.
Statistical Notes – Matt Forte’s opening game topped Cedric Benson’s best game from 2007.  Forte’s second game topped all but one of Benson’s performances from 2007.   He also doesn’t run straight out of bounds.  He also is averaging over 4 YPC.  The Bears once again have a back to be proud of.  Jonathon Stewart is averaging 5.4 YPC.  Perhaps he should get the ball more?   The Bears defense is directly responsible for 16 of their 46 points.
Bills over Jaguars or “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…..”
       The Jaguars are in some trouble.  With an 0-2 start and some important players injured, they have games at Indy, Houston, Steelers, and at Denver before the bye.  Looking at that schedule and knowing that splitting the four games puts them at 2-4 makes things look really ugly.  The Bills come out of the first two games, two games that probably looked a bit scary when looking in the preseason, at 2-0.  They have the Cheifs, 49ers, and two games against the Dolphins left on their schedule.  The Jets and Patriots looked….ok this week.  I’m starting to like this team.
          Trent Edwards seems to have grown up overnight.  He’s completing a high percentage of his passes and isn’t making mistakes.  It helps that with the exception of a handful of plays where the pocket collapsed quickly (one led to a turnover), the offensive line played very well.  Quite often, Edwards had plenty of time to sit back and wait for routes to develop.   His jump ball to James Hardy was thrown absolutely perfectly.  It seemed like Rashaen Mathis either blew his coverage bad or he was just daring Edwards to try making that throw.     Fred Jackson came out of nowhere to look like a good threat to catch the ball out of the backfield.
        With the Jaguars bread and butter, their running game looking so terrible (Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew barely over 3.0 YPC for the second straight week), I did admire the Jaguars taking a chance on that third quarter onside kick.  The Bills players didn’t even have that possibility in the back of their mind.  Trick plays to turn the momentum or make something happen are good on occasion, but the Jaguars lateral circus is probably best left for screwing off time on the practice field.  Obviously the end of game attempt was fine, but after Quentin Groves made a brilliant play stripping Edwards of the ball Reggie Hayward…a fine defensive end but not really a big time “hands” player tries a lateral to another defender, almost losing the ball in the process.  You already made something happen with the fumble!   Your team is up by one!  Let your offense back on with excellent field position. 
       The Jaguars really need to get Jerry Porter and Troy Williamson healthy and on the field.  I don’t actually know their prognosis but the Jaguars are terrible on third down.  After throwing 3 interceptions all of last season, David Garrard has turned the ball over three times and needs someone to throw to to move the chains. 
Statistical Notes – Trent Edwards has completed 71% of his passes in two games so far.  He completed 56% last season.  Marshawn Lynch has either 100 yards or a TD in 6 of 7 games dating back to last year.  The Jaguars are 7/26 in third down conversions and 2/7 in the red zone this season.  Ouch.  Lee Evans has 179 yards this season on only 8 catches.  20 yards per reception?  Not bad. 
 Run The Ball! – Every week I check on the percentage of running plays by the winners of the games compared to that of the losers.  Every week I get similar results.  Out of 14 games (Monday Night game not included) the team that ran the ball a higher percentage of the time won 12/14 games.   Only the 49ers and the Colts managed to overcome poor balance (Though the 49ers game falls under another steadfast rule of mine – more on that later) and win the game.  On average, game winners rushed the ball 49% of the time, and losers 40.5% of the time.            
Colts over Vikings or “Peterson didn’t get 6 yards on first down?  Might as well punt or try a field goal.”
   Adrian Peterson and the Vikings defense gave them every chance to win this game.  An anemic 2/13 on third downs on 0/2 in the red zone kept the score low enough to let Peyton Manning come up in the end.   It has got to be frustrating to be a Vikings fan to know that if Adrian Peterson fails to gain 10 yards every two carries, the drive is going to stall.  Out of the 11 stalled drives, 10 of them ended with passing plays.    18 of the 27 passing plays by the Vikings were attempted during these drive stalling series….and I didn’t include the two passes that Tarvaris Jackson completed at the end of the half to get the team into field goal range to get those numbers.
   Peyton Manning still managed to pass for over 300 yards, but like last week he did not have an easy time of it.   The Vikings defense only recorded two sacks but they closed the pocket quickly and Manning had to get rid of the ball fast.  The second half was pretty amazing.  Reggie Wayne and Anthony Gonzales can get down the field in a hurry.  Manning would have time to drop back and make a token play fake before having to unload the ball.  Wayne and Gonzales would already be 15-20 yards downfield. 
     Seeing the Colts line unable to muster any holes for the running game and barely able to keep Manning safe is new.  They definitely feel the loss of Jeff Saturday and could continue to struggle as the starting left tackle also went down with an injury on Sunday. 
Statistical Notes – Peyton Manning has two interceptions by week 2 for the first time since the 2003 season.  Joseph Addai has only 64 yards on 27 carries…a 3.3 YPC clip.   Adrian Peterson already has 53 touches, which puts him on pace for 424 on the season.  It’s hard to not give him the ball but that kind of workload can reduce his long term effectiveness.    Multi-Million dollar free agent Bernard Berrian has only 3 catches and 38 yards. 

49ers over Seahawks or “Is it bad when Billy McMullen and Michael Bumpkis are catching passes for you?”
    Yikes.  Just two years ago, the Seahawks were wondering how they could keep Darrell Jackson, Nate Burleson, Deion BranchBobby Engram, and D.J. Hackett all happy with the amount of playing time and balls targeted at them.  Backup QB Seneca Wallace was reportedly taking snaps as a WR but was injured before he could get in!  Now they are practically pulling guys off the street and throwing them in there at wideout. (No disrespect to Mcmullen or Bumpkis.  They did their best given the circumstances.  I just have no idea where The Hawks found them.)   Coming off a monster of a season, Matt Hasselbeck has to be bumming out.    The only good news for the Seahawks offense is that Julius Jones seems to have found himself, averaging five yards per carry.  Time to lean on the running game as much as possible.
    I only caught a few early shots of this game and then a lot of the end of it.  I’m absolutely amazed as how poised J.T. O’Sullivan looked, considering the beating he took.   Eight sacks and a lot of need for scrambling around.  Mike Martz!  This guy is looking good.  Find SOME way to protect him!  Trust me when I say you don’t want Alex Smith out there in the same types of situations.
      The Seahawks rushed more than the 49ers, which breaks one of my laws of victory.  However, the 49ers have a more absolute law, the law of Frank Gore getting 19+ Carries.  In the last 2 1/8 seasons, the 49ers are 0-20 when Gore gets 18 or fewer carries, and now 13-1 when he gets 19 or more. 
      Watching Isaac Bruce out there is unreal.   At 36 years old, he doesn’t have the speed he used to have but he knows how to sell and run a route.   Early on, Isaac Bruce ran a simple stop and go route that left Pro Bowl Cornerback Marcus Trufant standing around.  Trufant closed a five yard gap in about 20 yards to tackle Bruce, but if you are that much faster than him, how can’t you cover him?  Later in the game Isaac Bruce came across the middle for a big gain.  Who was in the picture giving him a five yard cushion?  Marcus Trufant. 
       This was another sloppy game, with 19 penalties called between the two teams.  The Seahawks turned the ball over three times and had a punt blocked (They RECOVERED the blocked punt for a first down.)  On one Hasselbeck interception,  Linebacker Patrick Willis took the ball 86 yards to pay dirt while most of the Seahawks players (Hasselbeck the exception) just jogged in his direction or simply stood there.  Seriously, is there nobody on that team that can run down a linebacker running the length of the field?  We’ll never know because they did not even try.
Statistical Notes – Julius Jones posted the Seahawks largest rushing total since December of 2006 and their first 100 yard game since week 3 of last season.  Matt Hasselbeck, with so many receivers gone, is completing only 45% of his passes and is on pace for an 8 TD/24 INT season.  J.T. O’Sullivan passed for over 300 yards.  The last time a 49ers QB did that was Tim Rattay in 2004!  Alex Smith’s highest total in 20 starts is 293 yards.  Isaac Bruce’s 153 yards put him within 672 yards of being the the all time number 2 in receiving yards.  That’s 48 yards per game the rest of the year.   It may be momentary with Marvin Harrison hanging 200 yards behind him and TO about 1500 behind him, but it’s a testament to how great Bruce’s career really has been.
Raiders over Cheifs or “Start the 0-16 watch up again!”
    I have not check the prognosis for Brodie Croyle or Damon Huard simply because I don’t think it matters much, but the Chiefs are currently down to using a practice squad QB Tyler Thigpen and backup Wide Receiver Marques Hagans.  Hagans is 1/1 for 5 yards with 0 TD’s, 0 INT’s.  Maybe they should stick with him!  The Chiefs were pretty bad offensively.  190 total yards, 5 sacks, 3.1 yards per offensive play, 48% completion rate, 2 INT’s…you get the picture.  Larry Johnson was ineffective again.  I’m not quite sure why they payed money to keep Larry Johnson.  He’s 29 years old, they knew they were entering a rebuilding phase, and the retirement of Will Shields and the other great offensive linemen from the Chiefs past have rendered the running game hapless.   Tony Gonzales made sense to keep.   He provides true veteran leadership.  Larry Johnson has always been more about LJ than about the team.
     Run-DMaC and Michael Bush put up huge rushing totals and everyone is bound to be singing their praises.  Not to downplay their performances, as they did need their speed, but the Raiders Offensive Line AND Wide Receivers were blasting holes in the KC Defense so large that Bush and Mccfadden were getting deep into the secondary before having to break/evade tackles.   Another thing to be nervous about with that pair is that they combined for 3 fumbles lost in 37 touches.   I’m thinking the Raiders coach, whomever that will be this week, will be working on some ball handling with them.   The rest of the team needs to focus on limiting penalties.  19 in two games is not good.  The AFC is pretty wide open as far as playoff spots.   While I don’t REALLY consider this team a contender yet, they do have some talent and could make a surprise run.
     Of course, with the high powered running game and good defense in favor, the passing game is a mark against.   They are in a situation similar to the Vikings.  JaMarcus Russell is an athletic QB with high upside, but you certainly cannot count on him to win games for you yet.  From what I’ve seen of him thus far, I may actually like Tarvaris Jackson a little bit more.
Statistical Notes – Dwayne Bowe and Tony Gonzales combined for 129 receiving yards.  The Chiefs had 135 Net yards passing.  Larry Johnson has 36 carries for 96 yards, 2.7 YPC.   At this pace, he could carry nearly 300 times and not break the 800 yard mark.  Zach Miller is the Raiders top receiver with 6 catches for 58 yards in two games.   The Raiders have 450 rushing yards in two games.  The now injured Justin Fargus had the worst per carry average of the top three runners….at 5.2. 
Patriots over Jets or “Matt Cassell has not lost a single game as a starter since he was in high school!”
      Ok, so this is the first game he started since high school and he didn’t exactly look like a world beater and some of the passes he threw I had no idea who they were supposed to be to, but he didn’t give the ball away.    In a low score, low yardage contest this was of utmost importance.  
      This game wasn’t thrilling, with neither team playing exceptionally well, but the Patriots special teams made all the difference.  They didn’t have huge plays but made sure that the team was always winning the field position battle.  Out of nine possessions the Jets started seven on their 20, one on their 23, and one on their own 25.  The Patriots nine possessions included five in Jets territory.  Brett Favre was responsible for one of the Pats great starts, but four punts with a net average of 27 yards probably was more costly. 
      Laurence Maroney and Sammy Morris were largely ineffective running the ball for the Pats.  Maroney gets hurt and in comes…..one of my fantasy sleepers that I was laughed at for selecting in the 17th round of a 14 team draft, LaMont Jordan!  He smashed his way through on several plays and almost doubled the other backs yardage total on 11 carries (vs. 21).  The often injured back with a strange career could really benefit the Patriots this year if he stays healthy.
      Brett Favre was kept mostly in check with solid coverage on his new favorite target, Jericho Cotchery.  Favre threw quite a few passes in Cotchery’s direction that I thought were pretty risky.  Of course, the Patriots pressured Favre quite a bit and a big 20 yard sack in the fourth quarter put the game away.   Even at 38, Favre is still pretty crafty at getting away from defenders though. 
Statistical Notes – Sammy Morris has 6 receptions last year.  He is third on the team with 7 this season.  Matt Cassel is completing 70% of his passes and has a 101.4 QB rating.  After having only 2 carries last week, Lamont Jordan still leads the team in rushing yards.   Leon Washington and Chancy Stuckey lead the Jets in receptions with 6 each.   Thomas Jones is averaging a full yard and a half more per carry than he was at this point last season.
Cardinals over Dolphins  or “Kurt Warner is partyin’ like it’s 1999.”
   Kurt Warner was impressive, throwing for 61 yards.  The Wide Receivers tacked on another 300 yards running the ball.   Ok, so that is a bit of an exaggeration.  Warner did benefit from Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin outrunning and outjumping opposing defensive backs, but give Warner credit for being spot on with his passes and standing tall and following through despite being hit a few times.  I find two things hard to believe.
1.  The Rams, Giants, and to some extent, the Cardinals did not want this guy to be their starting quarterback anymore.  Sure he’s 37 and has had his share of concussions and other injuries, but he can still play lights out football.  Kudos to the Cardinals coaching staff for realizing that Matt Lienert right now can’t play at Warner’s level and maybe will never be able to play at Warner’s level. 
2. Fantasy owners missed the boat on this one.  Both of my fantasy drafts were held after Kurt Warner was handed the starting job.  A Former MVP with two #1 wideouts gets the nod as starter in a pretty weak division and he’s falling past the 10th round?   A QB that had five 3 TD games and four 2 TD games down the stretch last season?  “Expert” cheat sheets don’t have him in their top ten?  Not even in their top 10?  Maybe I’m gloating a bit because my strategy was to wait on the QB position as long as I could and grab either Donovan McNabb (Another guy that stayed on the board too long) or Kurt Warner.  I ended up with Warner twice and Mcnabb once.  Now if they can stay healthy, I’m in business.

    I have to respect Anquan Boldin at this point.  There was the offseason dispute about his contract that he alleges the Cardinals promised him before last season would get reworked.  He said he was angry and had nothing more to say to Cardinals management and he would go out and play football anyway.  All he’s done so far is go out and outperform the much higher payed Larry Fitzgerald by 5 catches, 40 yards, and 2 TD’s.   That is no knock on Fitzgerald, either.  Many primma donna wideouts would have sat out, causing a scene and disrupting the locker room.  Boldin has done just the opposite.  Cardinals, it may be time to pay him.  He’s reasonable young as far as wide receivers go and he’s just plain good.

      What is there to say about the Dolphins?  Not much.  They can’t run, they can’t throw, and they can’t cover deep threats.   A big question in the preseason was “Who carries the load?  Ronnie Brown or Ricky Williams?”  Who cares?  At 2.x yards per carry, I’m not thrilled with either one.  Back to the top five for the Dolphins whom many claimed would be “Much improved” this season.

Statistical Notes – Boldin and Fitzgerald have played something like 50 games with each other.  They have both broke the 100 yard mark 6 times.  Kurt Warner has 85 career starts and 43 300 yard passing games.  The Dolphins are 1-20 in their last 21 games.  Chad Pennington is a career 65.5% completion guy.  In his game and a half as a Dolphin he has completed 57% of his passes.

Packers over Lions  or “Hey Ted Thompson.  Why didn’t you just tell the Packers fans Aaron Rodgers is ridiculously awesome?”

      I’ll admit it, I thought it was a poor, illogical move to not take back your Hall of Fame quarterback when he came out of retirement after one of the best seasons of his career statistically.  You play to win, and I figured Brett Favre gave this team the best chance to win.  I’m trying to be realistic here and know it’s only two games…one against a horrible defense…but it’s not very often you see a young quarterback come in and play so well in his first two starts.   His arm is deceptively strong, he’s elusive, can throw on the run, and seems to have a good grasp on reading the defense and knowing when to audible (Although the Packers line doesn’t seem in sync with him as far as his cadence and calling plays at the line of scrimmage).  He also knows how to go through his progressions and finds different targets (Seven Packers caught passes this game). 
          After watching the NFC Championship game and Plaxico Burress absolutely dominate Al Harris, I thought we could see a big dropoff in Al Harris’ performance this season.  Not so.  Roy Williams seemed utterly frustrated in the first half by the cornerbacks physical play. 
         Even WITH good Cornerback play it seems that it is getting difficult to contain Calvin Johnson for an entire game.  He’s a big, fast guy that will go over the middle for you.   The first touchdown was a bit of a fluke but he showed pretty good concentration hanging onto that ball tipped by Charles Woodson.   A big problem with the Lions offense for the second week in a row is their apparent forgetting that the running game exists.  It is hard to want to run the ball when you get down early, but calling 50 pass plays to 12 rushes isn’t a good balance.  It always teams to tee off on the pass and has Jon Kitna eating dirt a lot.
          Many people last year cried bad sportsmanship on the part of the Patriots last season as they ran up the score.  Here we see a team go up by 21 and relax a little bit offensively for awhile.  The Patriots were a little over the top but too often teams will take their foot off the accelerator and try to coast to victory.  The Packers suddenly found themselves down by a point in the fourth quarter.  Keep pouring it on until victory is certain.  With two stud wideouts on the Lions, 18 points at halftime isn’t enough.

Statistical Notes – Greg Jennings, who has never had 1000 yards in a season, is leading the league with 258 receiving yards.   Aaron Rodgers is on pace for 4000 yards passing, 32 TD’s, and 0 INT’s.  Jon Kitna has been sacked 8 times already this season.  Calvin Johnson is on Pace for 100+ catches, 1700+ Receiving yards, and 16 TD’s.  The Lions have tried to pass 84 times and tried to run only 33 times. 

Broncos over Chargers or “Thank you Ed Hochuli!”

            The notorious Ed Hochuli “Empty Hand” call was very very bad and obviously allowed the Broncos to win a game they rightfully should have lost.  I’m usually pretty hard on referees because most of the time they seem to have no clue what they are doing.  Hochuli had the play reviewed, understood the ramifications, and confidently strode up to announce that he had botched the call on the field (And you could tell he knew how poor of a call it was.)  Everyone makes mistakes, but the way he completely owned up to it and knew the rules in such a situation is a credit to him.   That is no comfort to the Chargers and their fans but I have a lot more respect for him for the way he handled the situation.
            I don’t really know what to say other than if you missed this game, you missed some amazing performances.  I think one thing to understand is the Chargers were supposed to have one of the best defenses this season and the Broncos have one of the top Cornerback tandems with Champ Bailey and Dre Bly.  With that in mind, Cutler and Rivers combined for a 57/83 (69%), 727 yards, 7 TD’s, 2 INT’s stat line.   The end was insane.  I give a lot of credit to Mike Shanahan for his crazy call to go for two at the end of the game.  He essentially gave the ball to his players and said “I know you can win the game right here.  Go do it.”  Going into sudden death would have meant a coin flip very well may have determined their fate.  He urged his guys to take control instead.  What a confidence boost for a fairly young offensive unit.
            In 2006, a friend and I both were very high on the Denver Broncos and thought Jay Cutler would be a very good quarterback.   I thought that Brandon Marshall would have a big rookie season.  (Ok, so I knew someone going to school at Central Florida that gave me the scoop).  My friend on the other hand, had a strange fixation with Tony Scheffler.   It turns out we both might have been right.  Scheffler has 138 yards and 2 TD’s this season, and Brandon Marshall looked absolutely unstoppable.  If the Broncos can help this kid keep his head screwed on straight, he could have an unbelievable career. 
            Some may think I’m crazy for saying this, but I think the Chargers are becoming Philip Rivers’ team instead of LaDainian Tomlinson’s team.  Tomlinson has struggled and Rivers has been insane.  I was also impressed with Darren Sproles, playing special teams and stepping into the “Michael Turner” role.    Chris Chambers, Vincent Jackson, and Antonio Gates are looking like a solid group of targets.

Statistical notes – Speaking of Targets, Vincent Jackson leads the Chargers in receptions with 13.  Jay Cutler is on pace for 5200 passing yards.   Even having played in only one game, Brandon Marshall leads the league in receptions with 18.  Ladainian Tomlinson has not scored a touchdown in two straight games.  In the last two years, he’s only gone on such a “Draught” twice, both times in 2006 (Weeks 4 & 5, 16 & 17).  Chris Chambers is averaging a bloated 25 yards per reception and has 3 TD’s.  He only had 8 in the last two seasons.

 Prognostications or “Carnage Guessing Game Winners”

I opened strong with a 12-4 start last week.  This week, I slipped a little to go 9-6.  That puts me at 21-10 on the year.  I only go straight up.  I rarely bet on games so spread numbers do not interest me all that much, as they are random numbers set by a “stock market” type function.  I only care about W’s and L’.

Bears over Panthers
Jaguars over Bills
Chiefs over Raiders
Vikings over Colts
Saints over Redskins
Giants over Rams
Packers over Lions
Titans over Bengals
49ers over Seahawks
Bucs over Falcons
Cardinals over Dolphins
Jets over Patriots
Broncos over Chargers
Steelers over Browns
Cowboys over Eagles

Redskins over Saints or “Note to Saints: You need to control the clock.”

     The Redskins offense looked inept for the season opener against the Giants.  I thought they were in for a long season.  It really makes me wonder….is the Giants defense just that good still? 
      Holding the ball for less than 26 minutes is not good.  Reggie Bush has been awesome in the open field but they desperately need someone to grind out some yards and some clock.  I thought Pierre Thomas had potential but his 6 carries for 8 yards performance doesn’t inspire much confidence.  Speaking of Bush, did he get to the sideline quick on that punt return or what?  It’s hard to go untouched on a play where all 11 guys are specifically coming to tackle you.  Bush did it and made it look effortless.

       The big difference on this team was going to be Jeremy Shockey.  With Marques Colston out for a decent period of time, the Saints need some playmakers to step up.  Shockey caught two balls and fumbled one.  That isn’t going to cut it.

        My favorite play of this game was the draw play for Clinton Portis’ second touchdown.  Jason Campbell pump faked and nobody on the Saints had the faintest idea what was coming next.  Portis took the ball and cut into the end zone untouched. 

      I am still not sure about Jason Campbell, but it looks like he is learning how to find his stud wideout.  Santana Moss had only one 100 yard game with Campbell at the helm last year.  He was huge this week.  Chris Cooley got involved in the offense, which was a big factor last week in the Redskins lack of success.
Statistical Notes – Reggie Bush leads the Saints with 15 receptions.  The next closest player is Shockey with 8.   Drew Brees has four touchdown passes this year.  He didn’t reach that number until the the sixth game of 2007 when the Saints had their nightmare 0-4 start.  The Redskins look dedicated to getting Clinton Portis carries.  He has back to back 20+ carry games.  He did not get that until weeks 9 & 10 last year.  Santana Moss has touchdowns in back to back games for only the second time since 2004 when he was a Jet.

Steelers over Browns or “Monsoon Season is here?  Let’s throw the ball 35 times!”

         The Browns came into this game thinking they were going to be able to throw the ball on the Steelers.  Despite the driving rain and swirling wind, they came out trying to take the ball downfield.   This earned them a total of 166 yards on 32 pass attempts.  Of course, the alternative was to try to run the ball on the Steelers defense, which isn’t really a game plan you want to work with either.
            Braylon Edwards is looking more like a rookie out there than a player in a season after his breakout year.    He seems a bit lost and of course, has had some problems hanging onto the ball.   He’s getting booed in Cleveland and is probably losing his quarterback’s faith in him.  Derek Anderson had a great season last year but don’t think he’s not on a short leash.  They (Thankfully) have the Ravens and Bengals next after a rough Cowboys/Steelers opening two games.  If they did manage to drop the next two, we could easily be seeing Brady Quinn coming in and the Browns moving forward.

The Steelers were brutally efficient again.  Run the ball.  Run the ball.  This sets up play action passes where Ben Roethisberger has tons and tons of time to find a target. 

     I actually wonder why the Browns didn’t go for it on 4th and 7 or try an onside kick.   With 3:24 left in the game, the Steelers being very able to run, and you not having moved the ball very well all day you want to….kick it back to them down by 4?   Best case scenario you get the ball back…probably on your 30-35 yard line meaning you have 65 yards to go in 2:30 with no timeouts.  

Statistical Notes -  Derek Anderson had one TD in week 1 and 0 in week 2.  He had at least 2 TD’s in any given 2 game stretch last year.  Ben Roethisberger has 10 touchdowns and 0 INT’s in his last five regular season games.   Hines Ward scored in back to back games for the first time since October of 2006.  Excluding the Rams game where he had 1 carry, Willie Parker has 5 straight 100+ total yard games.  I expected his workload to go down significantly with Rashard Mendenhall on the roster.  He’s had 53 touches in 2 games.

Cowboys over Eagles or “I can’t believe I missed this game.  I really can’t.”

    So I end up working too late Monday and I come home starving with a horrible headache.  I don’t have cable at home (I don’t watch very much TV outside of football and basketball.   I gather with several other people on Sunday’s at a NFL Season Ticket friendly home.  Monday there usually isn’t a gathering.  My wife, if allowed access to cable, ends up staring at that thing for hours and hours a day.   She gets sucked in to watching garbage and doesn’t stop.  We decided $60/month was too much to pay to turn her into a mindless zombie) so I would have had to rush out to one of the bars near my house.  My headache persisted through halftime so I just stayed in.  Looks like I missed a fantastic game; a matchup featuring my two favorite non-Packer running backs (Westbrook and Marion Barber III)

    It looks like the Eagles are legitimate contenders.  Although they lost, they went into the Cowboys’ house and pushed them to the end.  That’s not easy to do. 

    Note to self: Don’t be such a baby next time a high profile matchup is on ESPN
Statistical Notes – Terrell Owens has at least one touchdown in his last 10 regular season games, and 15 TD’s in that span.  Marion Barber has played in 47 regular season games and has scored at least 2 TD’s in 12 of them.  He scores multiple TD’s 25% of the time!  Brian Westbrook’s season high TD total is 12.  He already has five in two games.

Next Week’s Games Predictions.

Atlanta over Kansas City
Redskins over Cardinals
Tampa Bay over Chicago
Patriots over Dolphins
Giants over Bengals
Titans over Texans
Vikings over Panthers
Bills over Raiders
Lions over 49ers
Broncos over Saints
Rams over Seahawks
Ravens over Browns
Colts over Jaguars
Chargers over Jets
Cowboys over Packers
Steelers over Eagles

That’s it for this week!  Good luck to your real team and fantasy teams this week!
Posted on: September 10, 2008 11:46 pm

Carnage's Long and Boring Week 1 Review

    Week 1 of the NFL has been crazy to say the least.  In general, I think we all need to start taking everything we think we know about the NFL at the end of a year and throw it completely away (Aside from the fact that the Lions won’t make the playoffs.  That seems constant).  Teams liked in the preseason: the Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars, San Diego Chargers, and the Seattle Seahawks got knocked off.  Michael Turner ran wild.  Donovan McNabb is wearing a throwback self.  The entire power base of the AFC shifted in one fateful play where Tom Brady injured his leg. 

Tom Brady's Injury -  As I write this, the reports say that Tom Brady is done for the season.  I know some people out there will be cheering about this, saying that “Bellicheat” deserved it.   Have some class.  Anyone getting hurt that badly is bad and any player as good as Tom Brady going down is bad for us all.  The Patriots have been a big part of some absolutely epic AFC Playoff races in the last eight or so years.   Tell me Giants fans?  Was there anything more satisfying than beating the Patriots in the Super Bowl last year?   Colts fans, what game did you enjoy more?  The actual Super Bowl victory against the Rex Grossman led Bears or the masterful comeback against the Tom Brady led Patriots?  Love or hate the Patriots, Brady will be missed in January.

     Run The Ball! – For those of you who have read my material before, you know that I believe that teams should get as close to a 50/50 run/pass split as possible.  Last year, 92% of the time the team that won was the team that ran the ball a higher percentage than threw the ball.   Teams get behind by 7-10 points in the first half and forget their running games.  By becoming one dimensional, they stray from their game plan and end up performing worse.  Let’s see if the trend continued.
     As of the end of the Sunday Night game, 13 of the 14 game winners had a higher percentage of rushing plays called.  The lone exception was the pass wacky Panthers beating the balanced Chargers.  On average, winning teams ran an extremely high 53% of the time while losing teams ran a pathetic 36% of the time.  Before you say “But teams behind by a lot have to throw” I’d like to point out that some of the biggest differences in ratios came in relatively close games.  Titans: 56%, Jags: 29%.  Jets: 55%, Dolphins 26%.  Falcons: 75%, Lions: 36%.  Cardinals: 54%, 49ers 45%.  Ravens: 61%, Bengals 43%. 
      It’s practically clockwork week in and week out.  Coaches get wrapped up sometimes in the brilliant offensive schemes and fail to recognize the obvious fact.  You probably need to run the ball to be successful.  I’m not a purist, I love the passing attack.  I grew up watching Brett Favre.  What I am is a realist, and I’ve been running these numbers long enough to know they do not lie.

Giants over Redskins or “Third down means you need to get to the marker to stay on the field.”

      This offseason I have really wondered if the Redskins with Jason Campbell would have won four tough games to finish the 2007 regular season and get into the playoffs.   I’m really not sure.    Especially on third downs, Jason Campbell did not seem to be going through his progressions and throwing to the check down even when not under pressure.   Four second half drives were stopped after coming up a yard or so short on passing plays.    Another glaring problem?   I think Chris Cooley’s catch was the one time that he was targeted.  Perhaps the Redskins are not yet comfortable with Jim Zorn’s west coast scheme.
       After the Giants beat my Packers in the playoffs last season, I realized that Plaxico Burress is one of those few Wideouts in the NFL that can take over a game.  His sixty yards on the opening drive set the tone for this game.  No disrespect of course to Brandon Jacobs, who somewhat quietly had a huge game on the ground.
       The Giants lost some serious talent on the Defensive side of the ball this season, but don’t count out Justin Tuck.  Some thought his successes were due to having other players to key on, but he’s quick and looks like the real deal.

Statistical Notes – London Fletcher-Baker has 7 seasons of 100+ Tackles.  He was credited with 17 this week.   Plaxico Burress has 18 catches for 277 yards and 3 TD’s in the last two opening day games.    Clinton Portis carried the ball 23 times.  It took until week 8 of last season for him to get more than 20 carries.

Falcons over Lions or “NFL, meet Matt Ryan and Michael Turner.”

      The Falcons offense had a favorable matchup against the Lions questionable Defense, no doubt but I never would have anticipated the dominating performance the Falcons put on.  Having your first Regular Season pass be a 64 yard TD is as sweet as it gets.  The real story however, belongs to Michael Turner and Jerious Norwood who combined for 313 rushing yards, a Falcons franchise record.  That is saying something considering the running treo of Michael Vick, Warrick Dunn, and Norwood two seasons ago.  Even more frightening, they averaged 8.7 yards per carry. 
       For those of you in Fantasy leagues that do NOT have Michael Turner, don’t give away your team to get him.  I expect Turner to have a fine season.  He’s a fast, strong runner with a good first cut and an ability to hit the hole.  Today’s performance however, had a lot to do with the Falcon’s O-Line dominating the Lions defense.  While I think the Falcons have an adequate line I do not think they will push many teams around as they did today.  If You DO have Michael Turner and someone is desperate, now is the time to get value out of him.
       On defense, the Falcons were impressive controlling the line of scrimmage.  Six tackles for a loss and three sacks (All by John Abraham) are a testament to that.  Jon Kitna is going to spend another season getting beat up.  You have to give him a lot of credit.  He’s 35 years old and is going into his third year as a starter behind the Lions special “El Matador” style of blocking.
        The Lions got rid of Mike Martz and claimed they were committed to running the ball more.   21 rushing plays, 36 passing plays.  Not the balance they were thinking.   It’s tempting to forego the run when you have the monster Calvin Johnson and the underrated Roy Williams for wideouts, but it hasn’t worked the last two years.  Guess what?  It probably won’t work again this year. 

Statistical Notes – Actually, Jon Kitna must have felt pretty safe today.  The Three times he was sacked was under his Lions average of 3.6 sacks per game the previous two seasons (He’s been taken down 114 times in 32 games).  Calvin Johnson tied his career high with 7 catches and posted his highest yardage total (2nd 100 yard game of his career).   Roddy White and Jerious Norwood tied for the team high in receptions with…..two.

Titans over Jaguars or “Those who don’t learn from mistakes are doomed to repeat them.”

   Last opening day, the Jaguars handed the ball to Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew only 13 times against the Titans.  This year, they decided to try that strategy again and gave the duo 14 carries.  Taylor and MJD did not take advantage of those few carries, but that is the strength of this team.  You have to live and die by these guys.  Keep pounding away and trying to get them going, especially in a close game like this.   My opinion of David Garrard has been that he is the type of guy who won’t lose games for you, but I don’t think you can count on him to go out and win them.   The Jags also failed to take advantage of Red Zone chances.  Touchdown, Missed Field Goal, Fumble, Field goal.  10 points inside the Titans’ 20.   You need to get at LEAST 16 points, more like 20 when you get down there.
   Of course, I have to give credit for the Titans front seven being absolutely incredible.  They came up huge, sacking David Garrard seven times and holding the Jags to 1.9 YPC.  The Jags are chic picks for the Super Bowl, but the Titans with that defense looked darn good.
   Speaking of good, Chris Johnson is FAST.  The “Thunder and Lightning” combination of him and LenDale White should keep the chains moving for this team.  My biggest concern for the Titans is Vince Young.  After a pretty decent rookie campaign, I felt he regressed last season and did not play well once again.   This team has been good in spite of, not because of, Young’s performance.   Not to mention Young’s sulking.  Sorry buddy, you are getting paid Millions to perform.  Your team looks like a Contender.  Suck it up and play better.  You aren’t in Texas anymore.   I have to wonder if the Titans aren’t better off looking at replacing him for the season with Kerry Collins if Collins wins 3 or 4 games while Young is out.  You have to convert third downs to win in this league, and you have to pass on third and five+.   Who would you trust to convert third and six?  Collins or Young?

Statistical Notes – David Garrard threw one less interception Sunday than he did ALL of last season.  Vince Young threw more INT’s than TD’s 9 out of 14 games last season.  He’s 1 for 1 already this year.   The Titans had a 100 yard pass catcher in Bo Scaife.  They had two all of last season.  The two teams combined to convert only 8 out of 27 third downs.

Bills over Seahawks or “Mike Holmgren is wondering if he said he’d retire AFTER or DURING this season….”
The Seahawks are In rough shape offensively.  If the Cardinals or 49ers can display any kind of talent they can take this division.  This week they face a Bills defense (That is improved mind you…but still) that was second last in yards allowed, 3rd last in passing yards allowed, and 4th last in yards per carry.   They came out and completed 17/41 passes, were sacked five times, rushed for 80 yards, turned the ball over twice, and averaged 3.8 yards per offensive play.  Just ugly.   Nate Burleson is an explosive player (His touchdown catch is definite highlight material) but it looks like he’s hurt pretty bad now, although I don’t know the official word on it.  If he’s going to miss time, they have nobody to throw to.   Deion Branch is supposed to return soon but I don’t think much of his ability to be a #1 nor his ability to stay on the field.  Hello Seneca Wallace split out! I think the Seahawks are going to go back to handing the ball off more and hope Maurice Morris or Julius Jones can really step up. 
I don’t think the Bills are serious contenders this season, but I love the team.  They have quite a few young, talented, offensive players.   No disrespect to Adrian Peterson, but I think the gap between his talent and Marshawn Lynch’s is smaller than most people believe.  Roscoe Parrish is a big play guy and was both quick and elusive on his punt return.  If Edwards can keep up his good play, Lee Evans may reach his potential.   
I like the Trickery by the Bills.  With only a 10 point lead, they had a fairly easy 36 yard field goal attempt.  With Punter Brian Mooreman as the placeholder, the Bills snuck defensive end Ryan Denney onto the sidelines.   However unlikely this play was, someone on the Seattle Coaching staff should have been watching and screamed “Timeout!”.  Instead, they allowed a punter to throw a touchdown to a defensive end and the game was out of reach.

Statistical Notes – The Bills four highest scoring games last season were 38, 31, 24, and 21.  They put up 34 this weekend.  Lee Evans already has half as many 100 yard games as last season.   When throwing 40+ balls last season, Matt Hasselbeck’s lowest completion number was 26.  He was 17/41 Sunday. 

Ravens over Bengals or “Exhibit A: Why Ocho Cinco wanted out of Cincinatti”

Either reports of the demise of the Ravens D were GREATLY exaggerated or the Bengals are a bigger mess than we could have imagined.  The Bengals couldn’t run, couldn’t pass, and couldn’t keep their offense on the field.   By the Numbers – 8 First downs (2 by Penalty), 2/13 on third down, 154 Total Yards, 2.8 Yards per rush, 10/25 passing with an interception, Time of Possession: 23:45, and their defense outscored their offense 7-3.   Holdouts, Injuries, Arrests…..they’ve taken a toll on this team.  I’m shocked that Marvin Lewis is still employed, but I’m guessing this is his last year as Bengals head coach.
I actually thought Chad Johnson was open on some plays, particularily when Carson Palmer threw one of his interceptions.  Could there be some bad blood between the two that is skewing their on the field relationship?
Michael Vick who?  Meet Joe Flacco.  The Ravens offense isn’t much to write home about and they have to be creative to score some points.  In one of the weirdest plays of the weekend, Joe Flacco rolled out right on a naked bootleg and took the ball himself 38 yards to the house.  I admit to not knowing much about Flacco, but the guy isn’t that fast.  How can you leave THAT much room in front of a quarterback that he has such a clear path to paydirt?
More Trickery – Reverse type plays are often chancy and can yield large losses.  In the first quarter, Mark Clayton took a double reverse at about the 50 yard line and ran, juke, and spun all the way to the end zone.  It wasn’t the prettiest run ever, but it’s another case of the Ravens doing what they must to get into the end zone.
Other than the run, Joe Flacco was….ok in his debut.  He completed just over 50% of his passes, the longest being a fifteen yard completion to Derek Mason.  Ray Rice didn’t look too great, averaging less than 3 yards per carry and fumbling the ball.  Fullback Le’ron Mcclain looked much more effective.  I think this team needs Ray Rice.  As much as I like the trick type plays, the Ravens are going to have to find a way to move the ball.
Statistical Notes – Carson Palmer’s 10 completions for 99 yards are his second worst numbers of his career . The “Worst” was a 5/8 54 yard performance against the Chiefs during the 2005 season when he played only one quarter. T.J. Houshmenzadeh scored a touchdown in the first eight games last season.  He has scored in only 2 of 9 since that time.  Chris Mccallister’s one interception matches last years’ total.
Prognostication or “Carnage Guessing on games”

Obviously I did not blog last week but I wrote down my picks.  I do not gamble on football games because I love Football and I love to gamble.  The two combined would be dangerous.  My wife is gracious enough to put up with the obsessive amount of time I spend on watching games, writing, discussing, and messing with my fantasy lineups.  Losing time is bad enough.  Losing Money….that would not be acceptable.  For that reason, I pick my games without the spread.  It’s easier, I know, but not that easy.  Besides, teams winning and losing is of more importance to the actual NFL than some arbitrary number that a team has to win by.   I’ll post my guesses every week.  Use them to guide your wagers if you place them, post against mine, laugh at me.  Ignore them.  Whatever.  ;)  I’ll post next week’s pick at the end of the column.  This week, I’m 12-4.  I swear I almost wanted to call Bears over Colts for some reason but I didn’t.

Giants over Redskins
Lions over Falcons
Ravens over Bengals
Bills over Seahawks (I insisted that this was going to happen)
Jets over Dolphins
Patriots over Chiefs
Saints over Bucs
Eagles over Rams
Steelers over Texans
Jags over Titans
Cowboys over Browns
Chargers over Panthers
Cardinals over 49ers
Colts over Bears
Packers over Vikings
Broncos Over Raiders

Patriots over Chiefs or “The POP heard around the (Sports) world.”

I already addressed the Brady injury in some form, but now I have to wonder where it leaves the team.  Matt Cassell had a good outing but it WAS the Chiefs.  If Bill Billichick is anything, he is personnel savvy.  I have a feeling that Daunte Culpepper is going to be coaxed out of retirement and be reunited with Randy Moss
The hero of the game for the Patriots was definitely Deltha O’Neal.   You have to like guys that hustle and running down Devard Darling definitely qualifies as hustle.  He kind of made a play keeping Dwayne Bowe out of the end zone in the last play of the game.  As I mentioned about Evil Bill before, he is personnel savvy.  Deltha O’Neal had two subpar seasons in a row for the Bengals and seemed to be nearing the end of his usefulness.  This game proved he still has something left.
The Patriots seem to have a bottomless well of good defensive players.  Lose a solid player here and there, someone steps up.  Mike Vrabel looked fantastic and Jared Mayo seemed to fit into the lineup quite nicely.  Seriously, I don’t really like the Patriots but I have to respect the fact that at all times Patriots defenders all swarm towards the ball.  
Tom Brady wasn’t the only QB to go down.  Brodie Croyle finally was getting a chance to start on opening day and suffered a shoulder injury.  I am not sure it is serious, but it seems to be a continuation of a bad trend in the NFL…Quarterback injuries.
Larry Johnson carried the ball 22 times and managed to gain 74 yards (3.4 YPC), but 22 of those yards were on one play.  That means LJ carried the ball 21 times for 52 yards, a paltry 2.5 Yards per Carry.  I’m not a big fan of Larry Johnson.  He was touted as a Superstar runner in 2005/2006 but he had two all-pro offensive linemen.  I maintain that Larry Johnson is a rather ordinary runner that benefited from a great scenario. 

Statistical Notes:  Tony Gonzales grabbed 6 balls for 55 yards.  Seems a bit pedestrian but that projects to 96 catches for nearly 900 yards.  He’s had at least 70 catches and 900 yards in 7 of the last 8 seasons.   30 year old Randy Moss had another 100 yard game and another touchdown.  He passes Jimmy Smith to move up to 13 on the all time receiving yards list.  He’ll never catch Rice in receptions, but if he plays 5 more years at a high level, he could be knocking on the yardage and touchdowns leader door.

Quarterback Injuries:
  Over the years, the NFL has implemented many measures to keep quarterbacks safe.  Last year was terrible, with NFL QB depth charts looking more like an infirmary.  There is just no getting around the fact that QB’s are often hit when not expecting it or hit with their bodies fully extended, getting rid of the ball.  It truly makes Brett Favre’s (And Peyton Manning’s) consecutive start streak all that more impressive.  
Many people point out Favre’s toughness when talking about his streak.  No doubt he played injured at some points in his career but more than anything, Brett Favre is quite possibly the luckiest man ever to play the position.  Favre’s legendary iron man status wouldn’t allow him to play with a torn ACL or a separated shoulder any more than the next guy.  No Knock on Favre, it’s still quite an accomplishment (Including playing through emotional pain) but don’t think for a second that he has some “Rugged gene” that has kept him from sitting out.

Eagles over Rams or “Donovan Mcnabb addresses his skeptics.”

For a few years now Eagles fans have been thinking of a future without Donovan Mcnabb.   I guess he’s gotten injured a few years, but spast!  He’s one of the best in the league when he’s healthy and playing well.  361 passing yards…and only 1 yard receiving for Brian Westbrook?  100 yard games out of three receivers: a rookie, Hank Baskett, and Greg Lewis?  Are you kidding me?  You can call it a product of Andy Reid’s system….but if that is the case why doesn’t everyone use that system?
Deshaun Jackson has spectacular.  He’s undersized but has some speed.  What impressed me most was the catches he made.  Mcnabb was throwing into pretty decent coverage on at least two of Jackson’s grabs and he hung on to them.  You like to see that in a rookie.  He also looked great on one punt return. 
As bad as the Rams defense was, the offense may have been worse.   Every time I looked, Marc Bulger was being pressured.  Steven Jackson was stuffed for less than 3 yards per carry.  They failed to convert a single third down and had only 8 first downs (Compared to 28 for the Eagles).    There was also a glaring lack of discipline as the team was penalized nine times.  The Greatest Show on Turf is but a distant memory.

Statistical Notes – Tory Holt was held to one catch for the first time since 2004 and only the fourth time in his 142 game career.  The Rams “Contained” Brian Westbrook.  He failed to reach 100 total yards, (He had 93 and 2 touchdowns) a mark he only missed three times last season. 

Steelers over Texans or “Is there a new team to beat in the AFC?”

   Seriously, I have the Texans competing for a wildcard spot.   They went 8-8 in a rough division last year and should only be better this year.  They were completely dominated.   The box score shows that the Texans actually had 230 yards and scored two touchdowns.  Most of those yards and both touchdowns came in the fourth quarter when the game was way over.  Fast Willie Parker looked, well, fast.  Ben Roethisberger was cruelly efficient, completing 13/14 of his pass attempts.  The defense seemed to be on top of Matt Schaub the entire first half. 
   After last year’s poor offensive line play and the loss of Alan Faneca, I thought that the Steelers might have some trouble on offense.  I think I might have been wrong.  While the other powers in the AFC struggled/lost their leaders, the Steelers looked really strong.  After watching how bad the Browns struggled against Dallas, I can’t see them taking the division from the Steelers.
   I think the Texans got hit with a bad opening day matchup.  They ran into a machine.  They have got to protect Matt Schaub better if they are going to do anything.  Granted, one of the INT’s he threw was just an ill advised pass and he held the ball two long on the one of the sacks, but quarterbacks tend to stop thinking clearly when they hear footsteps all day long. 
Statistical notes – The Texans had a few Bright Spots.  Mario Williams started off where he ended last season with two sacks.  He finished last season with 10 in the last seven games.  He’s blossoming into a super pass rusher.  Andre Johnson caught 10 passes for 112 yards and is a top five WR if he stays healthy.   Between Big Ben and Schaub, only 7 of 47 passes hit the ground (Though two were picked off).  Willie Parker had 3 TD’s, one more than all of last season.  Big Ben has thrown more INT’s than TD’s only twice since November 26th of 2006.  Kevin Walter has 4 TD’s in his last 7 games.
Saints over Buccaneers or “The Jeff Garcia Aerial Circus!”
   Last season, I often applauded the Buccaneers for their throwback style of playing.  Work hard on defense, run the ball, throw high percentage passes once in a while.  They performed well enough using this philosophy to get into the playoffs.    Suddenly, in a close game against a division rival they hand the ball to a guy averaging 9.1 YPC only three times in the entire second half of the game.   To their credit they did put up over 350 yards of total offense, which is probably well above last years’ average.
   I loved the swing/screen play to Reggie Bush.  Usually screen plays take some time to develop but Drew Brees hit Reggie Bush on a dead run from the “I” formation.  Bush took that one to the house.  It’s on the highlights.  Neat play.  Both of Reggie’s longer passes came out of the I formation.  You can talk about splitting him out to create mismatches, but I think he may get more running room coming out of the backfield.
    Is it just me or did Drew Brees seem to be throwing the ball harder than in previous years?  He’s been a very good, very accurate passer for awhile now but I felt that the ball was getting to the receivers very quickly and in perfect places.  I think adding Jeremy Shockey is perfect for this offense.   In a standard I set the defense will have to watch out for Marques Colston running all sorts of routes, one of the Saints deep threats, Shockey working the middle and possibly drawing  off linebackers, and Bush swinging or “Sitting Down” in front of the linebackers.  The Bucs were a stout defense last season (2nd in yards allowed, 1st in passing yards allowed, 7th in Yards per Carry, third in takeaways.  The Saints lit them up for 438 yards, a good amount of which were passing yards. 
 Statistical Notes – Reggie Bush’s longest run in 2007 was 22 yards.  He had a 26 yard carry Sunday.  In 2007 his longest reception was 25 yards.  He had catches of 29 and 42 yards Sunday.  Earnest Graham has 6 games of 100+ total yards in his last eight, including doing so on only 12 touches Sunday.  The Saints have not had a Tight End catch 50 passes in a season in a decade.  Shockey had 6 in week 1.  Jeff Garcia has more INT’s (1) than he did in the first 7 games last season. 

    Cowboys over Browns or “I think we should cut the lead to 18.”

    The Browns weren’t going to win this game anyway, but I thought Romeo Crennell’s decision to kick a field goal on 4th and 3 from the 17 yard line, down 21 with 10 minutes to go was utterly ridiculous.  Your team is having only the second substantial drive of the game.  If you pick up the first down and go on to score a touchdown, you are down by only 2 scores with probably over 9 minutes left.  A defensive stand and another score would set you up for a chance at an onside kick or another defensive stand.  Kicking a field goal leaves it at three possessions and tells the players you are calling it a day and sends a message that you do not believe your offense can gain three yards.  There was absolutely nothing good that could come out of kicking a field goal.
     The Cowboys utterly destroyed this team with a potent offense and a supposedly improved defense.   They appeared utterly unstoppable.  The offensive line played tremendously, giving Tony Romo tons of time to throw and blowing open huge holes for Marion Barber and Felix Jones
      For the last two years Marion Barber has been on my list of “Favorite Non-Packers Players” (He and Brian Westbrook are my backfield) and he showed why again this week.  He signed the big contract and he’s still throwing himself around, stiff arming, and generally playing like a wild man.  Truthfully, I think this guy is less talented than a lot of backs in the league, but has so many times more heart and toughness that it doesn’t matter.   My only concern is that he already has some injured ribs.  How many games can you play the way he does and remain healthy?
      I thought the Jason Witten secret was out.  Apparently nobody told the Browns.  I saw him come across the middle, attracting not a single defender to catch a ball, and come off the left side, drifting towards the sidelines to catch a ball…once again not a defender in sight.
     Is it just me or did it look like Derek Anderson (When he had time to throw) seem to have the “Isn’t Braylon Supposed to be there.” Look?  I know Braylon Edwards spent some time injured but I was surprised how out of sync the two looked.  The same problem did not exist with Kellen Winslow.
     This game was rough to watch because of the penalties.  Twenty flags and 130+ yards worth of them.  That breaks down to one every three minutes of game time.  That’s a lot.   I did think the Terrell Owens taunting penalty was a little silly.  There have been far worse stunts than that.

Statistical Notes – Terrell Owens TD was the 130th of his career, putting him tied for second with Cris Carter.  He has at least one score in 9 of his last 11 games.  With 2 TD’s this Sunday, Marion Barber has multiple TD’s in 11 of his 46 career games.  Braylon Edwards caught two or fewer balls only once last season.  He has already matched that low total.  The Cowboys had 30 first downs to the Browns 11.

Jets over Dolphins AND Packers over Vikings or “Brett Favre is the Quarterback for the New York Jets.  He made his first start as a Jet this Sunday.   This means that Brett Favre is not the Green Bay Packers Quarterback.  Aaron Rodgers is the Green Bay quarterback but Aaron Rodgers is NOT Brett Favre.  I figured that you may not have realized this so I thought I would go over it.”
    Seriously, the Brett Favre exposure for the Sunday Pre-Game shows and Monday Night Packers matchup was annoying.   Let me make things clear on where I stand.  I am a Packers fan and I bear no ill will towards Favre or the organization.   I enjoyed watching him play all of these years and still found him fun to watch.  I was excited to see Aaron Rodgers start and fully support him.  In other words, I’m still a Packers fan (Not a “Favre” fan as some people are called) but I do not hate Brett Favre (Which, to some people, makes me not a Packers fan).
   Anyway, having to hear about Favre’s first pass, first completion, first touchdown, first incompletion, first sack taken, first crotch grabbing, and 100 other inane things on Sunday had to have gotten on everyone’s nerves.   We’ve seen Favre throw thousands of passes and score 400+ touchdowns.   I think we were all pretty sure he could throw more passes and score more touchdowns.  I think we all are aware that he is now a Jet.  Twenty Six teams full of players, some of them very talented, played on Sunday.  Maybe shift the news to some others here and there?
Anyway, Favre played pretty well, hooking up with Jericho Cotchery on a textbook Brett Favre fantastic pass and later with Chansi Stuckey on a textbook Favre “Crazy” play.  I’m sure the Jets are happy with Favre’s performance, but I think Thomas Jones’ day was more of a reason to be happy.  The Jets really struggled running the ball last season.  Granted, this was against the Dolphins…..
Jets kicker Mike Nugent hurt himself on a field goal attempt which was a big reason the Dolphins remained in the game to the last minute.  He missed the field goal when he injured himself, and it forced the Jets to go for the deuce with no kicker.  Nugent eventually was able to come back and kick an extra point, but don’t underestimate those little 3 point and 1 point plays.
The Dolphins, reportedly very happy with Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown, called 47 passes and 17 rushes and ran only 3 times in the second half.  Neither Ricky or Ronnie looked like world beaters but I would have expected more balance with the Tuna hovering over this team.
Statistical Notes – Thomas Jones averaged 4.6 YPC, a full yard over his 2007 average and better than 15 out of 16 games last season.  Anthony Fasano and David Martin are both 1 receiving TD away from tying last years’ Dolphins team leaders in that category.

Favre’s old team game notes

Now, back to Green Bay over Minnesota.  Aaron Rodgers looked really good in his debut, even with the insane amount of penalties committed by the O-Line (The Packers were flagged 12 times for 118 yards).  At one point in the first, the Packers had a 1st and 33 situation.  Tony Kornheiser, who would not shut up about Favre, made it sound like Favre would simply take the snap and immediately complete a 34 yard pass or something.  Is Kornheiser supposed to be an analyst or a comedian?  It’s hard to tell because he’s not very good at either.
Rodgers’ most impressive play in my opinion didn’t make any highlight reels, which is a shame.  In the second quarter, he hit Greg Jennings on a 15 yard or so slant.  I thought it was incredible how quick that ball came out, how fast it got there, and how well it was placed.  Mike Mccarthy obviously wasn’t as impressed.  With 18 seconds on the clock, one timeout, and the Packers on the Vikings 16 yard line…he was content to let the clock run down instead of having Rodgers take a shot at the end zone.  Coach!  Your guy is playing brilliant up to this point!  Go for Seven!  Mason Crosby’s field goal was blocked and they got nothing out of it.
Early in the game, Adrian Peterson looked like he would be extremely difficult to contain with 65 yards rushing in the first quarter.  The Green Bay D really turned it on and help him pretty well past that point.  I think a lot of people are down on Tavaris Jackson, but I thought he played pretty well considering how much pressure the Packers were able to bring.  They only brought him down once as he made some huge plays with his feet but I guarantee he was hurried plenty of times. The abandonment of the high profile running game in the second half didn't help his cause either.  I seriously think he will be a better quarterback by mid season.

Statistical Notes – The Vikings defense gave averaged 3.1 YPC last season.  The Packers gained 5.1 yards per rush Monday Night.   The Vikings averaged more YPC than the Packers, gained more total yards, ran 20 more plays, had the edge in time of possession by 2 minutes, were penalized 74 fewer yards, converted a greater percentage of third downs, and had 21 first downs to the Packers 15.  Stats never tell the entire story.

Panthers over Chargers or “What the? Part 1”
After listening for a week to my friend saying that Dante Rosario was his awesome fantasy sleeper pick and me just laughing.  For that reason, my jaw doubled dropped when Jake Delhomme found Rosario in the end zone as the clock hit triple zero. 
This game was simply shocking to me.  I wasn’t too excited about the Panthers to begin with.  They were without Steve Smith and they were going down to San Diego to play one of the more talented teams in the league.      To be honest, John Kasay was the absolute key to this game.  He nailed four field goals of course, two of them 40+ yarders,  but the more important factor was that following each of those scores he kicked the ball into the end zone giving the Chargers a long field.  8/12 Chargers drives began at their own twenty or worse. 
Although Philip Rivers (Rivers played very well, actually), Antonio GatesLaDainian Tomlinson and the offense played well they never seemed to be able to get into the type of groove we are used to seeing.  Rivers hooked up with Gates, Chris Chambers, and Vincent Jackson on some big plays but they felt a tad out of sync otherwise.  Ladainian Tomlinson was pretty absent from the passing game.  After their slow start last season, I have to wonder if their conservative preseason approach doesn’t leave them a little behind when the season starts.  Due to injuries, it was unavoidable this year but I think even healthy we wouldn’t have seen much of them in pre season.
DeAngelo Williams and Jonathon Stewart both looked sharp.  I like this backfield duo.   Fantasy wise they should be frustrating with each gobbling the other’s carries, but Panther fans should enjoy a fine season of running the ball.

Statistical Notes – Antonio Gates has scored in each of the last three season openers.  Philip Rivers has seven TD’s and 0 INT’s in his last four regular season games.  The Panthers are 3-1 with Jake Delhomme the last two seasons and 5-8 without him.

Bears over Colts or “What the? Part 2”
Heading into the season, there was uncertainty as to Peyton Manning playing the first game.  Many people assumed that the Colts could beat the bears even with Jim Sorgi at the helm.  If Manning plays?  The Bears have no chance at all.
It seems we all forgot that a healthy Bears defense has some serious talent.  With two new players on the Colts O-Line and the obvious absence of Jeff Saturday, the Bears absolutely dominated the line of scrimmage.   Joseph Addai was largely ineffective and the Colts became ridiculously one dimensional, running 15 times out of 66 total plays.  The Bears D put up Nine points themselves and the safety set up a short field and eventual field goal.  I’ve always respected the Bears and their ball slapping ways and once again it paid off with Charles Tillman popping the ball from Marvin Harrison’s usually sure hands.  They put pressure on Peyton Manning, making him settle for shorter throws and did a nice job tackling the Colts talented receiving crew. 
What is especially surprising is the fact that the Bears actually outgained the Colts and were far more efficient on third down.   Pounding away all night with rookie Matt Forte and Kevin Jones opened the way for Kyle Orton to make just enough plays to win. 
I think within two weeks Peyton Manning and his crew will get in sync with each other (Although I don’t know the status of Dallas Clark….if he is going to miss time that would be huge.) 

Statistical Notes – Matt Forte’s 123 yard performance tops Cedric Benson’s lone 100 yard game (101 yards) from last season.    Reggie Wayne has 32 catches in his last three regular season outings.

Next Week’s Predictions.
Chicago over Carolina – Matt Forte has another big day and the Panthers struggle against the tenacious Bears defense. 
Jaguars over Bills – Jacksonville looked bad last opening day.  They are a solid team.  The Bills keep it surprisingly close.  I like Marshawn Lynch and Maurice Jones-Drew in this one. 
Chiefs over Raiders – The Raiders looked terrible Monday Night.   Darren McFadden has a better outing though.  Tony Gonzales will catch a lot of balls.
Vikings over Colts – If Matt Forte was so effective against the Colts, Adrian Peterson should be at least that much.  The Colts offensive line did not look good and the Colts are going to be throwing a lot.  Jared Allen will bring the heat in this one.
Saints over Redskins – The Saints were able to move the ball against the Bucs and should be able to do so against the Redskins.  I expect good numbers out of Drew Brees again. Clinton Portis should have a big game if they feed him the ball.  I am just not sold on Jason Campbell at this point.
Giants over Rams – The Rams SHOULD be better on Turf but they looked too horrible to consider picking.  Jacobs, Manning, and Burress could all put up some numbers.
Packers over Lions – The Lions D is porous and the Packers could have a field day in the Lions backfield.
Titans over Bengals – I’m picking too many road games but the Bengals did not look good in any way.  I seriously may even sit Palmer, Housh, and CJ if I had better options.
49ers over Seahawks – The Seahawks are in disarray.  The 49ers are going to have a hard time scoring but Matt Hasselbeck throwing to Seneca Wallace doesn’t appeal to me.
Buccaneers over Falcons – Michael Turner and Matt Ryan come back to Earth.
Arizona over Miami – Arizona may suddenly be the team to beat in the west.  Miami is better…..just not much better.
Jets over Patriots – Matt Cassel starting his first game.  Jets at home and looking pretty good.
Broncos over Chargers – Jay Cutler was scary good without Brandon Marshall.  He gets him back this week.  Tomlinson runs wild but the Broncos take it at Mile High.  Chargers start 0-2 for the second year running.
Texans over Ravens – The Ravens won but struggled to move the ball on the Bengals.  Flacco will actually be facing a pass rush.
Steelers over Browns – I called Steelers over Browns x2 before the season started and week 1 makes me feel stronger about that pick.
Cowboys over Eagles – Great Monday night matchup.  We get to see if the Eagles are for real or if the Rams are THAT bad.  The Cowboys looked too good to pass up at home.

Whew.  Long review to start the season.  I’ll try to make it shorter and more exciting next time.
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com