Week 1 Thoughts and Week 2 Picks
As usual, Week 1 of the 2009 NFL season was full of things to talk to about. Here are a few thoughts:
Mark Sanchez deserves his due for acting the part of a pro in his first NFL game, on the road, against a Texans team that is (again) rightfully hyped. His overall numbers (18-for-31, 272 yards, 1 TD/1 INT) were solid, but it was his formidable third-down efficiency (12-for-16 with 10 conversions) that kept the dangerous Houston offense off the field and helped the Jets own the all-important time of possession battle. For those who remain skeptical because of the small sample size, more defining answers will be coming Sunday when the Jets host the Patriots.
Speaking of New England, anyone who watched only the first half of the Patriots-Bills game on Monday night probably walked away thinking they had seen an impostor in Tom Brady’s jersey — or a guy who was simply no longer the same quarterback after reconstructive knee surgery. Whoever was wearing No. 12 in the retro Pats uniforms was tentative in the pocket, routinely missed throws and failed to convert third and fourth downs.
After the new Brady dipped into his old bag of tricks — leading the Patriots back from 11 down with 2:15 to play and going 11-for-13 for 112 yards and two TDs on the final two drives — the only question surrounding the quarterback had to do with where his latest comeback ranked on the big list. So much for all the speculation on how he would respond: 378 yards, yet another late rally and an AFC Offensive Player of the Week accolade should serve to ease or exacerbate the concerns of many, depending on perspective.
Concerns about player health run rampant in Week 1, and that goes for everyone, not just the Tom Bradys of the world. The one negative aspect of football returning is the reality that key guys won’t make it back to practice to prepare for Week 2. Unfortunately, this season was no different, as Troy Polamalu, Donovan McNabb, LaDainian Tomlinson, Brian Urlacher and Jerod Mayo all suffered varying degrees of injuries. There was football played on Thursday, Sunday and Monday night, and guys went down on each day.
The injuries to Polamalu (MCL tear) and Mayo (MCL sprain) aren’t season-ending, as neither will require surgery. But each player is the most vital to his defense, meaning the 3-6 weeks Pittsburgh will be without Polamalu and the 4-8 weeks New England will have to make do without Mayo are going to have major implications on those defensive units. McNabb (broken rib) and Tomlinson (sprained ankle) are effectively ruled out for Week 2, with Tomlinson’s inactive status already having been announced. And Urlacher is done for the season with a dislocated wrist.
The Urlacher injury is obviously the biggest blow any team had to absorb, which was bad news on top of bad news for Chicago, considering the way Jay Cutler performed in his first game as a Bear, on national television no less. While Cutler wasn’t helped by his receivers making some poor reads, he was still exceptionally bad. Whether it was trying to rip the ball into triple coverage or moving right and throwing back across the middle, Cutler pretty much gave a 60-minute clinic on how not to play the position. With the Bears defense sure to be reeling for a few weeks while it gathers itself, the onus swings even more onto Cutler to take care of the ball and put points on the board. Trouble could be brewing in the Windy City.
Here are the Week 2 picks (home teams in CAPS)
Carolina over ATLANTA
Minnesota over DETROIT
GREEN BAY over Cincinnati
TENNESSEE over Houston
New England over NY JETS
KANSAS CITY over Oakland
WASHINGTON over St. Louis
PHILADELPHIA over New Orleans
Seattle over SAN FRANCISCO
JACKSONVILLE over Arizona
BUFFALO over Tampa Bay
Pittsburgh over CHICAGO
Baltimore over SAN DIEGO
DENVER over Cleveland
DALLAS over NY Giants
Indianapolis over MIAMI
Last Week: 13-3