Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Talbuc's Take - Week 1

Opening with a BANG!
Aaron Rodgers is in total control of the offense; knows where everyone is every play. His timing and placement are sensational; especially when throwing to Finley and Driver. Nelson doesn’t miss anything either. Receivers get the ball in stride to gain extra yardage or get down/out of the play without getting blown up.

James Starks is clearly the team's best back. Ryan Grant slows down and accepts contact while Starks runs through it.  Starks is noticeably bigger and stronger this year. If he doesn’t have the #1 job by week 4, it’s going to be because he’s hurt, or they’re overly loyal to Grant. I stand by what I said about Starks when he was coming out of Buffalo a couple years ago – he’s a lite version of Adrian Peterson. With his added size this offseason, he’s closer to the real thing. Scary potential for this guy.

Randall Cobb was a tremendous addition and may soon pass James Jones as their primary speed receiver threat.  He has extremely reliable hands and plus vision and made a great improvisation on his first receiving TD.  On his 108 yd KR TD he does a 360 horizontal spin on his own 30, rights himself, and takes it the distance. A huge game for a huge talent.

Darren Sproles is a noticeable upgrade over Reggie Bush. There’s not much of a comparison from a speed/explosiveness/gamebreaking ability standpoint. Sproles is exactly the type of spark this offense needed.

Pierre Thomas isn’t going to roll over for Mark Ingram. He broke about 50 tackles on his first run of the year. That’s a really strong 1-2 combo, and when you throw in Sproles, they’re loaded.

BJ Raji is an absolute anchor. Even Carl Nicks couldn’t move him out of the way.

The Packers are pretty unpredictable when they line up both James Starks and John Kuhn in goal line sets. You’ve got both backs as options – Starks on the edge or up the middle, Kuhn up the gut – and then there’s Rodgers and the mismatches that Jennings, Finley, and Nelson provide. They’re pretty much unstoppable inside the 10.

Dime corner Jarrett Bush has a good future ahead of him; love his instincts and play awareness. He showed his blitzing ability and did a great job stepping in when Tramon Williams went down late in the game. Look for him to be a contributor this year.

Ouch! Welcome to the NFL Mark Ingram. He got stuffed big time by Morgan Burnett on the last and biggest play of the game. I was shocked that they didn’t put Thomas in the game and give it to him. He was the stronger runner tonight, and if you’re going to try to get the biggest yard of the game, he’s the guy who should have been taking the carry. That one’s on Sean Payton.

Bad News Bears?
Are the Falcons overrated, or are the Bears better than I thought? Probably a bit of both. Brian Urlacher was involved in two huge plays (INT and fumble return TD), and Julius Peppers totaled two sacks, forced a fumble, and recovered another. Jay Cutler threw for over 300 yards and two scores, even though Matt Forte did all of the work on one of them. He was sacked another four times, so it will be interesting to see how he responds in a closer contest, like this week at New Orleans.

Indy…We Have a Problem
Wow, that was ugly. The Colts spotted the Texans a 34-0 lead before Kerry Collins hooked up with Reggie Wayne for a meaningless fourth quarter TD. Collins didn’t throw an interception, but he did lose two fumbles and struggled to complete half of his passes. How bad is Curtis Painter? Houston’s supposed to be good, but a 34-7 ass kicking is a sign of a team that hasn’t shown up and ain’t gonna.

The Browns aren’t ready for prime time. After falling behind 13-0 early and not mustering any offense until a short field drive in the second quarter. Their second TD of the first half put them ahead at the break, but sloppy defense and the inability to slow down a Bruce Gradkowski led offense led to a second half collapse and 0-1 start to the season. This week should tell us a lot about both the Browns and Colts. For those that are into that kind of thing, what does it say when Cleveland opens as a 2.5 favorite at Indy?

Roughed up at Ray Jay
The scoreboard was kinder to the Bucs than the Lions were. The main thing I took from this game is that the Bucs still lack the ability to make proper in-game adjustments, failing to do so on both sides of the ball against Detroit. Aqib Talib scored a TD, but he didn’t come close to shutting down Calvin Johnson (6 catches, 88 yards, 2 TDs). They had no answer for Jahvid Best either. He totaled 114 yards but could have done much more damage if Detroit felt like keeping their foot on the Bucs throat. Detroit dominated the game, accumulating 431 total yards (126 rushing), and the only proof Gerald McCoy played was his two neutral zone penalties. Adrian Clayborn didn’t even register one tackle, and Sean Jones still has horrible hands.
The Bucs shouldn’t struggle to make plays downfield with Freeman’s arm. Unfortunately, there’s not much downfield separation from this bunch of receivers, so Freeman is going to be prone to increased turnovers the more he airs it out. All the Bucs backs are slow. No one is a threat to break your ankles in the open field. The offensive line couldn’t open even the slightest of holes against Detroit’s front, which is doom for a Buc backfield lacking explosiveness.
I like Matthew Stafford, but he’s not nearly the best QB the Bucs will face this season – Brees (2), Ryan (2), Newton (2), Cutler, Schaub, Rodgers, and Romo. It’s only going to get uglier unless a lot of guys start stepping up.
What’s that Smell?
Matt Cassel sucks. How can you complete 22 passes and not throw for 120 yards? His 3.3 yard per attempt average was second to McNasty’s week’s worst 2.6. I’m not Dwayne Bowe’s biggest fan, but with his talent at receiver and a back of Jamaal Charles’ caliber, there’s no excuse for a QB being unable to put up even mediocre numbers.
That's Turrible Tennessee
The Titans and Jags are both bad football teams, but I expected more from Chris Johnson. Sure he held out this preseason, but the man is a professional athlete and supposedly remained in top shape this offseason. There’s no excuse for gaining only 49 total yards against this Jaguar defense. As awful as Tennessee played, not scoring until late in the third quarter, they still only lost by two and had a chance to get in range for a game winning field goal when Matt Hasselbeck threw up a pathetic deep ball that was intercepted by Dwight Lowery to end their last “threat”.
Nightmare in St. Louis
This game smelled like a bit of a trap to me. Not so. Instead, the Eagles came into town and smacked around the Rams, sending Sam Bradford, Steven Jackson, Danny Amendola, and Ron Bartell to this week’s injury list. Jackson is already unlikely to play according to his coach, and Amendola suffered a nasty dislocated elbow. The “Dream Team” heads to Hotlanta this week in Michael Vick’s first start against his former team.
Steeler Smackdown
My goodness did Joe Flacco get that Steeler monkey off his back! He finally beat Pittsburgh and sent Ben Roethlisberger to his first Baltimore defeat in the last eight matchups. As good as Flacco’s 224 yards and 3 TDs were, the two things that stand out are Ray Rice and that Ravens defense. Rice ran for over 100 yards and a score and added another TD as a receiver. Again, I think he’s going to be football’s most productive back this season, and he certainly did nothing Sunday to sway me off my stance. Oh, that defense? How’s as many turnovers forced as points allowed (7), holding Rashard Mendenhall to 45 yards, or Terrell Suggs sacking Roethlisberger three times? Man they look dominant.
Newton Not Enough
Cam Newton may have lost his first game as a pro, but it certainly wasn’t his fault. It’s no secret I’m no fan of this guy, but I’m not blind to impressive performances, of which this was certainly one. Newton’s 422 passing (not total) yards blew away the previous record of 346 held by Otto Graham. Bravo young man. Their defense is still bad, and if Kevin Kolb can light them up for 309 yards and two TDs, what’s going to happen with Aaron Rodgers comes to town this week? Nice start Patrick Peterson – a 98 yard game clinching punt return for a TD to go along with five defensive tackles.
McReally McNabb?
On the positive side, the Vikings didn’t trail until the fourth quarter, but they may have never trailed had Donovan McNabb thrown for, oh I don’t know, at least 50 yards. The McAcquisition went 7/15 for 39 yards, a TD, and a horrific INT that led to San Diego’s only first half score. If McNabb is able to break out against the Bucs, that’s going to signal a really rough, long year in Tampa.
Oops, he did it again!
I don’t like the Cowboys, but I almost feel bad for Tony Romo. How can a guy who is so good for three quarters have so many late game collapses? He torched the vaunted Jets defense for 342 yards and 2 TDs, but he was responsible for his team’s two biggest miscues as well. Three plays after completing a deep ball to Jason Witten (who should have scored), Romo fumbled on the Jets’ doorstep and kept New York in it. Then, when he has a chance to redeem himself in the game’s final minute, he threw an inexcusable interception to Darrelle Revis to get the Jets in range for the eventual game winner. How does Romo do it? Saying the Jets were extremely fortunate to win that game is an extreme understatement. They don’t win without Romo’s miscues and Joe McKnight’s punt block. If he can keep his head out of his ass, Dez Bryant is going to be a top 5 receiver this time next season. What an absolute mismatch he is.
Regular Season Regularity
The Patriots picked up where they left off last regular season in a 14 point beating of the Dolphins in Monday night’s opener. Tom Brady’s 517 yards and 4 TDs was the best statistical performance by a QB in 60 years, capped off by his 99 yard strike to Wes Welker to seal the game. Chad Ochocinco got a lot of headlines when he joined the Patriots this offseason, but he was clearly the 5th option behind Welker, Deion Branch, and the two second year TEs. Branch finished with 93 yards on 7 catches, and Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez caught 13 of their 17 combined targets for 189 yards and 2 scores. Deadly!
The rest...
- How bad is Seattle? They found a way to make Ted Ginn Jr. relevant again.
- The Redskins can run the football. They did it this preseason, and they did it in week one against albeit a banged up Giants defense.
- Sebastian Janikowski is the man! Congrats to the Polish Powderkeg on his record tying 63 yd FG.
Impact Injuries
Two teams were dealt significant blows in week one with both Jon Beason (Achilles) and Eric Berry (ACL) going out for the year with major injuries. The Panthers don’t figure to make the playoffs, and the Chiefs don’t either, especially without their best defensive playmaker.
NFL’s Best & Worst
Here are my best and bottom 5 teams after one week of action:
Best 5
1 – Green Bay
2 – Baltimore
3 – New England 
4 – Philadelphia
5 – New Orleans
Bottom 5
1 – Seattle
2 – Kansas City
3 – Indianapolis
4 – Minnesota
5 – Jacksonville (they still suck)
Best Performances
Tom Brady (NE) – 32/48, 517 yds, 4 TD, 1 INT, 121.6 QB rating
Cam Newton (CAR) – 24/37, 422 yds, 3 total TD, 1 INT, 110.4 QB rating
Drew Brees (NO) – 32/49, 419 yds, 3 TD, 0 INT, 112.5 QB rating
Ray Rice (BAL) – 107 yds rushing, 42 yds receiving, 2 total TDs
LeSean McCoy (PHI) – 122 yds rushing, 2 total TDs
Darren McFadden (OAK) – 150 yds rushing
Steve Smith (CAR) – 11 targets, 8 receptions, 178 yds, 2 TDs
Wes Welker (NE) – 12 targets, 8 receptions, 160 yds, 2 TDs
Kenny Britt (TEN) – 10 targets, 5 receptions, 136 yds, 2 TDs
D’Qwell Jackson (CLE) – 11 total tackles, 2 sacks, 1 forced fumble
Terrell Suggs (BAL) – 3 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 5 total tackles
Ed Reed (BAL) – 2 INTs, 4 passes defended, 6 total tackles
Julius Peppers (CHI) – 2 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovered, 3 total tackles
Worst Performances
Donovan McNabb (MIN) – 7/15, 39 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT, 47.9 QB rating
Matt Cassel (KC) – 22/36, 119 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT, 64.5 QB rating
Kerry Collins (IND) – 16/31, 197 yds, 1 TD, 0 INT, 2 lost fumbles, 82.3 QB rating
Chris Johnson (TEN) - 9 carries, 24 yds, 1 first down, 25 receiving yds
Shonn Greene (NYJ) - 10 carries, 26 yds
DeAngelo Williams (CAR) – 12 carries 30 yds, 8 yds longest run, 2 first downs
Marshawn Lynch (SEA) – 13 carries 33 yds, 12 yds longest run, 3 first downs
Rashard Mendenhall (PIT) – 12 carries 45 yds, 0 TD, 1 fumble, 3 first downs
Jamaal Charles (KC) – 10 carries 56 yds, 9 yds receiving, 1 TD, 1 fumble, 2 first downs
Dwayne Bowe (KC) – 8 targets, 2 receptions, 17 yds
Jeremy Maclin (PHI) – 3 targets, 1 reception, 20 yds
Vincent Jackson (SD) – 3 targets, 2 receptions, 31 yds

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