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Fair warning: Be careful of drawing conclusions from Week 1 action

After an exhaustive sampling of data that stretched throughout one week of the NFL's regular season -- and that was even before the Monday night games were completed -- the pronouncements came fast and furious from the punditry class:

--With New England now Tom Brady-less for the season, and the Colts, Chargers and Jaguars all losing their openers, the balance of power within the league may have shifted from the once-dominant AFC to the plucky and improved NFC.

--With Drew Brees, Donovan McNabb, Tony Romo, Jake Delhomme and Eli Manning all off to strong starts, while Peyton Manning, Brady, David Garrard, Carson Palmer and Derek Anderson were all either hurt or struggling, the NFC now has most of the elite quarterbacks in the game.

--Oh, and the Jets' Brett Favre experiment is an unqualified success, just as is the Aaron Rodgers era in Green Bay, the Matt Ryan pick in Atlanta, and the Joe Flacco gamble in Baltimore. Big thumbs up all the way around on the new passer front.

--And lastly, but most obviously, the Browns are frauds, the Bears are back and the Seahawks and Jaguars are doomed because their respective injury situations at receiver and offensive line will cripple their chances.

Don't you just love wide, sweeping characterizations based on Week 1 results? I heard all of that and then some Sunday night and Monday, and in a few cases even joined in the chorus of instant analysis. But all we've got at this point are first impressions, nothing more. Some will bear out as accurate harbingers of the season ahead, and some won't. But every year we seem to forget the lesson of not reading too much into the NFL's opening week, and plunge in, opinions-first, once again.

If you recall, last year after Week 1 we were certain Eli Manning and the Giants could never really stay on the field with the high-flying Cowboys, the Chargers were headed for trouble with this Norv Turner debacle, the Lions looked legit at last, and the bedraggled Browns were going nowhere, no matter who played quarterback -- Charlie Frye or his backup, Derek Anderson.

Hey, look, some Week 1 observations/truths we hold to be self-evident: The Rams, Bengals, Raiders, Lions and 49ers all still stink. The Falcons, Dolphins, Jets and Eagles all have put improved, more confident teams on the field in 2008 than they did last year. It doesn't take seeing into the future to discern that.

As for the rest of it, the early read likely won't end up being the right read. Finding out is the fun of it. We know that, but we choose to forget it. Every year about now.

• I get it that it's Bill Belichick's job to convince his Patriots the loss of no one player ends a team's season, and if everybody just does their job everything will work out just fine. But c'mon. This is Tom Brady's left knee that will require season-ending surgery, not Jabar Gaffney's.

Belichick could have at least dropped the stoic act for a moment in Monday afternoon's press conference and admitted his team faces its greatest challenge of his nine-year tenure in New England, if for no other reason than it's a great way to rally the troops for the task ahead.

No one expected him to stand up there and weep for No. 12, or bemoan the 2008 Patriots' fate. You take the good with the bad in the NFL, and Lord knows New England has had its share of the good the past seven years.

But do you think anyone in the Patriots locker room doesn't realize what it will mean to be Brady-less for the first time ever? Do you think the players buy into Belichick's stiff upper lip to the degree that they don't roll their eyes when hearing him offer up only the barest acknowledgement that New England just lost the most difference-making player in the league?

Belichick's motto remains the same, no matter the situation: Give 'em nothing. And when they ask again, give 'em a little more nothing. But this time, even by his business-as-usual standards, it was over the top.

• Speaking of giving 'em nothing, 31 other NFL teams on Monday would have, without being asked, revealed which knee ligaments their starting quarterback tore, when his surgery is scheduled, and approximated the length of his rehabilitation.

But, of course, not the Patriots. All we know is Brady has been placed on injured reserve and will have left knee surgery. There's apparently a competitive edge to be won or lost by detailing Brady's exact injury as an ACL, an MCL or a PCL. I'm going to go out on a limb, however, and wager that at some point in the next 10½ months, before the start of 2009's training camp, some word about the damaged ligaments will leak out. Call it a hunch.

• Question: What do Seattle receiver Nate Burleson and Jacksonville guard Vince Manuwai have in common? Unless they're both OK with their injuries being consigned to virtual obscurity, they both picked the wrong NFL Sunday to blow out an ACL. It seems the big headlines on this particular front went to a certain quarterback in New England.

• So on Sunday at Giants Stadium we'll have the guy who has started a million games in a row (Brett Favre) against the guy who hasn't started a game since November 1999, when he was in high school (Matt Cassel).

No word yet on how Cassel usually performs on almost nine years rest.

• They're all critical swing states in the upcoming presidential election, but based on Week 1 results, I'm looking for Pennsylvania to receive much more attention than Ohio or Missouri this fall. At least on the field.

The Eagles and Steelers both threw up 38 points in posting homefield routs over the Rams and Texans, respectively, on Sunday. The Bengals and Browns lost by seven and 18 points, respectively, to the Ravens and Cowboys. The Rams and Chiefs are 0-1 as well, with St. Louis getting blown out at Philly and Kansas City losing by a touchdown at New England.

• Dolphins left offensive tackle Jake Long, the first overall pick in this year's draft, had just one penalty called on him in his final 26 collegiate games at Michigan, a total of 1,743 plays.

But Long drew two flags in making his NFL regular-season debut Sunday at home against the Jets. He was called once for tripping and once for holding. He did a serviceable job in pass protection, although it's unclear how much responsibility he bore for Miami quarterback Chad Pennington being sacked four times and being pressured fairly often.

• One week in and we've already got four backup quarterbacks who either will or may start in Week 2: Cassel in New England, Kerry Collins in Tennessee, Damon Huard in Kansas City and Brian Griese in Tampa Bay.

At that rate, there will be no fewer than 68 quarterback changes in the NFL this season. Or .27 of a quarterback change per game (how exactly would that work?)

• Between rookie running back Chris Johnson's early success in Tennessee and a certain 2-0 nationally ranked football team, I'd say East Carolina is having a pretty good month.

• Looks like Deuce McAllister (he of the ACL surgery club) isn't quite as ready as I thought he was during training camp. But the Saints still have a decent run game with Pierre Thomas, Reggie Bush and Aaron Stecker (once he's over his hammy problem).

• Bush wasn't the only high 2006 first-round pick to have a big season opener. It was ugly for Houston in Pittsburgh, but Texans defensive end Mario Williams picked up where he left off in 2007, registering Houston's only two sacks and forcing a fumble, all in the first half.

Now about that No. 3 pick, Vince Young....

• With rookie DeSean Jackson, Greg Lewis and Hank Baskett all topping 100 yards receiving against the Rams, who needs Reggie Brown and Kevin Curtis in Philadelphia? The Eagles do, that's who. Don't be fooled by Sunday's showing against St. Louis. If there's a Triple A team in the NFL these days, it's Scott Linehan's Rams.

• Week 1 wasn't even over and Marion Barber's health and how it relates to his ability to hold down the Cowboys No. 1 running back role was already an issue. Barber is expected to practice and play this week with his bruised ribs, but maybe Dallas drafting a complementary back like Felix Jones in the first round wasn't so extravagant after all.

• The Dolphins gave Jacksonville receiver Ernest Wilford $6 million guaranteed early in free agency, one of their largest signings, and he didn't even make the active game-day roster for Week 1? Very, very curious.

Then again, raiding the Jaguars roster for receivers is not typically seen as the blueprint to success in the NFL.

And while we're on the topic of question marks in Miami, Ted Ginn Jr. is a long way from being the impact player the Dolphins old regime envisioned. In the return game or otherwise.

• From the looks of it, Brett Favre and Jerricho Cotchery are well on their way to a beautiful friendship. The two have clicked from day one of Favre's arrival, and when things get tight for No. 4, he looks for Cotchery first and last. Favre's on-field feel for the Jets other starting receiver, Laveranues Coles, is still in its infancy.

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