Ross Tucker
Wednesday September 16th, 2009

Let's get a few things straight: Mark Sanchez probably is not going to be a Hall of Famer. Drew Brees definitely is not going to throw 96 touchdown passes this season. And Jake Delhomme and Jay Cutler aren't going to throw 64 interceptions apiece.

Everybody needs to take a deep breath and relax. There are 15 more to go, and as any NFL player or coach will tell you, this thing is a marathon, not a sprint. Yes, everybody wants to start fast, but when it comes down to it, Week 1 is really no more important than any other. I played on teams that started 0-5 (Washington 2001) and 0-4 (Buffalo 2004), yet we were right in the thick of the playoff hunt at the end of the season and finished the year .500 or better.

People are so anxious to form definitive opinions about certain players or teams based upon these openers, and I think I know why. Unlike the other major pro sports, in which the seasons are lengthy and the lead-up hype properly measured, the NFL is the exact opposite. From free agency to the draft and all the way through training camp there is a constant dialogue and buzz about how teams and players will perform once the regular season begins.

Because of that, the start of the regular season becomes like a second Christmas. Everyone who follows the NFL can unwrap their presents at the same time and figure out exactly what it is they have under the tree this season. But that's the problem. We still don't really know what we have. The first game is just one small piece of the puzzle.

Sure, Sanchez played a solid game, displaying tremendous athleticism and footwork in the pocket while making big third-down throw after big third-down throw against the Texans. He also threw an interception that resulted in a touchdown and was fortunate not to have two more errant throws picked. How different would people feel about his performance if he had been responsible for two more turnovers? I'm not saying fans of Gang Green shouldn't be excited, because they should, but that enthusiasm should be tempered a bit by the reality that Sanchez and the Jets have a long way to go.

The exact opposite can be said of Delhomme in Carolina. There are legions of Panther fans who already want to bench the guy because he followed up last year's dreadful performance in the postseason with a clunker of an outing against the Eagles. He may in fact be done, but give the guy a legitimate chance. How quickly we forget that he led his team to a 12-4 record last season and deep into the postseason on two other occasions. These things have a way of sorting themselves out, and knee-jerk reactions based on one game are not a good way to evaluate.

Is Josh McDaniels a great coach and Marvin Lewis now on the hot seat because the Broncos got obscenely lucky on the Leon Hall tipped ball that found its way into Brandon Stokley's arms? I didn't think so. That would be preposterous and unfair.

Heck, the best example of this phenomenon are the Monday night games. The Bills and Raiders could have beaten two of the favorites in the AFC in the Patriots and the Chargers, and would have were it not for their inability to finish the deal late in the fourth quarter. Even if they had, I highly doubt anyone would call Buffalo and Oakland serious contenders to go to the Super Bowl. Or said that New England and San Diego were doomed to subpar seasons, for that matter.

Consider this. I was on the Bills the last time they actually beat the Patriots. It was the opening game of the 2003 season and we crushed the Pats 31-0 in a game that had added intrigue after Bill Belichick released Lawyer Milloy, who subsequently signed with Buffalo early in the week. The talk after that game was that Belichick had lost his team as a result of the decision to release Milloy and that the New England franchise was in disarray. Yeah, right. They went on to finish 14-2 and win the Super Bowl that season.

Week 2 will feature some big surprises and substantial deviations from what we think we know about teams and players after Week 1. I promise.

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