The loss of perennial MVP candidate Tom Brady headlines the opening weekend, but his injury should not detract from the stellar performances that were on display in Week 1.
Michael Turner put on a stunning show in his debut in Atlanta, and Drew Brees provided fireworks in the Superdome. But neither performance matched the spectacular afternoon of a five-time Pro Bowl quarterback in Philadelphia.
Donovan McNabb passed for 361 yards and added three touchdowns in a 38-3 rout of the Rams. Despite playing without his top two targets (Kevin Curtis and Reggie Brown), McNabb compiled a 131.0 passer rating and helped three Eagles receivers top the 100-yard mark. However, it wasn't his statistical output that was most impressive about his performance. It was the renewed confidence and swagger the perennial Pro Bowler displayed throughout the contest.
"He just had everything going," coach Andy Reid said at his Monday press conference. "He looked the same to me as he did before he was hurt."
After suffering through a pair of season-ending injuries in 2005 (sports hernia) and 2006 (ACL), McNabb spent most of last season attempting to find his rhythm in the pocket. Although his statistics (3,324 passing yards, 61 percent completion rate, 19 touchdowns and seven interceptions) were some of the best in his career, McNabb's play was uneven for most of the year, and he failed to look like one of the top players at his position. However, his play improved significantly down the stretch, and the signs were apparent McNabb was poised for a big season in 2008.
"The last three games of the season [last year], I felt like he was back to his old form," Reid said. "I think that he just picked it up from there."
If his season opener is any indication, McNabb is well on his way to regaining the form that led him to five consecutive Pro Bowl bids from 2000 to '04 while leading the Eagles to four straight NFC title game appearances.
(Last week's rankings in parentheses)
1.Donovan McNabb, QB, Eagles (NR)
2. Tony Romo, QB, Cowboys (NR): He methodically picked apart the Browns' secondary on the way to a 320-yard passing day. Though he only connected on one touchdown pass (a 35-yarder to Terrell Owens), Romo's ability to spread the ball around to multiple receivers kept the Browns' defense on its heels.
3. Drew Brees, QB, Saints (NR): The savvy veteran looked sharp as he passed for 343 yards against a normally stingy Bucs' defense. Brees made excellent use of his new weapon (Jeremy Shockey had six grabs for 54 yards) and effectively used the deep ball (five completions over 20 yards) to keep the Bucs from shrinking the field.
4. Brett Favre, QB, Jets (3): The legend was solid in his debut (15 of 22 for 194 yards and two scores) and made enough plays to key the Jets' hard fought win. Although he didn't carry the offense with his passing exploits, his mere presence under center allowed Thomas Jones (101 rushing yards) to find running room against a Dolphins' defense reluctant to drop an eighth defender in the box.
5. LaDainian Tomlinson, RB, Chargers (2): The superstar got off to a slow start, but finished the game with 113 yards total offense. He converted a series of critical short yardage situations, helping to put the team in position to win a game in which they were clearly outplayed for most of the contest.
1. Michael Turner, RB, Falcons (NR): After spending four years backing up Tomlinson in San Diego, Turner showed the league he was more than capable of being a feature back with his scintillating debut with the Falcons.
2. Willie Parker, RB, Steelers (NR): The diminutive workhorse showed no ill-effects from the broken leg that ended his 2007. Parker rushed for 138 yards and added three scores while displaying his trademark speed and explosiveness.
3. Reggie Bush, RB, Saints (NR): The dynamic multi-purpose threat put on an exhilarating performance against the Bucs on the way to 163 yards total offense. Though he only gained 51 yards on the ground, he added 112 receiving yards and was the team's most effective weapon down the stretch.
4. Plaxico Burress, WR, Giants (NR): The Giants' top playmaker celebrated his recent contract extension by torching the Redskins' beleaguered secondary for 133 receiving yards on 10 receptions.
5. Adrian Peterson, RB, Vikings (NR): The former Offensive Rookie of the Year put together a workmanlike performance against the Packers. With 103 rushing yards and a touchdown, Peterson did nothing to diminish his stature as one of the top runners in the game.
1. Albert Haynesworth, DT, Titans (4): Haynesworth is the most dominant player at his position, and his two-sack effort led a Titans' pass rush that constantly harassed David Garrard in the pocket.
2. James Harrison, OLB, Steelers (NR): The underappreciated Pro Bowl defender picked up where he left off a season ago with a three-sack performance against the Texans.
3. Mario Williams, DE, Texans (2): Although his two-sack effort was not enough to engineer an upset over the Steelers, it was the seventh time in the past eight games that Williams has registered at least one sack.
4. Marcus Stroud, DT, Bills (NR): He spearheaded a dominant defensive effort by the Bills. Though his stat line (six tackles and a half sack) doesn't jump off the page, he was an integral part of a pass rush that produced five sacks in a surprising rout of the 'Hawks.
5. Chris McAllister, CB, Ravens (NR): The three-time Pro Bowl corner came up with two turnovers, and helped the Ravens' defense limit Carson Palmer to only 99 passing yards.
1. Dick Jauron, Bills (NR): After overachieving a season ago on the way to a 7-9 record, the Bills opened the season with a dominant performance against a perennial playoff team, the Seahawks. Though few predicted a playoff berth for this young team, it appears poised to make a run at the division title.
2. John Fox, Panthers (NR): The team had every excuse available for laying an egg against the Chargers, but showed surprising grit and determination in pulling off the upset win. With a return to the blue collar approach that led to a Super Bowl run in 2003, Fox has the Panthers on the right track to start the season.
3. Lovie Smith, Bears (NR): In dismantling the Colts, the Bears returned to the formula (dominant defense and a strong running game) that made them NFC champions two seasons ago. With their swagger back, this team could pose a serious problem for NFC foes this season.
4. Mike Tomlin, Steelers (NR): While other teams continue to grab the headlines, the Steelers bludgeon a playoff-caliber opponent and establish themselves as serious contenders for the AFC crown.
5. Wade Phillips, Cowboys (NR): The expectations are high in Big D, but the team didn't disappoint with a thorough whipping of the Browns.
1. Matt Forte, RB, Bears (2): The Bears' dominating victory over the Colts was keyed by the rookie's standout performance. Displaying an outstanding combination of speed and power, Forte amassed 123 rushing yards, including a 50-yard touchdown run, and became the first back in franchise history to top the 100-yard mark in a rookie debut.
2. DeSean Jackson, WR, Eagles (3): The electrifying rookie lived up to the hype with his noteworthy performance. Jackson led the team with six receptions for 106 yards and added a dazzling 60-yard punt return in 38-3 demolishing of the Rams.
3. Chris Johnson, RB, Titans (NR): The speedster provided a much needed spark to the Titans' offense with 93 rushing yards. He also had three receptions for 34 yards and a score. Though he eventually left the game with an injury, Johnson proved to be a difference maker for the Titans.
4. Eddie Royal, WR, Broncos (NR): The former Virginia Tech Hokie was sensational as he torched the Raiders for 146 receiving yards and a score. He dominated his individual matchup against DeAngelo Hall and looked like the best player on the field for most of the night.
Tie-5. Matt Ryan, QB, Falcons (1): "Matty Ice" showed surprising poise and confidence in his debut. Backed by a strong running game led by Turner and Jerious Norwood, Ryan effectively managed the game and punished the Lions for paying too much attention to the run with a couple of deep throws.
Tie-5. Joe Flacco, QB, Ravens (NR): Thought to be a major question mark heading into the contest, Flacco surprised many with his solid performance against the Bengals. His passing numbers weren't spectacular (15 of 29 for 129 yards), but he efficiently ran the Ravens' offense and added a surprising 38-yard touchdown run to seal the game.
1. Keith Rivers, LB, Bengals (5): As the lone bright spot on a disappointing defensive unit, Rivers racked up 10 tackles in his debut. While he failed to produce any game-changing plays, he showed he has the potential to be an all-star at the position.
2. Antoine Cason, CB, Chargers (NR): The team's top choice had a solid debut as the nickel corner, including forcing a fumble that led to a go-ahead touchdown late in the game.
3. Dwight Lowery, CB, Jets (NR): The surprising rookie starter provided quality coverage on Dolphins' receivers throughout the game.
4. Jerod Mayo, LB, Patriots (4): The rookie was steady in his first game as a Patriot. He added six tackles and played a key role in helping limit Larry Johnson to only 74 rushing yards in the win.
5. Kendall Langford, DE, Dolphins (NR): The former small college standout had a sack and three tackles.