Preseason perceptions smashed, proven true after NFL's Week 1
I know it's roughly the same story every year, but you gotta love the ability of the NFL's Week 1 to smash some of our preseason perceptions to smithereens while simultaneously re-enforcing other premises we held fast to as the season roared to life. Such as:
Didn't last year's Chargers, with their 4-8 start and near miraculous December rally to .500 and a division title teach us anything about the value of assumptions in the AFC West? The Chargers may have an overwhelming talent edge, but that won't necessarily translate to a cakewalk in the division.
Any objective observer would have to admit the Chiefs, Broncos and Raiders all exceeded expectations in Week 1, with Kansas City testing Baltimore into the fourth quarter on the road despite missing its starting quarterback, Denver absolutely stealing a last-second win at improved Cincinnati, and Oakland earning San Diego's grudging respect with a 60-minute display of tenacity.
Taking a page out of his virtuoso performance in San Diego's playoff win over the Colts last January, Sproles accounted for 34 of the Chargers' 89 yards on their game-winning touchdown drive, including the 5-yard scoring scamper on a brilliantly called draw play with 18 seconds remaining. All told, Sproles produced a whopping 246 all-purpose yards against the Raiders, 180 of which came in his valuable role as the Chargers' return man.
By comparison, Tomlinson had just his 55 yards rushing on 13 carries, with a touchdown on a 1-yard plunge and his first lost fumble since Week 7 of 2006. I predict it won't sit well with L.T., but Norv Turner knew what he was doing playing Sproles when it mattered most. The Raiders had no answer for his speed and elusiveness, and it made the difference between a win and a loss for the Chargers.
Instead we got one of the greatest comebacks of
Let's just all admit it: In Week 1, nobody knows anything.
In just four quarters, the Texans managed to only accentuate the perception that they're a mentally soft team that tends to play its worst when the stakes are the highest. Once the pressure's off, Houston usually takes off, rallying to finish strong after first digging itself a sizable hole. Don't look now, but with a road game at division rival Tennessee looming this week, another slow start appears likely in Houston. Somebody's going to be 0-2 after this one, and I don't think it's going to be
You can't blame Cutler on all four of his interceptions against the Packers, because his receivers did him no favors in some cases. But he also could have had more than four picks if Green Bay's defenders had shown some better hands. Cutler still trusts his gun of a right arm way too much in some cases, and his field awareness was woefully lacking against the Packers.
He's still a mixed bag at this point in his development as a quarterback, not a savior. I'm not saying
But that argument took a hit Sunday when San Francisco laid a 20-16 defeat on the Cardinals in Glendale, puncturing Arizona's air of invincibility at home and in the NFC West. And given the Cardinals don't host another division opponent until a Week 10 visit from Seattle, that's a perception they won't be able to pump back up right away.
I've made this point before, but Miami has a much tougher schedule this time around than it did in its Cinderella season of 2008, and that's why improving on its surprising 11-5 record of last year seems out of the question. With a Monday nighter at home against the Colts and a trip to San Diego waiting in Week 3, the Dolphins could be staring at a deflating 0-3 start if they don't start reverting to last season's form on the turnover front.
So why were we all that shocked last Thursday night when the Steelers beat Tennessee 13-10 in overtime despite running for just 36 yards on 23 carries (1.6 average) with one first down on the ground? It's Roethlisberger's team now, and he might have plenty more games this season where it's necessary for him to complete 33 of 43 for 363 yards for Pittsburgh to win.
Campbell looked a lot like Campbell in that 23-17, not-as-close-as-it-sounds loss to the Giants opening day. He was good in spots, and a bit shaky in spots, but never really put Washington into position to win the game. I wish I could say the Redskins can put this Genie back into the bottle in regards to Campbell and their obvious lack of confidence in him, but I just don't see it happening.
• Other quick-hit perceptions that got either disproved or re-enforced in Week 1 include:
Here are more observations about Week 1....
• As it turns out,
• It's beyond belief that
"I chose to bring it out because that's me, no matter what it is,'' McKelvin was quoted as saying. "If I had that choice, probably 100 times, I'd do it again.''
That's just you, huh, Leodis? Perfect. One guy single-handedly ruins the winning effort put forth by his other 45 teammates in what would have been a huge upset, and all he can say for himself is it's about his individuality. You want to be an individual, go play golf or tennis, where it's all on you, win or lose. In football, it's not all about you. And when the game was in his hands, McKelvin dropped the ball in so many different ways.
• The Patriots pulled it out, and so all is well in the end, I guess. But in the first game of the post-
• From my vantage point,
• Some mind-numbingly questionable calls in the Monday night double dip. The
Seriously, Murphy did everything but count three Mississippi's out loud after catching that ball, and I, as well as all three announcers in the Monday Night Football booth, thought there wasn't a chance in the world it would be reversed by replay. The naked eye told you he had it long enough, and sometimes you've got to stop splitting these hairs on what constitutes a catch. It's the old John Madden line about if three guys in a bar all think it's a catch, it's a catch.
As for the two roughing the passer calls against Wilfork and Thomas, for me both of them fall under the heading of how the over-protection instincts of the league towards quarterbacks has become a case of good intentions gone overboard. True, Thomas brought some level of violence to his sack of
• Speaking of the 50th anniversary AFL uniforms that were on display Monday night, a shaky Tom Brady in the first half looked more like
• Did you notice it took a guy named Brett to save the Packers once again the other night at Lambeau? If receiver
• Speaking of
• There was precious little buzz generated by the draft's three first-round running backs in Week 1. Denver's
Maybe the breakouts are coming in Week 2.