NFL Week 1 breakdown (2009 Edition!)
Monday, September 14, 2009 | Author: Mad Typist
Well, a lot of folks told me they liked my NFL-related posts last year (and by "lot", I mean, "one or two, including my mother"). Anyway, they're back, so hopefully you'll enjoy them.

It's a Hard Knocks Life for the Bengals. During training camp and the pre-season, the Bengals agreed to be the team featured on HBO's reality show "Hard Knocks", which showed life behind the scenes at camp and let you get to know the players and coaches in a more intimate way. Watching the show, I realized the following: 1) I kinda sorta liked Chad Ochocinco more than I ever expected; 2) Carson Palmer is a total weirdo; 3) Marvin Lewis is totally fucking scared for his job this season. Hard Knocks was interesting because I found myself getting attached to this lovable band of losers and secretly cheering for them during their game against the Broncos. However, I forgot that this team isn't nicknamed "The Bungles" for no reason, as they managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory by allowing a miracle TD pass to Brandon Stokely with 27 seconds remaining in the game. Frankly, this was a must-win game for the Bengals: with the next two games upcoming against the Packers and Steelers, it's looking like the Bengals will start the season 0-3 (barring their own miracle). Marvin Lewis is right to fear for his job - nothing less than a playoff appearance and win will save his job, and it's going to be almost impossible to recover from an 0-3 start, especially since they have to play the Steelers once more during the season, and the Ravens twice.

While the Broncos certainly weren't impressive, needing the miracle catch to save the game for them, you can't underestimate what this victory means for the team. First, it gives Josh McDaniels his all-important first official win as a head coach. Second, there's nothing more dangerous than a team that believes it can win, even in the face of seemingly impossible odds. The Broncos play two cream-puff teams next (Browns and Raiders) - they could conceivably go 3-0 to start the season, which will go a long way towards silencing the critics and nay-sayers who were down on the team after the Cutler/Marshall fiascoes.

Speaking of scenarios that can be labeled "The Cutler Fiasco".... How horrific was Jay Cutler's performance last night against the Packers? 4 INTs on 36 pass attempts (for a 1:9 INT-to-attempt ratio). To be fair, however, not all the blame can be laid at Cutler's feet. Chris Collinsworth (who I am LOVING so far as a replacement for Madden) pointed out that at least 2 of the INTs were due to receivers quitting on their routes, or failing to run the proper route. The last INT looked like it was the fault of the rookie WR, who let the safety muscle past him for the pick.

Despite Cutler's poor performance, the Bears were still in the game up to the very end. However, the Bears made some bizarre decisions (including a fake punt on 4th and 11, from their own 30 yard line) that cost them the game as much as Cutler's turnovers. I thought the play calling on offense was bizarre. You have a RB in Matt Forte who had over 1,000 yds rushing last year and over 60 catches. And what do you have him do? Stay in the back field to help block, as Cutler throws pass after pass to guys like Devin "I can only run in a straight line" Hester and Earl Bennett. I have no idea why the Bears thought it was a good idea to take their best offensive weapon out of the picture on play after play, especially since he showed poorly ability as a blocker (I watched him miss several blocks, including ones where he had help).

I Like Mike. The commentator doing the Cardinals/49ers game made an interesting observation that the marketing campaign in the Bay Area for the San Francisco 49ers doesn't feature players, but rather an inspirational series of images and sayings of head coach Mike Singletary. Much has been made about Singletary's attitude - from the bizarre pants-dropping episode of last season, to bawling out Vernon Davis, to running a reportedly brutal training camp this year - but it seems that his hard-nosed approach to life and football is popular with fans. More importantly, after watching the 49ers stay physical with the Cardinals and pull out the close win, there's evidence that perhaps that approach is paying dividends on the field as well. Singletary has been vocal about not wanting to be the face of the franchise, as the article above states:
Singletary has adamantly stated that he doesn't want to be the most famous person wearing 49ers colors. He would rather have the distinction go to a player, or several of them, dropping him deep into the fame depth chart.
Still, until players like Frank Gore and Vernon Davis establish themselves, there are worse things than having a strong head coach that brings a toughness that the franchise has lacked for some time now.

Studs of the Week. This is sort of a no-brainer. Obviously, Drew Brees had a ridiculous day, throwing for 6TDs and 358 yards. It's funny that this is the same guy San Diego couldn't wait to get rid of, who was told all his life he was too small to play the QB position, who people thought would never fully recover from his shoulder injury in 2005. Yeah. Suck it, doubters.

In other news, Adrian Peterson is still awesome (180 yards rushing, 3 TDs). However, fantasy players shouldn't expect this every week - these two won't have the benefit of facing the Lions and Browns every week. Tony Gonzales rewarded fantasy players who spent early draft picks on him with a #1 WR-esque performance, catching 5 balls for 73 yards and 1 TD. With that performance, he becomes only the 21st player in NFL history to break 11,000 yards receiving. Tony Romo had one of the best performances of his career, putting up 355 yards passing and 3 TDs (insert obligatory "T.O. Who?" quip here). Finally, Joe Flacco registered the first 300+ yard passing game of his career, torching the Chiefs for 325 yards and 3 TDs.

Duds of the week. Semi-stolen from Peter King's "Goat of the Week", but I had to add this section, just so we can talk about how terrible Jake Delhomme was. In the past 2 games (last year's playoff game, and yesterday's game), he's thrown 9 INTs. No, that is not a typo. In an effort to perhaps show faith in Delhomme, the Panthers failed to go out and get a quality backup for him. Methinks they're regretting that decision right now. I've got the Panthers high on my list of "People who need to be calling Jeff Garcia right now". Also failing to impress anyone is Larry Johnson, which pleases me, because from all reports he's sort of a bastard. And I do enjoy watching bastards fail.

Teams I like this week. This week, I like the 49ers, who played solid football and contained Arizona's high powered offense. I also like the Jets, who got a nice performance out of rookie QB Mark Sanchez, and delivered on the promise of a Baltimore style of smash-your-face-in defensive play. I thought the Packers also looked good (though I would have liked to see more of a ground game), and the 3-4 defense seemed effective, especially at containing the run.

Teams I don't like this week. Just because they won doesn't mean the Broncos were particularly impressive. And starting week 4 they'll have to deal with Dallas, New England, San Diego, Baltimore and Pittsburgh, so it could get real ugly real fast for this team if they don't improve. I'm also disappointed the Detroit, Kansas City and Cleveland looked their old selves again this year. Lastly, the Houston Texans looked terrible.


**photo credits (all images borrowed from AP/ESPN, ohgoddon'tsueme)
Broncos image by AP Photo/Al Behrman
Bears image by AP Photo/Jim Prisching
Drew Brees image by AP Photo/Bill Feig
49ers image by AP Photo/Paul Connors
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