What I loved from the NFL in Week 2

The Cardinals starting 2-0 for the first time since 1991?  No way.  Carolina winning both games without Steve Smith? Nah.  The Broncos resembling the New England offense of yesteryear?  Ha!  And yet, all of the above (and much more) are stone cold truths through Week 2 of the NFL season.  Here’s a few more.  The Packers haven’t missed Brett Favre.  The Broncos offense can’t be stopped.  And never count out Peyton Manning.  Even if the Colts are down  on the road in the fourth quarter.

Loved

Backyard football.   It was a good old fashioned after school game with all the neighborhood kids and the team with the highest score when mom calls for dinner wins.  Denver and San Diego wowed us with a 77 combined point effort.  Seattle and San Francisco needed overtime to decide their contest and still put up 63 points.  NFC North rivals Green Bay and Detroit kept the score keeper busy, totaling 73 points.  And Philly and Dallas showed the nation what uncontrollable offense is all about.  The boys and the birds nearly wore out the lightbulbs on the scoreboard, combining for 78 points. 

Aaron Rodgers.  Who needs No.4 when you have No.12?  Only Arizona’s Kurt Warner has been better through the air in the first two weeks.  Rodgers has completed 70 percent of his passes while throwing for 506 yards and four touchdowns, good for an early season passer rating of 117.8.  He carved the Lions up for 328 yards and three TD’s.  Big test coming next Sunday night against the Cowboys.

J.T. O’ Sullivan.  Despite being sacked eight times by Seattle, O’ Sullivan bounced back against the Seahawks after losing his first career start a week prior.  O’ Sullivan passed for 320 yards on 20/32 passing and one score to lead San Francisco to a victory in overtime.  Winning at Qwest Field is no easy task for any quarterback.  Tip of the cap to JT.  His 300+ passing day was the first in four years that the 49ers had a quarterback throw for 300 or more yards in a game.

Colts.  Gutsy is the best word to describe their 18-15 win in Minnesota.  Their offensive line is being decimated by injuries, the biggest of which is center Jeff Saturday’s absence.  They can’t run the ball or stop the run very effectively.  And yet, with Peyton Manning under center, you should learn never to count Indy out.  Manning led the Colts on a game-tying and game-winning drive in the fourth quarter.  Kicker Adam Vinatieri missed a 30-yard gimmie earlier, but he atoned his miss by nailing a 47-yarder with three seconds left to play.

Calvin Johnson.  The only relevant and good thing about the Detroit Lions.  CJ has been the lone bright light in what’s been and what appears to remain an otherwise dark world in the Motor City this season.  Two games, two 100+ yard performances.  He torched the Packers secondary for 129 yards and two scores on Sunday.  Sure it’s just his second year, but Johnson is becoming almost uncoverable.  Say hello to the game’s next big thing at wide receiver.

Carolina Panthers.   Call them the Cardiac Panthers after two weeks of play.  First, they knock off the Chargers on the road as time expires.  Then they erase a 17-3 deficit to Chicago and pull off their second come-from-behind win in as many weeks, 20-17.  Both wins come without their best player, wideout Steve Smith, who’ll make his 2008 debut Sunday in Minnesota after serving out his two-game suspension for punching teammate Ken Lucas during a preseason scuffle.

Isaac Bruce.   There’s still some juice left in those 35-year-old legs.  His four-catch, 135 yard performance in the win over Seattle reminded me of the glory days in St. Louis when the Greatest Show on Turf was the main attraction.

Arizona Cardinals.  Look who’s 2-0 for the first time since 1991?  Their 31-10 pasting of Miami has them at the top of the NFC West.  Warner threw for nearly 400 yards.  Boldin and Fitzgerald combined for almost 300 receiving yards and three scores (all by Boldin).  The defense appears for real, surrendering just 23 points in two games.  They lead the NFC with five takeaways, while they’ve yet to commit a turnover.

Broncos offense.  Mike Shanahan and company are taking no prisoners.  They showed no mercy in Week 1 against the Raiders and in Week 2, the Broncos shredded San Diego’s defense.  The Mile High City boasts the NFL’s best offense through two weeks. 80 points in two games has Denver atop the AFC West at 2-0.  More importantly their controversial, slugfest win last weekend over San Diego put the Orange Crush up two games in the division over the Chargers. 

Philip Rivers.  He’s off to a terrific start and don’t look in his direction as a reason why San Diego is off to an 0-2 start.  Rivers has shown no signs of problems from his knee surgery in the offseason.  He threw for 377 yards and three TDs in the shootout loss to Denver.  Rivers’ six touchdown passes has him tied for the league best with fellow AFC West quarterback, Denver’s Jay Cutler. 

Darren McFadden.   McFadden had his rookie coming out party against Kansas City, leading the Raiders to their first win of the season.  McFadden rushed for 164 yards and found the endzone for his first career touchdown.  His numbers through two games are statistically better than last year’s rookie phenom, Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson.  He’s carried the ball 30 times for 210 yards and one score. 

Greg Jennings.  Calvin Johnson’s becoming a star and you better believe his fellow North wideout is right there with him.  Jennings had good chemistry with Brett Favre and better chemistry with current Packers QB Aaron Rodgers.  Rodgers has found Jennings often in 2008; 11 times for 258 yards.  Jennings ran amock in the Detroit secondary on Sunday, hauling in six catches for 167 yards.  Next up, a Cowboys unit that can be had deep.

New York Giants.  They beat the dust out of St. Louis,41-13, and that’s putting it kindly.  Manning threw for three TDs.  The defense throttled Rams QB Marc Bulger, sacking him six times.  They’re off to a 2-0 start and the G-Men notched their 12th straight road victory last weekend, after losing the 2007 opener in Dallas.

Tennessee Titans.  I’ve said it before and I’ll continue to say it.  As long as Jeff Fisher has this team running the football well and playing good defense, they’re going to be a playoff team until further notice.  The Titans are 2-0 and have given up 17 points in two games. They’ve got the AFC’s best defense and sixth best rushing attack.  Whether it’s Vince Young or Kerry Collins, it doesn’t really seem to matter.  Tennessee beat down the Bengals, 24-7 on the road, holding Carson Palmer to 134 yards and picking him off twice.  They’ve found a stud in rookie runner Chris Johnson.

Adrian Peterson.  One of his goals is to rush for 2,000 yards, and with Tarvaris Jackson under center, he may have to in order to get the Vikings to the postseason.  Peterson carried the rock for 29 times for 160 yards, an effort that went to waste as Minnesota failed to hold a 15-0 lead over Indianapolis and ended up losing 18-15 on the finals seconds of play.  Two strong outings of 100+ yards by Peterson have been wasted away by the Vikings poor quarterback play.

Brandon Marshall.  What a debut.  Flat out stellar.  18 catches for 166 yards and one TD against the Chargers.  What’s more impressive is that Marshall did it against one of the league’s best up-and-coming corners, Antonio Cromartie.  Defensive coordinators and secondaries, you’ve been warned.  Attempt to cover Marshall at your own risk.

Buffalo Bills.  They scored 10 points in the fourth quarter, erasing the Jaguars’ 16-10 lead, to win in tough spot on the road, 20-10.  Trent Edwards continues to grow and improve as a quarterback.  He completed his first 10 passes and finished the day 20/25 for 239 yards and his go-ahead touchdown to rookie wideout James Hardy was a picture perfect pass in the back of the endzone, outdone by the fantastic footwork displayed by Hardy to get both feet inbounds.

Anquan Boldin.  He took the Miami Dolphins secondary to the woodshed.  Boldin caught six balls for 140 yards and hauled in three scores.  He’s been a favorite target of QB Kurt Warner, catching 14 passes in two games.  He’s made it known he’s unhappy with his contract, but what’s refreshing is that despite his trade requests and desires to play elsewhere, Boldin hasn’t been a distraction or problem in the locker room.

Kurt Warner.  He’s an oldie but a goodie, and he can still play the game.  Warner threw for 361 yards and three TDs on 19-of-24 passing.  Warner is the NFC’s top passer through two weeks, and only Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethisberger has better passing numbers. 

Jay Cutler.  The class of the 2006 draft as far as QBs are concerned.  Cutler leads the NFL in passing yards with 650 and is tied with Philip Rivers for the league lead in passing touchdowns with six.  He’s spearheaded the Broncos high voltage offense, scoring 80 points in two games, while throwing for back-to-back 300+ yards and posting multi-touchdown performances.  Culter has established great rapport with rookie receiver Eddie Royal and he got his favorite target, Brandon Marshall, back last weekend. 

Tony Romo.  He’s in midseason form just two weeks into the season.  Romo completed 21-of-30 passes for 312 yards and three TDs in Monday night’s thrilling 41-37 win over Philadelphia.  In two games, Romo has passed for 632 yards and four scores.  The offense will be a difficult chore to slow down all season.  His INT and fumble that resulted in an Eagles score put Dallas behind the eight ball, but his play down the stretch allowed Dallas to regain the lead and hold on for the win

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Week 1 Overview – AFC East

The injury to Tom Brady has everyone talking: is this the Jets or the Bills chance?  Brady being finished for the season has turned the AFC and division possibly upside down.  Brett’s Jets sweated out a close one in Miami, and Bills’ special teams unit ran the Seahawks all the way back to Seattle.  And Miami, okay so not everything’s been completely turned upside down.  The most watched and scrutinized player for the rest of the year: hello, Matt Cassell!

New England Patriots.  What a brutal eight months it’s been.  First, in February, their pursuit of perfection went down the crapper thanks to the Giants.  And now their first game since, they lose the franchise and NFL’s best player, Tom Brady, to a torn ACL and MCL.  They hung on and survived against the Chiefs, but now it’s all on Matt Cassell and whether or not he can write the most improbable of Hollywood scripts.  It’s happened once before in 2001 when then quarterback Drew Bledsoe was lost for the season and little unknown Tom Brady led the Pats to a Super Bowl run for the ages.  Cassell still has one of the best wideout duos in Randy Moss and Wes Welker to lean on, and they’ll give the running backs, Laurence Maroney, Sammy Morris and Kevin Faulk a heavier workload.  I don’t buy it’ll happen again.  They’ve got a long, tough road ahead of them.

Miami Dolphins.  Compared to what they were last year, kudos to the fins for not looking as pathetic and bleak as their conference mates Oakland and Cincinnati.  But they’ve still got a ways to go.  Chad Pennington looked good under center and the former Jet had a nice day, throwing for 251 yards and two scores.  The only number I didn’t like from him was 43.  That’s the number of pass attempts Pennington fired.  The running game wasn’t much of a factor.  Ricky Williams gained just 24 yards, Ronnie Brown just 23.  The wideouts were ghosts as well.  The two leading receivers for Miami were tights ends Anthony Fasano (eight for 84 and a TD) and David Martin (four for 53 and a score).  Ted Ginn.  Paging Ted Ginn.  He was supposed to be an electic Devin Hester with better hands, but the glimpses and improvements have been scarce.  No reliable deep threats to stretch field and keep the defense honest means the running game will struggle.

Buffalo Bills.  BILLS SPECIAL TEAMS!  That sure was a special effort.  The Bills blitzed Seattle with a punt return by Roscoe Parrish for a score, a fake field goal for a score and a fumble recovery that set up a third score.  Trent Edwards looked comfortable and he established a strong rapport with wideout Lee Evans, went over the century mark in receiving yards.  The defense turned in a strong effort, sacking Seahawks QB Matt Hasselbeck five times.  They’ll face a stiffer, meaner test when they travel to Jacksonville to face a wounded Jags bunch.

New York Jets.  Brett Favre’s jet debut was a success.  Favre was up to his old tricks, including a 56-yard bomb to Jericho Cotchery and fourth down ugly duck prayer that answered by Chansi Stuckey.  The defense played real well, getting to former Jet Chad Pennington four times and holding Miami to 49 yards rushing as a team.  Up next, a date with the Patriots.  Sure the NFL loses out on what they’d hope would be a Brady-Favre matchup, but the Jets probably don’t mind they won’t see Brady.  Without Brady long gone, the Jets become the AFC East darlings now.

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Week 1 Overview – AFC North

The Cleveland Browns received all the offseason buzz as the team ready to dethrone the Steelers as kings of the division and finished what they left on the field at the end of last season.  And then the Steelers bulldozed the Texans and put the rest of the division, and conference, on notice.  Big time win for the Ravens and rookie Joe Flacco.  And the Bengals, well, they’re back to being the bungals.

Pittsburgh Steelers.  Smashmouth football at its finest.  They steamrolled an inferior Houston Texans squad.  Tremendous offensive balance.  Ben Roethisberger missed just one pass and found his favorite guy, wideout Hines Ward, in the back of the endzone for two scores.  Willie Parker ran as if he were mad at the grass.  The Texans couldn’t catch or tackle him.  Parker carried the rock for 25 times for 138 yards and three touchdowns.  The line was their downfall last year, and it’s supposed to be their achillies heel this season, but aside from Mario Williams’ two sacks, they kept Big Ben upright.  Defensively they were a nightmare for Houston.  The Steelers picked off Houston twice and got to Schaub for five sacks.  The next Steelers linebacking star? LaMarr Woodley.  He had three tackles, a sack, an interception and a fumble recovery.

Baltimore Ravens.  One start, one victory.  Not a bad percentage for rookie QB Joe Flacco.  His didn’t turn the ball over and he kept the Ravens in position to win the game.  Impressive rushing attack without the services of Willis McGahee.  Baltimore gained 229 yards on the ground as a team, including their two scores, a 42-yard double reverse score by wideout Mark Clayton and a 38-yard touchdown run by Flacco.  The defense played at a stellar level, proving that this is still the backbone of this football team.  The Ravens held the Bengals to 154 yards of total offense.  They made Carson Palmer look like rookie, holding him to just 94 yards on a miserable 9-of-24 afternoon.

Cleveland Browns.  The preseason North darlings were knocked down a peg or three by the Cowboys on Sunday, falling to 1-9 in their last 10 home openers.  The Browns have scored a combined 17 points in their last two openers.  Derek Anderson and Braylon Edwards missed most of the preseason and it showed; the two were rusty as gates and never got on the same page.  Edwards dropped passes, one that would have been an easy score and maybe change the complexion of the game.  The supposed revamped and improved defense looked lousy.  The secondary stunk and they still have no consistent pass rusher.  Cleveland allowed 320 yards passing through the air by way of Cowboys QB Tony Romo, and 487 yards of total offense.  Up next, their first prime time game of the year against the team that embarrassed them in their opener last season, and the same team head coach Romeo Crennel has never beaten: Pittsburgh.

Cincinnati Bengals.  Chad Ocho Cinco.  No, it’s not just a name change, it was a prediction to how many yards the Bengals offense would muster all day.  Horrifying day for the offense.  Carson Palmer had a hideous day, completing just 9-of-24 pass attempts for only 94 yards.  It was easier finding Waldo than it was Cincy wideouts T.J. Houshmanzadeh was the best of a crummy bunch, hauling in three catches for 44 yards.  Eight first downs all day.  Give credit to the Baltimore defense, but that was one sorry ass, gutless effort by the Bungals offense.  Though the defense gave up to big runs that resulted in the Ravens’ scores, they played well enough to get this win.  The D showed up and the offense was nowhere in sight.  How many times can you say that about this team.  Another stiff defensive test in their opener coming against Tennessee.

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Week 1 Overview – AFC South

South.  That seems to be an appropriate word for the direction every team was pointing Monday morning, expect for the Titans who carried the flag as the only team to win from the division on opening weekend.

Indianapolis Colts.  The preseason doesn’t count, but it does matter.  The Colts looked rusty, lost and uprepared to play in front of the world on Sunday night. And injuries have played a monumental role.  Manning missed all of the preseason recovering from surgery to remove a busar sac in his knee, and the offensive line is without three key cogs to protect manning: guards Ryan Lilja and Ryan Diem and center Jeff Saturday.  That forced Indy to start guards Charlie Johnson and Dan Federkeil for the first time.  Tight end Dallas Clark suffered a knee injury that forced him from the game and a head injury knocked running back Joseph Addai from the game as well.  Speaking of Addai, Indy has to get the running going.  Addai rushed for just 44 yards on 12 carries and the Colts gained only 53 yards on the ground as a team, which explains Manning’s 49 pass attempts.  Addai hasn’t rushed for 100 yards or more in a game since Nov.4 against New England last year.

Jacksonville Jaguars.  That was a physical clash against the Titans, but playing a Jeff Fischer coached Tennessee team, what else would you expect.  The offensive line is becoming a slap and glue project.  The Jags didn’t starting center Brad Meester (injured biceps) or backup tackle Richard Collier, who was shot last week.  Then Jacksonville lost starting LG Vince Manuwai for the season with a knee injury and placed Maurice Williams on IR.  The Jags had protection problems all day against the Titans and Tennessee’s defense carried them to victory, forcing Jacksonville QB David Garrard to throw two picks and sacking him seven times.  The offense only tallied 189 total yards of offense.  Bad day for the running game.  The Jaguars were held to 33 rushing yards.  They’ve got a healthy, hungry Buffalo team coming in on Sunday and with an early season showdown against the Colts (at Indy) in two weeks, Sunday’s contest with the Bills looks more and more like a must-win.

Houston Texans.  They got their butts kicks and their heads handed to them, no questions asked.   Aside from Andre Johnson’s 10 catch, 112 yard performance and Mario Williams’ two-sack day, nobody else bothered to show up.  Familiar themes that have been hampering the Texans.  The offensive line wasn’t good, allowing five sacks.  QB Matt Schaub’s play was less than inspiring, throwing for barely 200 yards and was picked off twice.  The running game continues to be a nonfactor.  The Ahman Green experiment needs to end.  He just can’t remain healthy.  They need to find out what they’ve got in Chris Taylor and Steve Slaton.  Head coach Gary Kubiak just needs somebody, anybody to be able to run the ball with some success.  Until that happens, Houston will remain one-dimensional and a pretender.  Hopefully Kubiak placed a great emphasis this week on tackling and wrapping up, because there wasn’t much of that Sunday.

Tennessee Titans.  Stout defense and strong rushing attack.  The formula for head coach Jeff Fischer remains in tact.  Vince Young has yet to blossom under center.  They still don’t have a No.1 wideout capable of stretching the field.  And now Kerry Collins takes over for the injured Young, who’ll be out 2-4 weeks with a sprained knee.  Defensively, they’re one of the best units in the AFC.  The Titans recorded seven sacks and picked off Jags QB David Garrard twice.  They found a real threat in rookie running back Chris Johnson, who rushed for 93 yards and had 34 receiving yards and a score.  Look for Fischer to get him the ball 20-30 times a game, similar to the way the Saints use Bush in a variety of ways.  The LenDale White-Chris Johnson combo may emerge as one of the best backfield duos in the AFC.

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Week 1 Overview – AFC West

How the west will be won?  Well, even with 15 games left, we know it won’t be by Oakland.  Al Davis continues to steer the Raiders into nowhere land.  We know at least one person who feels now sympathy for Davis: Mike Shanahan.  Bernard Pollard and Chiefs have everyone talking about the knee injury heard ’round the world, and the Chargers got a jolt from Carolina.

Kansas City Chiefs.  It’s hard to remember anything from this game other than Kansas City’s Bernard Pollard hit on Patriots quarterback Tom Brady that resulted in Brady being lost for the season with a torn ACL and MCL.  That being said, the Chiefs had a great chance to steal this one but just couldn’t get it done.  Herm Edwards has to find a way to get Larry Johnson and the running game back to an elite level it was a few years back.  But just like Frank Gore can’t rescue the 49ers, Johnson cannot be expected to wear Superman’s cape without any help under center.  Brodie Croyle started the game but it was Damon Huard who finished and threw the touchdown pass that got the Chiefs back in it.  It appears the game of quarterback musical chairs will stop at Damon Huard in Week 2. 

San Diego Chargers.  They got pushed around a little bit by Carolina and still they played well enough to win the game.  Losing on the final play of regulation has to hurt like hell.  Philip Rivers is turning into the quarterback San Diego envisioned he would be when they drafted him and chose to turn the offense over to him and trade then quarterback Drew Brees.  He’s become one of the toughest guys on this team and his effort (217 yards, three TDs) should have been good enough to win.  Rivers did his job.  He gave the Chargers the lead back and a chance to win.  The defense lost this one.  They gave up almost 400 yards to an offense that didn’t have Steve Smith and were physically worn down by the Carolina offense.  Shawn Merriman’s warrior campaign to play in 2008 ended after just one game.  Merriman will have his knee fully reconstructed with surgery and he’ll be watching the rest of the year from the sidelines, while Antonio Gates is trying to fight off toe and hip injuries and Tomlinson injured his toe in the loss on Sunday.  With Sunday’s loss, San Diego has now dropped four games in a row in September.

Denver Broncos.   That was just a pure, good old fashioned ass kicking.  They beat down a crummy Oakland Raiders team like an 8th-grader shaking down the 4th graders under the jungle jim at recess looking for extra ice cream money.  Jay Cutler shredded the Raiders defense for 300 yards and two scores, picking apart the Oakland secondary without his No. 1 wideout Brandon Marshall.  What a coming out party for rookie wideout Eddie Royal.  Royal went nose-to-nose with all-pro defensive back DeAngelo Hall and it was as if Royal were Jerry Rice and Hall was high school freshman on the practice squad.  Royal hauled in nine receptions for 146 yards and one touchdown.  They get Marshall back next week, just in time for a showdown with San Diego.  It’s no secret Oakland is just plain horrible, but if Cutler can play the way he did against the Raiders, the Broncos can win this division. 

Oakland Raiders.  Pathetic.  Horrible.  Terrible.  Putrid.  Pick any negative adjective your heart desires to describe the Oakland Raiders effort on Monday night.  It’s no wonder why this franchise is the most embarrassing in the NFL.  Lance Kiffin probably won’t make it through the year as head coach.  The offensive line continues to be bad.  The defense was awful.  They failed miserably to put grass stains onJay Cutler and when they weren’t missing tackles, they were committing penalties: 10 for 96 yards, highlighted by two stupid personal fouls called on DeAngelo Hall….on the same drive.  There’s a reason why they call it the black hole: it’s where football goes to die.

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Week 1 Overview – NFC South

One week in the books, and the Atlanta Falcons sit atop the South Division in a three-way time for first place.  You bet they’ll take it.  Was there any bigger win in Week 1 than Carolina’s walk-off like touchdown with the clock reading nothing but zeros?  Tampa Bay’s trip to the Big Easy proved to hard, especially now since starting qb Jeff Gracia is a no-go for Week 2.

Atlanta Falcons.   Michael Turner sure earned his wings in his Atlanta debut didn’t he?  Turner rushing for a Falcons record 220 yards to go along with two scores proves that he’s capable of being a starter in this league.  It sure was cold in LaDainian Tomlinson’s shadow for him.  But not anymore.  Atlanta rushed for 318 yards as a team and rookie quarterback Matt Ryan threw his first touchdown of this career on just the third play from scrimmage.  A monumental step in the right direction for this franchise after the nightmare season a year ago when their franchise quarterback went to jail and their head coach quit and went to Arkansas.

New Orleans Saints.  That was sure as hell a better start than last year’s 41-10 spanking they received from Indy, ehh?  Reggie Bush looked absolutely lethal.  That was the first time since he’s been in the NFL that his play reminded me of his USC days.  Bush got the game-winner on a 42-yard pass from Brees.  On the day he had eight receptions for 112 yards, and the Bucs had no success stopping him.  He’s good at numerous things while not excelling at any one thing and I still say head coach Sean Payton has to make a conscious effort to get the ball in Bush’s hands 20-30 times on.  Sunday, he touched it 22 times.  Fabulous day for Drew Brees: 343 yards and three scores and just nine incompletions.  The defense looks much improved compared to how pourous they were a season ago.  They allowed Tampa Bay to convert just 2-of-12 3rd downs and with the Bucs driving for the go-ahead score, the defense stood tall and sealed the deal with linebacker Scott Fujita’s interception.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  They just couldn’t seem to generate much offense until late in the 4th quarter.  The Jeff Garcia led unit didn’t pick up their first, third-down conversion until the early going in the 4th, and were just 2-for-12 on 3rd down all day.  Earnest Graham had a good down on the ground, rushing for 91 yards on ten carries.  Very surprising his number wasn’t called more often, considered what he did a season ago when filling in for the injured Cadillac Williams.  The Saints killer B’s (Brees and Bush) made the defense look very average.  And old.  Brees carved them up through the air to the tune of 343 passing yards and three TD’s, and Bush had 163 total yards of offense.  They don’t give up many big, high octane plays down the field, but the defense gave up three on Sunday: 39-yarder, 84-yarder and a 42-yarder that proved to be the game winner.  All three plays resulted in New Orleans scores. 

Carolina Panthers.  This was their biggest win that I can remember since their playoff overtime winner against the Rams or conference title win in Philly, your choice.  And they were withouth their biggest threat and best playmaker, wideout Steve Smith.  Jake Delhomme looks to have no ill effects of elbow surgery that forced him out of the final 13 games a year ago.  Carolina blended running backs DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart nicely.  The duo gained 139 of the Panthers 142 rushing yards.  The Panthers matched the Chargers physical style of play on every down.  Chances are before this one began, if I told you the game-winning score would be a qb-tight end connection, I’m curious to know how many would have said Philip Rivers-Antonio Gates and how many would’ve guessed Jake Delhomme and Dante Rosario.

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Week 1 Overview – NFC West

Who wins this division you ask?  Get back to me on the last day of the regular season at about 8 p.m. and I’ll have an answer for you.  But if Week 1 was any indication of what’s to come in 2008, it’s that the West may not be won by Seattle.

St. Louis Rams.  Simply putrid, no ways around it.  The offense was brutal.  The Rams managed only eight first downs, were 0-for-11 on 3rd down and had just 166 yards of total offense.  The line couldn’t open up any running lanes for Steven Jackson.  Everytime Marc Bulger dropped back to pass, he had Philly green and white all over him.  The defense gave up 566 total yards (414 through the air), allowing three different Philly receivers to go over 100 yards.  The Scott Linehan firing watch has officially begun.  I fully expect him to be unemployed by Week 9. 

San Francisco 49ers.  Sure it’s a new season, but it’s still the same song playing on the jukebox for the 49ers.  The reigns were turned over to journey qb J.T. O’ Sullivan, who’s the latest quarterback flavor of the week.  Despite his efficient day (14/20 for 195 yards), O’ Sullivan turned the ball over three times (1 interception, 2 fumbles).  The 49ers offense finished with five turnovers on the day and had the football just three times in the second half.  To make the quarterback situation worse, backup and former starter Alex Smith appears to have a fractured shoulder that looks like it’ll end his season and probably his career as a 49er.  Frank Gore continues to be the teams’ only reliable option and playmaking threat.  San Francisco has been  one-dimensional for three, going on four seasons and they simply haven’t figured out how to make the offense better besides handing the rock off to Gore.  Best of luck Mike Martz.  Quick side note: Mike Nolan has lost 33 of the 49 games during his tenure in the Bay Area.

Seattle Seahawks.  Boy those cross country trips will get you everytime.  But that flight home couldn’t have been fun.  They took one on the chin in Buffalo, no way around it.  Matt Hasselbeck entered the game with a creaky back and his offensive line didn’t make things much better.  They allowed five sacks and numerous in-your-face hurries.  The running game wasn’t much of a factor.  What once was their strength now is their greatest weakness.  The o-line hasn’t been very good since Steve Hutchinson left.  The special teams play was about as awful as a special teams unit can be.  Seattle gave up a punt return for a touchdown, a fake field goal for a touchdown and lost a fumble on a kickoff.  To make matters worse, the Seahawks lost WR Nate Burleson for season with a torn ACL and running back Maurice Morris could miss the rest of the month, possibly longer, with an injured knee.  Seattle must find a way to patch together a wide receiver unit that is now missing four wideouts.

Arizona Cardinals.  One week in the books and the Cardinals sit atop the standings in the division.  Arizona turned in all around effort against San Francisco.  Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin still form the league’s best starting wideout tandem.  The defense devoured an inferior 49ers offense, forcing five turnovers in the win.

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