Don't be fooled by NFL's week 1
By The Associated Press
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
First impressions can be misleading.
Remember last season, when the Carolina Panthers were upset at home in their opener by the displaced Saints? Steve Smith and Co. went on to the NFC championship game, while New Orleans/San Antonio/Baton Rouge finished 3-13.
So don't write off the Panthers just because they were beaten 20-6 at home, by Michael Vick and the Falcons, giving up 252 yards on the ground and three sacks to a relocated and rejuvenated John Abraham.
Don't write off Denver, either, for losing in St. Louis to a team fired up by a new coach (much like Detroit against Seattle) or New England for struggling at home with Buffalo.
Still, some of the "upsets" on opening day shouldn't have been a shock.
Take Jacksonville's 24-17 win over Dallas. What happened to the Cowboys was predictable -- even though some pundits thought the team America both loves and hates was the class of a very tight NFC East.
Jacksonville was 12-4 last season and Drew Bledsoe hasn't been a Super Bowl-caliber quarterback at any time this century. So what made anyone think he would be any different this time, especially behind a shaky offensive line?
"Too many mistakes," Bill Parcells said.
Parcells is not a genius and doesn't claim to be. It's been 16 seasons since he won a Super Bowl and 10 since he went to one. And he's just 25-25 with the Cowboys, perfectly ordinary.
Not all his fault -- the salary cap keeps things competitive every season.
But Parcells is picking the personnel (exception: Jerry's pursuit of Terrell Owens). Tuna picked Bledsoe, who at 34 is on the downside of his career. He's not mobile and when he's pressured, as he was by the Jaguars, he throws interceptions -- three on Sunday.
At least Owens was happy. He caught a meaningless late TD pass and didn't make any mistakes. So in his "look at me" world, things can get better. But he also wants to win and he won't win as much as he wants with an immobile quarterback who can't withstand pressure.
Could the era of Tony Romo, the Cowboys' upstart No. 2 quarterback, be upon us? Wait a couple of weeks and see.
Some other impressions from the first week in the NFL:
THE MANNINGS: Eli was good. Peyton was just a little bit better, befitting his six more seasons in the NFL and better quarterbacking instincts than his younger brother.
The Giants and Colts are both solid -- but both have cause for worry after Indy's 26-21 win in the battle of the brothers.
Indy allowed 186 yards rushing, gained just 55 on the ground and probably would have lost had New York not self-destructed with penalties or, in the case of a phantom offensive pass interference call at a key time, been jobbed by poor officiating.
The Colts turned their defense around last year and made it a strength. Whether that carries over remains to be seen.
"We didn't tackle as well as we need to and we didn't play as well as we are going to need to in order to carry on this year," Tony Dungy said.
The Giants' problem is the schedule: at Philadelphia and Seattle the next two weeks. They might reach their bye week as a very good 0-3 team.
People raved about Chris Simms before the season. That seems premature now, after he was pummeled by the Raven's defense, which played back to its Super Bowl form. Baltimore's defense produced or set up 17 of the 27 points in the 27-0 shutout.
But these Ravens, who won on the road for the first time in 11 games, aren't just for defense anymore: Steve McNair gives Baltimore the first-rank quarterback it's never had. If he stays healthy, something he hasn't always been, the AFC North might be a three-way struggle with the Ravens, Steelers and Bengals.
GREEN BAY, CHICAGO, PHILADELPHIA AND HOUSTON
"Maybe we just ain't very good," Brett Favre acknowledged after the Bears won 26-0 at Lambeau. The Packers are probably the worst team in the NFL right now, so don't read too much into Chicago's sparkling shutout.
The Bears are good, but not great.
Same goes for the Eagles. Last year's T.O. follies and Donovan McNabb's injury killed them. But beating up on Houston doesn't necessarily make them a Super Bowl team, either. We'll know better next week when they try to push the Giants further along toward the best 0-3 record in NFL history.
Mario Williams didn't do much for Houston, which doesn't mean he won't in the future. But watching Wali Lundy and Vernand Morency against the Eagles, it's hard not to wonder why the Texans didn't take Reggie Bush with the first pick in the draft. While sharing the ball with Deuce McAllister, Bush had 61 yards on 14 carries, including an 18-yard run and eight catches for 58 yards in the Saints' win over the Browns.
Rod Marinelli's a tough coach who probably scared the Lions into a stalwart defensive effort against Seattle. He's sent messages by cutting Charles Rogers and deactivating Mike Williams. It's probably a good thing that he has his guys playing scared.
It was 9-6 and Mike Holmgren was smiling after getting out with a win from the city where they lost the Super Bowl. "I would have rather lost this one and won the last one," said Shaun Alexander, who had just 51 yards on 19 carries.
All sorts of opening-week losers trotted out the chestnut: "It's a marathon, not a sprint."