Posted on 12 September 2011.
In the course of portions of the offseason, it appeared that some or all of the typical season would be lost to labor unrest. Even just before 2011, there had been fears that a lockout could lead to missed games.
In the finish, football fans got only 1 less contest — the ceremonial scrimmage played at the web site of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. All other preseason games were played. Most importantly, all 256 regular season games will be played. On Sunday, 13 of them unfolded, a number that was lucky for the winners, not so lucky for the losers, or for the members of the winners who’ll be losing time to injury.
The fans ultimately won the most, because we got to take pleasure in the games. And now we get to appreciate highlighting 10 of the greatest story lines emerging from them.
1. Ryan v. Flacco debate heats up.
In 2008, the Falcons produced quarterback Matt Ryan the third overall pick in the draft. The Ravens held the eighth pick. They traded down with the Jaguars (who took defensive finish Derrick Harvey, a bust), and then the Ravens moved back to the 18th spot to get quarterback Joe Flacco.
In the three-plus-one-game seasons because then, Ryan has been regarded as the better player. But the facts recommend otherwise.
Statistically, Matty Ice and Joe Cool have generated virtually identical performances. In his regular-season career, Ryan has thrown 1,503 passes, completing 916 for 10,380 yards, 66 touchdowns, and 35 picks.
Ryan’s career passer rating? 86.6.
Flacco, in turn, has thrown 1,445 passes, with 895 completions for 10,430 yards. Flacco has thrown 63 touchdowns, and 34 interceptions.
Flacco’s passer rating? 88.5.
In the postseason, Flacco has operated at an even greater level. He has won four playoff games, all on the road. Ryan, in contrast, is -2.
And so, when Ryan hosts Mike Vick and the Eagles next week, in Vick’s return to Atlanta as the beginning quarterback, Ryan desperately needs a win in order to preserve his image as a best-shelf quarterback. Though he could not lose that standing more than only 1 game, Flacco has caught up Ryan — and Flacco could soon pass Ryan by.
two. Vick is still taking too several probabilities.
The Eagles routed the Rams, 31-13, in a game that could have been much closer than the final score suggested. Following the final gun, Philly quarterback Mike Vick declared, “It felt wonderful to know that I can go out and play lights out, not have to be concerned about anything.”
But Vick’s performance suggests not that he played “lights out.” Instead, his ongoing struggles in selecting up the blitz and his willingness to pull the ball down and run could result in an opposing defender eventually turning his “lights out.” (And . . . now we have to send Shawne Merriman $ 516.32.)
Vick completed only 14 of 32 passes, a 43-percent percentage. He passed for less than 200 yards, operating the ball 10 times for 98.
As Vick prepares to return to Atlanta, it was an average Falcons-style performance from Vick. It merely wasn’t “lights out,” and he’ll want to discover a way to complete much more passes — and to take fewer risks with his physique — if he wants to truly earn that label on a consistent basis.
three. Injured reserve could (or at least should) be coming soon for Manning.
For the initial time given that December 1997, a quarterback other than Peyton Manning took snaps for the Colts.
And it showed.
The Colts had been on the wrong side of a 34-7 loss to the Texans. But it wasn’t Kerry Collins’ fault.
“It was tough out there,” coach Jim Caldwell stated right after the game. “Obviously he had some pressure and some scenarios where protection broke down on him. [Collins] didn’t perform as well as he is capable to because of that, but he created some good throws. 1 guy or two guys can’t do it all. It’s a team game.”
And the team isn’t good. And if the team does not get better soon, the Colts should basically put Manning on injured reserve and give him ample time to get ready for a return to football in 2012.
With most experts opining that Manning will miss a minimum of three months, there’s no reason to bring him back in December unless the Colts are contending.
4. Texans need to presume nothing.
In Week One of the 2011 typical season, the Texans defeated the Indianapolis Colts in Houston.
In Week 1 of the 2010 typical season, the Texans defeated the Indianapolis Colts in Houston.
Last year, the Texans won only five of their remaining 15 games. And so the last factor the Texans need to do at this point is assume that they’ll effortlessly control their division.
“[W]e knew we had to boost our defense and I feel it is clear our defense is a lot improved,” owner Bob McNair said following the game. But really should he or any individual else assume the defense is “much improved,” given that the Texans beat an overmatched Colts team that could have 1 of the worst offenses the Texans will face this year?
On 1 hand, it would be wise for the coaching staff to greater manage McNair’s expectations. On the other hand, he already has made his expectations abundantly clear. It’s playoffs or else for Gary Kubiak and organization in 2011.
Nonetheless, Sunday’s win does nothing to guarantee that the Texans will avoid the “or else.”
5. It’s way too early to spot trends.
Broadening the point (which also could be described as “recycling”) made immediately above, no team need to read too significantly into a win or a loss in Week 1. The Saints may possibly have lost to the best team they’ll see all year, and the Bengals could have beaten the worst.
It is way too early to label teams as “good” or “bad,” until a lot more games have been played. Even then, some teams will get better as the season unfolds, and some teams will get worse.
If that sounds ridiculously obvious, there’s a reason for that: It is. But with fans of 14 teams searching for causes to think that a Week 1 win will result in a trip to Indy and with fans of the other 14 teams already seeking ahead to 2012, sometimes it’s important to state the obvious.
6. Steelers nonetheless might have something up their sleeves.
Yes, the Pittsburgh defense suddenly looks old. Certain, the Ravens have a swagger that they didn’t have in prior games against the Steelers. In the end, nonetheless, Baltimore merely held serve in its annual residence-and-property series with a key rival.
They’ll meet once more, in Pittsburgh. On November 6, to be precise. (On NBC.)
If the defending AFC champions can return the favor, all won’t be lost for the losers of the Week 1 game.
Regardless of whether it feels like it right now.
For the Ravens, they’ll have to learn how to play from the front of the pack, rapidly. If they can’t, they won’t be at the front of the pack for lengthy.
That stated, the Ravens look like an elite team, given the way they manhandled the Steelers.
7. Chiefs could unravel speedily.
Unlike the Steelers, who have veteran leadership that will help them overcome an uncharacteristic 20-plus-point loss (the last 1 came on December 9, 2007 against the Patriots), the Chiefs are a young team that has had a Buffalo-sized wrench thrown into their plans for a second straight AFC West title.
Losing in Week 1 is one thing. Losing at home by 34 points to the four-12 Bills, whose head coach was jettisoned by the Chiefs coach Todd Haley two years ago, could be the kind of blow that will be difficult to overcome.
After losing that badly to a team that was supposedly bad, teams can slide into a funk from which they could not swiftly recover.
The Chiefs will require to recover speedily. In six days, they travel to Ford Field. Then, they go to San Diego. In other words, an -three start may possibly be much less than two weeks away.
8. The Civil War, NFC style.
Last year, the NFC South produced a trio of 10-win teams. This week, the supposedly very best division in football was swept.
Those three 10-win teams lost to three members of the NFC North, with the Packers beating the Saints, the Bears knocking off the Falcons, and the Lions beating the Bucs in Tampa for the second time in nine months. Throw in the Panthers’ 28-21 loss to the Cardinals, and the NFC South is a collective -4.
It does not mean that the NFC North is the ideal division in all of football (even although it possibly is). But it makes it very tough for the NFC South to lay claim to that crown.
9. So much for close games.
Last year, Week 1 of the standard season produced 11 games decided by seven points or much less. This year, the number dropped to five. But for the Cowboys’ late-game meltdown against the Jets, the number would have been 4.
Although the Monday night games could generate two far more close games, the gaps in between some of the winners and losers seemed to be wider than usual on Sunday. And five of the teams that lost by double-digit margins (the Steelers, Colts, Chiefs, Falcons, and Seahawks) won their divisions in 2010.
Again, it’ll take time for the dust to settle and for the consistently good and bad teams to emerge. But the NFL loves nail-biters, and there just weren’t really numerous to kick off the 2011 season.
What we got instead, as the league turned a bit upside down, may possibly have been just as very good.
10. Kickoffs stay exciting, in spite of all the touchbacks.
Yes, the shifting of the kickoff point from the 30 to the 35 has resulted in a lot more touchbacks. Certain, I continue to be concerned that an inherently dangerous play does not turn into safer merely by operating it fewer times.
But I’m starting to believe that, while there might be less traditional kickoff-return excitement, there’s a new level of excitement that could compensate for the kicks with the only official action coming from an official flapping an arm like a 1-winged bird.
With more and far more kickoffs sailing into the finish zone, and with far more and much more teams willing to enable their players to run the ball out, that split second of “will-he-or-won’t-he” will occur a lot much more often.
And when the player chooses to come out, the excitement has several layers. Will he get past the 10? Will he get to the 20?
Or, as we saw three times in Week One, will he take the ball from inside his own finish zone all the way to the other 1?
So perhaps, just maybe, the new procedure has sufficient new twists to compensate for the boost in touchbacks.