Winners and Losers - Week 1 Sunday edition
It’s good to be back. First full day of football means doing absolutely nothing but watch games on Sunday, which is a pretty tough commitment.
Surprises, comebacks, upsets, disappointments? Just the way football should be.
Onto the winners and losers of the first Sunday. Since all judgments are made off one game, I reserve the right to deny writing any of the below in a week.
Robert Griffin III/ Dan Snyder - The list of quarterbacks that have come through Washington in the past few decades have been so mediocre that it’s been immortalized on this t-shirt. For those with shorter memories, recent years included Rex Grossman, the wonderful experience of Donavan McNabb and the likes of Mark Brunell and Jason Campbell. This year’s draft revolved around Andrew Luck — whom most believed to be the sure thing, and Robert Griffin III — a dazzling talent whose potential intrigued many teams to move up for the right to pick him. The Redskins gave away a sizable package to be that team, and no one would’ve blamed their fans to expect some growing pains for Griffin III this season before he matured and that potential became realized. But there he was on Sunday, in the hostile dome environment of New Orleans, controlling the game like a ten year veteran, demonstrating his arm strength and using his legs as a weapon. I don’t know what Dan Snyder or Mike Shanahan did to deserve this, but the sky’s the limit now for Griffin III. The growing pains will come, but fans will have a performance like this week’s to remind them of better times to come. Sooner rather than later.
Orlando Franklin - I am terrified.
Quarterback enigmas part 1, Alex Smith - All Super Bowl chatter with the San Francisco 49ers this off-season started and ended with their quarterback Alex Smith. The defense is championship caliber, the offense was retooled with enough weapons to surround Smith, but was he really someone who could put it all together? All he did on Sunday was play an efficient game in Green Bay, and come out with a victory. Not just a game manager, but a productive quarterback who looked comfortable leading drives and making the right plays in the red zone. This was the most eye opening performance to me from Sunday. The 49ers looked complete, and ready to make a run.
Quarterback enigmas part 2, Mark Sanchez - I woke up this morning and pronounced that Sanchez was starring in his own edition of “Dead Man Walking” starting at 1 pm. You know, the one touchdown in four pre-season games, the shadow of Tim Tebow lurking everywhere — on the field, in the press, probably in his dreams. That’s a weird thought, let’s move on. Of course, this being a league where we know absolutely nothing except what just happened, Sanchez went out and put up 48 points on the Buffalo Bills, and giving Bart Scott enough ammunition to declare a “media mutiny" after the game. He meant boycott by the way.
Tampa Bay and believers of karma -In this era of statistics and more statistics, I hope there’s still room for stories that aren’t about just numbers. That special moments still be quantified in their own ways. In the off-season, the Buccaneers signed former Rutgers defensive tackle Eric LeGrand (coached in college by current Tampa Bay coach Greg Schiano) whose career was ended by a spinal cord injury. It was a symbolic gesture by the organization that along with their draft and off-season acquisitions, bodes well for the coming season. By the way, if you haven’t read about LeGrand’s story, do yourself a favor and check out this Sports Illustrated feature from last year. The Bucs did just enough to win at home against Carolina. But for a team that most expect to win five or six games, I think there could be something more there.
Randall Cobb/ Julio Jones - I’m going to go on record and say that Jones will be the best receiver in football this year. I felt that way before his performance in Kansas City today (6 catches, 108 yards, 2 touchdowns), which just reaffirms my belief in him. As for Randall Cobb, I get the feeling that Aaron Rodgers is going to be targeting him a lot this year, if only because the Fox broadcasters kept reminding me of it. Plus he’s a must watch on returns all year.
Adrian Peterson - In December, Peterson tore both his ACL and MCL. On Sunday, he came back and went for 84 yards, two touchdowns and looked as electric as he was pre-injury. A lot of fantasy regrets are in order.
Peyton Manning - Competent quarterbacking in Denver? Must be refreshing. The league’s more fun with Manning back directing traffic and running no huddles. Plus I’m sure Brandon Stokley is happier this way. This might not end up in a second Super Bowl for Manning, but it’s nice to see he still has more then a few competent games left.
Negotiating leverage of referees - All referees make bad calls. I’m not going to sit here and pretend that once the real officials come back, we’re not going to have controversial calls. But there’s a difference between human error and incompetence, and that line is not very thin. Consider how the replacement refs gave Seattle a mysterious fourth timeout at the end of their game against Arizona. That’s the perfect example of that not very thin line. There are judgment calls, and then there are calls that can only be explained by inexperience and inability to referee a game at the professional level. Let’s hope the real refs come back soon, so we can have more legitimate gripes than phantom time outs.
Browns fans - Let’s see. Where do we start with this one. Former Browns owner Art Modell passed away this week. You know, the guy who took the team and moved them to Baltimore. There were plans for a Modell tribute before their home opener against the Eagles on Sunday, which would’ve probably turned into a horrible mess, so luckily Modell’s family asked the team to cancel such plans. Of course, this did not stop 28 year old rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden from getting sacked by the American flag pre-game, and than going out there and putting up a quarterback rating that was ten times worst than Michael Vick, who only threw four interceptions himself. Still, the Browns had a chance to win the game in the fourth quarter, but Vick drove the Eagles the length of the field for a one point victory. On the bright side, If Weeden doesn’t pan out, Colt McCoy and Thaddeus Lewis are waiting their turn.
Carolina Panthers rushing attack -13 rush attempts, 10 yards. That includes Cam Newton.
Ike Taylor - Will see Demaryius Thomas in his dreams tonight. That’s my second reference to someone’s dreams. Let’s move on.
Saints and non-believers of karma - I thought that Friday’s arbitrator decision to reverse the Saints’ player suspensions would start the healing process in New Orleans, and remove all the bad vibes still hanging from Bounty Gate. You know, because I actually believe in these things. But there was Griffin III shredding their defense, and Drew Brees not looking in sync with this receiving corp. The offense is still one of the best in the league, and we could chalk it up to one poor performance. Check the schedule though, and consider the improvement of the NFC North, I don’t think the Saints can consider themselves favorites this season.
The Bills - Did all that optimism get crushed in literally one quarter in week one? I think we should just leave Buffalo alone and not anoint sleeper status on them. It’s less painful that way.
photo via Keith Allison