|09-12-2006, 06:23 AM||#1|
...there ain't no devil
Join Date: Aug 2005
McNair, McNabb, Bush great, Favre lousy; and other knee-jerk reactions...
Some already look poised for huge seasons
By Neil Hayes
Updated: 10:52 a.m. CT Sept 11, 2006
The American League Central is the best division in baseball. The Tigers, White Sox and Twins are all slugging it out for the division title and wildcard berth.
But how worked up can you get over one game when thereís another tomorrow and the day after that? How critical is todayís game when there are 20 games left?
Itís the same with basketball and hockey. How many truly big games are there?
No. 1 Ohio State whipped No. 2 Texas on Saturday night n the earliest meeting between the top two teams in college football history. The pageantry of a big college football game is unmatched, but as delicious as that showdown was, and as great as college football is, itís too easy for coaches to schedule victories by playing inferior teams early in the season.
Every game is Armageddon in the NFL. Thatís a big part of the leagueís appeal. Every play of every game is the end of the world to fans all over the country, which makes the NFL the worldwide leader in instant opinions and overanalysis.
With that in mind, here are the 10 knee-jerk reactions after the first Sunday of the new NFL season.
10. Cue the Super Bowl Shuffle II in Chicago.
The Bears looked like the reincarnation of Mike Ditkaís and Buddy Ryanís 1985 team while ending the Packersí 233-game scoreless streak with a dominating 26-0 victory at Lambeau Field on Sunday.
As impressive as their victory was, itís tough to make any sweeping statements after one game against rebuilding Green Bay, regardless of how sharp quarterback Rex Grossman looked in his first start of the season. The offense is the key to the Bearsí success, and Grossman is the key to the offense, which bodes well for long-suffering Chicago fans, but letís not get ahead of ourselves here.
The Bears play in a weak division and have the easiest schedule in the league. We wonít find out how truly good they are until they reach the postseason.
9. Donovan McNabb will be better than ever without Terrell Owens.
The Eagles quarterback made a big opening-day statement in a 24-10 victory over the Houston Texans on Sunday by throwing for 314 yards and three touchdowns. Thereís little doubt heís happier now that Owens and the drama that surrounded him during his salary dispute with Eagles management last season has departed. He might even be more determined to succeed now that Owens has taken his tired act to Dallas.
The Eagles wonít be as mediocre as some forecasted. The nucleus remains solid. In many ways, however, they are right back to where they were before they acquired Owens before the 2004 season. They are a playmaker away from being truly dangerous, and that is sure to catch up to McNabb sooner or later.
8. The Falcons, not the Panthers, are the team to beat in the NFC South.
It sure looked that way during Atlantaís 20-6 demolition of Carolina, but the Falcons have looked like a contender early in the season before. For this team, more so than for any other team, itís not about how you start but how you finish. Their fate will be decided in cold-weather games in November and December. Those are the type of gut-checks Michael Vick must prove he can win before the Falcons can truly be considered among the NFCís elite.
7. Forget Kerry Collins. The Titans need to start first-round pick Vince Young --- now.
It could be argued that thereís no reason for a young, rebuilding team to wait to develop their quarterback of the future and Tennessee certainly qualifies, especially now that their plan for the quarterback position has been set ablaze.
Young could develop into everything the Titans envisioned on draft day but heís a project, remember. He didnít play in the type of pro style offense at Texas that would lend itself to a quick transition to the pro game.
This is a touchy situation, to be sure. Itís clear Collins is not the answer but what Young does this year isnít as important as what he does next year and the year after that. Jeff Fisher would be wise to continue to tread carefully. Inserting Young for a series or two, as he did in Sundayís 23-16 loss to the New York Jets, is wise. But throwing caution to the wind could do as much harm as good in the long run.
6. Steve McNair will be the savior in Baltimore.
That certainly seems like a reasonable statement after the Ravens made a statement by trouncing the Buccanneers 27-0. The one thing coach Brian Billick has never had in Baltimore is a MVP-caliber quarterback and McNair fits the bill. He doesnít have to carry this team for the Ravens to be successful. The defense looks dominant once again. He just needs to be a leader, take care of the football and give his new team the type of consistency at the position that they have so sorely lacked.
The key for McNair is, as always, his health. He canít be a savior if heís not on the field.
5. Brett Favre should be directing his lawnmower around his yard in Mississippi instead of directing the Packers hapless offense.
The Packers may be talented, as the future Hall of Fame quarterback indicated during training camp, but the roster also features 27 first- or second-year players, which doesnít bode well for a veteran trying to make one last run.
His woeful performance against the Bears and similar performances in coming weeks will only increase his frustration and retard the progress of second-year quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Favre might still be productive in the right situation but that situation doesnít exist in Green Bay. Sadly, Favre has extended his career two years too long.
4. The Seahawks derailed their chances of returning to the Super Bowl when they left guard Steve Hutchinson sign with the Vikings during free agency.
Itís hard to believe that an guard could mean so much to an offense, but concerns over Hutchinsonís departure seem warranted after the defending NFC Champions, who led the league in scoring last year, floundered behind a porous offensive line while eking out a 9-6 victory over the resurgent Lions.
Detroit sacked Matt Hasselbeck five times and 2005 MVP Shaun Alexander managed just 51 yards, which leaves Mike Holmgrenís team with a W but still searching for answers heading into Week 2.
3. Reggie Bush is everything Saints fans dreamed he would be.
Bush had already made an incredible impact in Hurricane-Katrina ravaged New Orleans before he even stepped on the field.
Season-ticket sales soared after he fell to the Saints in the draft and he made his presence felt in his debut with 141 total yards in a 19-14 win over the Cleveland Browns.
Bush will make an impact on the field, all right, but the Saints may find that he is not dominant in any one area but is at his best as the triple threat. Bush rushed for 61 yards on 14 carries, caught eight passes for 58 yards and returned three punts for 22 more. As good as he is, he may be more of a specialist than a workhorse, which means others must help shoulder the load.
2. The quarterback controversy is officially on in Denver.
Jake Plummer admitted as much after a 18-10 loss to the St. Louis Rams Sunday. When Plummer is good heís very good and when heís bad he stinks out loud. He threw only seven interceptions during the regular season last year, which included a streak of 229 straight passes without a pick, but threw two interceptions and fumbled twice in the AFC Championship game, all-but handing the Steelers a Super Bowl berth. He certainly didnít endear himself to Bronco fans with three interceptions on Sunday. Expect them to begin clamoring for rookie Jay Cutler. For that inevitability, Plummer has no one to blame but himself.
1. Mario Williams is a bust.
The No. 1 pick had three tackles in his NFL debut, but thatís not enough for Houston fans to forgive the Texans for not taking Bush with the first pick. Itís almost enough to make you pity the former N.C. State star.
We donít know how history will ultimately view Houstonís decision to pass on Bush, but we do know this: In the eyes of many in the Lone Star State, Williams will have to become the next Reggie White to be considered a success.
It hardly seems fair, but such is life after Week 1 of the NFL season.
Neil Hayes is a sportswriter for the Chicago Sun-Times.
|09-12-2006, 06:34 AM||#2|
Ring of Famer
Join Date: Dec 2002
|09-12-2006, 06:38 AM||#3|
Over Jay Cutler
Join Date: Oct 2005
Location: Leucadia, CA
I love how a guy is a bust or a great player after one game.