It was undoubtedly an exciting weekend for football, as Week 1 of the regular season is officially in the books, and there was an extreme mix of both predictable outcomes and unexpected surprises. Still it is important to remember that the first week of the season does not truly decide anything in the NFL, so I'm going to break down some of the biggest myths and truths that have surfaced.
Myth #1: The Cowboys Will Win the NFC East
RG III was very impressive against the Saints, but the Redskins have a long ways to go before they are ready to be division champs. The Eagles are just plain mediocre, as they barely squeaked out a victory against the pitiable Cleveland Browns when quarterbacks Michael Vick and Brandon Weeden each threw four interceptions in a game that was painful to watch. That leaves the Dallas Cowboys and the New York Giants, and the Cowboys just beat the Giants.
However before too many people hop on the Cowboys’ bandwagon, it is important to note that it is not a lack of talent that has plagued Dallas over the past several seasons; they have plenty of talent. Rather it is a lack of consistency and an inability to perform in crunch-time situations, as well as an affinity for boneheaded mistakes that often leads to their losses. Meanwhile the Giants tend to gradually improve throughout the season, as last year they went on to win the Super Bowl despite falling to the Redskins in their first game of the season.
While Tony Romo, DeMarco Murray, and the rest of the Dallas offense played pretty well against the Giants on Sunday, the Giants did not play well against them. New York’s defense looked completely asleep for much of the game and allowed average guys such as wide receiver Kevin Ogletree to explode for 114 yards and 2 touchdowns.
On the other side of the ball, it was once again a lack of solid play from New York’s offense rather than stellar play from the Cowboys’ defense that caused the Giants to muster up just 17 points. In the end the truth is that the Cowboys have a rookie as their best cornerback, a notoriously un-clutch quarterback, and I expect the Giants to gradually improve and eventually win the NFC East.
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Truth #1: Peyton Manning is Back
There is no denying it. Peyton Manning looked like the Peyton of old against Pittsburgh on Sunday night, as he led his Denver Broncos to victory with 253 passing yards and 2 passing touchdowns. Manning already looked comfortable within the offense and within the pocket, and executed a few drives using his trademark no-huddle style offense while making Pittsburgh’s cherished defense appear totally helpless.
Manning was incredibly efficient and completed 19-26 passes. He looked like his old self at the line of scrimmage, calling frequent audibles and recognizing opposing blitzes on seemingly every play. He showed no signs of lingering injury and bounced right back up every time he got hit, and it was clear that he has already developed a rapport with his receivers. The Broncos now have a powerful offense to match their dominant defense, and will likely be a legitimate force to be reckoned with this season.
Myth #2: The Jets Will Definitely Make the Playoffs
Sure, almost anything is possible in the AFC. We learned that last year when Tim Tebow led the 8-8 Broncos to the playoffs and then ousted the heavily favored Steelers before moving on to face the Patriots. However the Jets are simply not a cohesive team, and even though their 48 points during their Week 1 victory against the Buffalo Bills was impressive, it was ultimately just one game that they had to win.
The Bills are incredibly weak and one solid performance from Mark Sanchez against that weak team is not enough to predict great things for the Jets. Sanchez still lacks the good decision making that is absolutely required for any respected NFL quarterback. Their offense will likely struggle mightily once they face a team better than the Bills, such as the Steelers whom they play next week.
There are many AFC teams that could be battling for a wildcard spot this year, and the truth is that most of those teams would also easily dominate the Bills, so the Jets cannot let one big win change their outlook on the entire season. On another note, their use of Tim Tebow was utterly ridiculous. Sanchez may not be an elite quarterback, but he was having a great game, so sporadically subbing him out for random plays to let Tebow run the ball from the wildcat formation just appeared incredibly detrimental to the effectiveness and overall flow of their offensive drives. As for special teams… really? Rex Ryan can’t find 11 guys with better hands than Tebow for fielding onside kicks? C’mon now.
Truth #2: The 49ers are Super Bowl Ready
In their first year under head coach Jim Harbaugh, the San Francisco 49ers came up just short of a Super Bowl appearance since Eli Manning and the Giants managed to carve through the NFL’s elite en route to a championship. In their second year under Harbaugh, they will only keep improving, as they demonstrated on Sunday by defeating the #1 ranked Green Bay Packers.
Quarterback Alex Smith has largely taken the brunt of the criticism the past two seasons as the weak link of the team. While he is certainly no Aaron Rogers, Smith played very efficiently on Sunday and continuously made smart plays. His numbers were not eye-popping by any means with just 211 passing yards, but he completed 20-26 passes and also threw for a pair of touchdowns. San Francisco’s receiving core also looked very solid with the dynamic combination of Randy Moss, Michael Crabtree, and Vernon Davis, while Frank Gore played well as usual with 112 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown.
If their offense keeps on clicking then this team could accomplish some huge things in 2013 because their defense is already stellar. Just ask Rogers, who was picked off once, sacked three times, and under constant pressure from San Francisco’s swarming defensive front-seven.
Myth #3: RG III Will be Rookie of the Year
In his NFL debut, Robert Griffin III played far too well against the New Orleans Saints to be dismissed as just another fast running quarterback. He demonstrated excellent decision making and knew precisely when to run and when to throw. These are the decisions that plague most fast running rookie quarterbacks. But while I was thoroughly impressed by RGIII’s debut, as he led his Washington Redskins to victory in the Superdome with 40 points against the Saints, I still believe Andrew Luck will take home the Rookie of the Year award this season.
The Luck of the draw was not kind to Andrew as his Indianapolis Colts were matched up against Chicago’s brutally tough defense in his NFL debut, and Luck was unable to find much success against them. While Griffin finished Sunday with a pair of touchdowns and no interceptions, Luck had just 1 touchdown and 3 interceptions. Still, there were flashes of brilliance, as he was able to connect with his prime receiver Reggie Wayne 9 times for 135 yards. He also found his fellow rookie, tight end Coby Fleener, 6 times for 82 yards. If he had not been playing against arguably the best defense in the league then Luck would have had a much better game.
Griffin was impressive, but he will have to continue to perform at a high level if he wants to remain in front of Luck on the stat sheet. Unfortunately for Griffin, opposing defenses will be watching plenty of tape on Washington’s offense and could potentially learn how to contain him. He looked incredibly confident against the Saints defense, which looked helpless by the end of the game, but other teams will learn from the Saints’ mistakes.
Luck however is a prototypical accurate pocket passer that will eventually find success purely through the air, when not matched up against the toughest of defenses. Griffin was surprisingly poised in the pocket against New Orleans, but his overall style of play will be more susceptible to being figured out down the road, similar to how Cam Newton’s rookie campaign rapidly declined in the second half of the season as defenses figured him out. Despite the outcome of Week 1, expect Luck to have the better year.
Truth #3: The Patriots have the Best Offense in the League
It had once been a close call between the Packers and Patriots for the best offense in the NFL. However the addition of Brandon Lloyd to their already-stellar receiving core gives Tom Brady and the Patriots’ offense simply too many options to be stopped outright.
Furthermore their stellar passing game has opened the door for their young running back Stevan Ridley, who exploded for 125 yards and a touchdown on Sunday against the Titans as he shredded their defense in the second half by both breaking tackles and showing off his speed.
Lloyd led the New England receivers in yards with 69 while both tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez found the end zone by halftime. Their multifaceted offense looks as good as ever, and the Patriots could easily win upwards of 13 games this year with their notoriously easy schedule. The Ravens, Broncos, and 49ers are the only three teams that should really give them any trouble during the regular season.