Citizen Fall gives you a rundown of what we learned in the aftermath of the National Football League’s opening weekend.
1. The NFC East is an absoute beast that should send at least two teams to the playoffs. The NFL’s strongest division from top to bottom went 3-1 in week one, a mark that very well may have been perfect had the Giants not drawn divisonal rival Washington for a season-opening, 16-7 victory. Meanwhile, the Eagles and Cowboys thoroughly dominated their respective competition, dismantling the Lambs and Brownies by a combined score of 66-13.
If opening week was any indication of the potency of the ‘Boys O and ferocity of the defense, it’s almost a sure bet Dallas will play in their first conference championship game since their Super Bowl-winning season of 1995. You have to be impressed with the performance of Donovan McNabb and the Philly offense, regardless of the fact it came against a pathetic Rams defense, while the Giants appear poised to make a strong title defense. The only weak link so far appears to be the ‘Skins. However, don’t think about counting out Jim Zorn’s group, especially after the offense begins to grasp his West Coast schematics.
2. Tom Brady has the media world by the testicles. Either that, or he’s taking him time sodomizing each and every outlet west of the Atlantic Ocean, the most notable of which would be the Eastern Seaboard Prejudice Network (ESPN, for the layman). Seconds after Chiefs linebacker Bernard Pollard belly-flopped into Brady’s plant leg, presumably tearing the two-time Super Bowl MVP’s anterior cruciate ligament, countless New Englanders immediatlely pushed aside their Sam Adams and instead cast their pending sorrows into their palms, which were now pressed together in an offering to a higher power.
“How could this be, Lord? How could you do this to us? Tommy never did nothing to hurt no one. I’ll offer up my first-born if you somehow raise Tommy Boy off the Gillete field turf like Lazarus. Shit, the Yankees are behind this. I need another beer! This is wicked fucked-up….”
No sooner did the shockwaves following the impact of the injury reverberate off the stands and in the hearts of the tearful than ESPN decidedly jump ship on its traditional Sunday afternoon rodeo coverage and give the nation the ghastly news, the magnitude of which, according to ESPN standards, dwarfed that of the assassination of JFK. In the hours and days that followed, we were (and still are) subjected to a bombardment of 24/7 Tom Brady ACL coverage from all ends of the Earth, and speculation now swirls that the Pats may have instantly went from nearly perfect Super Bowl runner-up to playoff pretender.
Now in this post-healthy ACL era, we will have to listen to every analyst, broadcaster and mourning Pats fan doom new QB Matt Cassel’s opportunity to shine before the kid even takes a snap—because they regret the possibility that Cassel, unlike Brady, may not be able to walk on water.
3. The Steelers are still the class of the AFC North. While their divisional foes spent time adjusting to a head coaching change, miring in more mediocrity and reveling in a hispanic name change, the defending champs were dominating a lesser opponent and sending a stern message: Teams can’t fuck with our 3-4 defense and our QB can be near perfect when he wants to be, while the RB whom we witnessed crumbling before our very eyes a year ago appears to be back and better than before.
In completely outclassing the Texans on Sunday, Pittsburgh was equally dominant on both sides of the ball. QB Ben Roethlisberger was 13-14, albeit for a modest 137 yards, but did throw for two touchdowns. However, Big Ben didn’t need to put up spectacular numbers when his running back, Willie Parker, made his triumphant comback from a broken leg in 2007 in rushing for 138 yards on just 25 carries. The Steelers vaunted and staggered 3-4 defense was just as efficient, holding Houston to just over 200 total yards and forcing three turnovers.
4. The Rams and Raiders, by far, are the league’s two sorriest squads and will be battling it out for the rights to April’s number one overall pick. Statistically cemented in the lower half of the NFL a year ago, both St. Louis and Oakland gave fans little reason to think that 2008 will be any different. In his Monday afternoon press conference, Rams head coach Scott Linehan hinted at the possibility that his team’s epic display of ineptitude in Sunday’s 38-3 lopsided loss to the Eagles in Philadelphia was a product of the Eagles “playing nearly flawless” football as much as it was his Lambs resembling a lower-tier junior varsity assembly.
Mr. Linehan, the numbers don’t lie: 0’fer on third-down conversions, under 40 yards rushing, six false-start penalties and a secondary that surrendered five passing plays of at least 25 yards. Hardly a recipe for success.
And while the not-so-faithful in St. Louis were howling over local radio waves on Monday—myself included—fans in Oakland were anticipating the Raiders’ MNF showdown against divisional rival Denver to be QB JaMarcus Russell’s coming out party. Lo and behold, just over three hours later, spiked shoulder pad-wearing Black Hole residents were sprinting for the exits as their beloved soldiers in silver and black were completing new feats of futility on both sides of the ball. Though the Raiders managed to outrush the Broncos, nearly half of Oakland’s 150 rushing yards came in the fourth quarter during mandatory mop-up duty. And like the Rams, Oakland’s defensive backfield was busy making a corps of mid-level receivers look like first-ballot Hall of Famers.