By Shaun Ahmad
Exclusive | The Crescent Post
September 12, 2011
Sunday marked the unofficial-official kickoff of the 2011-12 NFL season. Yes, technically, the season started last Thursday night with a thrilling matchup between the Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers and New Orleans Saints, but NFL football is meant to be played on Sundays and yesterday was the first of what should be a great year.
Before we get into what went on during the actual games, it certainly bears mentioning that yesterday was the 10th anniversary of the September 11th attacks. The NFL should be commended for their pre-game displays of honor for the victims, their families, and those who serve our country and keep us safe. While football is only a game, it served the same purpose as it did a decade ago and that is to help take the minds of millions off of what happened on that dreadful day.
With that said, thank goodness football is back! Can you imagine if the lockout had continued? What would we have even done throughout the day? Go to Home Depot? Make lemonade? I don’t even know what people that don’t watch football do on Sundays. Just the thought of this makes me angry so let’s move on.
Peyton Manning is kind of valuable. Peyton Manning didn’t start for the first time since 1997 yesterday after undergoing neck surgery a few days earlier. He is out indefinitely. We all knew this would happen the moment I clicked “Draft” and Manning’s name was highlighted in my fantasy draft.
The Indianapolis Colts took the field with Kerry Collins at the helm and were down 34-0 before you could blink an eye. They went on to lose 34-7. Collins lost two fumbles in the first half. Manning had lost one in the previous 56 regular season games. (That sound you hear is of thousands of Colts fans throwing up… again.)
I know people love to have the Peyton Manning versus Tom Brady debate, and it certainly is a good one. But let’s be clear about one thing. Manning is, and has been the most valuable player in the league for the past ten years. Yes, Brady has more rings and Manning only has one. However, there is no player that carries a team on his back more than Manning. When Brady went out with an injury for the season a couple of years ago, Matt Cassel stepped in to win 11 games. The last time Cassel had played a meaningful game prior to that was in the 4th grade.
To put into perspective how BAD the Colts will be this season, get this; Indianapolis Colts scouts were seen at the Stanford-Duke game checking out projected top overall pick, Andrew Luck (QB). This was on Saturday…before the debacle on Sunday! The Colts’ management knows that if they are able to win three or four games without Manning, it will be an accomplishment so they are already out and about figuring out what they’ll do with their first overall pick.
With Manning at the helm, the Colts had nine consecutive seasons of 10+ wins, seven of the seasons having 12 wins or more. I challenge you to find me any other team, not just today, but in NFL history, that went from being a Super Bowl contender to favorite for the top overall pick after the loss of one player. You can’t.
Ravens humiliate Steelers, stake early claim as team to beat. I’ve seen the Steelers lose before. It’s not often, but it happens. That said, I can’t remember the last time I saw them get beat so thoroughly. The Baltimore Ravens took the will out of them, and kicked them in the teeth for good measure. Graphic? Yes. As graphic as what the Ravens did to the Steelers on the field? Not even close.
In a 35-7, thorough butt-kicking, the Ravens were able to run and pass on the Steelers at will. When a team starts running fake extra points and scoring on you, they are letting you know who the boss is. Baltimore threw Ben Roethlisberger to the ground every other play and forced him into three interceptions. The teams will meet again this season, in Pittsburgh, and likely again in the playoffs. For now though, the Ravens have made a statement to both the Steelers and the rest of the AFC; they are the total package and the team to beat.
Sexy Rexy leads the Skins! All jokes made at the expense of the Redskins and their quarterback situation will have to cease for at least one week. Rex Grossman came in and did an outstanding job after beating out journeymen-who-suddenly-believes-he-can-be-a-starter-just-by-talking-about-it-a-lot John Beck. He threw for over 300 yards against the Giants’ defense, who to be fair, were riddled with injuries.
As a Redskins fan, I am in a rather good mood today. It was nice to see Grossman do well after all the criticism he had taken. Yes, yesterday was only his fourth 300-yard game in his nine year NFL career, but did you know that three of those games have come as a Redskin? Maybe there is something to the Grossman-Kyle Shanahan offense. Wait, now I’m starting to worry. What if the Skins manage to somehow go 9-7 behind Grossman? What if they make the playoffs? Would the organization be forced to give a long term contract to – gulp – Sexy Rexy? I’m getting angry again so let’s keep it moving…
Tony Romo is great…then awful. People love to hate on Tony Romo, and it’s easy to do so. I mean, he is the good lucking, aw-shucks, get’s all the pretty girls star quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys. What’s not to hate? But I actually felt kind of bad for him last night. He played terrific for 95% of the game against the Jets in New York. The Cowboys lead 24-10 in the fourth quarter and had never lost a game, in their history when leading by 14+ with 15 minutes to play. But thanks to a fumble inside the red-zone and a costly interception to Darelle Revis with less than two minutes remaining, the Jets were able to squeak out a 27-24 victory. (Sidenote: The blocked punt run back for a touchdown didn’t help matters.)
Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees will meet again. The game was on Thursday and by now, you’ve heard about the amazing duel the two quarterbacks had with the final outcome being decided on the last play of the game. The Packers won, but barely. I am sure that barring injury, these two stud quarterbacks will be facing off in the playoffs. A Super Bowl birth will likely be at stake.
Cam Newton threw for 400+ yards, 2 Touchdowns, probably won’t ever do that again. I’m not a believer in Cam Newton, and many aren’t. To be fair though, he threw for 422 yards in his NFL debut, two touchdowns passing and one rushing. Good for him. It’s all downhill from here.
The Bills are on the path to relevancy, stomp the Chiefs. Probably the game people talked about the least yesterday, but Buffalo had an impressive 41-7 victory on the road this week in Kansas City. The Chiefs had only lost one game at home last year, and the Bills managed to go in on opening day and lay down a blowout. Ryan Fitzpatrick (yes, the Harvard guy) threw four touchdowns while Fred Jackson rushed for 112 yards and a TD. The defense held their own against a Chiefs’ offense full of weapons. Matt Cassel was held to 119 yards passing and a 64.5 QB Rating, while fantasy sensation running back Jamaal Charles was limited to 56 yards on the ground.
The Bills may be the under-the-radar team that the Chiefs were last year. Two of their next three opponents are the Oakland Raiders and Cincinnati Bengals. It’s conceivable that Buffalo could sit at 3-1 after a quarter of the season.
Eagles looked okay, Rams decimated by injuries. The Eagles looked, eh, okay. They won which is what counts but weren’t very impressive. Meanwhile, the St. Louis Rams lost their starting quarterback (finger), starting running back (quad), and starting wide receiver (dislocated elbow) in the first game of the year. While Sam Bradford and Steven Jackson will likely be alright, the same cannot be said for Danny Amendola who is likely done for the season.
Looking at tonight and on to next week. The Patriots head to Miami for a divisional matchup against the Dolphins tonight followed by a Raiders-Denver from Mile High stadium.
More importantly, Michael Vick makes his first return to Atlanta next Sunday as a starter for the Super Bowl contending Philadelphia Eagles. The Falcons are 0-1, coming off of a bad performance by Vick’s replacement, Matt Ryan. There will be a lot of pressure on the young quarterback as well as a good deal of pressure on Vick to perform well infront of the team that was forced to disown him. After ruining their chances at the playoffs and Super Bowl by going to jail, Vick can again hurt the Atlanta Falcons – this time, by putting them in an 0-2 hole to start the year.
Shaun Ahmad is a writer and sports columnist. His articles have been featured on FOX Sports, CBS Sportsline, LA Times, and various national media outlets.