Moving the Chains from the Gates to the Sidelines
In case you didn’t watch ESPN’s 24 hour coverage of the NFL, the lockout is over and football is returning for the 2011 season. The first thing on the list for teams was the free-agent market which some teams took great advantage of. One team that gained the most were the Philadelphia Eagles with the signing of Pro-Bowl corner Nnamdi Asomugha. The New England Patriots also added another weapon for QB Tom Brady with the addition of WR Chad Johnson(Ochocinco) and also boosted their defense by adding DT Albert Haynesworth.
There were also big trades during the off-season including the Miami Dolphins trading to acquire RB Reggie Bush from the New Orleans Saints. The Arizona Cardinals may have finally found the quarterback they have been looking for since the retirement of Kurt Warner. The Cardinals were able to grab Kevin Kolb from the Eagles, although the Eagles were able to get QB Vince Young as a backup.
One of the big stories from the off-season was the Eagles and all the hype they received basically becoming the Miami Heat of football. Then again, with an explosive offense stacked with Michael Vick, DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, and LeSean McCoy it contains a lot of promise for this season.
Another huge topic for fantasy owners, and Colts fans everywhere, was the condition of QB Peyton Manning. Over the off-season, Manning got surgery on his neck and it was questionable on whether he would start opening weekend or not, the Colts signed QB Kerry Collins to a 1-year deal as an “insurance plan”. Now with Manning being out for at least two months and possibly the whole season, it seems Collins will be around to stay for the season.
Another Pro-Bowl player that was questionable coming into the season was Titans RB Chris Johnson. Johnson was set to receive only $1 million this year and wanted a better contract and went on a holdout during training camp. After neither sides were budging, or talking, a deal was eventually made on September 1 when Johnson agreed on a four-year extension worth $53 million.
The season started on Thursday up in Green Bay where the Super Bowl Champion Packers would take on the “Who Dat?” nation of the New Orleans Saints. The Packers were able to defend their home turf with a 42-34 win after a late goal-line stop on the Saints. QB Drew Brees threw for 419 yards and 3 TD’s in a losing effort.
The next game most people had their eye on was the heated rivalry between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens crushed the Steelers 35-7 after a poor performance by QB Ben Roethlisberger throwing three interceptions in the game. This was the Steelers’ first loss in a season opener since 2002.
Another headline game was between the Atlanta Falcons traveling to take on the Chicago Bears, the teams that were seeded 1, 2 last year in the playoffs. Lead by defensive captain LB Brian Urlacher, the Bears were able to defeat the Falcons 30-16 after a great display of defense, which forced three Falcon turnovers. QB Jay Cutler also threw for 312 yards and 2 TD’s.
The Eagles were also able to live up to the off-season hype after a 31-13 win over the St. Louis Rams. LeSean McCoy ran for 122 yards and a touchdown. The Eagles offense went 8 for 12 on 3rd downs while their defense held the Rams to 2 for 12 on 3rd downs. RB Steven Jackson took an early exit in the game after suffering a strained quad and is listed as questionable for week two.
Offensive Player of the Week goes to no other than QB Tom Brady. Brady torched the Dolphin secondary after throwing for 517 yards and 4 TD’s including a 99-yard TD catch by WR Wes Welker. Brady set a team record for most yards passed in a game and fifth most in NFL History. Brady was able to lead the Patriots to a 38-24 win over the Dolphins
Defensive Player(Team) of the Week goes to the Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens were able to down the Steelers 35-7 after the defense put on a dominating performance forcing seven turnovers(3 interceptions and 4 fumbles).
Special Teams Player of the Week goes to Ted Ginn Jr. Ginn. Ginn made two big special teams touchdowns coming with a 102 yard kickoff return for a touchdown and then a 55 yard punt return for a touchdown less than a minute later. Those touchdowns would seal the win for the 49ers as they beat the Seahawks 33-17
Surprise of the Week goes to QB Cam Newton. Coming into this season, Newton received a lot of criticism of not being able to perform at the QB position at the NFL level. But, after throwing for 422 yards and 2 TD’s, Newton was able to silence the critics for at least one week. Even after Newton’s great performance, the Panthers still took a loss to the Cardinals 28-21.
Disappointment of the Week goes to RB Chris Johnson. After the hype, hooplah and holdout of Johnson, his performance this week was nothing short of pathetic. Johnson had nine carries for 24 yards and his team suffered as the Titans lost to the Jaguars 16-14.
Play of the Week goes to K Sebastian Janikowski. Janikowski wrote his name into the records books beside Jason Elam and Tom Dempsey for the longest field goal in NFL History. With seconds left in the half, Janikowski was called on for a 63-yard field goal attempt. With the ball lined up at the 46-yard line, Janikowski put all his might into the ball and slid it inside the left goal-post. The Raiders would go on to beat the Broncos 23-20.
Team of the Week goes to the Buffalo Bills. Week one could not be complete without talking about the outstanding performance by the Bills. The Bills’ offense was in-sync the entire game as QB Ryan Fitzpatrick threw for 4 TD’s in a 41-7 rout of the Chiefs. The defense also held the Chiefs in check all game long allowing only 105 yards passing and a 3 for 13 3rd down efficiency.