Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Tuesday FourCast: Week 1

Welcome to this year’s first installment of the Tuesday FourCast. For those who are new readers or for those who just need a refresher each Tuesday morning during the NFL regular season, one member of the PHSports staff will give his list of four things to take away from the weekend’s slate of games. Since the four of us have different styles, you will receive a variety of thoughts across the football spectrum. The only constant is quality.

#1: You Can No Longer Assume Health of Certain Players
Tom Brady’s injury tells us a number of things. First, the Patriots are no longer the frontrunners to return to the Super Bowl. Second, Tom Brady’s career following a torn ACL will never be the same. Third, how does this affect the value of Laurence Maroney, Randy Moss and Wes Welker?

What stuns me to end is that you can no longer assume the health of certain players, including but not limited to Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, LaDainian Tomlinson, and yes, Brett Favre. This further demonstrates the imposed parity that exists within the NFL caused by unintended events. That is why, on average, only 7 of 12 playoff teams return the following year.

In a slightly related story, Patriots players need to shut their mouths. While I understand how it feels to have your best player out for the year (I have my PhD in this … I’m an Eagles fan), it’s another thing entirely to say Bernard Pollard should be fined for his hit on Tom Brady. Be quiet, Randy Moss. Quit comparing apples and oranges, Vince Wilfork. It’s not like Pollard, a safety, treated Brady’s leg like a table to rest his elbow on. That’s what Vince Wilfork did.

#2: Who Said All Rookie WRs Had a Steep Learning Curve?
Someone forgot to send that memo to DeSean Jackson and Eddie Royal – both second-round picks. Jackson and Royal filled in for injured/suspended players and deputized admirably in the receiving department as well as special teams.

What was consistent with both rookie wide receiver performances is that their quarterbacks involved them early. Jackson was targeted on the first two plays for Philadelphia and made his imprint on the Eagles faithful with a 40+ yard reception. As for Royal, he was included on two passes and two rushes. Royal finished with 9 catches and 146 yards with a touchdown and torched DeAngelo Hall. What is most impressive about these rookies has been their route-running skills, which is a positive sign for future growth and development. Not to mention, both made heady plays which made fans forget that they are rookies.

#3: The AFC Is In Trouble
Last year, Sum so subtly described the plight of the NFC. The tables have turned. Among the six teams that made the AFC Playoffs last season, only half of them won, and among those three (New England, Pittsburgh and Tennessee), only Pittsburgh avoided a multi-week injury to their quarterback. Here is a rundown of how the AFC elite fared.
* New England. Won in ugly fashion behind Matt Cassel. Though Tom Brady once had the “game manager” tag, I will be shocked if Cassel rises to stardom like Brady did en route to a Super Bowl.
* Indianapolis and San Diego. Lost on respective their home fields to NFC teams who watched the playoffs from their living rooms.
* Pittsburgh. The only team with double-digit wins to win in impressive fashion. Willie Parker looked like a man possessed.
* Jacksonville. Much like Week 1 last year, they were stifled on the ground. Even worse, they lost both starting guards. Poor David Garrard.
* Tennessee. Despite winning, the Titans were awful. And by awful, I don’t mean they were full of awe. The Titans’ apologists will tell you that Chris Johnson and the defense played well, and that they generally win ugly.
* Cleveland. Steamrolled by Dallas. Additions on defense had a combined one good play, which resulted in 13 stitches for Mr. Jessica Simpson.

All of this can be summed in one word. Ouch.

#4: Don’t Buy Into the Hype … Yet
Matt Ryan. Joe Flacco. Aaron Rodgers. All three made their first NFL start (so did JT O’Sullivan, I think, but who cares about him?) and all three were winners. As I tell everyone I come across, the first week of the NFL season is all about anomalies. Perhaps, it’s an excuse I employ to explain losing an inordinate number of Week 1 matchups. Perhaps, it’s Tom Brady tearing an ACL in the first quarter of the first game and it’s Carson Palmer laying the mother of all eggs. Some events become trends, but most are one-time occurrences. That said, if all three continue to show poise under pressure and guide their teams to victory, then the hype is well worth it. Though he played against a Pop Warner defense, Matt Ryan impressed the most. It never hurts when you have a running back who breaks the franchise’s single-game rushing yards record … in his first game as a Falcon.


Sum said...

Total agreement on the AFC point ... for now. I mean, most of the conference looked to be in shambles last weekend. Only 3 out of the 16 teams looked impressive (Pissburgh, Denver and Buffalo).

I think the SD/DEN game next weekend will go a long way in showing where the power in the AFC lies this year...

Anonymous said...

You're not giving enough to Tony Romo. He's an excellent quarterback who hangs in the pocket. Jealous Philly fan.

Paymon said...

Last year, the Bolts woke up from their slumber against Denver last season. Perhaps they'll do similar next week. Unlike you, I don't see Denver making noise in the AFC (perhaps a 6th playoff spot).

On Romo, maybe I'm not giving enough credit. He has a superb offensive line that gives him days to go through his progressions (for our Washington readers, maybe even Jason Campbell could go through his progressions with that O-Line).

If memory serves correct, I think Dallas and Philadelphia won the exact same # of playoff games last year.

Sum said...

Pay, your bitter "factoid" at the end there is like one of those meaningless accusations thrown about in Presidential politics. Sure, both Philly and Dallas won 0 playoff games last year ... but Philly was also the sole NFC East team shut out of the playoffs. :-)

Paymon said...

One word summarizes what is lacking in your comment: perspective.

Of course, you are looking at this through the lens of a fan whose team is not accustomed to making the playoffs since the first Joe Gibbs era (Washington).

My comment, however snide, is quite meaningful given that Dallas assembled a team that they thought should make the Super Bowl.

As a Philly fan, merely making the playoffs this decade (like the Redskins did as a 6-seed with single-digit wins) is just not good enough, just like it wasn't good enough for Dallas to win 13 games and bow out before the NFC Championship game.

Looking forward to Week 2.

Brad Slepetz said...

Pay, a more succinct way of framing your argument would have been:

"Every team that failed to win the Super Bowl sucks equally."

Sum said...

So, if as a high/mighty Philly fan you find that "merely making the playoffs this decade ... is just not good enough," you must really have shit a brick when you didnt even manage to do what isn't "good enough."

Perspective had nothing to do w/ my post, nor did it with yours. You spoke of achievement. A 4-12 team that improves from 2-14 the year before did "improve" but they still finished towards the bottom of the league, and they still blow monkeys. Oh, and they also would have also won 0 playoff games last year.

Yes, Dallas should have made the Super Bowl last year, but if "merely" making the playoffs wasn't good enough for them, as it's not good enough for you, they still outdid it by getting there.

All teams that do not win the Super Bowl do not suck equally ... and I'm pretty sure I read some sarcasm there from Brad ... at least I think I did (damn the lack of an emoticon showing sarcasm!).

Armin said...

Can I just point out that Eddie Royal and DeSean Jackson being drafted in the 2nd round, also makes them drafted in the highest round a receiver went in, in this draft.