NFL Week One Review and Week Two Preview
What an amazing opening weekend for the NFL. After an offseason full of lockout talks, a shortened player movement period, a frantic fantasy draft season (I successfully started an 8 team, 30 roster spots, contract system keeper league in about three weeks. Am I proud of this? You bet I am. Do I have a life? Debatable), and serious discussions about how this was all going to affect the product on the field we were treated to some of the most impressive and entertaining football we’ve ever seen.
Week one of the season is always one of the best, and most difficult, to digest. We saw a ton of things transpire on the field that we didn’t expect to see. We saw the Miami Dolphins run a modern, vertical passing game. We saw a rookie, Cam Newton, put up a performance for the ages (I’m serious, more on that later). And most notably, we saw a coming out party for the prolific passing games that have evolved in the modern NFL.
So with week one in the books lets take a look at what made it so great.
Because sometimes all the experts get it wrong: This section is a tough one this week, and most week one’s, because we’ve spent all summer just agreeing on a few basic principals that eventually get thrown on their heads once the games actually start being played.
The most obvious candidate for this section would be the kickoffs. Despite what we all thought going into this season, moving the kickoff up from the 30 yard line to the 35 yard line did not effectively remove the play from the game. While it was great to see the kickoffs remain a possible game changer, what was most evident was that the kick coverage teams have a tougher adjustment curve to the new rule than the return teams do. No, instead it was another universally held truth that was most clearly proved false.
This summer we heard over and over again how the rookies would be the players most affected by the lockout and the shortened preseason. We heard how they wouldn’t be able to pick up the pro schemes and wouldn’t have enough practice time to get used to the speed of the game at the next level.
That couldn’t have been more wrong. The rookies had some of the most impressive performances that we’ve ever seen. Cam Newton set the record for passing yards in a rookie’s first NFL game with 422 yards, a number that would be almost hard to believe if it wasn’t for the ridiculous passing totals that quarterbacks put up all over the league this week.
However, despite those other huge passing days, we shouldn’t overlook what Cam Newton accomplished this Sunday. Rookie quarterbacks aren’t supposed to do this well. The game is supposed to move to fast for them. But what we saw with Newton was a player who wasn’t asked to do anything that he wasn’t ready to do. New offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski formulated his game plan around Cam’s strength’s and didn’t ask him to do anything outside of his comfort zone.
Most notably, he didn’t ask Newton to be able to read defenses like a Tom Brady or Peyton Manning would. Instead, he just put Newton back in the shotgun, gave him no more than three or four reads on every play, and told him if he got through all of his reads and hadn’t gotten rid of the ball, just to tuck it and run. This led to a talented quarterback playing comfortable and instinctual. Now, this strategy won’t win many games this year, you just can’t be successful against good defenses with such a basic game plan, but it will lead to a calm and confident Cam Newton, which should then lead to him getting better and better each week.
We also saw impressive performances from rookies like Ryan Kerrigan, Randall Cobb and Patrick Peterson. These players are coming into the professional ranks more prepared to play every year, and this shortened offseason just proved the point that professional players, even rookies, don’t need months and months of preparation to play at a high level.
Because Stats Don’t Lie: The number of passing yards that these quarterbacks are putting up is just insane. We saw 4 players throw for over 400 yards in week one, including Tom Brady breaking the 500 yard mark. To put that in a little perspective, the most 400 yard passing games in one season was 13 in both 1986 and 2004. The league is on pace to put up 68 four hundred yard games this season. I know that it’s only one week and I’m not saying we’re going to see 400 yard games put up 68 times this year, but it does clearly show that the league has officially become a passing league. When you have guys like Chad Henne putting up video game type numbers, it’s official.
Because College Was the Most Fun of My Life: There was lots to like this week in the college football ranks, but I want to talk about something I saw that I didn’t like. I didn’t like how bad the level of football was when the University of Michigan played against Notre Dame. I was super psyched for this game, more excited for this game than I was for the top five matchup the week before between Oregan and LSU, which was basically a playoff game in the opening weekend of the season.
It was the first time that the storied Michigan squad played under the lights at home, and it was fitting that their opponent was also a historically dominant program in Notre Dame. But instead of seeing two teams playing at the highest level of college football, we saw two schools that have fallen back to the rest of the pack.
When you see the teams that have the top level talent, the speedy, athletic teams from the SEC and the PAC 12, you are just watching football played at a higher level than we saw on Saturday night. And I just don’t like it, one of the best parts about college football is the tradition and the history, so to see two schools that are a couple of the most historically successful playing B level ball just breaks your heart.