Posted September 11, 2012

Trend or Mirage: Sorting through Week 1

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Michael Vick set a career high in interceptions (14) in 2011. (Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)

This is the time of the NFL season when I’d like to encourage everyone to just take a step back and calm down.

It is an annual event for football fans and experts alike to drastically overreact to Week 1′s results. The Giants, if you’ll recall, lost their Week 1 game in 2011 to the Redskins, leading New York fans to call for Tom Coughlin’s head and Washington fans to start dreaming about competing in the NFC East. That’s, uh, not exactly how the season played out.

So we’ll try to sort through what’s real and what was a one-week flash in the pan.

Trend: Michael Vick’s turnover woes

His interception total from Sunday is certainly alarming — Vick threw four picks vs. the Browns, just two fewer than he threw total in 11 starts in 2010. But at this point, everyone knows what they’re getting in Vick. He is an extremely talented quarterback who is sometimes undone by his desire to make plays happen.

He also fumbled twice Sunday, though the Eagles recovered both. Vick led the league in fumbles in 2004 (16) and 2010 (11) and put it on the deck 10 times last season. The Eagles are not going to change who Vick is at this point in his career, so they’ll have to live with the miscues.

Mirage: The Jets’ offense being unstoppable

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice …

The Jets had just about everyone proclaiming their demise after a miserable preseason in which they scored all of 31 points. So, their Week 1 breakthrough — a 48-28 blowout of Buffalo — came as a major surprise. Mark Sanchez threw for 266 yards and three touchdowns and Shonn Greene rushed for 94 yards, while Tim Tebow played only sparingly.

Maybe Sanchez, suddenly and unexpectedly, turned the corner in Week 1 and became the QB the Jets have been hoping would arrive. The better bet is that New York’s offensive line has a tougher time holding up in Week 2 at Pittsburgh and that Sanchez winds up making a couple of mistakes as a result.

Trend: The Falcons and Ravens scoring in bunches

Passing yards and points were again up league-wide in Week 1, and Atlanta and Baltimore were at the forefront of that offensive explosion. They combined for 84 points and 806 yards against a pair of respectable defenses — Baltimore hung 44 on Cincinnati on Monday night; Atlanta put up 40 against (a banged-up) Kansas City defense.

This is what these teams wanted coming into the 2012 season. Both coaching staffs implemented more up-tempo, no-huddle looks on offense, giving QBs Joe Flacco and Matt Ryan more control over the game. Given the preponderance of weapons on these offenses, opposing defenses will have their hands full all season long.

Mirage: Cam Newton’s sophomore slump

The numbers Newton put up as a rookie were downright silly: 4,000-plus yards passing, 700 yards rushing, 35 total touchdowns. He almost single-handedly carried Carolina to six wins, as the offense scored 21 or more points 13  times.

Week 1 of the 2012 season was a different story. Carolina limped its way to 10 points, with Newton turning it over twice and rushing for a mere four yards. The silver lining for Carolina: Even in a miserable offensive showing, Newton still topped 300 yards through the air (303). Maybe Newton played over his head last season, but his ability to maintain that performance over 16 games pretty much blew off the notion that it was a fluke. He’s way too talented to be totally shut down for long, especially on the ground.

Trend: Robert Griffin III putting up big numbers

As if Redskins fans needed more people patting RGIII on the back …

Like the Jets’ 48-point outburst, the Redskins might have clipped the top end of their potential by busting out for 40 in a Week 1 win at New Orleans. Griffin probably is not going to carry a 139.9 QB rating through his entire rookie season, nor will he play mistake-free football for 16 weeks.

But we all got an extended look Sunday at why Washington gave up the farm to get him in the 2012 NFL Draft. Not only does his maturity and athleticism translate well to the NFL game, but also his skill set fits Mike Shanahan’s offensive game plan to a T. Washington’s offensive line also has to prove it can hold up over multiple weeks, but there is no denying Griffin’s potential impact.

Mirage: C.J. Spiller leading the league in rushing

With Fred Jackson likely sidelined for several weeks, Spiller will get a shot to prove his worth again in Buffalo. This will be a key stretch for the third-year back out of Clemson, who has shown flashes of brilliance — including in Week 1 when he posted 169 yards on just 14 carries (a staggering 12.1 per-carry average). There is no way he maintains that pace, especially on an offense that loves to throw the ball around. Spiller may still find some running room over his next couple of games, but his numbers will come back down to earth.

Trend: Reggie Wayne’s rapport with Andrew Luck

It seemed a little unusual when Wayne opted to stick with Indianapolis, despite the franchise’s drastic rebuilding plan, instead of testing the waters with another team. One week into the season, it doesn’t seem as strange. Wayne was targeted 18 times by rookie QB Andrew Luck and came down with nine receptions for 135 yards.

Granted, the Colts would love to run the ball a lot more than they did in come-from-behind mode against the Bears, but Wayne clearly was Luck’s No. 1 option through the air. Even if Austin Collie returns in the near future, Luck already has figured out that his best bet is to put the ball in Wayne’s vicinity.

Mirage: Green Bay being in last place in the NFC North

A rather obvious here, though the Packers’ next three games (vs. Chicago, at Seattle, vs. New Orleans) raise the possibility of a 2-2 or 1-3 start. While the Lions, Bears and Vikings all scored wins against teams expected to finish below .500, Green Bay had to deal with San Francisco, which might be the team to beat in the NFC. A loss to the 49ers is far from a disgrace. What will be troublesome for the Packers moving forward, though, is how poorly the defense played. Green Bay did little to improve its much-maligned secondary in the offseason, and it might be feeling the result of that decision.

24 comments
JesseMurray
JesseMurray

Trend: week 1 overanalysis. BTW Bengals best pass rusher didnt play, along the lines of a banged up D. Flacco tossed two gimme Ints to the Bengals who promptly dropped them and last but not least as ex-ref in ESPN commentary booth noted Boldin's TD should have been overturned. Lets see what Ravens can do when oline doesnt give Flacco all day and he doesnt get away with huge errors the other team passes on before we start naming the Ravens an offensive juggernaut.

dennis
dennis

No sports writer has ever mentioned that Washington was playing a team in its first game without its head coach and top assistant coach. Uh duh, might have made a difference, but the Saints still managed to score 32 points against a well-coached team performing at its peak. Perhaps the Saints may quickly overcome Goodell's extreme abuse of power.

SteveIllich
SteveIllich

I agree Cedric.  There is media bias.  Naturally there will be because most sports writers are from the Tri-State Megalopolis surrounding ESPN Headquarters.  For some reason people seem to think an eastern or even Mid-Western (which in the South and West we still consider Eastern) accent = Great Sports Journalist.  When I lived in Denver their two most popular sports radio talk guys were from New York and Detroit.  I've never understood it myself, but naturally guys like this have no clue what it's like to live on the West Coast and even less of an idea how important football is in the South.  If you ask a New Yorker, they are under a VERY mistaken impression that New York High school athletics are better than say Florida or Texas.  With inherent narrow beliefs like that in place it's absolutely impossible not to have bias.  I am from the South and I can assure you it's the Worst there.  If the Giants are playing an NFC South team, you would think the Giants were the only team on the field if you listen to the announcers.  They brush off any possibility that it could happen even though Teams from the NFC South have made the NFC Conference championship 6 out of the last 10 seasons and have appeared in 4 Super Bowls in that time.  Yet every time those teams played an Eastern contender they were downgraded by the odds-makers.  If you want to make money, Bet on the Giants or Steelers when they play the division leader from the South.  If you want unbiased coverage about your teams from the South or West Coasts...keep hoping.

Cedric
Cedric

Funny how it is always seems that when any "east coast media darling" team plays against San Francisco, when they lose it is because their defense is lacking and never how good SF offense is, but when that same team wins against SF it's because how great their offense is... No respect....

 

DJL329
DJL329

Each team has only played one game.  How can one of anything be a trend???

raddbrad
raddbrad

Ahh....an unnamed writer at SI.com gets to take his shots at players around the league. The Jets offense is a mirage because...well, no reason given. Greene and Sanchez had solid games but...it's a mirage. Let's all bet that the Jets will have a more difficult road game in the 'Burg than their home opener: wow, that's a real reach...pfffft. Can I please sit at home in my BVD's and write this drivel for pay???

eric.david.dawson
eric.david.dawson

Way to go out on a limb on these (sarcasm).  Knee jerk reactions will happen but does anyone really think that the Packers are worse that Minny or that Cj Spiller would lead the league in anything?  Come on.

SoCal
SoCal

"but also his skill set fits Mike Shanahan’s offensive game plan to a T." Huh? They built the play calling around his strengths.

funtasticus
funtasticus

How Come Joe Flacco beats Cinci and he flipped a switch and is amazing...Sanchez who has 4 road playoff wins and looked sharp against the Bills is still a question mark?

RicoTabligan
RicoTabligan

 @Cedric You want some cheese with that whine? Bias? Please! You are slotted as the top team in every rankings out there!

JoeCabot
JoeCabot

 @Cedric I am a west coaster & I have never seen this east coast bias that some of you paranoid types continue to ramble on about.   Green Bay's defense is lacking.  It was horrible last year & it seems that, as of now, not much has changed.  It is not bias when statistical data backs it up.

DanHartman
DanHartman

 @raddbrad The very top of the page reads, "Audibles:  Chris Burke on the NFL."  If you can't force yourself to actually read the headline of an article I don't think you are qualified to write for a major website.  Also you may want to consider boxers or boxer briefs, it's 2012.

JoeCabot
JoeCabot

 @raddbrad The writer is only unnamed if you did not read the link that you clicked on to get here.

honestira
honestira

 @SoCal Loved watching all that play action passing. Kind of reminds me of someone. Hmmm.

Jeif
Jeif

 @SoCal Um...Shanny went after RGIII because Shanny's offense is perfect for RGIII.  You are probably referring to the offense Shanny had to come up with for that gross man and co.  That was not shanny's offense.  That was just gross offense.  This is Shanny's offense...and RGIII fits it like a T.

Delibirdation
Delibirdation

 @SoCal Strengths that fit the Shanahan style perfectly. All those play action passes and bootleg runs are classic Shanahan. Only real difference is the formation, the plays are the same things I saw him run with Elway, Griese, Plummer, and Cutler.

pvs
pvs

 @funtasticus A big reality check is coming for Sanchez and the Jets when they play against the Steelers in week two. Will the real Jets please stand up...we will find out real quick in Pittsburgh.

beerguy212
beerguy212

 @funtasticus Flacco also has 4 road playoff wins, in fact I think he has even more than that

Cedric
Cedric

 @JoeCabot Funny that you never see this bias since everyone in my hometown agrees with this east coast bias, Not saying they are wrong to do it, hell more money in the east side of the USA, it just makes me really frustrated how the national media is always downplaying the west coast teams. Take how unpopular the 2010 WS was in the media since the Yankee or Boston or Phillies weren't playing. It was almost too funny to see how underwhelming the "hype" was as if SF didn't belong there.  I saw that first hand having to live out here on the east coast. I know it's all about market share, but I don't like it!

tomwassel
tomwassel

 @beerguy212  @funtasticus Flacco has 4 playoff road wins in 4 years. Sanchez has 4 in 2 playoff appearances (3 years total). Make of that what you wish.

FranCoryell
FranCoryell

 @WilliamMatis

 Stop the complaining.  Green Bay has been good for a long time, San Fran  has been good for one year, plus one game.  Thats why the stories are written with a certain viewpoint.   When you go from Brett Favre to Aaron Rodgers, you're going to get media coverage.  Heck, even San Fran's coach was thinking of replacing Alex Smith just this off season with Manning, you didn't see that happening in Green Bay. 

 

WilliamMatis
WilliamMatis

Actually, the 49ers beat the Giants during the regular season.  They went 3-1 versus the AFC North, supposedly the best division in the NFL, and 3-1 versus the NFC East.  The reason the 49ers lost in the NFC Championship game was simply because of 2 fumbles on punt returns that basically gave the Giants 6 points.  Your comments about a miserable QB and boring offense only show your bias considering the 49ers have one of the most creative offenses in the NFL and Smith looked solid last year and had I think a 126 passer rating against the Packers.  Just because the 49ers run a balanced offensive attack doesn't mean it's boring.  Just look at how creative they are in the run game with their multiple jumbo packages or having defensive players as lead blockers or even running down field to catch passes.  If anything the Packers looked boring  and predictable runing only 9 times and always on first down and doing the same play action on 3rd and short with a bomb down the field that never worked because the 49ers knew it was coming.

DanHartman
DanHartman

 @Cedric  Maybe it's because the AFC West and NFC West are consistently the worst divisions in football.  This isn't some bias.  If I wanted to win my division at 7-9 I'd play in the NFC West.  If I wanted to miss the playoffs at 11-5, I'd play in the AFC East.  You beat the Steelers when Ben shouldn't even have been playing and they had nothing to play for.  You lost to the Ravens.  You lost to the Giants.  You beat the Packers, they aren't on the East Coast.  Your team has been good for one season and you have a miserable QB and boring offense.  Don't be demanding respect after one playoff season, you embarrass yourself.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] It was an eventful Week 1, confirming some things we thought and contradicting others. But what’s really real in 2012 and what isn’t? Chris Burke looks at the trends and mirages. Read More [...]

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