I watched as much NFL football as humanly possible this past week and after all the smoke cleared, I didn’t see anything that makes me believe there will be a clear-cut favorite to win the Super Bowl once December and January roll around. Former commissioner Pete Rozelle was always a big proponent of parity in the league and if the Week 1 results are any indication, Rozelle and anybody else who believes in the “On any given Sunday (and Thursday and Monday) philosophy would/will love the 2009 campaign.
I realize its only the first week of the season and it often takes time for teams to gel and develop the continuity needed to make an extended postseason run, but usually a team or two will shine right out of the gate, making others stand up and take notice and that didn’t happen. While some might say “what about the Saints and Eagles, they both won convincingly?” Sure, but considering their lopsided victories came against the Lions and a Carolina team that gift-wrapped the win with seven turnovers, the jury is still out on those two.
The defending champion Steelers eked out a 13-10 win over a good Tennessee team but managed just 36 rushing yards and needed an overtime rally to do so. And speaking of gift-wrapped wins, the Patriots were outplayed for 58 minutes by a Bills team many estimated to win four games all year and only pulled out the victory because of a huge mistake made in the final two minutes. Likewise for San Diego who needed a last-minute drive to get the win against an Oakland squad picked by many to finish last in one of the worst divisions in the NFL.
Seattle looked dominating in a 28-0 win at home but let’s face it, the win came against the Rams and their battling the Chiefs and Lions for basement supremacy. Somehow Kansas City managed to stick around with a highly favored Baltimore team, with the Ravens breaking a 24-24 tie in the final five minutes to avoid the upset. The defending NFC champion Cardinals lost 20-16 at home to the “upstart” 49ers and preseason darling Green Bay needed a late fourth-quarter rally to survive at home against a depleted Bears squad. The Giants picked up a big divisional win against Washington but if there is a more-predictable offense in the league than the Redskins I’d hate to see it.
So, there must have been atleast one team that stood out from the rest in Week 1, wasn’t there? Actually there was and it was the New York Jets. Fueled by a balanced attack that produced 462 total yards while allowing just 183 to Houston, the Jets were easily the most impressive team I saw in Week 1. Rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez did what he had to and Thomas Jones proved he’s stiill one of the 10 best running backs in the league and the Jets defense limited Texans running back Steve Slaton to 19 yards on the ground and held the game’s top receiever, Andre Johnson, to 35 yards.
But before we cram into the Jets bandwagon like college kids piling into a volkswagon in search of a new Guinness-book record, let’s remember that the theme of the 2009 NFL season is parity. While a team or two will eventually post a record that would reflect domination, this year will likely end just like it started with a ton of nail bitters, last-second heroics and no clear-cut favorites. In other words, a season for Rozelle and bookies everywhere to cherish for years to come.