With Week 1 of the NFL season in the books, I noticed some interesting trends and topics that should be addressed. Sure it’s only one week and the NFL season is a marathon, but some things just jumped out at me as being obvious and important to how the season will play out. Former commissioner Pete Rozelle dreamed of a parity-filled league in which any team could contend for a Super Bowl championship and that’s exactly what the NFL provides these days.
Much like last year when the Saints surprised many to claim the title, I think we could be in for more of the same in 2010. While I’m not ready to say they should start looking into hotel options in Dallas just yet, I do think the Houston Texans will play a major role in determining this year’s Super Bowl champion. With an above-average defense, the best receiver in the business and from all indications we’re left with after Sunday, an impressive ground game, the Texans are for real and if you don’t believe me, just ask the Colts.
Houston QB Matt Schaub led the league in passing yards last year and his numbers should be equally impressive this year if not better with the Texans and second-year RB Arian Foster keeping defenses honest with a balanced attack. Steve Slaton isn’t a No. 1 RB by any means but he does provide a nice change of pace to the more powerful running style of Foster and is a more than capable receiver out of the backfield giving the Texans exactly what you look for in the running game. Kevin Walter is a solid WR opposite Andre Johnson and look for Jacoby Jones to finally live up to his potential and give Houston another weapon to go along with TE Owen Daniels in the passing game.
Add it all up and Houston appears to have all of its bases covered and I wouldn’t be surprised if they battle Indy down to the wire for the division title and at the very least, earn a playoff spot as a Wild Card representative. Getting the monkey off their backs with a win over the Colts will go a long way in providing the young Texans with the confidence they need to contend all season long.
For all of the preseason hype they received via their “Hard Knocks” appearance and headline-generating coach Rex Ryan, the Jets simply aren’t good enough offensively to contend for a Super Bowl. Their outstanding defense will keep them in most games but until the coaching staff feels more comfortable with Mark Sanchez and the kid gloves are taken off, the Jets offense will remain one-dimensional and easily defensed. The loss of defensive standout Kris Jenkins on the defensive line will weaken the defense and until Santonio Holmes returns after Week 6, the Jets will have to rely on a solid, yet predictable running attack and their defense to win games. And as they learned against the Ravens, that’s easier said than done.
Another preseason favorite to end up in Dallas also suffered a major loss in the opening week. The Green Bay Packers lost RB Ryan Grant to a season-ending ankle injury and will be forced to promote unproven Brandon Jackson into a role he is totally unfamiliar with. Jackson has looked solid in spot duty spelling Grant in the past two season but his durability and lack of quickness are concerns. With Aaron Rodgers and several standouts like Greg Jennings, Donald Driver and superstar-in-waiting Jermichael Finley still intact, some believe the Packers can overcome the Grant loss but I believe the loss will ultimately cost the Packers any title hopes they might have had.
New England appears to have gotten back on track with its new core of young defensive players and with Tom Brady, Randy Moss and Wes Welker highlighting the rejuvenated passing game, you can never discount the Patriots. An eye-opening victory over a highly touted Bengals team in the opener got everybody’s attention but with no real threat of a running game opposing defenses should be able to adjust to New England’s pass-happy offense.
The wounded Ravens defense was outstanding despite playing without Pro Bowler Ed Reed and let’s not leave Ray Lewis for dead just yet either. His hit on Dustin Keller was the stuff of legend and in Lewis’ case, it only added to his. I’m guessing Keller is still shaken by that bone-crusher and I’m guessing Baltimore will be one of the final teams standing in the end as well.
With just one week to review it’s far too early to fully comprehend which teams will be left standing come January. Injuries will continue to decimate contenders and the open door for unproven would-be stars and ultimately, a champion will be crowned. Which team that will be I couldn’t tell you I’m just glad the NFL has returned. By midseason the muddied picture will become clearer but for now and for what I believe will be the case all season, it could by anybody. Well, almost anybody. Buffalo and St. Louis, you guys have no shot.