Huddle Up Week 1: The Ravens and Texans make an Opening Week Statement By Jason King

There were some intriguing games in Week one of this new NFL season.  Packers/Saints, Lions/Buccaneers, and Cowboys/Jets were all exciting non-divisional games.  The two divisional games of importance were the Colts/Texans and of course Ravens/Steelers.  Neither was close as the Ravens and Texans both handled business respectively.

The Ravens/Steelers rivalry has been one of the NFL’s best over the last four years.  In that time frame no Ravens/Steelers regular season game was decided by more than 4 points.  Yesterday afternoon that changed.  It was clear from the very beginning of the game that the Ravens wanted to make a statement.  They demolished the Steelers 35-7.  Baltimore put their stamp on this win by forcing seven Pittsburgh turnovers.  They also ran all over the “vaunted” Steelers defense piling up 170 yards rushing yards (5.5 YPC).  Joe Flacco was 17-29 with 224 yards passing and 3 touchdowns.  He beat Ben Roethlisberger for the first time in his NFL career.  Flacco needs to thank his defense for that.  Baltimore’s blitzkrieg pressured Big Ben all day long forcing him into five turnovers (3 INT and 2 fumbles lost).  They never letPittsburghget into any rhythm offensively. Baltimoremade a statement loud and clear that the collapse in last season’s playoffs is behind them.  It’s only the first week of the season, but this was a big game psychologically for the Ravens.  Roethlisberger had won seven straight starts against the Ravens, but that run is now over.  The Ravens have to be feeling confident about themselves.  It is still early, but this was a great win for the Ravens.  On the other side, you can bet Mike Tomlin will have his team prepared for next week’s game against the Seahawks.

You can make the argument that this was the biggest game in Houston Texans franchise history.  They responded by defeating the Peyton Manning-less Indianapolis Colts 34-7.  The Texans jumped out to a 34-0 halftime lead and protected it through the second half.  Can you imagine the headlines inHoustonhad the Texans lost yesterday?  Gary Kubiak is glad that nightmare didn’t become reality.  The Texans didn’t play great but they handled business. The Colts have owned the AFC South for the better part of a decade. With the injury to Peyton Manning, the Texans have got to feel good about their chances of winning their first ever division crown. Ben Tate, starting for the injured Arian Foster, had 24 carriers for 116 yards and 1 touchdown. Andre Johnson had 7 catches for 95 yards and a touchdown.  Wade Phillips’ new defense passed its first test.  They held the Colts offense to 236 total yards of offense.  Kerry Collins was sacked three times and lost two fumbles.  The Colts never established Joseph Addai and the running game partly because they were trailing the whole game.  This win comes with an asterisk because of the state of the Colts (not knowing how long Manning will be out or even if he is coming back this season) but it’s still an important step towardsHouston’s aspirations.  They were in the same situation last year when they beat the Colts in the opening game but finished the season 6-10.  This year is different because the division is weaker and Manning will be out at least 3 months.  As long as the defense keeps developing and Matt Schuab plays better than he did Sunday (17-24 for 220 yards 1TD, 2INT) the Texans should run away with this division.  If notGaryKubiak will be unemployed come January.

Huddle Up 

  1. The Buffalo Bills may have turned in the most impressive performance of Week 1.  They dominated the Kansas City Chiefs 41-7. Ryan Fitzpatrick threw 4 touchdown passes but the Bills defense may have been most impressive.  They held the Chiefs to 213 yards of total offense, an abysmal 3.8 yards per play.
  2. There is something going on behind the scenes in Kansas City.  The Chiefs didn’t play well in the preseason and it carried over to the regular season yesterday.  Todd Haley and Scott Pioli have got to figure out what is going on and fix it quick.  It’s not time to panic, but the Chiefs next two games are atDetroit andSan Diego.  They could be looking at 0-3 if they don’t right the ship.
  3. Cam Newton had a surprisingly good debut.  He was 24-37 with a rookie record 422 yards and 2 touchdowns.  He also rushed for 18 yards and a touchdown.  He looked confident in the pocket, made strong accurate throws and smart reads (he threw one interception and had another one negated by an Arizona penalty).  It is only one game, andNewton will have his struggles during the course of the year, but it is a good start to theNewton era inCarolina.  Next step is finishing the deal and winning the game.
  4. Although the Lions and Packers looked good in their first games, the Bears were the most impressive team from the NFC North this weekend.  The Bears dominated the Falcons 30-12.  They held the Falcons offense to 6 points (a Kory Biermann 50 yard interception return was the Falcons only touchdown).  People forget that the Bears were in the NFC Championship last year.  If there defense continues to play well, they have a legitimate shot to win the NFC North.  Another big test awaits them this Sunday inNew Orleans.
  5. Tony Romo has to play better when it matters most.  The Cowboys played a solid game last night. For three quarters they dominated the Jets. Then Romo committed two game changing turnovers.  Both were inexcusable.  Both were very avoidable. Up 24-10, Romo tried stretching for the goal line on a 3rd and goal play. The ball was knocked loose and the Jets recovered.  Romo should have just gone down, and took three points. A three score game with nine minutes left and your team is in great shape.  Then with the game tied 24-24 and less than a minute to play, Romo tried forcing the ball to a double covered Dez Bryant.  The ball was badly underthrown, but even if it wasn’t nothing good could have come out of that play.  You can’t give away games like that.  Romo should know better.
  6. Chris Johnson has to get more touches.  CJ had 15 touches for 49 yards againstJacksonville on Sunday.  I know he didn’t play all preseason but he has to touch the ball more. Mike Munchak has to find creative ways to use Johnson. The Titans offense has good potential, but Johnson is the key.  9 carries for 24 yards is unacceptable.  Period.
  7. The loss of Nate Kaeding and Luis Castillo are devastating for San Diego.  Kaeding, one of the best kickers in football, is expected to miss the season with a torn ACL.  Castillo, the team’s best defensive lineman, broke his leg.  It is not known how long he will miss.  Given the Chargers special teams’ flaws from last season, the loss of Kaeding can’t be overstated.  Castillo should be able to come back at some point this year, but the Chargers will have to change some of what they do to mask his loss.
  8. Donovan McNabb is no longer a starting NFL quarterback.  McNabb isn’t going to be asked to do much inMinnesota.  He will be expected to manage games and hand the ball to Adrian Peterson.  I’m not sure he is suited for that role.  He never was an accurate passer, and for someone you’re asking to make a few precise throws every game, he can’t do it.  Look at his numbers from yesterday (7-15 35 yards 1TD 1INT).  Those 8 incompletions were either badly overthrown or balls in the dirt.  He is a guy who needs to throw the ball a lot to be effective.  If the Vikings need a quarterback who is going to throw only 15 to 20 precise passes every game, they should turn to Joe Webb or Christian Ponder.
  9. The Eagles have got to find some middle ground between Michael Vick passing and running.  If Vick keeps taking hits like he took yesterday, he won’t last the season.  Andy Reid has got to find a way to keep defenses honest, while protecting Vick.  The ability to run is what makes Vick special, but he can’t run if he isn’t on the field.  The offensive line will get better as the season goes along, but if Vick keeps playing with reckless abandon, it won’t matter.
  10. Rex Grossman.  Grossman made the Shanahan’s look like geniuses yesterday.  He played extremely well against a beat up Giants defense (21-34 305 yards 2 touchdowns).  Grossman made smart reads and good throws all day.  But the most surprising aspect of the game wasn’t his numbers, but his leadership.  Grossman looks as if he has emerged as a leader of the Redskins.  They believed in him yesterday and look like they are buying into Mike Shanahan’s system.

Monday Night Football

 New England at Miami.  The Patriots come into this game heavily favored.  Chad Ochocinco will make his Patriots debut.  Albert Haynesworth is questionable with an undisclosed illness.  Tom Brady will face an underrated Dolphins defense that will look to knock him around early and often.  The Dolphins offense against the Patriots defense maybe the matchup to watch.  Reggie Bush will try and prove that he is an every down back.  Chad Henne will need to make good decisions against an opportunistic Patriots defense.  Prediction: Patriots 31 Dolphins 17

Oaklandat Denver.  Denverwill be licking its chops for the chance to attack Jason Campbell.  With Von Miller making his NFL debut and Elvis Dumervil making his return from injury, the Broncos defense will be improved this season.  There first test will be the Raiders and that second ranked running game from a year ago.  They will have to stop the run if they expect to beat Oakland.  Oaklandwill be without TE Kevin Boss due to a knee injury.  Jason Campbell led the Raiders to two wins over Denverlast year.  We will see if that momentum can carry over to this season. Prediction: Denver 13 Oakland 9

Jason King is a contributing writer at Taking It to the House and can be reached at jdk2032@yahoo.com

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