New England - Through a preseason of off-field turbulence (Baby Brady, No-Show Moss, Hold-Out Samuel, PUP Seymour) the Patriots proved that there is no one better when the wins and losses count. Brady(22-28-297-3) was able to sit back and slice up the Jets secondary with pinpoint throws to Moss (9-183-1) and Welker (6-64-1). In addition, Laurence Maroney (20-72) held up and had a fine game, as the New England defence easily handled Chad Pennington and Thomas Jones (14-42).
Final Score NE 38-14 NYJ.
Indianapolis - After allowing the Saints to play even for 30 minutes, the Colts simply decided to win and what started as an ugly slugfest in the first half developed quickly into a blowout as 31 second half points made for a dominating victory. Manning (18-30 -288-3) looked sharp, the offence looked like it hasn't missed a beat since the Super Bowl, and the defence looked revitalized with Bob Sanders back and Jason David gone. The key will be the health of the defence as the season wears on. But for now, they looked sharp and dominating.
Final Score IND 41 - 10 NO.
San Diego - The ugliest win of the day, but a solid victory. It took a trick play for the Chargers offence to get into the end zone, but it proved enough in the end. LT might not have played in the preseason, but looked sharp enough as he lofted a touchdown to Antonio Gates in the third quarter. The San Diego defence was swarming and unstoppable. Rex Grossman (12-23-145) took some nasty hits, and the Bears could only manage a field goal. Shawn Merriman is simply a monster at linebacker. Philip Rivers (22-31-190) needs to be sharper if the Bolts have a chance against New England this week.
Final Score: SD 14 - 3 CHI
Dallas - A strong showing for the post-Tuna era to begin with, at least offensively. Tony Romo showed that he was no fluke as he effortlessly dismantled the Giants pass D for 345 yards and 4 touchdowns, 2 to TO. The Dallas D was a problem, however, as Terence Newman's absence exposed the poor coverage skills of strong safety Roy Williams who was repeatedly beaten by Plaxico Burress (2 touchdowns) and Eli Manning. Adding to the Cowboys woes is the loss of nose tackle Jason Ferguson for the season with a torn bicep. Dallas can't score 45 every game, so the defence needs to step up for them to have a chance.
Final Score: DAL 45 - 35 NYG
Pittsburgh - Ben Roethlisberger's start to the post-Cowher era was impressive, with 4 touchdowns establishing a new career best. First year coach Mike Tomlin had to be pleased with his team's total dominance. The only downside was the fact that their opponent was Cleveland, who look to be perennial cellar-dwellars, especially in what might be the toughest division in football. A good start for Steely McBeam, but can they keep it up through 16 weeks?
Final Score: PIT 34 - 7 CLE
Carolina - John Fox knows his job is on the line this year. He has the talent at QB, WR, RB, and his defence is second to none. Last year's massively disappointing 8-8 can be attributed almost directly to a series of very unfortunate key injuries. But every team has injuries. Opening against Steven Jackson and Mark Bulger's Rams should have been a true test, but the Rams were awful. Jackson lost 2 fumbles (my starting fantasy back, of course!) and Carolina dominated every facet of the game, with a nifty 60 yard strike to Steve Smith (7-118-1) mixed in. Let's see if they can keep the momentum going.
Final Score: CAR 27 - STL 13
Chicago - The story all year, since the Super Bowl and even before, was Rex. Rex, Rex, Rex. Mr. Inconsistant. "Brian Griese should be the starter..." was the constant refrain. When the Bears franchised Lance Briggs and finally signed him, everyone went back to concentrating on Grossman. Perhaps the Bears should have looked harder at letting Thomas Jones go. Grossman did reasonbly well against the Chargers vaunted D, finding Berrian a number of times. But Cedric Benson and Adrian Peterson each coughed the ball up at a crucial point and lost them the game. Thomas Jones wasn't effective for the Jets this weekend, but he didn't fumble. All this being said, with Tommie Harris and Mike Brown back for Chicago's defence, they are definitely championship caliber.
New Orleans - Perhaps it was inevitable that New Orleans should come back down to earth. At the start of last season, they were, maybe, a 6-10 team. No one expected anything. But Reggie Bush's dynamism and the cool leadership of Drew Brees turned the team around and they got within a game of the Super Bowl, with only their defence letting them down. In the off season, they didn't do much to help themselves. Adding Jason David, a cast-off from the Tampa-2 playing Colts and expecting him to match up against Reggie Wayne and Marvin Harrison man-to-man is simply not going to work. He's a stiff and now New Orleans is stuck with him. And he was an ADDITION. Sean Payton will get the pffense going; there is too much talent there to score only 3 points every week. But they looked intimidated.
That's all for now. Next week's big matchup: New England v. San Diego. Might be an AFC championship preview.