Winners and Losers
• Tennessee Titans
Yes, it was the Oakland Raiders. But how can you not love what you saw from the Titans? Vince Young(notes) carried over last season’s late development, and Chris Johnson remains the most exciting player in the NFL. And that healthy defense looks like it might be a unit to be reckoned with – regardless of whether Albert Haynesworth(notes) is brought back into the fold.
• New York Giants wideout Hakeem Nicks(notes)
The Carolina Panthers should have paid more attention to him in the red zone. All the offseason talk about Nicks being ready to bust out is legit. No offense to Steve Smith and Mario Manningham(notes), but Nicks is longer and faster, and will be Eli Manning’s(notes) primary playmaker all season.
• Pittsburgh Steelers
The win over the Atlanta Falcons was ghastly, but this is the reality of what life will be like without Ben Roethlisberger(notes). And Steelers fans should realize the Falcons are going to be a playoff-caliber team. If the Steelers can go 2-2 in the tough opening slate without Roethlisberger, they’ll have dodged a bullet.
• Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler(notes)
It wasn’t always pretty, and say what you want about the 89-yard screen pass, but Cutler’s 372-yard, two-touchdown effort was an encouraging start. Yes, it was at the expense of Detroit, but miscue’s by Cutler’s supporting cast kept his numbers from being even better. If the Bears can keep Cutler healthy (a monumental if), the offense will find a groove in the red zone, too.
• Houston Texans running back Arian Foster(notes)
He’s big and is going to take a lot of hard hits, but how in the world was this guy not drafted coming out of the University of Tennessee, especially after rushing for 1,193 yards and 12 touchdowns as a junior? More than any other player this week, Foster lived up to the offseason hype about a potential breakout season.
• New England Patriots
Remember when the Patriots were supposedly heading into a backslide? So much for that. The Patriots beat up what should be the class of the AFC North. And while the Cincinnati Bengals didn’t do themselves any favors with early mistakes, the Patriots defense is faster than expected.
• Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll
Talk about a guy who needed a start like this. After all the offseason negativity about USC and curiosity over his latest NFL stint, Carroll and the Seahawks pummeled a San Francisco team expected to be the class of the NFC West. No doubt, Carroll has the fire and personality to make it in the NFL. And if this is an example of how Seattle is responding to him, he is going to be a huge story all season.
• Green Bay Packers
As expected, they showed they can roll up points on one of the league’s best defenses. There is still work to do with Rodgers, who faced a fair amount of pressure, and the potential loss of Ryan Grant(notes) could be huge. But unless Grant is done for the season, this is a team that can survive for a few weeks without a top notch running game. Charles Woodson(notes) and that defense still looks brilliant, too.
• Arizona Cardinals wideout Steve Breaston(notes)
The St. Louis Rams’ secondary isn’t anything special, but we can stop asking whether Breaston could step into the void left by Anquan Boldin(notes). Sunday’s 132-yard effort will be one of many big games this season. He’s a top notch No. 2 wideout, and I’m betting his overall numbers this year will be similar to what Boldin puts up as a No. 1 in Baltimore.
• Eagles coaching staff
How in the world Stewart Bradley(notes) and Kevin Kolb(notes) briefly got back into Sunday’s game after clearly suffering concussions is beyond me. Not only did the Eagles lose a game that is an early barometer, but they showed poor judgment with a huge player safety concern. You can bet the league and NFL Players Association will be looking into this one.
• Detroit Lions
It can’t get much worse than Sunday. Not only did the Lions get robbed of a win by a ridiculous rule, they lost quarterback Matt Stafford to an injured throwing shoulder. And just when things appeared to be looking up, too. This is a tortured franchise, plain and simple.
• Oakland Raiders
Wow. Where to begin? Well, start here: JaMarcus Russell(notes) wasn’t this team’s only problem. The offensive line is bad, the defense is slow up front and no matter how many press releases the Raiders want to send out to the media, mentioning Darrius Heyward-Bey(notes) in the same breath as other great Raiders receivers should be a crime.
• Panthers quarterback Matt Moore(notes)
The Giants defense is going to be very good, but Moore just looked lost too many times on Sunday. He throws too many risky balls into terrible spots. And everyone knows Jimmy Clausen(notes) is just waiting for his shot. Moore’s time is already running out.
• Indianapolis Colts
No need to worry about the running game when you trail 27-10 in the fourth quarter. I keep looking at that defense, and all I see is an aging Dwight Freeney(notes), a broke down Bob Sanders(notes), and few young impact players. That’s food for thought for Peyton Manning(notes) when he signs his gazillion dollar extension.
• Falcons running back Michael Turner(notes)
He was supposed to have more explosion with his lighter weight and play a bigger role in the passing game. Neither of those things materialized against Pittsburgh. Granted, the Steelers defense is daunting, but Turner never looked close to breaking anything Sunday. It’s hurting that offense more than anything else.
• Cincinnati Bengals
The Patriots were supposed to be an immediate measuring stick. Instead, they became the stick that whipped Cincinnati for nearly three quarters. The Bengals aren’t possibly as bad as they looked Sunday, but they made up a lot of ground when the Patriots relaxed with a big lead. The offensive line has to play better early in games. Sure would be nice if that Andre Smith(notes) pick started to pay off.
• Browns quarterback Jake Delhomme(notes)
He threw one of the worst interceptions we’ve seen from him in a long time, and that’s not easy, considering last season’s debacle. The running game and defense were fairly solid against a mediocre Tampa Bay Buccaneers team. But since the 2008 playoffs, Delhomme is good for at least one or two horrible mistakes every game. And frankly, the Browns are nowhere near good enough to overcome that reality.
• 49ers coach Mike Singletary
He had far too many questionable coaching decisions against Seattle. Then again, perhaps giving up some early points in a blowout loss wouldn’t have mattered. Whatever the case, Singletary opened the door to question his game management, not to mention the motivation of a team that should have been far better defensively. If the 49ers don’t bounce back next week, there are going to be a lot of concerns, chief among them being Singletary’s backing of Alex Smith at quarterback.