Some odds and ends after a wild and wacky first week of the NFL.
Life After Brady
Matt Cassell looks like he's the quarterback of the New England Patriots this season, which is terrible news for fans of the Pats, but excellent news for fans of the Steelers, Bills, Jets, all teams who won Sunday, appear to be up-and-coming, and who've got a shot to make some headway in the AFC. With Brady officially down for the year, the Pats will bring in ex-Bucs QB Chris Simms and ex-Niner Tim Rattay, but how about bringing in Daunte Culpepper to reunite with Moss in New England? How does this NOT happen?
The balance of power shifts, regardless. Let's discount the Chargers and Colts for the time being, or merely, let's reevaluate where everyone had them slotted before the seasons. Peyton Manning looks weak from all the time he's been out (Madden had him down 15 pounds on NBC's broadcast last night), and without him, the Colts could be as inept as the Pats expect to be with a noobie QB. The Chargers may miss Merriman more than they think, even if he plays. That man needs to get healthy and save his team the eventual headache. So they slide down.
Favre, with his new receivers, his new line, an improved defense and Belicheck-lite coaching the team up, should lead a revamped Jets team to 11 wins. They look very solid. Sure, they squeaked one out against Miami, not a very good team, but the Dolphins were improved, it's opening week, and you can't hold anyone to task for winning a close game in the first week.
Vince Young looked miserable even though Tennessee picked one up over the Jags. They always play Jacksonville tough, no matter what, but there's at least one eye-witness account (and several anecdotal things from the off-season) that says Young is not focused on football, and may have quit on his team.
Peter King of SI was right on the money with his prediction that Steelers LB LeMarr Woodley will win defensive player of the year. He was, by all accounts, a beast for the defense. Basically, feel free to sub in the Steelers where you had the Pats slated before the season kicked off. No one's thinking Pittsburgh goes 16-0 (and no one should have been thinking that way about New England, either), but they look to slide up to the AFC's #1 team.
Beasts of the East
By far, it appears the toughest division in football continues to be the NFC East. The defending Super Bowl Champion New York Giants (which feels better and better to say out loud), looked very tough opening night last Thursday. They were physically tougher than the Redskins, and got a bump from Jason Campbell looking lost with a new offense. Those things take time, and expectations should be reduced, slightly, for a team with all the makings of an explosive offense, but the logistics of a 6-10 club. Campbell's had something like seven offensive coordinators in his last eight years of football, going back to his days behind center at Auburn University. Let him get comfortable with a system, and he'll produce. Until then, it's going to be a struggle for the Skins.
But the other three teams in the division are loaded. The Cowboys looked like they were playing Madden on easy on the road in Cleveland this week, and the Eagles offense looked like the Rams offense used to look with Kurt Warner at the helm. All three teams can score, play good defense, are reasonably well-coached - I gained some respect for Wade Phillips hands-off style after watching his heavily-edited coaching style on HBO's Hard Knocks. They all look like playoff contenders, but then again, doesn't D. McNabb look like a playoff contender every September? Cowboys and Giants are for real, though.
Kyle Orton was efficient in an upset over Indy, and if he's an upgrade at that position, man, that's depressing. The defense is there - Briggs scored a TD - and the running game looks improved as well. They could/would/should be an 8-8 team.
Still think the Saints will score a lot of points, especially if they keep using Reggie Bush in this role. He tallied more yards as a receiver than as a runner, and that's precisely how he's going to be best used in that offense. Splitting Shockey wide and putting Bush in motion is a nightmare for many defensive coordinators.
Not sure if Tampa Bay has the magic they pulled out of their ass last year.
How about Atlanta? You can't ask for more than a rookie-QB throwing a touchdown on his first throw ever, but it really was just a simple slant pattern. The QB does very little after delivering the ball to turn that play into a touchdown. The real star was Michael Turner, LT's old backup in San Diego, who bowled for over 200 yards rushing, looking every bit a featured back. If the Falcons are decent this year (and for them, that'd be something like 6-10), well, I barely know what to think.
Most of the league seems to be as confused as I am.