I was having an internal debate with myself this weekend about what single entity, individual or phenomenon was most responsible for my particular case of the Sickness. The satellite dish is one- it allowed me, after years of dreaming of such a magical world, to watch my Browns on a weekly basis. When it became possible to move the sports bar into my living room with the Sunday Ticket, it was a life changer. Fantasy football certainly warrants a mention, because it is partially responsible for my following the whole league and not just the Browns. Ultimately, though, the answer is obvious: the cause of my Sickness is the game itself. I love to watch it, talk about it, study it. As a result, I am compelled to do things like watch all 15 games in week 1 of the preseason and report to you, my loyal reader(s?), my entirely non-scientific first impressions of the week that was in the NATIONAL…FOOTBALL LEAGUE.
ARIZONA CARDINALS 19, HOUSTON TEXANS 16: I don’t think the Cards can simply absorb all those off-season losses without some turbulence. Not since the days of Moses have we seen such a mass exodus from a desert. Putting the new puzzle together takes time, and I suspect the ride will be bumpy in 2010. Daryl Washington looks like a player, though. Houston’s 2nd round pick Ben Tate, thought to be in the mix for starting reps at running back, busted an ankle and is D-U-N for the year.
SAN DIEGO CHARGERS 25, CHICAGO BEARS 10: Rookie RB Ryan Mathews was impressive for the Bolts. I try not to buy into things too much in the preseason, but I’m close to withdrawing any doubts on this guy. The Bears didn’t exactly look like a high octane experiment from Martz Laboratories, but there were hints. At WR, Johnny Knox and Devin Aromashodu are more convincing threats than Devin Hester.
NEW YORK GIANTS 31, NEW YORK JETS 16: The pre-game and in-game commentators all alluded to it, and Ahmad Bradshaw and friends drove it home: Brandon Jacobs is done. Those big bruisers simply have short shelf lives, and the other guys are just better at this point. But more importantly, Eli and the receivers are the only chance this team has to win enough games to matter in 2010. The Jets disappointed me a bit, although LaDanian Tomlinson looks mildly rejuvenated. He’s not what he once was, but he’s still capable of making plays. They need to get Revis figured out, and I’m starting to think Hard Knocks was a bad idea. On the other hand, good Braylon showed up and looked like the star he should always have been. If he ever attains consistency, he’s a monster.
CINCINNATI BENGALS 33, DENVER BRONCOS 24: The Bengals are legit. They have an outstanding defense and should score plenty. Cedric Benson is a bona fide number 1 back, Bernard Scott probably could be, and they’re loaded at receiver. Why am I having so much trouble buying them? As for the Broncos, the long-awaited Tebut finally happened, and Timmy didn’t disappoint. Made a couple of really nice throws down the field (one of which his receiver Braylon’d), took a big sack, ran it in and injured a linebacker on a meaningless, game-ending touchdown. What can I say? The kid’s got pizzazz.
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS 37, INDIANAPOLIS COLTS 17: Peyton Manning and the Colts will be just fine. Unless the Colts lose Peyton Manning. Then they’re screwed. Curtis Painter is a mess, and if Tom Brandstater doesn’t beat him for the No. 2 job I’ll be stunned. The Niners looked like a team that feels they have something to prove, and whose coach does not tolerate a lack of intensity at any time, and certainly not during a football game, pre-season or not. Have I mentioned that I love Mike Singletary?
CLEVELAND BROWNS 27, GREEN BAY PACKERS 24: The Browns are a lot better for having jettisoned the Derek Anderson/Brady Quinn debacle and plugged in the crafty vet. Even if that crafty vet is Jake Delhomme. But they still don’t look like they can cover anybody. Aaron Rodgers looked in mid-season form, dropping a 12/13 night on the Browns’ first-teamers. Also, I have never been more right about anything than I am about to be about Jermichael Finley. In a word, MONSTER.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS 27, NEW ORLEANS SAINTS 24: Who Dat Nation need not worry; the boys can be forgiven a little rust and shakiness coming off what is no doubt one of the biggest Super Bowl hangovers in history. But they’d better get it in order, because they weren’t without some good fortune in getting there last year. In New England, Julian Edelman looks like much more than Wes Welker’s understudy to me.
PHILADELPHIA EAGLES 28, JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS 27: The Jags have a potential issue at QB if Luke McCown continues to vastly outplay David Garrard, but I’ve seen enough of Luke McCown over the years to be highly skeptical. The Jags just don’t look explosive on offense or overly physical on defense to me, and that’s what I call a bad combination. Philly looks like they’re going to be just fine with Kevin Kolb at the helm, but that secondary…yikes. No depth at DB. Better hope they stay healthy and Kolb lights it up.
WASHINGTON REDSKINS 42, BUFFALO BILLS 17: DMac5 to Chris Cooley and Fred Davis is going to happen a LOT this year. They have nothing outside. And I’m still semi-baffled as to why they wanted to shift to the 3-4 given how good the defense was in 2009. Brian Orakpo does not need to be in coverage. They look a step slower as a defense, and I assume this is the adjustment period. Still, why fix what isn’t broken? Speaking of which, the Bills have as much to fix as any team in the NFL, and losing Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch to injury in this one won’t help them get better. Good luck, yet-to-be-determined-and-soon-to-be-horizontal-a-lot quarterback guy.
OAKLAND RAIDERS 17, DALLAS COWBOYS 9: Hard to get a read on this one as both teams were missing several key guys. But the Raiders clearly benefit from the Jason Campbell upgrade. Roy Williams looked like the only guy completely out of sync with Tony Romo. Princess Roy’s days with the first unit are numbered. That’s Dez’s job he’s keeping warm. Remember when Jerry Jones gave up a 1, 3, 6, and 7 for Roy Williams to replace T.O.? Yikes.
PITTSBURGH STEELERS 23, DETROIT LIONS 7: I’d like to thank Dennis Dixon and Jahvid Best for making me look smart. Dixon needs to be under center come week 1, and needs to be part of the offense even when the Sausage King of Pittsburgh returns. Welcome to the new NFL. As optimistic as I am about the Lions rebuilding process (and I think they’ve done just about everything right in this new permutation), it’s clear that they’re not there yet. But Jahvid Best is already there, and he got there really fast. Like he does everything.
MINNESOTA VIKINGS 28, ST. LOUIS RAMS 7: The entire St. Louis Rams organization needs to commit itself to one purpose: making sure Sam Bradford endures as few performances by his offensive line as possible like the one they had this weekend. If it goes like that, Bradford will be Tim Couch before the year is out. The Vikings looked like they’d be fine without #4, but they won’t have to be. And it was the Rams.
MIAMI DOLPHINS 10, TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS 7: Rained like crazy, so I’m tossing most of my observations. But Chad Henne looked really uncomfortable just handling the ball, and it’s not as if it doesn’t rain in Miami, now, is it? Ronnie Brown looks great, and the Dolphins have some stud newcomers on D in Koa Misi and Jared Odrick. Josh Freeman looked good for the Bucs, and much-hyped rookie WR Mike Williams out of Syracuse made a tasty one-handed grab down the right sideline. But they’re still a year or two away from being truly competitive.
ATLANTA FALCONS 20, KANSAS CITY CHIEFS 10: The development of the Chiefs’ offense is going to be fascinating, but it is a work in progress. Matt Cassel didn’t look comfortable. But Dexter McCluster did, and I can’t wait to see how Coaches Haley and Weis use him. The defense, on the other hand, looks like they’re coming around, and Eric Berry is a star. Right now. Atlanta looked a bit uneasy to me, but Michael Turner looks ready to go. Even caught a pass out of the backfield, which sent every fantasy person on twitter into a frenzy. Good times.
BALTIMORE RAVENS 17, CAROLINA PANTHERS 12: Joe Flacco and the Ravens’ first team look ready to dominate. Matt Moore and the Panthers’ did not. I still think Moore is the guy there for now, but Jimmy Clausen did have good poise in the pocket and made some nice adjustments at the line for a guy in his first live NFL action.
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS 20, TENNESSEE TITANS 18: Odd game, what with the Mike Williams sighting and Coach Fisher giving the ball to Chris Johnson on three straight plays at the goal line in the first quarter of pre-season week 1. But I digress. Vince Young looks to me like last year’s quality performance is not a fluke. He flung it around nicely, distributing. Seattle, meanwhile, seems to be taking on that enthusiastic, high-energy Pete Carroll identity. We’ll see if it means anything when the bullets start flying, but it’s a good sign. Rooke S Earl Thomas did not appear to have any trouble adjusting to the speed of the game, and Justin Forsett made a number of nice runs. He’s going to be the guy, whether they’re saying so or not. You can mark that one.