NFL Awards Watch: Week 1
The loss of perennial MVP candidate Tom Brady headlines the opening weekend, but his injury should not detract from the stellar performances that were on display in Week 1.
Michael Turner put on a stunning show in his debut in Atlanta, and Drew Brees provided fireworks in the Superdome. But neither performance matched the spectacular afternoon of a five-time Pro Bowl quarterback in Philadelphia.
Donovan McNabb passed for 361 yards and added three touchdowns in a 38-3 rout of the Rams. Despite playing without his top two targets (Kevin Curtis and Reggie Brown), McNabb compiled a 131.0 passer rating and helped three Eagles receivers top the 100-yard mark. However, it wasn't his statistical output that was most impressive about his performance. It was the renewed confidence and swagger the perennial Pro Bowler displayed throughout the contest.
"He just had everything going," coach Andy Reid said at his Monday press conference. "He looked the same to me as he did before he was hurt."
After suffering through a pair of season-ending injuries in 2005 (sports hernia) and 2006 (ACL), McNabb spent most of last season attempting to find his rhythm in the pocket. Although his statistics (3,324 passing yards, 61 percent completion rate, 19 touchdowns and seven interceptions) were some of the best in his career, McNabb's play was uneven for most of the year, and he failed to look like one of the top players at his position. However, his play improved significantly down the stretch, and the signs were apparent McNabb was poised for a big season in 2008.
"The last three games of the season [last year], I felt like he was back to his old form," Reid said. "I think that he just picked it up from there."
If his season opener is any indication, McNabb is well on his way to regaining the form that led him to five consecutive Pro Bowl bids from 2000 to '04 while leading the Eagles to four straight NFC title game appearances.
(Last week's rankings in parentheses)
1. Donovan McNabb, QB, Eagles (NR)
2. Tony Romo, QB, Cowboys (NR): He methodically picked apart the Browns' secondary on the way to a 320-yard passing day. Though he only connected on one touchdown pass (a 35-yarder to Terrell Owens), Romo's ability to spread the ball around to multiple receivers kept the Browns' defense on its heels.
3. Drew Brees, QB, Saints (NR): The savvy veteran looked sharp as he passed for 343 yards against a normally stingy Bucs' defense. Brees made excellent use of his new weapon (Jeremy Shockey had six grabs for 54 yards) and effectively used the deep ball (five completions over 20 yards) to keep the Bucs from shrinking the field.
4. Brett Favre, QB, Jets (3): The legend was solid in his debut (15 of 22 for 194 yards and two scores) and made enough plays to key the Jets' hard fought win. Although he didn't carry the offense with his passing exploits, his mere presence under center allowed Thomas Jones (101 rushing yards) to find running room against a Dolphins' defense reluctant to drop an eighth defender in the box.
5. LaDainian Tomlinson, RB, Chargers (2): The superstar got off to a slow start, but finished the game with 113 yards total offense. He converted a series of critical short yardage situations, helping to put the team in position to win a game in which they were clearly outplayed for most of the contest.
Offensive Player of the Year
1. Michael Turner, RB, Falcons (NR): After spending four years backing up Tomlinson in San Diego, Turner showed the league he was more than capable of being a feature back with his scintillating debut with the Falcons.
2. Willie Parker, RB, Steelers (NR): The diminutive workhorse showed no ill-effects from the broken leg that ended his 2007. Parker rushed for 138 yards and added three scores while displaying his trademark speed and explosiveness.
3. Reggie Bush, RB, Saints (NR): The dynamic multi-purpose threat put on an exhilarating performance against the Bucs on the way to 163 yards total offense. Though he only gained 51 yards on the ground, he added 112 receiving yards and was the team's most effective weapon down the stretch.
4. Plaxico Burress, WR, Giants (NR): The Giants' top playmaker celebrated his recent contract extension by torching the Redskins' beleaguered secondary for 133 receiving yards on 10 receptions.
5. Adrian Peterson, RB, Vikings (NR): The former Offensive Rookie of the Year put together a workmanlike performance against the Packers. With 103 rushing yards and a touchdown, Peterson did nothing to diminish his stature as one of the top runners in the game.