The Fine Fifteen
And to think I had my top five as Pats, Cowboys, Colts, Chargers Sunday at noon. This is one crazy league.
1. Dallas (1-0). Jessica's not going to like that chin scar, Tony. That aside, what a nice opening game by the Cowboys.
2. Pittsburgh (1-0). What a crushing performance. The defense terrorized Matt Schaub. Ben Roethlisberger strafed the Houston secondary, and Willie Parker had one of the best days of an ascending career. "We can play better,'' LaMarr Woodley told me after the game. Uh, how, exactly?
3. New York Giants (1-0). On three series last Thursday night, I looked for Justin Tuck on the field at left end, or right tackle in the nickel, and he wasn't there. I turned my binoculars to the Giants sideline, and there he was, taking a blow. Giants 16, Washington 7. Now, remember last year, when the Redskins were handling the Giants twice? (Combine halftime score of the 2007 games: Washington 33, New York 6.) In this game, the Giants practically had it won at halftime, and Tom Coughlin accomplished this while subbing liberally for his horses.
4. Jacksonville (0-1). Tennessee is just a bad match for the Jags. In four quarters, David Garrard threw two interceptions, one fewer than he threw all season a year ago.
5. Philadelphia (1-0). I told Andy Reid Sunday night: "Aren't you glad you listened to all of us smart guys who wrote you had to trade Donovan McNabb?'' He chuckled. Reid's not one to say "I told you so,'' though I know he thinks it.
6. New England (1-0). "The show must go on,'' Randy Moss said. With a man (Matt Cassel) who hasn't started a football game under center (or at any other position, for that matter) since the Clinton Administration.
7. Minnesota (0-0). I'd be more worried about the two no-names at tackle tonight than the inexperienced quarterback if I were a Vikings fan.
8. Chicago (1-0). Kyle Orton and Matt Forte might make no one forget McMahon and Payton, but they're on their way to putting Grossman and Benson in the rear-view mirror. A superb performance by the Bears at the new oil dome in Indy, with a breakthrough job especially by Forte (23 carries for 123 yards).
9. Indianapolis (0-1). I don't get it. I do, however, think that the interior of the Colts offensive line, with its rampant inexperience, didn't allow Joseph Addai (12 rushes, 44 yards, before leaving in the fourth quarter after getting hit in the head) the chance to ever feel comfortable against Chicago.
10. Carolina (1-0). Don't you find it amazing how a game can be won or lost based on whether a backup tight end slightly juggles and brings in a high ball in the back of the end zone on the last of 167 plays on a hot summer day in San Diego? They only play 16. And one was decided because Donte Rosario held onto a Jake Delhomme highball in traffic. I guess that's what makes this sport so compelling.
11. San Diego (0-1). It worries me how Carolina's physicality won out. San Diego's supposed to be a physical, bruising team.
12. Buffalo (1-0). The three best games in the league Sunday were played by Buffalo, Pittsburgh and Chicago. The Bills were crafty (touchdown pass to a defensive end), cat-quick on a slippery turf (that Roscoe Parrish is a threat to take it for a touchdown every time he touches the ball) and mistake-free (no turnovers, one penalty) in routing Seattle.
13. Green Bay (0-0). In Rodgers They Hope.
14. Tennessee (1-0). I know I should like Tennessee more. It's just the more I see of Vince Young, the less I trust him, and you've got to have a quarterback to go very far in this game. Young got knee-gimpy at the end of the game and may miss a week or two.
15. (tie) New Orleans (1-0). Twenty-two touches, 164 yards for Mr. Reggie Bush. Hope springs eternal for the New Orleans Orphans of the Storms.
New York Jets (1-0). "We didn't even have a chance to discuss this before the play was called,'' Eric Mangini told me, regarding the lottery pick of a touchdown pass from Brett Favre to Chansi Stuckey in the first half at Miami. It was fourth-and-13 at the Miami 22, and the Jets had no kicker because, for the moment, Mike Nugent had a bum thigh, and so Favre, under heavy pressure, threw it up deep.
"That's something that only a smart player would know -- throw it down to the end zone, and the opposition catches it, who cares? The worst thing would be to take the sack and give them the ball in good field position. Brett knew just to throw it and take the chance.'' The ball, I said to Mangini, would not have been thrown by a quarterback who cared about his quarterback rating. "Absolutely not,'' he said.