The NFC East is going to be a great race. Many thought the Eagles would step up and win the division this year. They struggled to beat the Browns on Sunday as Michael Vick threw 4 interceptions. Meanwhile, the team many picked last in the division, the Washington Redskins, put up 40 points behind RG3 in a road victory over the Saints. This is likely going to come down to the last game or two like it did last year to decide who represents the division in the playoffs.
Jay Cutler loves to look for Brandon Marshall…especially in the red zone. The Bears had 6 plays inside the 5 yard line. 3 were carries for Michael Bush and the other 3 were all passes to Brandon Marshall. He drew 2 pass interference penalties and caught a 3 yard touchdown pass. You can’t ask for much better results, and the determination Cutler showed in getting him the ball makes me think that this will be a theme throughout the season.
Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons are going to be tough to stop. Julio Jones could enter the conversation with Calvin Johnson as the best wide receiver in the league and Roddy White has been the most consistent WR over the last 5 seasons. Michael Turner, who was once without question the focal point of the offense, took a back seat on Sunday as the Falcons handed him the ball only once on 8 plays inside the 10 yard line. They did settle for 4 field goals, but they ended every single meaningful drive with points on the board.
Percy Harvin led all wide recievers in offensive touches once Christian Ponder became the starting quarterback (courtesy of Matthew Berry…one of his favorite stats of the summer). With 5 rushes and 8 targets he’s a good bet to be near the top of that list again this year. While we’re on the Vikings – Adrian Peterson is simply a stud. 8 months removed from tearing his ACL and MCL and he looks like he hasn’t missed a beat. You’d be hard pressed to find anyone that such an impressive athletic feat.
With all the talk about the Jets offense during the preseason their defense came in fairly under the radar. Of course Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Bills helped their cause a bit, but Gang Green looked absolutely dominant on D. They were even missing several key starters including their best run stuffing defensive tackle. The secondary may be the best in football and in a pass-heavy league that’s a huge asset.
The two best offensive teams from last year, the Packers and the Patriots, were both undone in playoffs by their weak defense. At first glance it looks like the Packers still have a lot of holes. The Patriots, however, looked to be vastly improved on the defensive side of the ball. Rookies Chandler Jones, Dunt’a Hightower, and Tavon Wilson all made a huge impact, and they held the Titans to 20 total yards rushing. If they can maintain that level of defensive play against offenses more talented than Tennessee I don’t see the Patriots losing more than a game or two.
The Harbaugh brothers led 2 of the most conservative, ball-control style offenses last season mostly due to the fact that the 49ers and Ravens were both top flight defenses. However, it looks like both teams have opened up the playbook a bit for their quarterbacks and are allowing Alex Smith and Joe Flacco to make plays down the field. The 49ers brought in some talented playmakers to bolster the offense in Randy Moss, Mario Manningham, and Brandon Jacobs while the Ravens grew their team mostly from within through the emergence of Torrey Smith and young TE’s Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson. The end result on both sides is a higher power offense to pair with their elite defenses.
High profile quaterbacks Matthew Stafford, Michael Vick, and Cam Newton all struggled mightily with mistakes and interceptions. I don’t put a lot of stock in their performances, and I’m not ready to write off any of these guys. They all had bright spots, and all threw for over 300 yards. Vick and Stafford both led their teams on game-winning drives. It’s just one week, and I expect all 3 of these talented quarterbacks to bounce back. They’ll definitely have the opportunity to do so. Michael Vick threw 56 passes. Stafford has very little in terms of a rushing attack in Detroit, and the pass/rush ration was 48/18. Cam was unable to pull out a win, but the issue was more due to the fact that their rushing game was miserable. I expect all 3 to recover and maintain their elite status.
Almost as impressive as Adrian Peterson‘s return from a knee injury is Peyton Manning‘s return from 4 neck surgeries. There were no signs of rust, and the command of the game and poise that came to define the Colts era Manning was in full effect. He was masterful with his audibles and play calls. The results could have been even better if not for a few red zone drops by Eric Decker. The Broncos will be a force to be reckoned with this year – especially with the offensive line’s ability to protect Peyton incredibly well against a tough Pittsburgh defense.
The most impressive team from week 1 may have been the Houston Texans. There were question marks about their rushing game after losing 2 key offensive lineman in the offseason. The defense had question marks after losing Mario Williams and DeMeco Ryans – arguably their best 2 defenders of the past 3 years. Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson were coming off of injury riddled seasons. All of those question marks were pushed aside on Sunday as they completely dismantled the Miami Dolphins. Arian Foster was in prime form leading the rushing attack and Johnson looked great down the field. JJ Watt could be on his way to a defensive player of the year season. The battle for supremacy in the AFC between the Patriots, Ravens, and Texans is going to be great come playoff time.
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About Bryan Povlinski
Bryan is a Business Analytics Lead for a fulfillment company in Indianapolis and a graduate of Indiana University. He enjoys applying his passion for analytics to sports. His favorite sports teams are the Indiana Hoosiers, North Carolina Tar Heels, Indiana Pacers, Oklahoma City Thunder, and Indianapolis Colts. Contrary to popular opinion, he hates pizza and loves spreadsheets.Bryan's Google Profile
Bryan Povlinski is the owner of Spreadsheet-Sports.com. I built the site because it was a combination of two things I love: sports and analytics. Hopefully you'll find something you can use to enhance your sports experience.