Week 1 in the NFL is a lock to produce its share of over-the-top, knee-jerk reactions. Half the league’s fan base wakes up Monday morning feeling great about themselves — and life. The other half are looking around the house for sharp objects. The meaningless preseason has given way to real games, and losses can’t be shrugged off — for some teams, Sunday was a reality check. Here’s a look at yesterday’s biggest losers:
5t. Cleveland (27-17 to Cincinnati): Extremely disappointing for the Browns. Cleveland has won only ONE opener since 1999, despite hosting every one of those games. With their new pass-oriented attack run by Colt McCoy, the Browns looked poised to take a step up in the AFC North — instead, they’re 0-1 after dropping a stinker to Cincy, who many considered worst team in football.
5t. New York Giants (28-14 to Washington): Every other team in this division gets massive media hype, but Washington could end up surprising. They’re immediately dismissed because Rex Grossman‘s at quarterback, but the Shanahans love this kid, and he performed yesterday. For the (heavily banged-up) Giants, a loss that raises more questions about Eli Manning, but not earth-shattering. They played even in the first half and, more importantly, this is a team that does not give up.
4. Kansas City (41-7 to Buffalo): A nightmare opener for the Chiefs, who were as lifeless as they appeared during a tumultuous preseason. Last year’s 10-6 team looked hundreds of miles away.
3. Dallas (27-24 to New York Jets): The Cowboys ended this one in embarrassing fashion, but it was the loss of their starting three corners for most of the second half that allowed Mark Sanchez to find his receivers (including the tedious Plaxico Burress) and climb back in. It’s a bitter defeat for Dallas, but they looked fantastic defensively early on, and there’s reason for hope here. Jason Garrett is putting together a team that could (or should, at least) defeat anyone else on this list.
2. Pittsburgh (35-7 to Baltimore): Are the Steelers in trouble? Not yet. The team has climbed out of bigger holes than this. The team is aging, yes, but they are among the best-coached squads in the game. The Ravens wanted this one more — and it showed.
1. Indianapolis (34-7 to Houston): Nobody picked Indy to go anywhere without Peyton Manning, but Sunday’s trainwreck was clear confirmation that the Colts are in jeopardy without their all-everything quarterback. Granted, it’s going to take Kerry Collins time to learn the offense, but there was very little, if anything, to be hopeful about in this one.
The Eagles and Michael Vick are officially an item.
Vick has agreed to terms on a six-year, $100 million contract that replaces his one-year franchise tender, NFL Network’s Michael Lombardi reported, citing a league source.
Lombardi reported that nearly $40 million of the deal is guaranteed.
It’s undetermined how the money breaks down over the life of the contract or how it impacts the Eagles’ cap space. The team was about $2.1 million under the cap at the start of the day.
It’s not the last big-name signing the Eagles must tend to, with star receiver DeSean Jackson next in line for his payday.
Madden NFL 12 doesn’t go on sale until Tuesday, but cover boy Peyton Hillis did his Browns teammates and coaches as solid Monday by handing out advance copies of the game.
“With the guys, I brought them a few copies yesterday and they’re excited about that,” Hillis told the Plain Dealer. “To bring a smile to their face and see them excited about something is really nice. I like to hear the guys joke around about it. I can take a lot of heat.”
Last year, it was tacklers who took the heat, as Hillis blasted his way onto the scene with 1,177 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns, with another 477 yards and two scores through the air.
Is Hillis caught up in the fanfair?
“No, because we’re in the middle of football now and the regular season is in a couple of weeks,” Hillis said. “I’m more focused on that right now instead of the game.”
Hillis, who has downplayed winning the cover contest from the start, remains thankful to the fans who voted him past the likes of Aaron Rodgers and Michael Vick.
“It’s exciting,” he said. “I’ve been very blessed. I’m kind of speechless at times. You never can lose focus. You can’t stay humble enough. You just have to go out there and do what you can. I’m grateful for the opportunity I had, but it’s time to move on and get focused on more important things.”
Coach Pat Shurmur, logging sleepless nights trying to get his West Coast offense installed, admitted he doesn’t have much time to toy around with Madden.
“I’ve actually never played the game,” said Shurmur. “My son, I would consider him somewhat of an expert. … I think (Kyle is) interested to see what I look like in the game, too. But, yeah, I have a copy. It was nice of (Hillis).”
NFA founder Daniel Wolf was shipped an advance copy and spent a weekend playing Madden NFL 12 before its release. Check out his detailed game review, in which he scored it a “B.”
The Cleveland Browns are finally getting some players back.
Receiver Mohamed Massaquoi returned to practice Saturday after suffering a fractured left foot at “Camp Colt,” the workout sessions organized during the lockout by quarterback Colt McCoy.
Massaquoi told the Plain Dealer he wasn’t certain when the injury occurred during the practices in Austin, Texas.
“I have no clue where it came from or when it happened,” said Massaquoi. “It was just one of those things where it flared up and we dealt with it. And now hopefully that’s the end of it.”
With Cleveland’s opener against the Bengals less than two weeks away, an injury-gripped preseason has forced coach Pat Shurmur to make roster decisions without seeing his full squad in action.
He’s not about to make Browns fans forget about this guy, but Massaquoi appears to be a good fit in Shurmur’s West Coast offense, which McCoy has run with efficiency so far, throwing four touchdowns to one interception in three preseason tilts.
With Eric Steinbach out indefinitely and a laundry list of Browns nicked up, it’s hard to imagine how Cleveland can compete in the AFC North beyond fiddling around with the Bengals.
In what appears to be a lockout-induced scheduling tick, the Browns don’t play Pittsburgh or Baltimore until December, giving this young team — with new offensive and defensive schemes — time to mature before the big boys hit the scene.
From another angle, having to play the Steelers and Ravens four times in the course of a month is impossible to spin positively — it’s not something even the best of team’s would look forward to.
The Browns better grow up fast.
The outpouring of concern over Arian Foster‘s tweaked left hamstring – mostly from jittery fantasy football disciples whose drafts unfold this week — raises yet another question about where our heads are at.
After Foster re-aggravated the hamstring Saturday night in the Texans’ 30-7 win over the 49ers, he made efforts to assure his Twitter followers that he’d be ready for the Colts on Sept. 11.
“4 those sincerely concerned, I’m doing ok & plan 2 B back by opening day. 4 those worried abt your fantasy team, u ppl are sick,” he wrote Sunday.
Speaking for fantasy players everywhere, ESPN’s Colin Cowherd tweeted back: “Hey Arian Foster— ‘We really do care about you as a human too. Um,now about that hammy? –signed, everybody.”
Replied Foster: “Did you want to be a critic as a child? Or did your dreams die with your humility?”
Not that the players are pure — or must be treated delicately — but Foster’s irritation is justified.
At its best, fantasy football is a not-to-be-taken-too-seriously outshoot of the game we’ve grown up with and adore. At its worst, it is a parasitic worm draining the fun out of the sport.
“I hope @ArianFoster realizes that fantasy football is the only reason 90% of chicks and 30% of guys even know who he is,” one follower tweeted after Foster’s updates.
Fans might not want to hear that fantasy doesn’t matter to the players they draft and follow with religious fervor during the season, but things might be different if not for the overly serious tone fantasy has adopted of late. For many, it’s eclipsed the sport itself. You’ll find more and more clowns roaming around town who don’t care for the game — just the raw, lifeless numbers produced.
For Foster — the player — it’s about getting back on the field and building on last season’s from-the-wilderness outburst, which included 1,616 rushing yards and 18 total touchdowns.
For those who draft him, anything less will be a disappointment.
Ndamukong Suh, who says he wants the Detroit Lions to be feared by opponents — especially quarterbacks — is making significant headway on that front.
The 307-pound defensive tackle threw a punch at Logan Mankins in Saturday’s 34-10 manhandling of the Patriots, and while he missed his target, Suh’s reputation as a dirty player continues to balloon.
Suh’s $20,000 league fine for a hit on Andy Dalton earlier this month is the third docking of his young career. He lost $22,500 last season for hits on Cleveland’s Jake Delhomme and Chicago’s Jay Cutler.
“It’s about having quarterbacks fear us, offensive linemen fear us, every single game we step into,” Suh told CBS Sports on Saturday.
After what he did to Tom Brady‘s offense, don’t expect the Lions to come down on Suh for his aggressive play. It’s been eons since Detroit scared a mouse and they’re not about to mess with Suh’s head.
“No one has ever played like this at defensive tackle,” Lions defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham told NFL.com earlier this month. Sound like someone about to ask the behemoth to tone it down?
Suh plans to appeal the Dalton fine, but it’s more about principle than the money, which amounts to a moving violation for a guy making $40 million guaranteed.
Suh has barely gotten started. Quarterbacks have taken notice. And it’s looking like Detroit’s seemingly thousand-year streak as NFC North pushovers has reached its end.
So, the NFL lockout is over, and we’re assured of labor peace for the next decade. That means we don’t need to focus on the Norris-LaGuardia Act until at least 2021.
The NFL has returned. Training camp is underway, and just as the players and coaches are shaking off the rust, we bloggers are doing the same.
This frenzied week of free-agency and rookie signings, meshed with the start of 32 NFL training camps — well, it’s wonderful … but where does one begin?
Now swimming in a flood of NFL news, the April promises of some fan groups to bypass this season, to show the NFL that the fans matter more than owners or players — laughable.
The cries of the sports-offended were silenced and blotted out the minute the labor deal was done. Nobody’s talking about boycotting a damn thing tonight.
The game is bigger than the fans, for better or worse. Nobody who loved the game in January is fashioning plans, circulating petitions and organizing rallies to skip the season.
Everyone’s fallen in line.
And maybe it doesn’t even matter. The game is back. Two weekends from now, we’ll see our 20- and 30-something millionaire heroes back on the field, throwing a ball around before hundreds of thousands of fans who paid a pretty penny to enter billion-dollar stadiums from San Diego to East Rutherford — and Dallas to Minneapolis.
There is no proper starting point this time around.
We’re just here. Football is back.
For better or worse, our game is back.