Some thoughts on Baltimore–Denver and looking at the weekend
Thursday night was a great opening game for Denver, winning easily 49–27 over defending Super Bowl Champion, Baltimore. Peyton Manning started off the season looking like…Peyton Manning. He completed 27 of 42 passes for 462 yards and a record 7 touchdowns. With this being his second year in the Denver offense he looks way more comfortable.
Wes Welker is going to do for Manning what he did for Tom Brady. Thursday, he caught 9 passes for 67 yards and 2 touchdowns. He is the go-to guy on 3rd down. While he may not be big or fast, he knows how to get open and come up with big plays when they are needed. Why Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh did not challenge the 3rd down catch by Welker that was clearly a drop is beyond me. Denver went in to score a few plays later and that one play turned the game around. It was all Denver after that. A costly mistake for Harbaugh.
Losing Anquan Boldin and Dennis Pitta is turning out to be bigger than expected for the Ravens. Those two combined for 126 catches in 2012 and their loss showed. Baltimore does not have a true number one receiver and if defenses can take away some of Torrey Smith’s big plays, the Baltimore offense is in trouble. Baltimore had better hope that Mike Oher is back next week. Rookie Ricky Wagner struggled as his replacement.
New England opens at Buffalo with the story line for New England being how is Tom Brady going to play without Wes Welker and the other top receives from last year. Aaron Hernandez and Brandon Lloyd are gone and Rob Gronkowski just started practicing this week. Who will be Brady’s main target?
People in Buffalo are wondering how the Bills offense will be with a rookie quarterback. E.J. Manual looked very good in preseason before his knee injury. He missed the final two preseason games and it will be interesting how he plays versus a veteran New England defense.
The Eagles have gotten a lot of press because of the fast paced offense they will be using under new coach Chip Kelly. While the offense has been fast paced, both Buffalo and Jacksonville actually got off plays at a faster pace than the Eagles. It will be interesting to see how this new “trend” works in the NFL with the regular season beginning.
Eight franchises have new coaches this year (Buffalo, Cleveland, Kansas City, Jacksonville, Arizona, Philadelphia, San Diego and Chicago). The new coaches gives fans a sense of hope. One of the early story lines of the season will be how these teams produce.
Speaking of Chicago, there are members of the press that are questioning Head Coach Mark Trestman’s decision to start veteran D.J. Williams over rookie Jon Bostic at Middle Linebacker. In my opinion, Trestman made the right call. Williams has been a productive NFL player for years, and while Bostic made a few big plays in the preseason, he still looked like a rookie on many other plays. He can be a bit slow to react and shed at times. Bostic will eventually be a solid NFL linebacker, but Williams gives the Bears a better chance to win right now.
In the college game, ESPN and Michigan are making a big deal over tonight’s game between Notre Dame and Michigan being the last in the series. Personally, while I have liked the game, things change. Notre Dame has a new alliance with the ACC and must play at least 5 games a year against ACC opponents in order to qualify for automatic ACC Bowl bids. They had to drop some of their annual games and Michigan was one of them. The Michigan people say Notre Dame is scared to play them which is foolish. What the Michigan people seem to forget is these two schools didn’t play each other from 1943 until 1978 and it was Michigan who ended the series. The funny part of this discussion is Mark May or Skip Bayless of ESPN don’t seem to remember that the series wasn’t played in those years. Both are on record saying that they grew up watching the game during the years it wasn’t played. It must be nice to fanaticize and make viewers think it’s the truth!
South Carolina’s talented defensive end Jadeveon Clowney had some moments in their opening win against North Carolina, but his overall play was inconsistent and disappointing. I look for him to bounce back and have a big game this week at Georgia. Georgia’s offensive line looked average at best last week at Clemson.
Why does #1 Alabama have a bye this week? Oh I know, they need two weeks to prepare for their game at Texas A&M next week. If you recall, the Aggies kicked the Crimson Tide’s butt last year at Alabama. Saban decided he needed two weeks to prepare for the rematch. College Station isn’t an easy place to play at for visitors, Alabama probably made the right decision.