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Scouting Notebook: Air Atlanta

Michael Salfino
Yahoo Sports

We've waited so long for real NFL action that the natural tendency is to invest too much meaning into Week 1. But it's all we have as we kick off 2011, Scouting Notebook style.

Remembering that Matt Ryan(notes) threw 42 passes in the first half of the one non-dress rehearsal preseason game, note Atlanta had 17 passes and 9 rushes in the first half. Let's assume score did not dictate play-calling in quarters one and two. That's 65 percent passes. The average team last year had about 1,000 plays from scrimmage. That's 650 passing plays. At an average rate of about seven yards per attempt, we get 4,500 passing yards for Ryan. When life gives you lemons, Ryan and Roddy White(notes) owners, make lemonade.

We have a lot of data on Rex Grossman(notes). And the Giants defense was very undermanned. So the one week isn't going to sway me. But it intrigues me. All of a sudden, you're thinking, "Hey, Mike Shanahan is a guru …" So the glass is at least looking half full. None of their skill players seem especially bettable though unless you play quite deeply. Theoretically, Tim Hightower(notes) is the primary beneficiary. But he averaged 2.1 yards per rush and Mike Shanahan is not going to tolerate that for long. He seems like a third-down back to me. So hold Roy Helu(notes) for another week at least.

Very, very disappointed in the Giants offense, where injuries have not been a big issue. There should be more max protections when you have two elite weapons like Mario Manningham(notes) (second in the league in yards per target last year) and Hakeem Nicks(notes). And not using 270-pound Brandon Jacobs(notes) in key short-yardage situations makes no sense.

Rashard Mendenhall(notes) lost another fumble. This remains a problem.

Why can't Baltimore use Ricky Williams(notes) this year like they used Willis McGahee(notes) last year? Ray Rice(notes) did get the short plunge early though. He had two in Week 5 last year, so I'm not sure what this means.

A.J. Green's(notes) first catch and touchdown came when the Bengals snapped the ball with the Browns still in the defensive huddle – total amateur hour on Cleveland's part. Colt McCoy's(notes) mobility and ability to throw on the run are top-notch. So I don't think the Browns overall offense will be a drag on Peyton Hillis(notes), who disappointed owners on Sunday. Remember, though, the Cincinnati defense is good.

Matt Forte(notes) is a poor-man's Marshall Faulk – nowhere near Faulk's class as a runner but as a receiver he even can beat defensive backs one-on-one outsider the numbers, as Faulk could.

Earl Bennett(notes) lacks speed to threaten the safety quickly after the snap, the foundation of the entire Mike Martz passing scheme. He thus has virtually no chance to be the team's leading receiver baring a complete change in offensive philosophy.

Kerry Collins(notes) looked average-to-good throwing the ball. So Reggie Wayne(notes) should be fine – top 20 receiver easy. Dallas Clark(notes) was blocking on some key plays – poorly. This is not good. But this happened with Peyton Manning(notes), too."

Kenny Britt(notes) and Nate Washington(notes) looked great and playable, respectively, but how long will the Titans stick with Matt Hasselbeck(notes) when their future is clearly going to be Jake Locker(notes)? In the long-run, what happens to Britt when the rookie takes over. But maybe this concern is over-wrought. To quote John Maynard Keynes, 'In the long run, we're all dead."

What has any Chiefs skill player ever done without Charlie Weis? Owners of Jamaal Charles(notes) and Dwayne Bowe(notes) should be very concerned and watch KC next week in Detroit, which looks very bad on paper.

No way Michael Vick(notes) survives 10 or so carries a game. His throwing was poor, as it's been for a good chunk of his last six or seven games.

Steven Jackson owners can't be too surprised by another quad injury. This is how these running back endings play out, people.

Can we trust Matthew Stafford(notes) physically given that he's had multiple shoulder injuries? I have no idea. But he's a gamble and gambling is fine as long as you do not assume there is no risk of being busted.

Steve Smith was a great speculation play by those who drafted him late. But you have to bite the bullet and just play him every week. Cam Newton's passing was a revelation on Sunday – 400 yards in your first game, on the road no less, is simply stunning. His running and all preseason, though, has been ho-hum. But that may be a good thing for his development.

Maybe Kevin Kolb(notes) was worth all the fuss. The Cardinals seem to be a lock in the West, by default mostly. Overall, they're about average.

Donovan McNabb(notes) looks shot to me. Abandon all hope, those with shares of the Vikings passing game.

Mike Tolbert's(notes) three TDs seems like the perfect time to sneak Ryan Mathews(notes) away on the cheap from a dim owner. Maybe it will stay an equal timeshare. But Mathews seems so much more explosive every time he touches the ball. Tolbert's a grinder. I would not sell Tolbert though because half the load in that offense is about a full load in many places.

Run, do not walk, away from the 49ers and Seahawks offenses. Frank Gore(notes) is going to return third-round value – if he stays healthy. Take anything reasonable for Vernon Davis(notes). If you disagree, you must believe at least a little in Alex Smith. Really?

Jets-Cowboys will be addressed in the comments, where you are welcome to disagree. Just please say why beyond homerism for guys you happen to own.

Michael Salfino writes for the Wall Street Journal and is a regular contributor to Yahoo! Sports.

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