Also see: Week 1 Leaders
Let me open my Week 1 commentary with a mention about DirectTV. For those who have it, I'm sure I'll get an "Amen!" when I say that the Game Mix 1, Game Mix 2 and Red Zone channels are pure genius – and way too long in the making. I had three different friends or co-workers pinging me with uncontained elation at the ability to see all the games on one screen. The Red Zone channel didn't always jump to the right place at the right time, but its heart was in the right place.
OK, now to the Week 1 action on the field, as I saw it …
- Willie Parker! Willie Parker! If Pittsburgh affords him the opportunity, he could put up 1,500 rushing yards in this offense. His quickness jumps off the screen. And he really doesn't look so slight that he can't handle a heavy workload. He made moves on Sunday that Duce Staley doesn't have in his bag of tricks. This situation has the makings of some hurt feelings for Staley in the coming weeks.
- Daunte Culpepper owners shouldn't freak out but, man, he looked bad. Blame for his INTs start with the man in the mirror, and his pocket awareness was pretty poor. Culpepper has been known for laying some pretty bad eggs over the years, but those usually end up as isolated incidents. Don't overreact to this performance.
- Fred Taylor looked fairly agile for someone coming off knee surgery. And head coach Jack Del Rio was able to give him the 20 carries (76 yards) that he promised against Seattle. Taylor doesn't run as loose and fearless as he once did, but he still has quickness and a nice stutter to his step.
- Jacksonville will find ways to get Matt Jones the ball. He had two carries for 28 yards, and completed one pass for six yards. As Jimmy Smith said after the game, the team needs to have Jones' athleticism on the field. Reverse runs and reverse passes for Jones are likely to be commonplace … About the Jacksonville defense: Seattle will be one of the better offenses in the league. The Jags defense handled them with ease. This should be a real nice defensive unit this season.
- Like last season, Clinton Portis looks like he is going to get his yards, but the Redskins' passing game is so bad that his opportunities in the red zone will be sparse. Getting even to the 10-TD mark seems out of Portis' reach.
- Granted, going on the road to Buffalo is a tough assignment for an offense, but I think Houston is in trouble offensively. My fears about David Carr continue to be validated. He looked suspect passing the ball, and there is still no help for Andre Johnson in the receiving corps. The Texans did not complete a pass to a wide receiver outside of Johnson's three catches.
- Steve Smith caught 88 passes in '03. There were times that season when it appeared that Jake Delhomme only had eyes for Smith. Sunday certainly felt like '03. Delhomme targeted Smith early and often. Smith had five more catches than anyone else on the team. It's going to be a good comeback season for Smith, you can count on that. He made some nice gains after the catch and certainly doesn't appear to have lost a step.
- Larry Johnson may be better in a backup role than half of the league's featured backs. It seems that the Kansas City backfield could be more of a platoon than many expected. In the final five experts leagues that I participated in, Johnson didn't fall past the fourth round (he landed on my squad in two of those). If he can continue to get one-third of the Chiefs' carries, he'll validate the high draft selection.
- Mike Anderson's tenure as the featured back in Denver was short-lived. He bruised his ribs early at Miami and Tatum Bell replaced him. Bell looked decent, but his short yardage work left much to be desired. He's not a pile mover, and a new goal-line back could emerge shortly – it's conceivable that Bell could take over featured carries and yield to Anderson or Ron Dayne at the goal line. This situation looks as convoluted as it's ever been.
- New Orleans said its offense would be Deuce McAllister-centric, and Week 1 backed that up. Deuce ran 26 times, and had two scores. He likely would have had a third TD but New Orleans' misguided trust in Aaron Brooks' arm in the second half at the goal line resulted in a fumble, and a lost opportunity for McAllister.
- Carnell Williams passed with flying colors in his first regular-season NFL game. His late 71-yard TD dash helped elevate him into the upper echelon of fantasy scorers in Week 1. If I had to knit-pick though, I was a little disappointed with his breakaway burst on his scoring gallop (he did not pull away from his pursuers). And, Mike Alstott was brought in early in the game to vulture the goal-line carries. Alstott did not score, but that situation should be watched.
- Slap a Mr. Yuck sticker on the Rams. This was the buzz team of the preseason, but the expected improvement on the offensive line didn't materialize in Week 1. Marc Bulger was hurried and sacked often by a San Francisco defense that was third-worst in the league in sacks last season. When Bulger did have time to throw, his passes looked less than sharp. And, when Steven Jackson needed to convert in key short-yardage situations, they were pushed back by the Niners defensive line. If St. Louis can't protect Bulger better, he won't come close to the value that had him going just behind Manning, Culpepper and McNabb in late drafts.
- You can't tell me that the Packers don't miss offensive linemen Marco Rivera and Mike Wahle after Brett Favre was sacked four times and the team netted just 46 rushing yards. To make matters worse, it appears the team could be without wideout Javon Walker, who sustained an ACL injury during the 17-3 loss to the Lions and could be lost for the season.