1. I think this is what I liked about Week 1:
a. The plane over MetLife Stadium Wednesday night before Cowboys-Giants carrying this banner: FREE SEAN PAYTON.
b. Chris Berman re-signing, apparently for life, with ESPN, where he belongs. I must be thick. I don't get all the hatred for the guy. I know his Two-Minute Drills are usually closer to Twenty-Two-Minute Drills, but the way he keeps history -- football and otherwise -- in his essays ... I can't get enough of that.
c. Great interpretation by Ron Jaworski on the opening "NFL Matchup" show of the season. Jaworski showed how the 49ers attacked Dallas' outside linebackers early last season, running Delanie Walker out of the backfield against Anthony Spencer on a wheel route for a surprise touchdown. Green Bay, Jaws inferred, would need to be on the lookout for plays like this with converted college defensive end Nick Perry playing his first game at left outside linebacker for the Packers Sunday. Smart.
d. The confidence of Drew Brees in Jimmy Graham, to throw him a jump-ball between two Washington defenders in the end zone.
e. Mark Sanchez, after an awful shovel-pick, coming back with a good TD pass to Jeremy Kerley.
f. That sack of Tom Brady from behind is why they're paying you the big bucks, Kamerion Wimbley.
g. Great FOX stat midway through the third quarter at New Orleans: The Saints had 23 three-and-outs all season last year. Through two and a half quarters, the Saints had four on Sunday.
h. Greatness of Adrian Peterson Dept.: He is 27. The Vikings are 52. He is now their all-time leading rusher.
i. Tim Tebow: best onside-kick catcher in history.
j. What a deflection by Minnesota rookie safety Harrison Smith in overtime. Biggest play on the game-clinching drive.
k. Alfred Morris. Hate to say I told you so, but I told you so.
l. Now all you Washington fans know who DeJon Gomes is. Second-year corner from Nebraska, 146th player picked in 2011, opportunistic kid who got the clinching interception for the Redskins at New Orleans.
m. Never have there been 169 more meaningless rushing yards in a game than C.J. Spiller's, but the man did run hard.
n. Colt McCoy.
o. Agree or disagree with the men, but you've got to applaud Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo for speaking his mind on same-sex marriage, and Vikings punter Chris Kluwe for having a strong opinion, and writing it, in a world of milquetoast athletes.
p. Great play-calling day by Vic Fangio, the 49ers defensive coordinator. And maybe this is the year that Ahmad Brooks, the linebacker who came up huge down the stretch in pressuring Aaron Rodgers, starts to be recognized as a top player.
2. I think this is what I didn't like about Week 1:
a. The Bills.
b. Giants rookie running back David Wilson's hands.
c. My forecast of the Jets: awful. I mean, I thought they'd get wiped by the Bills, and it was the Jets who did the wiping.
d. The headache Mike Holmgren, Tom Heckert and Pat Shurmur are all waking up with this morning after watching Brandon Weeden's 5.1-rating, four-pick performance against the Eagles.
e. Snakebit Brown of the Week: Undrafted free agent linebacker L.J. Fort from Northern Iowa. With the Browns up 16-10 in the final two minutes over Philadelphia and trying to keep Mike Vick out of the end zone, Fort dropped into coverage and dropped a catchable interception that would have sealed a Cleveland victory. Vick threw the winning touchdown pass moments later.
f. Victor Cruz's hands. He even took to Twitter to apologize for his three drops Wednesday.
g. Schoolmarms in Greeley, Colo., banning Peyton Manning jerseys because the district thinks the No. 18 has a gang connotation. In the immortal word of Jimmy Johnson, "Puh-leeeeeze."
h. The Vick pick, one of them. Horrendous throw, five feet over LeSean McCoy's head.
i. Matthew Stafford. Three first-half interceptions, with a fourth dropped.
j. Patrick Robinson, slow getting off the field on a Washington punt, which drew a flag and gave the Redskins a fresh set of downs. A disgrace.
k. Catch that pick, Brian Orakpo. Come on. The Redskin rusher's dropped pick gave the Saints life.
l. Why throw 30 yards downfield, into double coverage, on 4th-and-three, down three in overtime, on what is essentially the last play of the game if it's incomplete? Why, Blaine Gabbert?
m. Mike Adams, an injury replacement at right tackle for Pittsburgh, continues to be a disaster. Allowed a late sack and a half in the last two minutes to Denver.
n. The constant, and erroneous, impression that long-time Browns beat writer Tony Grossi is keeping Art Modell out of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Regardless what Grossi said or didn't say inside a Hall of Fame selection meeting a decade ago, I've been in those meetings for 20 years now, and I can tell you the other 43 voters are not sheep. We have minds of our own. I'd say a good half of the men whose cases I've tried to buttress with passionate argument have failed to get in -- and some haven't gotten close.
3. I think I shouldn't find this amazing but do: Tom Brady is 25 yards from passing John Unitas on the all-time passing yardage list.
4. I think with the Rams' signing of middle linebacker James Laurinaitis to a contract through 2017, the franchise has seven defensive keystones signed through 2016 at least: linemen Chris Long, Kendall Langford, Michael Brockers, linebacker Laurinaitis, and corners Cortland Finnegan and Janoris Jenkins. We'll see if they're right and have scouted the right players -- obviously, the future is cloudy for the troubled Jenkins -- but at least they've put their opinions on the line and now they'll have to live with the outcome.
The good sign for the Rams: Long and Laurinaitis could have played their contracts out and seen what the landscape was like for them in the rest of the league. Obviously the security of huge dough helps. But they had to have some belief that another 12-52 four-year run wasn't happening, and some confidence in Jeff Fisher and GM Les Snead.
5. I think I'd love to know what the heck happened to Brian Waters. The man goes from a Pro Bowl guard for a Super Bowl team, New England -- still playing well -- to vanishing into thin air the next. Not a word from him. Just a trail of rumors. He wanted more money (his base salary is $1.4 million) to play one year. He wanted to play close to his Texas home, with the Texans, but the Patriots wouldn't accommodate him. And why would they, if that's so? Why strengthen a conference foe?
6. I think the geniuses on Twitter and in Opinion World are absolute dopes when they blame Arian Foster's knee injury the other day (and any other injury that befalls him) on Foster being a vegan. Stop it. Just stop.
7. I think this is a great way -- if you can get to New Orleans Sept. 23 -- to support victims of Hurricane Isaac:. It's a raffle, for $2 a chance, to win a catered suite for 20, with 20 pregame field passes, for the Saints-Chiefs game this month. I like the way the Saints are such good community partners in times of need. I'll never forget on my trip to the ravaged city before the 2006 draft suggesting to Mickey Loomis and Sean Payton that they might want to stop by a Habitat for Humanity site in the Lower Ninth Ward, and, on the day before the draft, they came by and spent an hour.
8. I think, after seeing three of the "Hard Knocks" episodes, that there wasn't much benefit in it for the Dolphins. The very few teams that were on the bubble about doing the NFL mostly-reality show are going to look at the hard knocks the team took in the show and think, "Hey, good TV. But why would we want to risk the embarrassment of seeing ugly cuts like Chad Johnson and David Garrard on TV?''
9. I think you might learn something from the current Forbes magazine story on Jacksonville owner and Illinois auto parts czar Shahid Khan, and not just that his mustache looks good on the cover. From the story, by Brian Solomon: "Khan seeks to expand the fan base -- and avoid local TV blackouts -- by allowing ticket holders to bring outside food into EverBank Field and tote their toddlers for free ... The most audacious part of Khan's plan: international expansion. The easiest move would be to flee to the greener pastures of Los Angeles. But as with running a Rust Belt manufacturer, Khan seems eager to defy the odds and stay put (he says he is 'committed to Jacksonville') ... He sees foreign growth potential as a way to do that. Specifically, he wants to make the Jaguars into a global brand, last month securing a 'home game' in London each season for four years starting in 2013. 'One of the good things is they don't have a team loyalty,' says Khan, 'so we get a chance by being the first team presented; hopefully we can get them.' ''
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. One of the scariest sights I've ever seen on a baseball field was A's pitcher Brandon McCarthy taking the line drive to the head the other night during Angels-A's. Turns out he got a fractured skull, and his life was touch-and-go for two or three days. Reports Sunday out of Oakland were more encouraging, and as you can see by my Tweets of the Week, he's into fantasy football.
I can tell you he's a huge NFL fan. A few years ago, when McCarthy was pitching for the White Sox, I was assigned by the magazine to preview the American League Central for the baseball preview issue (Yippee!! Free trip to spring training!), and wandered into the White Sox clubhouse, then in Tucson. This tall string bean walks up to me and says, "Hey, I'm Brandon McCarthy. Good to meet you. Love 'Monday Morning Quarterback.' Gets me through the winter."
b. Anything I can get you, Brandon? A hot towel, perhaps? Some warm milk?
c. Seriously, by the volume of tweets I've seen, you've got half the country pulling for you. Get well.
d. Thanks for your support so far on my Hamptons (N.Y.) Half Marathon quest to raise $50,000 for former Saints special-teamer Steve Gleason's efforts to build a residence for ALS patients in New Orleans. As you can see by your contributions in the last seven days, we're two-fifths of the way there, with 19 days to go. I'd really appreciate any contributions to the cause. If you can't, some good karma for me not making a fool of myself would be appreciated as well.
e. This is what the Red Sox have gotten for the final four years of the six-year Daisuke Matsuzaka contract: 17 wins, a 5.52 ERA, a 1.52 WHIP. For $37 million. Matsuzaka, Lackey, Beckett. Boy, the Red Sox really know pitching.
f. I've got a great idea. Let's pay Zack Greinke $17 million a year.
g. The freebie Red Sox calendar I got last spring extends to January 2013, with a different man each month. Just checked it out the other day. October: Josh Beckett. November: Carl Crawford. December: Clay Buchholz. January: Bobby Valentine. Three out of four ain't bad. Weirdest thing about Valentine's radio diatribe is he sounded like a man who is either already unglued or within five minutes of being there. Scary.
h. Be careful, Clay Buchholz. That's some bad omen.
i. Buck Showalter must be one heck of a manager.
j. Never in the history of rotisserie baseball has a team tanked the way the 2012 Montclair Pedroias have tanked. In two weeks, I've gone from second place to sixth -- and you know if you play the game how impossible it is to do that this late in the season. I stink so bad I can smell my team through the laptop.
l. I saw a photo of Daniel Day-Lewis as Abe Lincoln -- he's playing Honest Abe in a movie that comes out in November -- and there's a very good chance there's never been an actor who looks so much like a famous subject. Eerie.
m. Springsteen at Wrigley update, from my former producer at CNNSI.com, Dave Wilke, who was on hand Saturday night: "Halfway through the show it started to pour. Bruce could have finished the show playing on stage under the canopy but instead he spent the next hour and a half running into the audience and dancing in the rain. He busted out 'Who'll Stop the Rain' acoustically."
n. Coffeenerdness: It's a rough night when there's one pot of Italian Roast going at 11:45, then another at 4:15. I may have to take Florio's advice soon, and give the 5 Hour Energy a try, at least on Sunday nights.
o. Beernerdness: I hate to be teetotaling this early in the season, but other than the Allagash White I had before dinner the other night, I don't have a good beernerdness story for you. Promise to do more research this week and come back with a good new beer next week.
p. Missy Franklin in Denver last night at the midfield coin flip, Michael Phelps in Baltimore tonight. Great ideas by the Broncos and Ravens.
q. Thinking of you, Devon Walker, and your family, and the Tulane football team.
Every week during the regular season, I'm going to praise one writer or person in the media business for something I've read or seen during the week. I just figured this was a good place to do it, because I've had the end of the column based with a "Who I Like Tonight'' ending for awhile now when picking the Monday night game. The two things don't fit together very well, but I don't fit together with logic either.
Pereira, the one-time NFL officiating czar, had this to say about the replacement officials in a column he wrote for FOXSports.com after the Giants-Cowboys opening game. He deserves kudos because of all the critics of the replacements (and of the NFL for letting it get to this point), Pereira has been the most shrill. So I admire that he could look at a game that was not terribly impacted by the replacement officials -- Dallas' 24-17 victory -- and praises the replacements.
"One game doesn't make a week, but it was definitely a good start,'' he wrote. Pereira also leveled criticism at NFL VP Ray Anderson for saying that some officials get out of shape during the season, which Pereira feels should remain private. But he's willing to give his opinion, and he's willing to praise a group of men, the replacements, because he doesn't blindly stick to some script like some political talk-show hack. That shows you can trust what Pereira writes, good or bad. He's trying his best to write without bias. And as a journalist, I appreciate that.
Now onto the two games that will cap a newsy Week 1.
Baltimore 30, Cincinnati 23. Football first: Expect to see a predominantly no-huddle Ravens offense tonight, which thrills Joe Flacco because it'll give him more control over his fate; in the no-huddle, quarterbacks have to call more of their own plays because most often there's less time between plays. The Ravens get a big edge because one of Cincinnati's most dangerous rushers, Carlos Dunlap, will miss the game with a strained knee.
Emotion second: I couldn't see the Ravens losing this game before the death of Art Modell, and I certainly can't see it now. It'll be an emotional stadium Monday night -- the same ground where Modell stood 17 years ago this November with city and state officials declaring they were going to build a state-of-the-art stadium for the relocated NFL franchise. And here the Ravens will be, four days after Modell's death, in their first game, a game that will marry the pomp of football, the national televising of football and football in Baltimore -- three things vital to Modell.
"It was Art's vision that married the NFL and TV together like nothing else in the history of sports and entertainment,'' Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "Art also started 'Monday Night Football.' How great it is that we are playing in the 'Monday Night Football' opener this week?'' Pretty great.
Oakland 27, San Diego 24: The annual DVR Bowl. (I rarely make it through the first Monday night ESPNer, even the early one in Week 1, because of the no- or little-sleep thing on Sunday nights during the season. A 10:15 p.m. East Coast start? The impossible dream, live.) Anyway, I see Darren McFadden galloping 22 times or so and giving Raider fans cause to dream a dreamlike Imagine how good we'd be if he could finally play 16 games? And I see Carson Palmer making enough plays with his young receiver group to win.
One other note about this game: Undrafted free agent left tackle Michael Harris will start in place of the injured Jared Gaither. If Harris cares for a little motivation entering the game, all he has to do is read the website of the Oakland Tribune, with a Saturday story headlined, "Raiders defense will face fresh meat Chargers lineman.'' Yikes.
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