My How Things Can Change in One NFL Weekend

Harbaugh and Kaepernick
Harbaugh and Kaepernick
Jim Harbaugh and Colin Kaepernick found a new way to torcht eh Green Bay defense on Sunday.

The great thing about the beginning of the National Football League season which really is different than most other sports is that by and large, each fan base thinks it has a shot to make the playoffs. In the NFL, making it to the playoffs is the number one goal. Once in the tournament, anything can happen.

Then come the moments after that first game ends.

If you’re in New York today, you’re wondering how you’re Giants could turn the ball over six times and still have a chance to beat Dallas before ultimately falling to the Cowboys. On the other side of MetLife Stadium, New York Jets’ fans were prepared for one of the worst seasons in their history. It still could happen, but for one day, the Jets behind rookie quarterback Geno Smith knocked off the favored Buccaneers to go 1-0.

If you are in any city in the AFC North today you have one bit of good news. Your team is tied for first place. The bad news is that your team is also tied for last place as all four teams are 0-1. Baltimore and Cincinnati at the very least looked respectable at times while Cleveland and Pittsburgh are now vying with Jacksonville for the worst opening day performance.

The Steelers lost the game and their all-pro center Maurkice Pouncey for the season.

Not only did the Steelers drop the opener at home to Tennessee but they also lost three players to season-ending injuries. Terrible Towels are still wiping away tears of a season that had much more promise than this.

If you’re in Green Bay today you’re wondering if anything has changed about your defense. In last season’s playoffs, the Packers were torched by the feet of San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick. On Sunday, Kaepernick let his arm do the talking as he threw for 412 yards en route to 34 points in the win. The Green Bay offense behind a big game from Aaron Rodgers kept them in it until the end but it had to be déjà vu for Packers’ fans.

If you’re in Detroit today then you have to be as giddy as a kid in a candy store. Your defense gives up a 77-yard touchdown run to Adrian Peterson on the first play of the game but the team rebounded for a ten-point win. Lions’ fans aren’t exactly used to being 1-0 right now. If they’re giddy over the win imagine the excitement over Reggie Bush’s big day.

Maybe you’re in Seattle today where your Seahawks are a prohibitive favorite to go to the Super Bowl. Your team is 1-0 but your running game was left non-existent and it took a late touchdown pass to win over Carolina. Are you concerned or are you just glad you got a win on the road?

Are you in Arizona today? So much excitement surrounds your team with a new head coach and a quarterback that can actually deliver the ball to your all-pro wide receiver. Your defense is young and athletic and creates turnovers too. Unfortunately, the Cards blew a lead in the fourth quarter and lost to St.Louis by three.

Another great thing about the NFL season is that all of this can be forgotten over the course of one game in week two. A team that lost in week one can even the record and feel good doing so while a team that is 1-0 can easily be brought back to Earth with a loss. The two other options of course are that some teams will go 2-0 while some will go 0-2. Fans in those cities a week from today will have significantly different feelings than they have today.

Such is life in the NFL.

Guys On the Hot Seat in the NFL

Freeman needs a playoff appearance to save his job in Tampa Bay.

The National Football League is now in full swing as training camps across the country have opened for business. If you needed any more clear sign of this then check the injury blotter today. Philadelphia has lost receiver Jeremy Maclin to a torn ACL while Super Bowl Champion Baltimore will have to move forward without tight end Dennis Pitta. It appears Pitta will miss the season following hip surgery.

The injuries will continue to pile up unfortunately but today I’m focusing on some players and coaches that are in ‘must-win’ situations heading into the season.

Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay Quarterback – After four seasons and three as the full-time starter, Freeman has put up some pretty good numbers but has yet to lead the Buccaneers to the playoffs. In his defense, the Bucs did go 10-6 a couple of years ago but didn’t qualify for the postseason.

That’s nice but in this business it’s playoffs or hit the road. Freeman has thrown for 78 touchdowns against 63 interceptions and has passed for over 12,000 yards but the key number that has to improve is completion percentage. Freeman’s career average is 58.8% and that needs to come up a good five to six points.

With the improved Tampa Bay running game, Freeman should be able to capitalize on that with play-action but he can’t afford many misses and in a very competitive division or Freeman could be looking for work elsewhere.

Ryan Mathews, San Diego Running Back – The former Fresno State Bulldog enters his fourth year in the NFL and needs to prove that he can be a full-time running back for the Chargers. Mathews has not yet played a full season in the NFL with 14 games being the most in first three seasons.

Injuries have been the reason for those missed games, but they can no longer be an excuse. Mathews has one 1,000 yard rushing campaign in his three seasons but the Bolts need more from him in order to give Philip Rivers more time to throw. San Diego brought in Danny Woodhead from New England and he will challenge Mathews which may be the inspiration he needs.

If Ryan wants to keep his smile and his job, the Jets have to be better.

Rex Ryan, New York Jets Head Coach – The always interesting Ryan enters his fifth season as head coach of the Jets and desperately needs a big year to save his job. At just 34-30 in four years, it’s been the last two that have most people wondering just how much time he has left. After two straight playoff seasons, Ryan’s Jets went 8-8 in 2011 and 6-10 last year.

The Jets have been hit with significant injuries especially to the wide receiving corps but the real issue has been the lack of quality play at the quarterback position. Mark Sanchez led the Jets to the AFC title game in his first two years in the league but has been a complete disaster the last two seasons.

Don’t forget the team brought in Tim Tebow for 2012 and the intended use of Tebow is still a question mark quite honestly but he’s in New England now. Enter rookie Geno Smith who will challenge Sanchez for the job. It’s a job that will determine whether Rex Ryan keeps his in 2014.

Mike Smith, Atlanta Head Coach – No, I’m not crazy. Smith, who has a career win-loss record in five years in Atlanta of 56-24, is on the hot seat. Despite his great regular season winning percentage, he is 1-4 in the playoffs despite two division titles. His only win was a narrow 30-28 win over Seattle last season and his coaching decisions have come into question.

Atlanta will head into this season with a new $100 million QB in Matt Ryan and as one of the favorites in the NFC. Should they fail to get to the Super Bowl, I think his job is shaky. In this business, it’s about winning the big games not just playing in them.