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12 Things Learned From Preseason Week 1

   by Hollywood Sports - 08/21/2009

Effective handicapping not only requires picking winners but also staying ahead of player and team progressions or regressions. Its easy and quite understandable to follow closely last week's game where one had a stake in the outcome. However, it is just as important to stay attuned to the events that occurred in the other games from the past week. Gaining insight on a certain player's improvement or another teams' decline can offer value down the road. While it may not be for the next week, staying ahead of the curve in relation to general public perceptions may eventually pay dividends down the road. Of course, things change -- it is very important to remain flexible and not get locked in to a certain perspective (often a difficult proposition for handicappers and bettors). And, for this week, we need to remember that the first week of the preseason can only tell us so much. So, with these caveats in mind, lets look at 12 things we (may have) learned in the first week of the NFL preseason.

1. QB Matt Stafford looks to be the real deal. Stafford was 7-14 with 114 yards. Stafford's numbers would have been better if Keary Colbert would not have dropped three passes placed right into his hands. Stafford had great zip on his passes while throwing difficult out-passes. While Stafford did throw a bad interception that got taken to the house by the Falcons' defense, it is a testament to Stafford's mental toughness that he then led Detroit to a touchdown in his next series. Detroit Lions' stock: UP.

2. The Matt Sanchez hype may soon be peaking. I am not a believer (at least not yet). Sanchez may a very nice play out of his own end zone by throwing a 48-yard strike to David Clowney. But, he only threw four passes in the game. I need more evidence. Sorry, I remember Sanchez' at USC last year -- especially the game at Oregon State. Sorry, Sanchez and USC beating up on Penn State in USC's Rose Bowl home game against the Big Ten does not impress me. I worry that Sanchez became a product of the ESPN hype machine. When Stafford became locked in at Detroit in the first pick, the ESPN pundits needed to create a new story. Quarterback dramas are irrresistable. Add into the mix a New York football team and a media circus is born. Sanchez may have the goods and be a great quarterback. However, he only started one season at USC. Does he have enough experience to step into the starting job for the Jets? Matt Leinart had a much better college career at USC with a ton more big game experience. Where is Leinart right now? While ESPN may be ready to coronate Sanchez as the next Joe Namath, I remain skeptical -- at least for this year. New York Jets stock: DOWN.

3. Speaking of former USC QBs, Matt Cassell may learn the hard lesson that playing outside of New England is a daunting task. In three series, Cassell was just 2-5 for 15 yards while losing a fumble. The Chiefs do not have the same offensive personnel as the Patriots. Maybe there is a reason that Cassell was never the starter at USC. Maybe he is not ready to be a franchise QB. Remember Scott Mitchell? He looked great subbing for an injured Dan Marino one season in Miami. He then signed a big contract in Detroit. We know how that story ended. Kansas City Chiefs stock: DOWN.

4. Speaking of exports from the Patriots' organization, what do the three interceptions by Kyle Orton say about Denver head coach Josh McDaniel? In 913 career attempts with the Bears, Orton threw only 27 interceptions (2.96% of this passes). In 16 attempts last week, Orton's three interceptions accounted for 18.8% of his throws. It may be easy to dog Orton for this ineptness (and he deserves his fair share of criticism). However, is the offensive boy-genius of McDaniel ready for prime-time. He orchestrated the Cutler trade for this? He cannot deploy a game plan that avoids Orton throwing INTs in three straight offensive series? Is McDaniel equipped to create schemes that put his specific talent in a position to succeed? It sure is easier when you are working with the Patriots. Denver Broncos stock: DOWN.

5. Speaking of the Orton-Cutler drama, did Jay Cutler really publicly call out Devon Hester for running poor routes last week? Does Cutler have the locker room clout to call out veteran Bears? How close is Cutler to official prima-dona status in Chicago? What does it say that Hester looks to be the number one wideout in Chicago despite his poor route running? Chicago Bears stock: DOWN.

6. Aaron Rodgers looked great for the Packers as he led the to two touchdowns while going 5-10 for 102 yards -- including a nice 53-yard TD pass to Donald Driver. What is particularly impressive is that five different Packers had receptions for Rodgers. If the Pack's offensive line can protect him -- watch out. Green Bay Packers stock: UP.

7. The Philadelphia Eagles have significantly boosted their roster this month with the signing of a dynamic athlete that will provide multiple explosive offensive options. No, I am not talking about Michael Vick. Rather, the player in question is first-round draft pick Jeremy Maclin out of Missouri. Maclin missed eight days of training camp but the wide receiver still had a very nice opening preseason game with three receptions for 44 yards as well as 25-yard and 31-yard kickoff returns. Maclin gives Philly that "X-Factor" on offense and will help the Eagles have even a stronger offense. Philadelphia Eagles stock: UP.

8. Speaking of dynamic rookie offensive threats, watch out for Colts RB Donnie Brown out of UConn. Brown had five carries for 58 yards in his first game -- including a 38-yard run. Peyton Manning may have found his next big offensive weapon to compliment RB Joseph Addai. Indianapolis Colts: UP.

9. Watch out for the Oakland Raiders. This team can run the football. They managed 176 yards against the Cowboys in their first preseason game. Darren McFadden had 63 yards on just four rushes. He may be on the verge of a breakout season. Michael Bush had 18 yards on two carries -- remember that Bush was on the fast track to being a first-round draft choice until he got injured in his senior season at Louisville. He appears healthy again. The Raiders also still have veteran running back Justin Fargas. This three-headed rushing attack could make Oakland dangerous and a nice sleeper team. Oakland Raiders stock: UP.

10. But the Raiders apparently cannot be the Raiders without controversy. The reports that coach Tom Cable -- in way or another -- broke the face of his defensive assistant, Randy Hanson. Never a dull moment for Al Davis. Hanson is a holdover from the Lane Kiffin regime. Clearly the coaches are not all on the same page. Despite some glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel regarding the improving talent level, this organization remains a mess. Expect inconsistency from all this chaos. Oakland Raiders stock: DOWN.

11. What does it say about the Dallas Cowboys that they were outscored by these Raiders in the second half by a 21-3 score? The Cowboys may face some serious depth chart problems when the Raiders are dominating them in the second half. Dallas Cowboys stock: DOWN.

12. How is Sage Rosenfels' 10-13 for 91 yards effort rewarded? The Vikings go out and sign Brett Favre. Is there anything Rosenfels could have done to dissuade the Vikings organization from signing the 40-year old? Probably not -- but it has to be disheartening to have a great preseason game and still have it not matter. While on paper, the Favre acquisition appears to only help Minnesota, I remain skeptical. Favre is rumored to still have a tear in the rotator cuff of his right shoulder. So, let me see if I have this right: a season removed from botching the NFC Conference Championship on his home field against the Giants and then after 22 interceptions last season, a 40-year old QB with an injured throwing arm that missed training camp will lead the Vikings to the Super Bowl? Really? Better question: what is the over/under on how many games Favre is healthy for this season. I got the Under. So, when Rosenfels or Tavaris Jackson end up taking over the QB job late in the season, what will their confidence level be? How much confidence will the team have in the non-Favre player taking snaps from center? How cohesive is the locker room right now? This whole situation has been sketchy. While it may take awhile for everything to come to fruition, I suspect that the Favre move will ultimately backfire in December or January. Minnesota Vikings stock: DOWN.

We will see what develops in week two of the preseason. And, of course, we reserve the right to change our opinion as the situations change. Until next week, best of luck for us -- Frank.

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