ATLANTA, GA - SEPTEMBER 18: Michael Vick #7 of the Philadelphia Eagles stands on the sidelines after being injured in the third quarter against the Atlanta Falcons at Georgia Dome on September 18, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
The Eagles battled the Falcons Sunday night, but as Michael Vick returned to Atlanta to face his old team and his old fans, what happened next left the rest of us as confused as ever. Plus: Tony Romo, Cam Newton, the Bills, and the sad, sad, Vikings.
Every Sunday, it seems like half of what we know about the NFL completely changes. So in the spirit of keeping track of what we learn (or what we think we learn), here's a new series called "Snap Judgments." Every week, we'll have a rundown of what happened on Sunday, and what it (maybe, kind of) means.
By the end of the season, we'll be able to look back at all these kneejerk reactions, and at least 50% of them will look completely ridiculous. But that's part of the fun! Let's start with Mike Vick.
1. The Thing About Michael Vick Is, Everybody's Right. Aside from everything that happened off the field... Even as a football player, Mike Vick's as polarizing as anyone we've ever seen. There's nobody in the league more defined by the question "Should we believe the hype?" And there's nobody who's wrong. Not the skeptics who say he's fatally flawed and can't stay healthy, not the hopeless fanboys who say he's so electric he's worth the risk. Not the Falcons fans who still proudly cheer for Vick , and not the terrifying Falcons fans who burn his jersey while they tailgate.
That's what makes Vick so much fun to argue about; one minute he make his critics look like idiotic traditionalists, and the next, he's everything Cris Collinsworth warned you about, and he's getting called out by Big Boi.
On the hand, he sliced through the Atlanta defense all night long with both his arm and legs, and helped Philly score 31 points. On the other, he turned the ball over three times (2 lost fumbles, 1 INT), and he left the game in the fourth quarter, opening the door for Atlanta's comeback. He and the Eagles were hitting on all cylinders at that point and it looked like the Falcons were about throw up the white flag. Then Vick went out and it was like a jolt of life to Matt Ryan, and two touchdowns later, the Eagles were dead.
To recap: Vick was the biggest reason the Eagles looked so overwhelming after 45 minutes, but Vick going down was the biggest reason the Eagles were losers 15 minutes later.
And if last season was the dream, where Vick looked every bit as invincible as we'd always imagined, then after an $86 million contract and a long-term guarantee from the Eagles, this year may turn into the reality check. Vick's great, but when you add it all up, it's hard to say whether the rewards outweigh the risk.
Which brings us to Sunday night's ultimate lesson for the 2011 season: If everybody's right about Michael Vick, he'll be a lot of fun to watch, he'll have a lot of spectacular plays that make it seem unfair that a quarterback should be so talented, and one way or another, the Eagles will lose.
2. The Return Of The Jay Cutler Sulkface. It just didn't feel right when Jay Cutler shredded the Falcons defense in Week 1 and the Bears came away with a win. This is more like it.
3. Break Up The Bills! What were the odds that the Raiders and Bills would play the best game of the day? The Bills erased an 18-point deficit at home (impressive), the two teams combined for five touchdowns in the fourth quarter (including this insanity), and Ryan Fitzpatrick finished things off by taking the Bills 80 yards in three minutes for the game-winner (wait, seriously?). Buffalo's currently leading the league in scoring, and Ryan Fitzpatrick's tied for the league-lead with 7 touchdowns and a quarterback rating of 109.6.
We're not quite to the point where we have to start taking the Bills seriously as playoff contenders, but that's only because they play in the toughest division in football. As it is, the Bills may not make the playoffs, but there's a good chance they'll be involved in some of the most exciting games in football this season, and hopefully we'll get lucky and have the criminally underrated Kevin Harlan announcing them all. For once, we should all be watching Buffalo.
Also: Another announcer just told us Ryan Fitzpatrick went to Harvard. Drink.
4. Okay, Okay, The Steelers Look Awesome Again. Despite my best efforts to kick dirt on their grave last week, the Steelers couldn't have looked any better against the Seahawks on Sunday, we jumped the gun writing them off completely, and that's all there is to say, because complimenting the Steelers makes me die a little bit inside. [/shivers]
5. Cam Newton's On Pace For A Million Passing Yards. Or 6,832, to be exact. Of course, it helps that Carolina threw the ball 46 times on Sunday and handed off to their pair of dominant running backs only 11 times. Not sure how that makes sense, especially since Carolina had a lead for the entire first half. Nevertheles...
Like the Bills, Cam may not be elite this year, but after what he did to the Packers Sunday, he's officially one of the biggest selling points for NFL Sunday Ticket. You don't know what's going to happen with Cam Newton on any given play, but damnit, he makes it worth watching. And if nothing else, the first few weeks have made the Panthers look like geniuses for rolling the dice with their No. 1 pick. You know, not that we didn't already know that.
6. The Sad, Sad Tale Of The Minnesota Vikings. A few weeks ago, in our NFL Preview, I went out of my way to offer sympathy to Minnesota Vikings fans. For a few reasons:
...there's nothing worse than heading into a season knowing full well that your team's headed for mediocrity. And the 2011 Minnesota Vikings will be so mediocre. They took their shot at riding a team full of veterans to the Super Bowl the past few years, they failed, only now they can't gut the roster and rebuild because the team's trying to sell Minnesota voters on financing for a new stadium. In other words, rather than be realistic, the Vikings have to be realistic: If they don't make a token attempt at competing, relocation's a serious possibility. So not only do Vikings fans have to root for an aging 7-9 team, but they get to spend the entire season wondering whether the team will move to L.A. in 115 days.
Now here we are, and the Vikings have blown two halftime leads to go 0-2 to start the year. They led 17-7 against San Diego in Week 1, and 17-0 against Tampa Bay in Week 2, and two weeks in a row, the team just collapsed down the stretch. And the knife gets twisted deeper...
7. On The Other Hand, How 'Bout Them Redskins! Again from that NFL Preview two weeks ago, back when I was picking sleeper teams for 2011: "I know that 'terrible pass protection' and 'rotating quarterbacks' isn't typically what you look for in a sleeper pick, but the defense will be solid, the running game could be dominant, and if there's any athlete in history to have a Ewing Theory-type effect on two different franchises, it's gotta be Donovan McNabb. Every year there's a completely overmatched team that inexplicably wins 10 games and makes the playoffs—the Redskins could be that team!" Guys, the Redskins totally look like that team!
8. Tony Romo Can Be Your Hero.
You really couldn't have written a better script for Tony Romo's Sunday.
It was so good, it almost felt too good.
Whatever happened to his ribs, the Cowboys season looked as hopeless as ever with Jon Kitna staggering his way through the second half, and then Romo trots back onto the field, and finishes the game going 12-of-16 for 201 yards, leading the comeback in the fourth quarter and into overtime.
Not that this is anything new for Romo -- over and over again, he'll choke so blatantly, fans and analysts write him off forever. And then, just when everyone's sure he's fatally flawed, he comes back and reels us all back in. I don't know what to think at this point. Maybe Sunday was the turning point in the Tony Romo story, and he'll go on to have an MVP year and lead the Cowboys to a Super Bowl. Or maybe Sunday was another red herring, and he's just good enough to tease Cowboy fans into trusting him all over again.
Anyway, there's no better way to end the first Snap Judgements. Everyone overreacts to everything in the NFL, but no moreso than Romo. This week, he's a superstar hero All-American badass, and the Cowboys look like Super Bowl contenders again. Maybe it won't last, but screw it, let's get in the spirit and get on the bandwagon. SAY HELLO TO THE HERO, Y'ALL.
Next Week: Tony Romo Is A Clownfraud Choke Artist And The Cowboys Are Doomed ... Can Anyone Stop Michael Vick? ... Tom Brady Is Football Jesus? ... I Am Tony Gonzalez? ... The Texans Get No Respect! ... How Sunday Night Football Became A Four-Hour Candle Lit Vigil For Peyton ... Roger Goodell Just Suspended You ... But Seriously, Why Does God Hate The Chiefs? ... Oh, Todd Haley. Right.