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Week 1 Observations

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There are still two Monday night games to go, but here are my quick-hit observations on Week 1 in the National Football League:

* We'll start with the Packers, who were able to escape with a road victory without playing their best football, at least on offense. The pass protection problems from a year ago resurfaced as Rodgers took 3 sacks in the first half, and never developed a real rhythm (including one hideous interception in the second half). Ryan Grant went out with an ankle injury and that could be a concern since ankles tend to nag. The defense played pretty well, although Mike Vick put a scare into us in the second half, but the much maligned special teams played exceptional with the key stars being Mason Crosby (hitting two long field goals) and Jordy Nelson (who excelled on kickoff returns all day and never let the Eagles build momentum).

* The most impressive statement victories of the day were from New England, who obliterated the Bengals and staked their claim as a top contender in the AFC, and Houston, who finally got the monkey off their back and beat Indianapolis. This victory doesn't guarantee anything for Houston, but it keeps them in the conversation for the AFC South.

* Speaking of the AFC South, the real winners might be the Tennessee Titans. I am not going to get over-excited about their victory over the Raiders, but they took care of business and the South looks like it might be a 3-team race. The Titans play the Steelers next week in one of the most intriguing games of the weekend.

* Dallas laid an egg on national television that they could not afford to lay. The Cowboys' schedule this season is brutal and they have a low margin for error. The Redskins looked awful on offense but escaped with a W. Dallas should have won this game but did not - and could face an uphill climb to return to the playoffs.

* The NFC West did nothing to change the perception that 8-8 might win that division. The consensus favorite Niners went into Seattle and got blown out. The reigning division champion Cardinals barely escaped St. Louis with a victory over Sam Bradford. I'm not drinking the Seattle Kool Aid just yet, but I was wary of the Niners all offseason and this game confirmed some of my suspicions.

* The least impressive victory of the weekend belongs not to the Washington Redskins, who had a game handed to them on national television by the Cowboys, but rather to the Chicago Bears, who fought off a turnover-filled afternoon and embarrassing performance in short yardage situations to outlast the Lions. The Bears needed the help of an awful rule to take a Calvin Johnson TD off the board.

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