What's all that smoking wreckage crumpled in the ditch on the side of the road? It's the remains of the Carolina, NY Jets, Minnesota, Arizona, St. Louis, San Diego and Baltimore bandwagons. Who left all those skidmarks as they raced away? Kansas City, Pittsburgh and Dallas. Who's that guy on the side of the road with egg on his face eating a humble pie with crow filling?
Uhh, that would be yours truly, The Sandman.
I was absolutely bamboozled by the first week of the 2005 NFL season. I only racked up a dismal seven correct picks this weekend (Monday night game hasn't started yet; I picked Philly, but at this point, who the heck knows?), but I'm sure I'm not alone. My plan is to offer weekend picks on Friday with a Monday evening post-mortem. Here's the bitter results from Sunday...
SF 28, STL 25
I finally figured out what's wrong with Mike Martz. He doesn't game plan. Not one bit. I don't know if he's incapable of game planning, or just too stubborn to do it, but he doesn't do one darn thing to prepare for another team. The Rams were completely baffled by the Niners defense and their offensive line had bigger holes than the hull of the Titanic. They couldn't stop Tim Rattay's (!) passing game, and their special teams were even more atrocious than last year. A couple of minutes of game film from Mike Nolan's defense in Baltimore would have given any other head coach a clue, but Martz is so in love with his own abilities, he thinks his plan is superior to any other, regardless of preparation. Game planning is the key to Bill Belichek's success, it's why the Pats are the dynasty of the 2000's instead of the Rams, and it's the reason why Georgia and Stan should put Jeff Fisher's cell phone on speed dial. Over-under on Martz's firing: nine games.
TB 24, MIN 13
The Vikings' offense was supposed to be just as good without Randy Moss. It was much worse. Culpepper looked hideous, his worst performance by far as a pro quarterback. The Vikings' defense was supposed to be much improved. It wasn't. It was much worse. They let a previously impotent Tampa offense run and pass virtually at will. Mike Tice was supposed to show he could make a championship push as a coach. He can't. He ought to start checking the want-ads for high school assistant coach positions, because his days in the NFL are numbered (if God is merciful). The Vikings were supposed to be Superbowl contenders. They aren't. Some things never change.
NYG 42, ARZ 19
Speaking of things that don't change, there are the Cardinals. Going into the season, this is the line that many, myself included, bought into: Dennis Green, experience, savvy head coach; Kurt Warner, former league and Superbowl MVP; young receivers filled with talent; exciting running back in Marcel Shipp; improved defense ready to compete for a division championship. Here's the reality: These are the Arizona Cardinals, owned by Bill Bidwell, the worst franchise in the NFL. Does anyone knows what grows in the desert? That's right: nothing at all. This is the team where careers go to die, forever. Ugh! On the bright side, they'll probably beat the Rams next week.
NYJ 7, KC 27
The only reason this game wasn't 42-0 was because Herman Edwards is an old friend of Dick Vermeil. A less merciful coach could have run the score way up on the hapless Jets defense. Dick should teach his old offensive coordinator in St. Louis a little thing about game planning. They stopped the run, neutralizing Curtis Martin, which put the game in the hands of Chad Butterfingers—I mean Pennington—who folded up faster than the Bush administration's latest round of excuses under constant pressure from the KC defense. This offense looks like an absolute juggernaut at this point; we'll see if the defense is just good enough to get them through the playoffs.
NO 23, CAR 20
I drank the Carolina Kool-Aid against my better judgment; I figured since so many others had them going deep in the NFC, there must be something there. Nah. Good for New Orleans, the team without a city. Let's just call them America's Team this year, okay? The American Saints. Let's see if they can keep the emotional intensity next week against the Giants; it's a total rip-off that the Giants get to play at home when they should have been on the road; a neutral field would be more appropriate.
TEN 7, PIT 34
Yeah, I take back everything I said last time about Pittsburgh. They're gonna win the Superbowl.
DAL 28, SD 24
So, which one sold his soul to the devil, Parcells, Bledsoe or both?
IND 24, BAL 7
One down, 15 to go. Peyton, it's not about TD passes or yardage or even an MVP, it's about home field advantage in the playoffs. It's everything, absolutely everything.
All the others: A good start for Buffalo; a promising (and convincing) start for Cincinnati (though I'm still not convinced—it was Cleveland, after all); a frustrating loss for Lovie Smith (you should have signed Kurt Warner!) as the Bears coughed up a great defensive game on the road due to a total lack of offensive skill; Seattle loses on the road, as usual (is there a more overrated coach than Mike Holmgren?); Miami shocks the entire league as Gus Frerotte jumps on the "sold my soul" bandwagon; and finally, someone needs to tell Brett Favre that it's not too late to retire—he's really not going to want his last year in the league to be this bad, because it's gonna be.