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COLUMN

Don't overreact to NFL's opening week, but Peyton's still got it

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For more sports commentary, follow Reggie Hayes via Twitter at www.twitter.com/reggiehayes1

As usual, quarterback play draws an abundance of analysis

Wednesday, September 11, 2013 - 6:38 pm

Let's hand it to the Philadelphia Eagles. While most NFL teams' play caused overreaction among fans and media after their first game, the Eagles were there by halftime.

Chip Kelly's offense, with Michael Vick and LeSean McCoy rolling in the first half of their Monday night win over the Washington Redskins, looked like the new unstoppable NFL force. Then it slowed down. Then overreaction turned to a dampened reaction. The revolution hasn't quite started yet.

On the flip side, Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III looked rusty and tentative in the first half, then came out and played with zest in the second half, proving one thing: NFL players need at least a few preseason snaps.

It's foolish to judge NFL teams after a single game because this league changes so fast. We assumed the Oakland Raiders would stink and then chastised the Indianapolis Colts for not proving that. Maybe the Raiders, with Terrelle Pryor, aren't as bad as advertised. Colts players reacted with the old “a win is a win” cliché, which is as true as it is bland.

Week 2 promises more insight.

Here's what we might have learned in Week 1 and what we'll find out more about in Week 2:

Peyton still rules

Even early in Manning's superb seven-touchdown torching of the Baltimore Ravens, discussion about his arm strength, or lack thereof, dominated fan discussion on Twitter. When a quarterback reaches Manning's age (37), touch and savvy override throwing deep anyway.

Up next: The Manning Bowl. The Broncos travel to New York to take on younger brother Eli Manning and the Giants. Eli had a rough start and stronger finish in his opening-day loss to the Dallas Cowboys. Brother vs. brother brings the stress. Which Manning weathers it best?

Saints alive

Sean Payton's return as coach after a year's suspension seems to herald a return to relevance for the Saints. Their defense played well in a win over the Falcons, holding them to 3-of-11 in third-down conversions. Last season, the defense was nonexistent. Drew Brees seemed comfortable with his coach back, hitting 26 of 35 passes for 357 yards and a pair of touchdowns. “It was as if no time has passed (since Payton was on the sideline),” Brees told reporters. “It's what we do. Business as usual.”

Up next: The Saints travel to Tampa Bay. The Bucs couldn't handle Geno Smith, although a cheap penalty stole the win at the end. Brees should have quite a day.

The Bush push

Reggie Bush's 90 yards rushing and 101 yards receiving, with tremendous touchdown acceleration, showed a one-time can't-miss stud making everyone miss. The move to Detroit seems to have energized and revitalized Bush's career – again, this is one game – and given the Lions another weapon in a potentially potent offense. This has to be good for Calvin “Megatron” Johnson, right? He had a mere 37 yards receiving Sunday, but the Lions won.

Up next: Detroit travels to Arizona, where Bruce Arians has made Larry Fitzgerald happier with Carson Palmer at quarterback and the bombs-away approach in the playbook. Arians is not afraid of a shootout, and Lions-Cardinals could be as fun to watch as any game without a Manning.

End is near for New England?

The easy way to start predicting in the NFL is to pencil (or ink) in the Patriots as the AFC's best or second-best team. Of course, that was based on quarterback Tom Brady having some good, if not great, offensive players around him. The cupboard's almost bare now, save for a generic can of Danny Amendola. Yet any definitive call that the Patriots are sliding should be met with derision. Amendola might not be Wes Welker, but he caught 10 passes for 104 yards as New England escaped against Buffalo and rookie quarterback E.J. Manuel.

Up next: The Patriots host the Jets on Thursday. The Jets are 1-0 with Smith at quarterback, but no one knows how that happened. This is a home game to re-establish the Patriots' brand. Another close game against a so-so team and there will be reason for concern.

Colts go conservative

Andrew Luck was 18-of-23 passing for 178 yards and a pair of touchdowns in a come-from-behind-after-being-well-ahead win over the Raiders. Some were concerned because the Colts had nearly a 50-50 split with runs and passes and didn't crush the Raiders after taking a 14-0 lead. But Luck directed three scoring drives in seven series and had his eighth fourth-quarter or overtime game-winning drive in 17 regular-season games. If Luck would've had the usual 12 or 13 possessions, he could have put 35 points on the board and another touchdown pass or two. Was it more conservative with the lead than last season? Yes, because Arians moved to Arizona.

Up next: The Colts host the Miami Dolphins, who do not have a read-option style quarterback. This has caused Colts defensive ends and outside linebackers to exhale.

King Kaepernick

After one tremendous game against the Packers, the media is ready to give 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick his own wing in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. In their defense, it was a really good game: 412 yards passing, three touchdowns. By comparison, RG3, Russell Wilson and Andrew Luck had modest numbers. Kaepernick has it all – strength, speed and savvy – but the Packers' defense might be built on the brawn (not brains) of Clay Matthews and several rolls of duct tape.

Up next: The 49ers travel to Seattle, where the Seahawks defense will be as motivated to slow down Kaepernick as if it were the Super Bowl. Facing the Packers and Seahawks to open the season will, however, show how strong the 49ers are in September.

The 49ers look like the best in the NFL. Or is that a one-game overreaction?

This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Reggie Hayes at rhayes@news-sentinel.com.