Nobody eats cake as soon as they arrive at a birthday party. It's rude to go in for a kiss at the beginning of a first date. Comics don't deliver punch lines when they introduce themselves. Why? Because generally, you save the best for last.
Yet, here was the NFL, with 256 regular-season games to be played between Sept. 8 and New Year's Day, starting things off with Saints-Packers, a matchup of the last two Super Bowl champions. Rarely do games live up to the hype, and they exceed it even less frequently, but that's exactly what the opening tilt did. The contest went down to the final play, with Green Bay's defense stuffing New Orleans RB Mark Ingram on the goal line with no time remaining on the clock.
The quarterbacks for both teams showed why they are among the best in the business. Aaron Rodgers was nearly unstoppable in the early going, throwing three touchdown passes in the first quarter. Drew Brees responded in the second half, tossing for 250 yards and two TDs in the last two quarters to try and lead the Saints back. With their performances, each quarterback finds themselves in the thick of the MVP discussion after one week of NFL action.
The league showcased its very best in the opener with a game that will be tough to top. Nevertheless, we hope the best is yet to come for these quarterbacks.
(Last week's ranking in parentheses)
1. Patriots QB Tom Brady (No. 1) — Posting 517 yards, four TDs and one INT — off a deflected pass — in a win over the Dolphins, Brady had a record-breaking start to the 2011 season. His offensive line gave him plenty of time to throw and he picked Miami apart.
2. Packers QB Aaron Rodgers (No. 2) — Rodgers no longer has his stylish preseason moustache, but as the Saints found out, he still has a cannon of a right arm. In the first game of the year, the Packers QB seemed to be playing a friendly game of backyard catch with his receivers, completing a ridiculous 77 percent of his passes.
3. Eagles QB Michael Vick (No. 3) — One of the greatest concerns for Vick this season is the Eagles' offensive line, a unit that had trouble on Sunday defending the Rams' pass rush. St. Louis sacked him three times, had 11 total QB hits and Vick lost a fumble on a blind side blitz by ex-Eagle Quintin Mikell. The constant punishment didn't slow Vick's playmaking ability, as he accounted for 284 total yards and threw a pair of touchdowns in the blowout win.
4. Saints QB Drew Brees (No. 5) — Think Brees had a problem with Sean Payton's call to hand it off instead of throwing on the final play of the team's Week One loss to the Packers? On the Saints' last drive, Brees completed five passes for 71 yards, plus had time to spike the ball and make a throw that earned a pass interference in the endzone. Then the ball was taken out of his hands in favor of a handoff to a rookie. Kind of strange.
5. Ravens RB Ray Rice (No. 7) — Baltimore made one of the loudest statements around the league in Week One, dismantling the division-rival Steelers. Of all the Ravens, it was Rice who was most responsible for turning up the volume. The back ran for 107 yards and a TD, while gaining 42 yards and scoring another touchdown receiving. The Steelers hadn't had a back run for 100 yards or more against them since December, 2009, when Rice also did the honors.
6. Chargers QB Philip Rivers (No. 4) — Week One didn't showcase Rivers at his best, as a pair of interceptions and a surprisingly tough Vikings "D" made it difficult for the Chargers to move the ball through the air. However, he did what stars are expected to do, which is deliver at the end. Rivers threw the go-ahead touchdown to RB Mike Tolbert with five minutes remaining, giving the Bolts some momentum heading into a big Week Two showdown with the Patriots.
7. Lions WR Calvin Johnson (Cusp) — The last time a Lion was a serious MVP candidate? Barry Sanders in the late-90s. Johnson is similar to Sanders in that even with constant attention from opponents, defenses have almost no chance of stopping him. The big-play wideout had 6-88-2 in a big Week One road victory for Detroit.
8. Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger (No. 6) — An all-around brutal game for Roethlisberger and the Steelers in Week One doesn't help Big Ben's candidacy, though it didn't completely ruin it either. Facing the Ravens is never easy. Taking on the secondaries of the Seahawks, Colts, Texans and Titans in the next month should help.
9. Vikings RB Adrian Peterson (No. 8) — If Peterson looked a little slow on Sunday, it may be because his pockets were weighed down with the new $100 million contract he signed over the weekend. The All-Pro back didn't seem to let his heavy pockets bother him too much in the opener. He rushed for 98 yards on 16 carries.
10. Jets CB Darrelle Revis (No. 10) — The league's premier corner has 15 career interceptions, and likely none was easier then the one he made on Sunday. With about one minute remaining in a tie game, Cowboys QB Tony Romo threw a duck of a pass right into the middle of Revis' green No. 24 jersey. The corner nabbed it, brought it back 20 yards and put New York in position to kick the game-winning field goal.
On the cusp (in alphabetical order) — Bears RB Matt Forté, Cardinals QB Kevin Kolb, Texans WR Andre Johnson, Ravens S Ed Reed, Lions QB Matthew Stafford.
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