By Jason Whitlock
Special to Page 2

Surely one of the toughest assignments in sports is making sense of the first weekend of the NFL season. There are those among us who will simply swear that it cannot be done. And then there are those who know better -- the select group of men and women exposed to my writings.

Not to brag, but I have quite a reputation for diagnosing NFL madness. Given a weekend to overlook results and second-guess excuses, it becomes rather easy for me to figure out whom and what to believe from Week 1.

Clayton, Salisbury, Mortensen and Jaworski pay handsomely for the information and predictions that I'm about to share for free with you, Page 2 readers. Why are you getting such a bargain? I'm tired of underground success. I'm tired of Clayton and Co. getting the glory for my expertise and refusing to share the spoils.

Week 1 of the season, as it is apt to do, created far more questions than it provided answers for the average football fan. Readers of this column recognize that I'm not the average football fan. As a former elite-level athlete, a man in his youth who protected Jeff George's blind side in high school and opened gaping holes for Bernie Parmalee in college, I have keen insight into America's game.

OK, enough with the hype. Here are 10 facts that can be gleaned from Week 1:

Derrick Johnson
With speedster Derrick Johnson added, KC's defense is much improved.

10. Kansas City's defense is closer to being fixed than Indianapolis' defense.

Listen, I love the addition of Corey Simon to the middle of Indy's D. Simon, who looked like he swallowed Jerry Ball, is exactly what Tony Dungy's unit needed: a human bowling ball to plug running lanes.

But Indy's near shutout of the Baltimore Ravens has more to do with Brian Billick's continued offensive ineptness than the Colts' unveiling a defense capable of winning in January. Billick might be the worst offensive coach in the history of the NFL. Billick is the man who decided Kyle Boller was a franchise quarterback. If not for Marvin Lewis and Ray Lewis' carrying the Ravens to a Super Bowl title, Billick would be in the unemployment line.

Meanwhile, Kansas City's rebuilt defense showed off its added speed (linebackers Derrick Johnson and Kendrell Bell and corner Patrick Surtain) and a new look (12-15 snaps in a 3-4 scheme) in demolishing the Jets.

9. The Eagles lost to the Falcons because Donovan McNabb refused to run the football.

You can blame McNabb's unwillingness to run on his bruised chest. I don't. McNabb has spent the past two years trying to prove he's a pocket passer, not a mad scrambler. It's a mistake. The evidence of McNabb's error was all over Philly's Monday night loss to the Falcons, who scored 14 points because Michael Vick was effective on several designed running plays.

McNabb threw the ball 45 times. He was credited with one rush, which really wasn't a run. McNabb can run the football damn near as well as Vick; McNabb was the second coming of Steve Young. Had McNabb run the football three or four times, the Eagles wouldn't have settled for two 49-yard field-goal attempts, which David Akers missed. Had McNabb run, the Eagles would've scored at least 17 points, and they'd be 1-0.

If McNabb doesn't use his legs this season, the Eagles won't be playing in a fifth straight NFC Championship Game.

8. Warren Sapp, my favorite NFL player, is officially washed up.

The Oakland Raiders switched from a 3-4 to a 4-3 so Sapp could go back inside, where he's most effective. The move didn't help Sapp at all in the season opener against the Patriots. Sapp is 25 pounds overweight and has none of the quickness that once made him as dominant as Joe Greene.

Sapp can now be easily blocked one on one. He's not a threat against the run or the pass.

7. Everyone -- including yours truly -- who suggested the Minnesota Vikings and Daunte Culpepper would be improved by the subtraction of Randy Moss should be beaten.

I feel so stupid. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers do not beat the Vikings if Randy Moss is still wearing purple.

6. The feel-good New Orleans Saints will fade quickly because Aaron Brooks is the most fraudulent QB in the NFL.

Saints fans better enjoy the Week 1 miracle because Brooks will continue to get in the way of the Saints' enjoying consistent success. The Saints have the necessary personnel to field a potent offense -- a decent line, top-flight receivers and a big-play running back.

However, Brooks is the anti-Tom Brady. Brooks makes stupid decisions, has zero leadership ability and isn't particularly tough or poised in the pocket.

5. Miami's Nick Saban may prove to be the best coach in the history of the NFL, but beating the Broncos in his opener didn't say anything about him.

That Denver disaster was all about Mike Shanahan. I take that back. That Denver disaster was all about John Elway. I've long contended that Elway is/was the greatest player to ever play the game. Watching Shanahan unravel as a "mastermind" without Elway further proves my point.

Kurt Warner
Denny Green has learned the truth: Kurt Warner can't play anymore.

Shanahan simply can't coach without Elway. Shanahan's ego isn't out of control. He hasn't changed from his Elway days; he's just the same coach Al Davis fired in Oakland.

4. Kurt Warner stole two league MVP trophies from Marshall Faulk.

I'm not saying Warner wasn't an outstanding player with those great Rams teams. He was. But he was never as important to the Rams as Faulk. I've enjoyed watching Warner disintegrate with the Giants and now the Cardinals.

I'm a huge Dennis Green fan. But I can't figure out why he'd make Warner his starting quarterback. Warner is just too immobile and too erratic after contact to play behind an average offensive line.

3. Speaking of immobile quarterbacks, I don't expect to see Drew Bledsoe leading the Cowboys to a playoff run.

The Cowboys upset the Chargers solely because Marty Schottenheimer forgot to get the football to the game's best running back, LaDainian Tomlinson. L.T. touched the ball twice in the final 10 minutes of Dallas' upset victory.

The Cowboys win six or seven games this season, max.

2. I know this is a column about the NFL, but I have to sneak in one take about college football: Charlie Weis deserves significant praise for Notre Dame's impressive 2-0 start.

Weis' best move at Notre Dame so far was bringing back former Lou Holtz assistant Rick Minter as defensive coordinator.

After leaving Holtz's Notre Dame staff, Minter was head coach at Cincinnati for a decade and then rejoined Holtz at South Carolina after the Cincy athletic director canned Minter for making Bearcats fans believe Cincy could be a top-20 program.

Minter is an awesome football coach, the best defensive mind in college football. If Notre Dame continues to shine this season, some wise athletic director at a BCS school would be wise to hire Minter.

1. Tom Brady is still a better quarterback than Peyton Manning.

Period.

Jason Whitlock is a regular columnist for The Kansas City Star. His newspaper is celebrating his 10 years as a columnist with the publishing of Jason's first book, "Love Him, Hate Him: 10 Years of Sports, Passion and Kansas City." It's a collection of Jason's most memorable, thought-provoking and funny columns over the past decade. You can purchase the book at TheKansasCityStore.com. Jason can be reached by e-mail at ballstate68@aol.com.



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