1) Cordarrelle Patterson
Unless you’re a Minnesota Vikings fan or a hardcore fantasy football buff, you might not recognize the name of the youthful wide receiver for the Vikings, but rest assured, you will by the end of this year. Cordarrelle introduced himself to the league with a stellar 67-yard touchdown run and over 100 total rushing yards on Sunday. As a wide receiver. While the media discussion has focused on Percy Harvin, it will not be able to ignore Patterson for long. Patterson can do special things when he gets the ball, so the Vikings will look to give him the football any way that they can, be it through passes or handoffs. Keep Cordarelle in mind so that you will be ahead of the curve by the time he becomes a household name.
2) Atlanta Falcons
After a disastrous campaign last year, the Falcons look to return to contention for the NFC South title. Matt Ryan has had several promising years at the helm of the Atlanta offense, but he will have to prove that last year was only a fluke. Sunday was a huge step in the right direction as the Falcons defeated division powerhouse New Orleans. With defending divisional champ Carolina potentially losing quarterback Cam Newton for an extended period of time, Atlanta’s victory over New Orleans gives them a strong start on their quest for a divisional title. New Orleans might still win the division, but if the Falcons can remain healthy they certainly have the offensive power to snag one of the tightly contested NFC Wild Card spots.
3) Cincinnati Bengals’ Offense
I was a huge fan of Cincinnati’s young running back Giovani Bernard in his rookie season last year. He had some incredible runs as a complement to starter BenJarvus Green-Ellis, including a few touchdown plays in which he ran far farther sideline to sideline than towards the endzone. This year, Green-Ellis has left, and while Bernard did not put up ridiculous numbers this week, he gained the yards he did get in a ridiculous fashion. As I watched the game, it seemed that even on 5 yard runs it took 3 defenders to catch and bring down the shifty back – it is only a matter of time until he breaks some big plays this year. Oh, and the Bengals also have A.J. Green, an unstoppable wide receiver in the mold of Calvin Johnson. It surprised many people when the Bengals gave Andy Dalton big money in the offseason, because frankly, with Bernard, Green, and a solid supporting cast, I might be able to lead that offense to score some points. They may not be as flashy as the Eagles or Broncos, but the Bengals offense is in a good place and will be for a while.
1) Baltimore Ravens
The Ray Rice situation deserves more than a short blurb in a light-hearted post, so I will only say that the Ravens now have a significant hole at running back. Meanwhile, Joe Flacco looked indecisive and made some poor decisions in Week 1. As a Giants fan, I recognize a quarterback that managed to somehow string together every good decision in his career into only one (or two) playoff runs. Joe Flacco has that look right now. Steve Smith got away with throwing a defensive back to the ground by the facemask on his long score, and without that play the passing offense was a disaster. “But Flacco threw for 345 yards!” you think. Yes, on 62 attempts. SIXTY TWO. With the Ravens now scrambling to find a run game for the season, Flacco might legitimately end up throwing 70 passes in a game this season, which would scare me very much if I were a Ravens fan.
2) Houston Texans
There are not enough expletives in my vocabulary to express my feelings on the Texans’ decision to pass on the plethora of quarterbacks in this year’s draft. Look at the past 10 Super Bowl winning quarterbacks: Wilson, Flacco, Manning, Rodgers, Brees, Roethlisberger, Manning again, other Manning, Roethlisberger again, and Brady. Does anyone really think Ryan Fitzpatrick belongs with any of those players? Even Eli or Flacco? The Texans went with the “F#%$ it, we’ll do it live” approach at quarterback last year, and it got them the worst record in the NFL. The Texans will miss the incredible talent of Jadeveon Clowney, out for a month with a knee injury, but they still have J.J. Watt, who pretty much stopped the Redskins by himself. I mean, the man blocked an extra point attempt. For now, at least, the defensive line of Houston’s dreams will have to wait.
3) Tony Romo
Even as a Giants fan I recognize that Romo really gets more hate than he deserves. He has a decent track record late in games, and is probably underrated (in real life and in fantasy football). However, Romo did not do himself any favors with his performance on Sunday. If he wanted to rid himself of the hate and ridicule, he has started on a poor note. Romo had the chance to lead his team to what would have been a huge win against an elite 49ers team, but he failed, over and over again. While Dallas’s biggest problem is its lackluster defense, the fire under Romo will only continue to burn hotter with outings like the one he just had. I almost feel bad for him, but with talent like Dez Bryant, Demarco Murray and Jason Witten around him, Romo did nothing to help his own case at the start of what might be a very long season for the Cowboys.
Photo: 55th Street