Steuber & Thompson: NFL Hot Topics

Scout.com NFL Experts Chris Steuber and Ed Thompson provide their take on the Patriots' future without Tom Brady and the impact of Vince Young's woes with the Tennessee Titans. And find out which teams surprised each of them the most after they reviewed all the action from Week 1.

Do you think the Patriots are still good enough to make the playoffs this year without Tom Brady at the helm?

Ed: I watched the New England - Kansas City game on Sunday and I think the loss of Brady was—and will continue to be—damaging to the psyche of this team, especially the offense. This really opens the door for the Bills to claim the division, and to give both the Jets and even the Dolphins a legitimate shot to keep pace with the Patriots this year. Bill Belichick is going to kick himself for not having better talent depth at the quarterback position heading into this season. I think this team will struggle to earn a wildcard spot without Brady, and even if they pull that off, they can't go far in the playoffs with Matt Cassel leading the offense.

Chris: Brady is the heart and soul of the New England Patriots, and losing a player of his caliber to a torn ACL is devastating. The players in the locker room have to put up a united front and they will say all the right things, but on the inside they've got to be skeptical. It's going to be tough for the Patriots to rebound from Brady's injury.

Matt Cassel performed well in relief of Brady on Sunday, but to think he's going to continue to be that efficient for the rest of the season is wishful thinking. New England may bring in another quarterback for depth, but whoever they bring in has to learn the offense before they take command.

I think the Jets benefited from Brady's injury more than any other team in the AFC East. The Jets have a favorable schedule and with a motivated Brett Favre and a team that believes in him, New York may overtake a division that's been owned by the Patriots for a decade.


What do you think the impact of Vince Young's injury and apparent emotional distress will have on the Titans?

Chris:  The Titans got off to a great start this past weekend, as they defeated the Jacksonville Jaguars, 17 - 10, in a hard-fought battle. But despite the win, the Titans have some adversity to overcome with Vince Young. During the off-season, Young said that he considered retirement after his first season in the NFL because he couldn't handle the pressure. And now, Young, who will be sidelined for up to four weeks with a sprained MCL he suffered against the Jaguars, seems to be dealing with emotional issues that resulted into a four-hour search on Monday evening.

This is a sketchy situation. If I were a member of the Tennessee front office or coaching staff, I'd be extremely concerned about Young's emotional state and how it will affect him personally and professionally. It may be wrong to say this, but it may be good for Young to be out for the next month, so he doesn't have to deal with potential criticism he would deal with if he didnít have success. But when he returns after healing from the injury, and if the Titans have a winning record with Kerry Collins leading the team, the best scenario will be to have Young as the backup.

Ed: I agree. The Titans are between a rock and a hard place right now. If they throw Young back in as soon as he's healthy -- and he struggles -- it might be difficult to keep him in Tennessee beyond this season. He may need a fresh start elsewhere to have a chance to grow into a more successful NFL quarterback. Once he's healthy enough to play, Young may be better off working with the second team for a while to prove to himself that he can dominate at least against that level of talent, Then the Titans could give him reps with the first team again to start to rebuild his confidence before taking the reigns of the offense again.

As good as Vince Young was at Texas, I think the Titans have learned that it was a mistake to throw him into the starter's role so quickly in Tennessee. He didn't enter the league as the prototypical NFL quarterback, relying heavily on his athleticism and his foot-speed in college. He needed more time to adjust to the speed of the game and the heavier reliance on the passing game that's required at the NFL level. His inability to be as successful to date as he was in college appears to have taken an emotional toll on him.  Since entering the NFL in 2006, he's tossed just 22 touchdown passes in 31 games, and that's simply not good enough for a starter. Tennessee needs to figure out how to help him be more successful as a passer if they want him to be their quarterback beyond 2008.


What three teams surprised you the most in Week 1 action?

Ed: I expected Buffalo to be in the playoff hunt this season as I really like the young nucleus of talent they have on offense with players like Trent Edwards and Marshawn Lynch. And I knew that since they were able to be competitive last year despite all the key injuries on defense, they would be very sound on that side of the ball this year with the return of players like Paul Posluszny and the addition of talent like Marcus Stroud at the defensive tackle position. But I really didn't think they'd smack the Seahawks around like they did on Sunday -- I had expected that to be a better game. Buffalo's showing good confidence and balance, so they are going to be a fun team to watch this year.

The Bears were also a surprise in regards to how easily they handled the Colts. I knew Matt Forte would be an impact player in this league, but I think their passing game is very suspect. As a result, I thought they'd have problems keeping up with Indy.  But on Sunday night, Bears QB Kyle Orton was efficient and the Bears defense played a very smart, aggressive game. Meanwhile, the Colts looked out of synch and injuries forced reserve players to step in at center and both of the guard positions. Chicago played with a chip on their shoulder and walked away with a convincing win. I'm still not convinced Chicago's going to be better than a mediocre team this season, but they got the job done on Sunday night.

The Panthers also surprised me even though I knew that getting Jake Delhomme back was going to be a huge plus for this team. He not only provides a huge upgrade at quarterback versus the ineptitude they had at the position last year, he also helps inspire the rest of that unit raise their game to another level. And who would have guessed that the Panthers would put up more rushing yards (142) than the Chargers (105) in this matchup? I think they absolutely stunned the Chargers by winning that game in San Diego, especially since the final points were put up on the last play of the game.  It's going to be interesting to see how that gut-wrenching loss, combined with the news that Shawne Merriman will have season-ending knee surgery, will impact the Chargers this weekend.

Chris: I was really surprised by the lack of enthusiasm the St. Louis Rams showed on Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles in their humiliating 38 - 3 defeat. The Rams were horrible last year and a lot of that was because of the injuries they endured on the offensive line, which ultimately caused Marc Bulger to sit out a few games due to injury. But the Rams were just awful this past weekend. Bulger looked uncomfortable; Steven Jackson had a few good runs, but wasn't consistent and the entire Rams defense, especially the secondary, should be ordered to run 100 gassers every day at practice this week.

The Atlanta Falcons took advantage of a favorable situation on Sunday when they hosted the Detroit Lions. The Lions defense was ranked 23rd against the run and 31st in pass defense last season, and the Falcons had a field day on their way to amassing 474 yards of total offense. Michael Turner had a tremendous debut for Atlanta, as he rushed for a team record 220 yards and had two touchdowns. Rookie quarterback Matt Ryan had a nice debut as he completed 9-of-13 passes for 161 yards and a touchdown. Ryan's lone touchdown of the game came on his first pass attempt of his career when he found Michael Jenkins on a 62-yard connection. This was exactly the kind of start the Falcons needed after a disruptive 2007 season caused turmoil in the locker room and front office.

A team that I thought was going to have a potential playoff push this season, and they still may, the Houston Texans couldn't stop Willie Parker and the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday. Parker looked incredible and ran through an up-and-coming Texans defensive line as if it were Swiss cheese. One area of concern I had about the Steelers was how effective their offensive line would be this season without guard Alan Faneca, who signed with the New York Jets during the off-season. But the O-Line played with tremendous leverage and dominated the Texans in running situations. The one bright spot for the Texans on Sunday was the continued progression of Mario Williams, who recorded two sacks against the Steelers, after he collected 14 sacks last season.



A member of the Pro Football Writers of America and the Football Writers Association of America, Chris Steuber has provided his analysis of the NFL and NFL Draft prospects on the web and on the radio since 1999. Steuber's features are published across the Scout.com network and on FoxSports.com. If you wish to contact Chris Steuber, email him at: csteuber@scout.com.

A member of the Pro Football Writers of America, Ed Thompson's player interviews and NFL features are published across the Scout.com network and at FOXSports.com. You can contact him by email through this link.


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