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Strange is the right word to describe Manning's performance against the Bears because it is so rare to see the discomfort he displayed throughout that game.
Some of it might have been due to the fact that he missed the entire preseason while recovering from knee surgery. But I think a larger part of it was the fact Chicago's defense did an excellent job of making the Colts' offense one-dimensional. Manning attempted 49 passes, enough to make any quarterback vulnerable to pressure and increase his chances for mistakes. The Colts' inability to match the success that the Bears had on the ground was a huge factor in the outcome.
Another problem was the fact that the Bears took away the long ball and forced Manning to spend the night throwing underneath coverage. Averaging only 5.2 yards per attempt and only a few more yards than that per completion, which is what he did against Chicago, is not going to produce a favorable outcome against most opponents.
I honestly don't know how well Manning or the Colts will be able to bounce back against the Vikings. True, the Vikings looked vulnerable in their opening loss at Green Bay. But Minnesota's defense figures to rebound and should make it difficult for Joseph Addai and the rest of the Colts running game to create the sort of offensive balance that was missing last Sunday night. It's also hard to imagine Indianapolis' run defense doing a whole lot better against Adrian Peterson than it did against Matt Forte.
Question: Do you believe the balance of power in the NFL may be shifting away from the AFC? With traditional powerhouses Indy and San Diego losing to NFC foes, and the monumental loss of Tom Brady, could the AFC become the conference that "anyone" could win? I noticed seven of your top 11 teams were from the NFC; can't remember the last time that happened. -- Stephen, Topeka, Kan.
But the operative phrase is "for now." This could all change dramatically in a matter of a week and will probably keep changing throughout the season.
Without Brady on the field for the Patriots, I do think the AFC is a bit more wide open. But that doesn't necessarily mean it is weaker. The Bills and Steelers look as if they could hold their own with pretty much any team in the league. And I wouldn't be so quick to give up on the Colts or Chargers.
One more thought: Can we really call it a power shift when the defending Super Bowl champion is an NFC team?
Jones wasn't spectacular against the Browns, but I also don't think he was awful. In fact, for someone playing his first game since Dec. 31, 2006, he was pretty solid.
Sure, he did draw a pass-interference penalty that set up a touchdown. He also had some struggles returning punts. But Jones did knock down a pass and was credited with a tackle.
Given his considerable talent, I think the more he plays, the better he will perform.
The biggest difference is that the Pats don't have anyone who comes remotely close to providing the sort of skill and leadership that Brady gave them. The Giants have Justin Tuck and other members of their defensive front capable of picking up a good portion of the slack. I'm not saying the Giants won't miss Strahan and Umenyiora, but I think the Patriots have a much larger void on their team.
Question: I'm a die-hard Vikings fan and have never wavered, even when Mike Tice was heading the crew. I really want your honest take of our quarterback situation. During the offseason, Zygi Wilf made it abundantly clear he wants to win and win now. Signing Madieu Williams and trading our top pick for Jared Allen are all the proof anyone needs. But with Tarvaris Jackson at the helm, can the Vikings, in fact, win now? I call for Daunte Culpepper to be brought back to Minnesota. We have a West Coast offense that thrives off of short, quick passes that call for accuracy. If there is one thing Daunte was known for its accuracy. His experience in the NFL and Minnesota will benefit Jackson, who hasn't had the opportunity to observe under a great leader, a la Aaron Rodgers and Brett Favre. What do you think? -- Michael, Bloomington, Minn.
I'm not ready to give up on Jackson. He clearly needs to perform better than he did against the Packers and he needs to make this his breakout season, once and for all.
However, I think Jackson is closer to being a more consistently effective passer than you might think. Adrian Peterson's dominant rushing should continue to help with Jackson's development into a quarterback who is every bit as dangerous as a thrower as he is as a runner. The Vikings' defensive upgrades should help, too, but they didn't in Green Bay. When the Vikes begin to see the return on that investment -- and I would be surprised if that didn't start happening in Week 2 against the Colts -- they should also begin benefitting from their commitment to Jackson.
I'm not so sure how much of an improvement Culpepper would represent. He is not the same quarterback who routinely connected with Randy Moss on those rainbow shots in a Minnesota uniform. I also don't agree that Culpepper would be a good fit in the Vikings' scheme. His best work is done in a more vertically-oriented offense, and I'm not so sure he still has what it takes to be as effective with that as he once was. Otherwise, Culpepper already would be playing somewhere and not in retirement.