People in football at every level like to say the biggest improvement comes in Week 2. One thing for sure about the NFL is that it's a now-or-never league. This holds true in Week 2, specifically for the teams that lost their openers.
Last year, nine of the 16 teams that lost in Week 1 followed up with another defeat and fell to 0-2. Not one of those nine teams had a winning record at the end of the season -- Miami, Cleveland, Jacksonville, Tennessee, Kansas City, Detroit, Carolina, Tampa Bay and St. Louis.
Coaches now know what their team looks like under fire. There is real game tape to study, and game-plan modifications to be made. And there is a point of emphasis on all things that are correctable.
The 16 teams that won their openers still have to peel away the excitement of victory and put a critical eye on the things that need repair. For the 16 losers, it's a lot easier to see their faults, but it could be a lot harder to fix the problems.
Here are some of the areas that will get the attention of coaches this week:
Every coach is striving for the perfect game when it comes to penalties. It's unrealistic, but the Packers went into Philadelphia and committed just two penalties for 15 yards in their 27-20 victory over the Eagles. The Bengals, even though they lost 38-24 to New England, only committed two penalties for 5 yards.
I always look at Week 1 penalties for an indication of what the officials are looking to call differently from last year. They like to call it "a point of emphasis," which means they will call those particular infractions more this year.
In Week 1, their point of emphasis was on holding penalties. Officials called 37 of them, compared to the Week 1 average of 20.6 from 2007-'09 (see chart).
Special teams can be a disaster early in the season when there are so many rookies playing on these units.
It was a good sign that only two kickoff returns crossed the 50-yard-line in Week 1 and just one went for a touchdown (New England's Brandon Tate vs. Cincinnati). Then again there were only 137 kickoff returns, and last year the league averaged 146 each week. As offenses start to improve there will be more returns and more return problems.
As for punt-return coverage, the Chargers not only gave up the only punt return for a touchdown this weekend to Chiefs rookie Dexter McCluster, but also wound up giving up a total of 160 yards on five returns. Throw out the 94-yard TD return by McCluster, and the Chargers still allowed 16.5 yards a return on their other four punts. Not coicidently, their best special teams player the past three seasons -- Kassim Osgood -- left for Jacksonville in free agency.
Look for a number of big returns around the league in Week 2 as special teams coaches now have tape to identify coverage lane breakdowns.
Fumbles drive coaches crazy.
Last year the league averaged 44 fumbles a weekend, with 20 of them being lost to the opponent. In Week 1 there were 53 fumbles, with 26 being lost. No play was more devastating than the Dallas fumble that DeAngelo Hall scored on just before halftime.
Pass protection is a critical component to winning in this league. There were 2,164 pass plays called in Week 1, and there were 66 sacks -- or one sack for every 32 pass attempts.
Red-zone packages, just like 2-minute drill and goal-line packages, don't get enough real work in the preseason. In Week 1, teams made 84 trips to the red zone, and a touchdown was scored 46.4 percent of the time.
As for red-zone defenses, they too face a problem of little work against another opponent during the summer. The Colts, Bears and Raiders gave up two rushing touchdowns each to their opponents in three trips. The 49ers permitted three touchdowns in four trips by the Seahawks, and the Bengals and Panthers gave up three touchdowns each in five trips.