Published September 17, 2011
| Associated Press
He returns as a starter to the dome Sunday with the Philadelphia Eagles, and the reception might not echo that recent history.
Vick remains immensely popular in Atlanta, despite what happened. The cheers outweighed the boos two years ago when he was a third-stringer for Philly, but still threw for one touchdown and ran for another in a 34-7 victory.
He's anything but a third-stringer now.
"That's something I haven't thought about or really don't want to get into," said Vick, the NFL's Comeback Player of the Year in 2010. "I still have a lot of love for the fans down there, but keep in mind I am with the opposition now. I don't expect it to be in my favor due to the fact that I'm out there full-time, but we'll see. That's the fun part of the game and we're just going to enjoy the day."
Enjoying another day in Atlanta — or anywhere — seemed a long shot for Vick after being exiled from the Falcons, and then from the NFL. Now, he is a key performer on a team that went wild in free agency, made a huge trade that sent his backup and erstwhile competitor for the quarterbacking spot, Kevin Kolb, to Arizona. He's also the owner of a $100 million contract.
"Going back as a starter is different than it was in 2009 when I spot-played a little bit and just had an opportunity to go out there and make a couple plays," he said. "The emotional aspect of it I'm over, but it'll be great to go back to the dome, play against a former team, have an opportunity to play against some guys that I played with. It's going to be different going back as the starter, but at the same time, it'll be fun."
It's also a huge game between two of the favorites in the NFC, particularly after the Falcons were beaten handily in Chicago last week. Philly won at St. Louis.
Elsewhere Sunday, it's Seattle at Pittsburgh, San Diego at New England, Green Bay at Carolina, Chicago at New Orleans, Baltimore at Tennessee, Kansas City at Detroit, Jacksonville at the New York Jets, Oakland at Buffalo, Tampa Bay at Minnesota, Cleveland at Indianapolis, Dallas at San Francisco, Arizona at Washington, Houston at Miami, and Cincinnati at Denver.
On Monday night, St. Louis is at the New York Giants.
Seattle (0-1) at Pittsburgh (1-0)
Once in a while, the Steelers' offense doesn't show up. No big deal because the defense rescues Pittsburgh.
That makes the stunning 35-7 failure at Baltimore last weekend so distressing in Steel City. Not only was the offense committing seven turnovers, looking like amateurs and losing right tackle Willie Colon (torn right triceps) for the season, but the defense was being run over.
San Diego (1-0) at New England (1-0)
Always a fun matchup with two of the NFL's most exciting and prolific offenses facing off, especially in September when weather isn't usually a factor.
Tom Brady probably won't throw for 517 yards again. Or maybe he will, considering the tear he's been on. Going back to last season, when he was the unanimous league MVP, Brady has led New England to nine straight regular-season victories, longest string in the league.
"When you have a quarterback who plays at the level that Tom Brady is, (if) you can't pressure him and disrupt him a little bit, you're going to be in for a long day," Chargers coach Norv Turner said.
Turner has his own strong offense led by Philip Rivers, who threw for a piddling (compared to Brady) 335 yards in a comeback win over Minnesota.
Green Bay (1-0) at Carolina (0-1)
Everybody's talking about Cam Newton's 400-yard passing debut, even if it was in a loss at Arizona. The top overall draft choice sure was impressive, and he'll make his home debut.
Unfortunately for Newton and the Panthers, that debut comes against the Super Bowl champions. Green Bay pretty much was unstoppable against the Saints in the season's kickoff game, with Aaron Rodgers dissecting an aggressive but outmanned defense.
Even worse for the Panthers was losing key linebacker Jon Beason (torn left Achilles tendon).
Chicago (1-0) at New Orleans (0-1)
A classic matchup as the latest version of the Monsters of the Midway travels to the Big Easy to face a Drew Brees-led attack that will test Brian Urlacher, Julius Peppers and the rest of the Bears. Urlacher's status is uncertain following the sudden death of his mother.
The Packers have a pretty fair defense, too, yet they gave up 500 yards to the Saints, who will be without WR Marques Colston (broken right collarbone), but have a three-pronged rushing attack to challenge Chicago.
Baltimore (1-0) at Tennessee (0-1)
The demolition job the Ravens did on the Steelers often could lead to a letdown against a lesser opponent. Make no mistake, regardless of how Pittsburgh sputtered, the Titans aren't in the Steelers' class.
They do have moxie, though, coming back to test Jacksonville before a late interception ended matters. If they have running back Chris Johnson going full bore — unlikely because he missed the preseason in a holdout — the Titans might be dangerous. The issue there: Baltimore's run defense perennially is overpowering.
St. Louis (0-1) at New York Giants (0-1), Monday night
Listing who is healthy for this one might be easier than going through the injury report. Just a week into the regular season, the Rams' best player, RB Steven Jackson (right leg) is hobbled. Top receiver Danny Amendola is out (dislocated left elbow), and QB Sam Bradford damaged his right index finger on a throw, but should start.
New York's tale of woe now has wideout Hakeem Nicks (left knee) in it, joining the likes of DE Osi Umenyora, CB Terrell Thomas, LB Jonathan Goff — all knee injuries — and star DE Justin Tuck (neck). The good news is Tuck probably will go Monday night.
Kansas City (0-1) at Detroit (1-0)
Detroit was pegged as a team to watch this year, and the Lions turned heads with their win at Tampa Bay. For their home opener, they get a Chiefs squad that was awful against Buffalo.
KC led the NFL in rushing in 2010, then gained a measly (for them) 108 yards last week. They must run more than the 18 times they did against the Bills, which would keep Detroit's improving passing game on the sideline.
Jacksonville (1-0) at New York Jets (1-0)
Both teams won close openers in different fashion. Jacksonville built a lead and held on, New York fell into a 14-point hole in the fourth quarter, then rallied.
Few teams run well against coach Rex Ryan's complex defenses, but the Jaguars must try with Maurice Jones-Drew, who was ticked he was rested late against the Titans. He'll be even more important if TE Marcedes Lewis (right calf) is out.
"I just want to be out there, that's all," Jones-Drew said. "I just want to go out there and compete with our guys. I've seen how hard they worked."
Oakland (1-0) at Buffalo (1-0)
Cross-country trips don't always agree with the Raiders, who lost all three of their trips east last season and face a Buffalo team stoked after its romp at Kansas City.
This used to be a classic rivalry back when the Bills were going to Super Bowls and stepping on the Raiders to get there. Now, the game can be a steppingstone back to respectability for the winner.
Tampa Bay (0-1) at Minnesota (0-1)
Already, Buccaneers coach Raheem Morris is second-guessing himself. Morris, who earlier in his career fired both his offensive and defensive coordinators, no longer sees the wisdom of using a fast-paced offense in the opening defeat to Detroit.
"Maybe as a coach I went too early to the two-minute offense. But I wanted to get something generated, give Free (quarterback Josh Freeman) some confidence and get all those guys going," Morris said. "It worked to the standpoint that we were able to get back in the game, but maybe I went into it a little bit early. ... That's on me."
Look for the Bucs to pound the ball against a Vikings defense that blew too many tackles at San Diego and is missing star DT Kevin Williams (suspension). Minnesota will feed Adrian Peterson the ball plenty, as well.
Cleveland (0-1) at Indianapolis (0-1)
What they must do is push aside their angst and discomfort with not having Peyton Manning around, bulk up the offensive line and the pass coverage, and compete. None of which happened against the Texans.
Cleveland was among the most disappointing teams on opening weekend, flopping at home against supposedly lowly Cincinnati. The Browns need to find a passing game quickly under new coach and West Coast offense disciple Pat Shurmur.
Dallas (0-1) at San Francisco (1-0)
Tony Romo beat himself up after Dallas' fourth-quarter collapse at the Meadowlands even harder than the Jets hit him during the game. Somewhat ignored was how well he played for much of the game, how healthy he looked after missing 10 weeks last year with a left collarbone injury, and how dynamic the Cowboys could be on offense once their line is settled.
"Anyone who thinks that I'm going to fold up the tent around here, or this team is, they don't know us very well," Romo said. "This team is going to come back with great energy this week. I'm going to come back with great energy and we're going to play good football going forward."
Arizona (1-0) at Washington (1-0)
Now that the Redskins snapped a slide against the Giants that had reached six games, they stand on the other side of a streak. They have beaten the Cardinals seven straight times and current Skins coach Mike Shanahan has won four in a row over Arizona, all while he was with Denver.
Don't look for Shanahan to rely on past achievements.
"The mindset is not what we did before, but what we're going to do today," he said. "I think we have that sense of urgency about us that we'll approach things that way. If you do it that way, then I think you have a chance to get better."
Houston (1-0) at Miami (0-1)
After watching Tom Brady and company tear up the Miami defense, the Texans should be salivating as they head to South Florida. Plus, they have a superior running game to New England's, particularly if 2010 rushing leader Arian Foster returns from a hamstring problem.
Even better for Houston: it's never lost to the Dolphins, going 5-0.
Cincinnati (1-0) at Denver (0-1)
In their last meeting, the 2009 opener, the host Bengals were about to close out Denver when Brandon Stokley caught a deflected pass, turned and found nobody between him and a Broncos touchdown. Denver won 12-7.
Stokley isn't around for this one, but Kyle Orton, who threw that fortuitous pass, remains the quarterback in Denver, despite loud complaints from fans after his so-so outing in the opening loss to Oakland. This could come down to whether the Broncos can run the ball or stop the run.