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Ask the Expert: Judy Battista

Posted Sep 11, 2012

Atlanta Falcons Vice President of Football Communications chats with NFL National Writer for the New York Times, Judy Battista, about the NFL in Week 1

Reggie Roberts: Give us your take on both the Jets and the Giants after NFL Week 1?

Judy Battista: I'll admit it — I was shocked by the Jets' performance. The defense was expected to be good, but where the heck did that offense come from after the preseason they had. I was impressed with Mark Sanchez — actually I have been impressed with him all throughout the offseason — because he could easily have caved in under the Tim Tebow mania. Instead, he looked as good as he ever has — he was getting rid of the ball quickly, he played with confidence and rhythm. Is there anybody who thought the fans would be when Tebow went IN to the game? Of course not. Having said that, the Bills looked dreadful and we'll get a much better read on where the Jets really stand next Sunday in Pittsburgh.  The Giants did not look great against the Cowboys. There were so many errors — Victor Cruz dropped passes, the secondary looked like it had never seen a slant before, Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck were complete non-factors. All of that is alarming, except remember that the Giants seem to go through these stretches every year and then pull themselves together when it counts. We'll see if they can do that again.

RR: What team surprised you the most during NFL Week 1?

JB: Do I have to pick one? The Bucs, in Greg Schiano's first game, were impressive in solving Cam Newton. The Cowboys looked much better than I expected with the offensive line and the secondary much improved. And for all the wrong reasons, I was surprised that the Saints and the Packers looked so out of sorts.

RR: Were you at all surprised at how well RGIII played in his NFL debut against the New Orleans Saints in the always tough Mercedes-Benz Superdome?

JB: Yes, of course, not because I doubted him personally — he is a superior talent — but because that is a brutally difficult place to play under any conditions. The Saints didn't lose there last year, I think, it is loud, the fans are raucous, and I expected the Saints to be very emotionally charged after the tumult of the off-season and then the vacating of the player suspensions on Friday afternoon. That should be a recipe for a rookie quarterback to fold. But RGIII is unnaturally poised for such a young player. His ability to run and throw the ball doesn't surprise you, his ability to keep his head under those circumstances certainly did. Good sign for him and the Redskins.

RR: Peyton Manning made his 2012 debut in grand style as he and his new team defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers.  What were your impressions as to how Manning operated?

JB: He was shockingly good. Wasn't there supposed to be an adjustment period here, at least? Nevermind whether he would be okay physically, which he obviously is and I think we can probably stop asking about that. He was able to operate the no huddle offense as if he'd been doing it for years with those players. Bill Polian told me Monday morning that it might as well have been 2006. Earlier in the preseason, Polian predicted that it would take eight weeks for them to get in sync on offense — that timetable has obviously sped up. It's really remarkable considering he was out for 20 months and is playing with guys he's known since March.

RR: Is NFL Week 1 overrated from a making-the-NFL playoffs standpoint?

JB: No. The statistics are lopsided that playoff teams usually win in the first week. Obviously, if your franchise QB gets hurt in the second week, none of that matters. But the opening week can set a tone, and if you happen to have played a division opponent, it is really critical. You better believe the Giants would much rather have beaten the Cowboys than now. A week one loss could haunt them in week 17.

RR: Are the San Francisco 49ers the real deal, or did the Green Bay Packers simply have a bad day on Sunday?

JB: Maybe a bit of both, although maybe more tilted toward the Niners. They are so balanced right now and Harbaugh has worked wonders with Alex Smith. The Packers looked like they are still suffering a hangover from the beating they took from the Giants during the playoffs. I just can't imagine that offense would struggle like it did Sunday, but the defense is a mess, as it was last year, so there isn't much margin for error if the offense is off a few ticks and if you're playing an opponent good enough — like the Niners — to make you pay for it.

RR: Tell us what you are hearing about the replacement officials and when the league will settle the dispute with the regular officials?

JB: Not much. They aren't talking and the league is perfectly willing to go forward with replacements. They managed to avoid the kind of disaster they have been dreading when Seattle did not steal a win after being given an extra timeout in its game against Arizona. There is no question games are being officiated differently — holding and pass interference seem to give the replacements the most trouble, which isn't surprising — but the games haven't really been disrupted. The two sides seem dug in on their positions — the pension for the officials is a major sticking point. Usually you would think that now that officials are missing the weekly paycheck, they would be more willing to come back to the bargaining table. But officials are part-time employees, and most have other, primary, careers. So their desperation for the paycheck might not be as critical as if they had no income at all. Unless they crack, this could be a long wait because I think the league gets more and more comfortable as the games go on, knowing that the replacements are likely to improve and that fans — now caught up in the actual games — will soon stop talking about it so much.

 

 

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