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Ask The Expert: NFL Network's Steve Wyche


Atlanta Falcons vice president of football communications Reggie Roberts sits down with writer and NFL Network personality Steve Wyche to talk all things NFL.*

Reggie Roberts: What were your general impressions of the league after Week 1 and which team/players stood out to you for good reasons or those not so good?

Steve Wyche: This was a typical first week, where we saw some sloppy play (Saints/Vikings, Redskins/Cowboys, Panthers/Giants), some big-time performances (Arian Foster, RB Texans; Clay Matthews, OLB Packers) and some teams that were ready (New England, Houston, Seattle) and others that weren't (Dallas, San Francisco, Oakland).

I was really impressed with how the Patriots took apart a good Bengals team and how physical Houston and New Orleans played on both sides of the ball. Dallas, meanwhile, looked as if it hadn't practiced (offensively) except anywhere on a sandlot for the past for weeks. They were disorganized, highly penalized and totally out of sync. In terms of players, I covered the Saints-Vikings and Texans-Colts games. I am a big-time fan of the Saints' guards Jahri Evans and Carl Nicks — very athletic sledgehammers. Got to give props to Houston's Foster and DE's Mario Williams and Antonio Smith, too. Peyton Manning was feeling them Monday morning, but not in a good way.

My biggest impression, though, were the amount of injuries. There were some bad ones, including one I saw, with Texans DE Connor Barwin suffering a grisly dislocated ankle that ended his season.

RR: Since you live in Atlanta and used to cover the Falcons, I am sure you still follow the team. What were your impressions of the Birds after their game in Pittsburgh?

SW: I knew it would be tough sledding offensively for the Falcons. With Troy Polamalu back, the Steelers' stonewall defense would be back to what it was. However, Atlanta better figure out how to run the ball against 3-4 fronts. That has been problematic and it faces four more traditional 3-4 fronts — including this weekend vs. Arizona and its beast of a defensive front, led by DT Darnell Dockett. Not to mention, the Saints threw off the Colts in the Super Bowl and the Vikings in the season-opener by primarily playing a 3-4. Although Rashard Mendenhall's OT touchdown run was a bust, there is no shame in holding the Steelers to 13 points. The offense better figure things out. It's only Week 1, but it hasn't looked crisp yet.

RR: Did any team's final roster moves totally catch you off guard?

SW: I was a little taken aback that Arizona waited so late to make a move with Matt Leinart. It had seen him for years and knew what he was and went into the offseason with some wishful thinking that his teammates would buy into him. Now they're in a spot where if Derek Anderson, who has a career 1-to-1 touchdown to interception ratio, falters or gets hurt, they're rolling with rookie Max Hall. I was a little surprised Seattle released WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh because he is a productive player, but with the way it is turning over the roster, it might have felt it was better to cut ties now with a player it didn't want long-term, than to have him take reps from a player it wanted to develop. I wasn't surprised the Jets got a contract done with CB Darrelle Revis because they realize the defense doesn't work without him in the mix. Otherwise, I wasn't surprised by most of the roster moves.

RR: NFL experts across the league say two of the top teams in the NFC are the Green Bay Packers and the Dallas Cowboys. What's your take?

SW: I really like both teams — especially the Packers. That defense, which everyone says is suspect because Green Bay got worked out by Arizona in the playoffs, will be better. It was a Top 5 unit in 2009 and it forces turnovers. In the second year of the 3-4, I expect even bigger things. The offense is a machine. Things were a little disjointed in Week 1, but the Pack still hung 27 on a good Eagles team.

Although Dallas played offensively like a sad excuse for the Bingo Long Traveling All Stars and Motor Kings (old school reference to a movie about a barnstorming baseball team) in a 13-7 loss to Washington, it still had a chance to win. The Cowboys will regain form soon when Marc Colombo returns to right tackle and penalty machine Alex Barron is shelved. They'll also be better because Jerry Jones will tell offensive coordinator Jason Garrett to stop calling plays like he's playing Madden. The defense and talent is too good for the Cowboys to not make a serious deep playoff run.

RR: The umpire rule has been getting a ton of attention over the past couple of weeks. What's your understanding of the new rule and the placement of the umpire?

SW: The new umpire placement in the backfield didn't seem to have much effect in Week 1. There were concerns that the time it took for the umpire to get into position behind the tailback would hinder no-huddle/quick-snap teams, but the amendments to when the ball could be snapped fixed that – for now. I don't see this being a routine issue.

RR: The one team that seemingly is flying under the radar during the recently concluded NFL training camps is the Chicago Bears. What kind of season do you think the Bears will have?

SW: Although they beat the Lions, I still don't think they are a playoff team. They did some very positive things but they could have (should have) lost that game on the Calvin Johnson play at the end (Um, Calvin, next time, just pull the ball in). The offensive line is a big-time issue. I'm not saying Chicago won't be better, but the issues with the offensive line will remain all season.

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