Saturday, September 8, 2012
NFL Week 1
After a great game to open up the 2012 regular season, the NFL gets down to work Sunday.
Last year, nearly 67 percent of the games were within one score (eight points or fewer) in the fourth quarter. And for the 16th consecutive year, at least five teams made the playoffs after missing out the year before.
The 2012 season promises more of the same. It’s time to get “Back to Football!”
As the 2012 NFL season kicks off, it comes packed with changes, quests and questions:
•CAN THE SUPER BOWL CHAMPION GIANTS REPEAT?: It’s tough. It’s happened only eight times since the first Super Bowl in 1967. But the Giants are up for the challenge. “There’s no doubt in my mind that we can repeat,” says Giants linebacker MATHIAS KIWANUKA. New York also aims to become the fifth franchise to win three Super Bowls in a six-season span. “I feel the sky’s the limit for this organization and team,” says Giants wide receiver HAKEEM NICKS. “I feel like we can be at this level for a long time.”
•MILESTONES ON THE HORIZON: Records are made to be broken…So what records will be set this year? Some milestones that can be reached this season: Denver QB PEYTON MANNING can become the first quarterback with 12 4,000-yard seasons and needs 22 passing TDs and 286 completions to move into second place all-time…New Orleans QB DREW BREES (43 games) needs to throw a TD pass in each of his next five games to surpass Johnny Unitas (47) for the most consecutive games with a passing TD…St. Louis RB STEVEN JACKSON needs 1,000 rush yards to become the sixth player in NFL history to rush for 1,000 yards in eight consecutive seasons…San Francisco WR RANDY MOSS is tied for second in NFL history with 153 receiving TDs and can move into sole possession of second… Atlanta TE TONY GONZALEZ needs 50 receptions to join Jerry Rice as the only players in NFL history with 15 50-catch seasons…Green Bay CB CHARLES WOODSON needs one interception-return TD (11) to tie Rod Woodson (12) for the most all-time… And Chicago’s DEVIN HESTER needs one return TD (18) to tie Deion Sanders (19) for the most in NFL history.
•NEW COACHES/PLAYERS IN NEW PLACES: There are seven new head coaches that were hired to lead their teams in 2012 – DENNIS ALLEN in Oakland, ROMEO CRENNEL in Kansas City (interim for three games in 2011), JEFF FISHER in St. Louis, MIKE MULARKEY in Jacksonville, CHUCK PAGANO in Indianapolis, JOE PHILBIN in Miami and GREG SCHIANO in Tampa Bay.
And there are a lot of well-known players with new teams, including PEYTON MANNING with the Broncos; MARIO WILLIAMS & MARK ANDERSON with the Bills; BRANDON MARSHALL, MICHAEL BUSH & JASON CAMPBELL with the Bears; VINCENT JACKSON, CARL NICKS & DALLAS CLARK with the Buccaneers; MATT FLYNN & BRAYLON EDWARDS with the Seahawks; RANDY MOSS with the 49ers; TIM TEBOW &
LA RON LANDRY with the Jets; ASANTE SAMUEL with the Falcons; BEN GRUBBS & CURTIS LOFTON with the Saints; BRANDON CARR & KYLE ORTON with the Cowboys; DE MECO RYANS with the Eagles; and JEFF SATURDAY & CEDRIC BENSON with the Packers.
•ON-THE-FIELD TRENDS IN 2011: Scoring at a 46-year high…comebacks galore…passing soared…running backs impressed…young players made their mark…and surprise teams continued to emerge.
A record 11,356 points were scored, with games averaging 44.4 points, the highest average in 46 seasons (46.1 in 1965)…2011 marked the first season in NFL history in which three different teams scored at least 500 points (Green Bay, 560; New Orleans, 547; New England, 513)…The league-wide passer rating (84.3) and TD-INT ratio (1.472:1) were both all-time bests…Games averaged an all-time high 693.7 total net yards per game and 459.4 net passing yards per game…There were 121 individual 300-yard passing games, the most in any season in NFL history, and a record number of individual 400-yard passing performances (18)…Three quarterbacks reached the 5,000-yard mark, more than the previous combined total in NFL history…A record three quarterbacks threw at least 40 touchdown passes; no other season in NFL history had more than one QB with 40+ TD passes...There were 18 games in which a team overcame a deficit of at least 14 points to win, the most in NFL history. And 11 times a team overcame a 17+ point deficit to win, also a single-season record. There were six games in which a team trailing by 20+ points rallied to win, the most all-time. The DETROIT LIONS became the first team in NFL history to win consecutive games in which the team trailed by at least 20 points in each contest…There were seven new division winners, the most such clubs since realignment in 2002…Six teams made the playoffs that were not in the previous postseason, marking the 16th consecutive season in which at least five teams accomplished the feat…The HOUSTON TEXANS (AFC South) and DENVER BRONCOS (AFC West) rebounded to win their divisions after last-place finishes in 2010, marking the NFL-record ninth consecutive season a team went from “worst-to-first” in its division…And a record-tying six teams won at least 12 games.
•NEW RULES: There are several new rules in 2012 with the primary focus on enhancing player safety.
Unnecessary roughness: Existing unnecessary roughness rules have been adjusted to expand protections for defensive players with regard to crackback blocks. All players who are protected from crackback blocks will now be considered defenseless players. In addition to contact below the waist, it will be illegal to forcibly block these players in the head or neck area or make forcible contact with the crown or forehead hairline part of the helmet to any part of body. All unnecessary roughness violations will result in a 15-yard penalty. Protections for the recipients of blindside blocks have also been clarified. Prior to 2012, a blindside block occurred when the blocker was moving towards his own end line and approached his opponent from behind or from the side. Beginning this season, the definition has been expanded to include situations in which a blocker is moving parallel with his own end line.
Instant replay: Only a replay official can initiate a review of certain turnovers, providing more flexibility to coaches in the use of their challenges while maintaining a healthy game pace. This applies if a play results in an interception, if a fumble or backward pass is recovered by an opponent or goes out of bounds through the end zone, or if a muffed scrimmage kick is recovered by the kicking team (successful onside kick).
Too many men in the formation: In the interest of competitive fairness, penalties for too many men in the formation have been changed to dead-ball fouls from live-ball infractions that did not prevent the snap. If a 12th player is not in the formation, game officials will permit the snap and the penalty will be enforced after the play. Violations of this rule result in five-yard penalties.
Overtime procedures for the preseason and regular season were also adjusted to be in line with the modified sudden-death system that has been in use for the playoffs the past two seasons.
There will also be points of emphasis on several existing rules this season (although the rules themselves have not changed). All rules that encourage player safety will continue to be strictly enforced, including unnecessary roughness fouls resulting from blows to the head by offensive and defensive linemen during close line play, horse-collar tackles, roughing the passer and hits on defenseless receivers. The focus will be on eliminating these tactics from the game.
Officials will also be instructed to pay close attention to situations in which a runner declares himself down by falling to the ground or kneeling and making no effort to advance the ball, thereby ending the play. A runner who goes to the ground untouched will be considered to have declared himself down if he does not make an immediate attempt to advance. If a runner makes an immediate effort to advance the ball, play will be allowed to continue.
•THE INTERNATIONAL NFL: For the sixth consecutive year, the NFL will play a regular-season overseas game in the United Kingdom when the St. Louis Rams face the New England Patriots at London’s Wembley Stadium on October 28. Closer to home, the Buffalo Bills will host the Seattle Seahawks on December 16 in Toronto at the Rogers Centre.
•SPECIAL PATCHES: All NFL teams will wear a pink ribbon decal on their helmets to commemorate BREAST CANCER AWARENESS MONTH in October…All NFL teams will wear a camouflage ribbon decal on their helmets to celebrate SALUTE TO SERVICE games in Weeks 9-11…The Pittsburgh Steelers will celebrate the franchise’s 80TH SEASON…The Houston Texans will celebrate the team’s 10TH ANNIVERSARY …All NFL teams will wear a commemorative PRO FOOTBALL HALL OF FAME patch celebrating the Hall’s 50th season in Weeks 14 and 15…The New England Patriots and St. Louis Rams will wear an “INTERNATIONAL SERIES” patch during their October 28 game at London’s Wembley Stadium…The Buffalo Bills will wear a “TORONTO SERIES” patch when they host the Seattle Seahawks on December 16 at the Rogers Centre…The San Diego Chargers will honor the memory of JUNIOR SEAU with a helmet decal.