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Inside the 20: Week 1
By Matt Horkman

The Pro Bowl. More like a low blow.

The idea of an NFL all-star game has always been controversial. The game means nothing and it’s after the season concludes, where baseball, basketball, and hockey play their all-star games midseason.

The NFL, however, has done a nice job of promoting the game over the last several years. In fact, ratings are up because of their promotional effort.

You must be wondering, why am I writing about the Pro Bowl? After all, the season’s official kickoff is tonight. There has to be better things to write about. Unknown to many, two Pro Bowlers from 2010 did not survive roster cut downs last weekend. In other words, they didn’t make their team.

Dallas cut center Andre Gurode and New England cut FS Brandon Meriweather. Here are two guys that represented their conferences in the NFL all-star game. But they aren’t stars. Their play on the field last year was evidence enough and failing to make it out of camp with a roster spot only reinforces that fact.

Meriweather, who is obviously overrated, made the Pro Bowl because fans saw him playing at the University of Miami and on a New England team that is always on television. Same for Gurode, who was once one of the best centers in football. Last season he was average, though. Yet, the fans voted for him and I’m supposed to believe the game is important.

The game needs to be redefined. Not in the way, many are calling for, though. We don’t need to eliminate it. When I say redefine, I mean literally change the meaning of the game. It’s not an all-star game. It’s a game for the fans by the fans. I have no problem with that. In many ways, that’s what is right now. Unfortunately, the Pro Bowl is still considered an achievement. Players have Pro Bowl incentives in their contract, which is absurd in my view. However, because of this, many prominent figures put an emphasis on earning a trip to the game.

No figure is more prominent than the Hall of Fame voter is.

Any inclusion of the Pro Bowl in Hall of Fame voting is a joke. Period. End of story. Each Hall of Fame voter has different criteria for enshrinement into Canton. I get that, but nobody should use the Pro Bowl to validate his or her vote. Donovan McNabb is a six-time Pro Bowl QB. That will likely play a role, when he becomes eligible for enshrinement.  It shouldn’t. It’s not a Hall of Fame worthy achievement. His team was good and he was a popular player. If the fans want to see him, they should see him, which is what the Pro Bowl should be about. Anything more, is doing a disservice to the true legends of the gridiron.

Granted, with the internet, the game is different now, which is somewhat the problem, but it also provides hope. There is still time to fix the process. The NFL can redefine the game. Take it down a notch. Let‘s stop treating it as a accomplishment and call it what it‘s become. A popularity contest. There’s no need to take it seriously.

The players don’t. The fans don’t and Hall of Fame voters shouldn’t.

20 week one facts you may not have known.

1. Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers has never eclipsed 200 yards passing in a season opener.

2. In week one of last season, Houston RB Arian Foster burst onto the fantasy scene. The fantasy stud ran for 231 rushing yards and three TDs against Indianapolis.

3. Including playoffs, Chicago hasn’t allowed a 100-yard rusher in 11 games. The last to do so was Washington RB Ryan Torain on October 24 of 2010.

4. In week eight of last year, Kansas City RB Jamaal Charles rushed for a season-high 177 yards against Buffalo.

5. Both Jacksonville and Tennessee were among only five teams that allowed over 4,000 yards passing in 2010.

6. Against Cincinnati last season, Cleveland QB Colt McCoy played his best game, throwing for 243 yards and two TDs. McCoy’s 2011 preseason stats: 28-46, 320 yards, four TDs, and one INT.

7. Philadelphia QB Michael Vick has turned the ball over in seven consecutive games including the postseason. The last time the Eagle star didn’t turn the ball over in a game was his fantasy performance for the ages on Monday night football against Washington.

8. With the exception of last year’s AFC divisional matchup, both Pittsburgh and Baltimore have been held under 24 points in seven straight of their meetings.

9. Since 08, Baltimore’s defense has held Pittsburgh under 300 yards of offense in seven of their eight meetings, which includes two playoff games. Meanwhile, Baltimore has eclipsed 300 yards of offense in three of those eight games. However, the Ravens have turned the ball over 18 times in those games, with a whopping 14 of those turnovers coming from QB Joe Flacco.

10. Detroit won their final four games of 2010, including a 23-20 week 15 win at Tampa Bay. The win would end up being the difference between the eventual Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers making the postseason and the Buccaneers watching them.

11. Tampa Bay QB Josh Freeman threw for 251 yards and one TD in the week 15 contest. In 16 regular-season games last year, Freeman threw for at least one TD in 15 of them, but not once did he throw for at least 300 yards.

12. The last time Minnesota played San Diego, RB Adrian Peterson broke the single-game rushing record, with 296 yards on the ground. He also added three TDs. He did lose a fumble, though, for all you Peterson critics out there.

13. Washington QBs combined to throw 632 yards in two meetings against New York last season. 332 of that came via QB Rex Grossman in the regular-season finale.

14. Carolina won only two games in 2010 and one of those victories was a week 15 win against Arizona. The Panthers rushed for 177 yards. Leading the way was RB Jonathan Stewart, who ran for a season-high 137 yards on 27 carries.

15. In another week one-holdover matchup from 2010, San Francisco hosts Seattle. The 49ers were pummeled by the Seahawks 31-6 in last year‘s opener, in large part due to RB Frank Gore’s 17-carry for 38 yards performance.

16. Only Denver gave up more points than the Dallas Cowboys did in 2010. The Cowboys allowed 27.2 points per game, most of which came via the passing game; as the Cowboys gave up a league high 33 TD passes.

17. New England dominated Miami in 2010 outscoring the Dolphins 79-21 in their two meetings.

18. Last year, Patriot RB Benjarvus Green-Ellis scored a TD in 10 of 16 regular-season games, including going two for two against the Dolphins.

19. Denver gave up a league high 471 points or 29.4 per game last season. Oakland took advantage of their defensive woes more than any opponent did, scoring 59 and 39 in two of their respective matchups.

20. On his way to tearing apart the Bronco rush defense, Raider RB Darren McFadden ran for 284 yards and three TDs in their only two meetings. He also added six catches for 70 yards and a TD via receiving.

College Game of the Week
South Carolina at Georgia -- With the exception of Florida, these are the two best teams in the SEC East. In fact, South Carolina was my sneaky national title pick. They were on ropes last week, but once QB Stephen Garcia entered the game, the Gamecocks ran away in a blowout. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs were overmatched by Boise State and the pressure is building on head coach Mark Richt. He can’t afford to start 0-2 after an awful 2010 season. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what’s going to happen. South Carolina simply has too much offensvie firepower.

South Carolina 27 Georgia 20

NFL Game of the Week
New Orleans at Green Bay -- Give credit to the schedule makers. Matching the last two Super Bowl winners makes this the most logical opener in recent memory. Under Mike McCarthy, the Packer offense doesn’t always start fast, but Green Bay had the best defense in the NFC a year ago. They led the conference in points allowed, sacks, and were second in takeaways. They’re the difference Thursday night.

Packers 30 Saints 24

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