Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 9/12/12

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - FEBRUARY 07: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell watches teams warm up prior to the start of Super Bowl XLIV between the Indianapolis Colts and the New Orleans Saints on February 7, 2010 at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Can Roger Goodell and the NFL please pay the real referees to come back?

Just like the difference between the speed of a Division III Liberty League game and a Giants-Cowboys tilt is evident, the difference in the quality of NFL refs and replacement refs is too.

The NFL is worth billions upon billions of dollars.

If they truly cared about player safety, the better referees would be working games at this point.

No games were cost at this point by a referee's decision, but there were a few close calls in Week 1, namely between the Seahawks and Cardinals when Seattle was wrongly awarded a fourth timeout.

The outcry will be loud and clear the next time a replacement ref makes a game-costing decision.

Despite the referee conundrum, the NFL remains a winner every year. The prime time game between Denver and Pittsburgh set new regular season records, and the league somehow seems to keep getting more popular.

The Sunday for the first regular season games should be a national holiday.

The Giants looked like, well, the Giants. They sleepwalked through Wednesday’s opener against Dallas like they did much of last season. The secondary needs to heal up fast and the running back tandem of Ahmad Bradshaw and David Wilson can’t cough up the football. Turnovers are a death sentence in the NFL.

The Eagles-Browns game was one of the worst games in a long time. Brandon Weeden had a quarterback rating of 5.1, and the Browns somehow should have won the game still. Cleveland dropped a game-ending interception, and new coach Pat Shurmur inexplicably had his team kick an extra point when going for two was the obvious choice.

Andy Reid tried giving this game away, phasing out LeSean McCoy and having Mike Vick throw 56 times.

Out of the five rookie quarterbacks starting last Sunday, only Robert Griffin III was victorious. With an impressive 73 percent completion percentage, 320 passing yards, and two touchdown passes, Griffin III looked poised in what is normally hostile territory (New Orleans’ Superdome).

Redskins fans have reason for hope, while the absence of head coach Sean Payton may be a doomsday for Saints fans.

The Patriots using Wes Welker for 64 percent of its offensive snaps is not surprising (at least as a Patriots fan). The reason Welker has been relied on so heavily since coming to New England is because he has often been one of the only reliable receivers (particularly last season).

With Josh McDaniels heavy tight end approach and x-receiver Brandon Lloyd (x-receivers line up on the line of scrimmage and are generally more physical outside receivers) being deployed liberally, Welker’s usage is bound to decline a bit.

The Patriots are also trying to become more balanced, evidenced in the success of Stevan Ridley during the team’s 34-13 win in Tennessee. Julian Edelman has also earned more playing time. The team becomes that much scarier offensively using the approach seen on Sunday. The balanced attack also helps the defense out, not being on the field as often.

Speaking of defenses that needed help on Sunday, I think Buffalo fans were collectively given a cold shower after witnessing the New York Jets drop 48 points, this after failing to score an offensive touchdown the entire preseason.

Mario Williams is an incredibly talented player, but his success comes in accumulating sacks. As a defensive end Williams is not an interior player. Meaning he can be taken out of games; not something that a franchise player should have happen to him.

Do you think Bills ownership is kicking themselves on Ryan Fitzpatrick? He’s clearly not a franchise quarterback, and should never have been given a big contract after putting up good numbers for all of a half of a season.

I may have overestimated the Colts this season. There is a real lack of talent there, and Andrew Luck may have a hard time staying on his feet with such a porous offensive line. Perhaps the two most talented members of its defense (Dwight Freeney and Vontae Davis) each suffered setbacks Sunday.

Freeney suffered an ankle injury and did not return, while Davis was physically abused by Bears wideout Brandon Marshall (the two were teammates last season in Miami, in which it is safe to say they did not get along).

The 49ers may have been the biggest winners Sunday, dismantling the Packers in Lambeau Field, 30-22 (the game wasn’t actually that close). Randy Moss made his triumphant return to the NFL, hauling in an easy red zone touchdown, and the San Francisco defense looked like the most physically imposing unit in the league.

The Packers' reliance on Aaron Rodgers will ultimately be its downfall if they can’t establish some sort of running attack. Other than Cedric Benson’s nine carries for 18 yards, Rodgers was the team’s only other rusher.

There is a stark difference between the Patriots and Packers, whereas the Packers have yet to change from the previous season, the Patriots are offering more balance to make Tom Brady that much better.

It was good to see Peyton Manning make his triumphant return to football (albeit a little weird that it was in Broncos orange). While he certainly looked great, the Steelers defense barely laid a finger on him. Denver’s success Sunday night came when running the no-huddle offense that Manning ran in Indy.

If Baltimore continues to run the vertical game that we saw Monday night against Cincinnati, the team will be very dangerous. Flacco is difficult to game plan against when he is airing it out instead of trying to run some sort of West Coast offense. Torey Smith is turning into a legitimate No. 1 option, and the tight end duo of Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta is surprisingly dangerous.

The defense will always be stout, but it will be noteworthy to monitor the health of Ed Reed and Ray Lewis this season; their combined age is 71.      



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