Round 1 Matchup: Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
2013 Topps Strata #70 Troy Polamalu
Player: 5 Polamalu is an all-time great. I love the way he played the game. All-intensity, all the time, but without garnering a reputation for being dirty.
Design: 3 I don't know how to describe the design in the background. Gray concentric circles that give the appearance of a portal. I like how the gray of this set works with pretty much every team's colors, and the single ring of team color gives the whole design a just enough color to make it interesting.
Photo: 3 This stance epitomizes Polamalu; he just looks like he's stalking his prey, waiting to pounce.
Back: 1 This particular brand's backs are a bid odd. No stats, really, just lists of highlights. The real drawback is the writing. It feels like Topps's writers went crazy with their thesauruses. As an English teacher, I'm inclined to tell them that bigger, fancier words aren't always better.
2015 Certified #100 Blake Bortles
Player: 4 Maybe this is too high for Bortles. But he looks good. In fact, the 2014 QB Class is flashing potential to be considered an all-time great one. Aside from the train wreck that is Manziel, I like what I see from the top QBs drafted. I think Bortles may be the best of the group.
Design: 4 Like the Strata above, this set relies on interesting geographic shapes to catch the eye. And it works. The gold foil name on a predominantly silver card is a nice touch.
Photo: 4 I was raised under the adage of "You gotta hold your mouth right." My wife jokes that I have a tell-tale "thinking face" whenever I'm concentrating. (I'm probably using it right now.) Blake Bortles is holding his mouth right here. I'm not sure he's holding the football right, though. Let's hope he gets that thing turned around before attempting to throw it.
Final Score: Jacksonville 16, Pittsburgh 15
Round 1 Matchup: Houston Texans vs. Miami Dolphins
2013 Topps Chrome #154 DeAndre Hopkins
Player: 4 Hopkins has shown himself to be an absolute beast, and he's just getting started. Not to mention the utter lack of talent that has been trying to get the ball to him. He will be something special before all is said and done.
Design: 3 The 2013 Topps set that I critiqued earlier in this round gets the Chrome treatment. Nothing to see here.
Photo: 2 It looks like he has just made the catch and is turning upfield for some big yardage. Too bad he's all alone on an empty practice field.
Extra: 1 Rookie card of a very good player.
2014 Panini Contenders #40 Ryan Tannehill
Player: 3 At this time last year, I would have given him a 4. I still believe in Ryan Tannehill's potential, but I've got to see it at some point.
Photo: 3 Just a shot of a guy looking for a spot to throw.
Final Score: Houston 15, Miami 14
Round 1 Matchup: Minnesota Vikings vs. Chicago Bears
2008 Topps #298 Adrian Peterson
Player: 5 He's Adrian Peterson. Enough said.
Design: 3 It took me awhile to warm up to this design with its weird bubbles at the top. I still can't tell if it's attempting to look retro, or what, but the color it adds to the white border is attractive.
Photo: 3 I hate the Pro Bowl. But I like cards of players in their Pro Bowl jerseys. Yeah, I don't get it either.
Back: 2 I learned that Adrian Peterson was Pro Bowl MVP as a rookie. Interesting. I hadn't really thought that his rookie year 2007, thus this Pro Bowl card featured a rookie.
2014 Score #39 Brandon Marshall
Player: 4 I don't like Brandon Marshall. He's never played for a team I cheer for, and he spent way too much time as a bear. But he is good at what he does, which is catch passes from middling QBs.
Design: 3 2014 was Score's best design in years. The angled border even makes the white look good. I like the subtle foil stamping of the position and jersey number. But why is the Score logo so enormous?
Photo: 3 Good action shot, straight-arming the defender.
Final Score: Minnesota 16, Chicago 15
Round 1 Matchup: Atlanta Falcons vs. Philadelphia Eagles
2014 Panini Prizm #178 Julio Jones
Player: 4 Julio is proving to be a special talent, capable of dominating about any defender who tries to stop him. In couple more years, this score probably gets bumped to a 5.
Design: 4 I liked the 2013 Prizm. I like the 2014 more. It feels more like a full-bleed card, and the background here is more interesting than the faux border of the previous incarnation of Prizm.
2008 Topps #152 Reggie Brown
Player: 1 Despite being a 2nd Round pick, Brown never amassed more than 65 catches in a season and never sniffed 1,000 yards. He didn't stick around long, either.
Photo: 1 These Philadelphia throwbacks may be the most hideous throwbacks I've seen. And basically the entire team set in 2008 Topps features them. It makes me glad I don't have them in a binder page.
Final Score: Atlanta 16, Philadelphia 10--Actually, I feel like I should apologize for subjecting you to that Reggie Brown card. Not. Good. At. All.
And that takes care of Round 1! Just like the NCAA Tournament, we are down to 16 remaining teams. In this exercise, it is obvious that seeding meant nothing, as the lower seed almost always won. It was just a way to decide some matchups. I'll pick up the madness again later this week.