NFL Sunday's Best: Best Story Lines for Sunday Afternoon Games

Craig HortonCorrespondent ISeptember 6, 2012

NFL Sunday's Best: Best Story Lines for Sunday Afternoon Games

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    Before seeing Peyton Manning's return to the NFL Sunday night, the NFL will have a full slate of 12 games Sunday afternoon.

    Among the story lines are six quarterbacks making their first NFL start and four rookie coaches will debut Sunday afternoon. There will also be re-tread coaches in St. Louis, Kansas City and Jacksonville, and a temporary coach in New Orleans.

    While every game is worth watching, here are a few that might be a bit more interesting.

Jacksonville at Minnesota

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    Why would a game featuring teams that combined to win only eight games last year be worthy of interest?

    There are a few reasons.

    Both quarterbacks were 2011 first-round picks. Neither played like a first rounder last year.

    The Vikings' Christian Ponder finished 31st in passer rating. The Jaguars' Blaine Gabbert was 34th. Both want to prove they are worthy of their high draft status. They have had a full offseason of work, and can't use the lockout as an excuse anymore.

    The Jaguars will have Mike Mularkey as head coach. Mularkey was head coach in Buffalo in 2004-2005 and was offensive coordinator in Atlanta from 2008 until 2011.

    Despite the Vikings' 3-13 record last year, they had the NFL sack leader.

    Jared Allen had 22 sacks, and his ability to get to Blaine Gabbert might be the key to this game.


    Game Time: 1:00 Eastern Time on CBS.

Seattle at Arizona

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    There's nothing better for a season opener than a division rivalry. These two teams both hope to unseat the 49ers as NFC West champs.

    Both have paid big money the past two offseasons to obtain someone else's back-up quarterback.

    Last year the Cardinals got Kevin Kolb from Philadelphia. This year, the Seahawks got Matt Flynn from Green Bay. Neither will start Sunday.

    Instead, the Cardinals will go with John Skelton. Skelton finished the season after Kolb was injured, and led the team to an 8-8 record. He started seven games, and led a win over the Seahawks in the finale.

    The Seahawks have named Russell Wilson the starter. Wilson was a third-round pick in April's NFL draft. He beat out Flynn and the since departed Tarvaris Jackson for the starting job. 


    Game Time: 4:25 Eastern Time on FOX.

Atlanta at Kansas City

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    Both teams won their division in 2010, but suffered a setback last year.

    The Chiefs went through an injury-riddled 2011, finishing last in the AFC West at 7-9. The Falcons were 10-6, and made the playoffs, but were beaten by the Giants 24-2 in the first round of the playoffs.

    Romeo Crennel will get another shot to be a head coach in the NFL. He was head coach in Cleveland from 2005-2008, and was interim coach in Kansas City last season after the firing of Todd Haley.

    Former Chief and current Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez will be the story of this game.

    Gonzalez has set the standard for tight ends in the NFL. He is entering his 16th NFL season, and it might be his last.

    He leads all tight ends in receptions, with 1,149, and only Jerry Rice has more lifetime receptions than Gonzalez.

    Whether or not he plays another season remains to be seen.

    Most likely, though, it will be his last career appearance in the city that he played in from 1997-2008.


    Game Time: 1:00 Eastern Time on FOX.

Buffalo at New York Jets

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    Another divisional game.

    The Bills had a great start in 2011, before falling to another last place finish.

    They made a big move in free agency, signing Mario Williams away from Houston.

    The Jets made a big offseason move of their own. They traded with Denver for quarterback Tim Tebow.

    Tebow, who led Denver to a division title last year, will sit behind Mark Sanchez. How the Jets will use him, and exactly why they even traded for him, is a mystery.

    What isn't a mystery is that it probably won't take long for fans to start cheering for Tebow to take over for Sanchez.


    Game Time: 1:00 Eastern Time on CBS.

Indianapolis at Chicago

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    The Colts will start a new era Sunday.

    The top pick of the 2012 NFL draft, Andrew Luck, begins his career at Chicago.

    He has big shoes to fill. The Colts really don't have Peyton Manning anymore.

    Luck will replace the man who was the face of the Colts since 1998.

    He will do so with a new head coach, Chuck Pagano.

    The Bears will throw some things at Luck that he hasn't seen yet, and it may be a long afternoon for the rookie.

    Remember, though, it's just a starting point.


    Game Time: 1:00 Eastern Time on CBS.

Washington at New Orleans

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    Robert Griffin III will make his first start for the Redskins Sunday.

    For what the Redskins gave up for him, they expect great things.

    New Orleans will be a tough place for him to make his debut, but the rookie could give the Saints defense a headache.

    Another headache for the Saints has been this offseason. There may not be any team that wants to get the season started more than the Saints.

    They lost guard Carl Nicks and wide receiver Robert Meachem in free agency, Drew Brees wasn't happy about his contact and...bountygate.

    The bounty scandal that former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams was responsible for led to the season-long suspension of head coach Sean Peyton.

    Aaron Kromer will be the temporary head coach for the first six weeks, until Joe Vitt's suspension ends.

    Bountygate is a story the Saints hope will go away.

    It won't. No matter how this season plays out, it will be a story all year long.


    Game Time: 1:00 Eastern Time on FOX.

San Francisco at Green Bay

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    The best two regular season teams from the NFC meet Sunday in Green Bay.

    San Francisco, with a great defense, faces the Packers and All-World Aaron Rodgers.

    Both teams suffered playoff defeats to the New York Giants last year, and both hope to make amends for it this year. A Super Bowl win is the goal for both teams.

    Though the first week of a season is never a "must-win" game, a win might establish the early pecking order in the NFC.

    Even more important than that, it could be an eventual tie-breaker for playoff home-field advantage.

    It might be one of the best games of the year, and it could have a re-match somewhere in January.


    Game Time: 4:25 Eastern Time on FOX.