Week 1 had some huge performances by quarterbacks as they led their teams to decisive victories, but who will step up in Week 2?
Christian Ponder is off to a great start in 2012. There is nothing like a Week 1 overtime victory to kick-start a season, and Week 2 should be no different.
Ponder faced a tough Jacksonville Jaguars defense last week, and he did very well. He went 20-for-27 with 270 yards and a QB rating of 105.5.
Ponder did a great job spreading the ball around. WR Percy Harvin led the team with 84 yards receiving, TE Kyle Rudolph finished with 67 yards and WR Devin Aromashodu had 61 yards.
The only mistake Ponder had was a fumble, but he was spotless otherwise.
The second-year quarterback will face an Indianapolis Colts team that allowed 41 points to the Chicago Bears. Bears QB Jay Cutler had his way with the Colts defense as he threw for 333 yards and two touchdowns.
The biggest reason Ponder will have a huge game is the fact two key defenders will not be playing for Indianapolis. Jeremy Fowler of TwinCities.com reports both DE/OLB Dwight Freeney and LB Pat Angerer will not play against Minnesota.
Ponder probably knows how Jared Allen can dominate a game, and to have a similar guy in Freeney not on the field will be an enormous relief. While Robert Mathis is still a threat, dealing with one great pass rusher is better than dealing with two.
Another second-year quarterback that will thrive in Week 2 is Andy Dalton.
Dalton did a great job leading the Cincinnati Bengals to the playoffs last season, and this season he will need to take the next step. The AFC North is too competitive for slow progress.
Unfortunately, that next step was delayed and did not arrive in time for the Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens not only scored 44 points, but the defense held Dalton’s offense to 13 points.
The Bengals struggled on third down as they only converted 4-of-15 third downs. Dalton struggled as he went 22-for-37 for 221 yards and an interception. He finished with a QB rating of 65.3.
This will not get the job done, especially against a Ravens team with Super Bowl aspirations. His defense did not help, but Dalton needs to do better.
So what better way to get on track than to face the Cleveland Browns?
Based on last week’s performance, it would look like Dalton could have a second bad game in a row. The Browns defense intercepted Michael Vick four times and held the high-powered Philadelphia Eagles to 17 points.
Also, the defensive line consistently pressured Vick and the secondary held DeSean Jackson in check. Jackson finished with just 77 yards and zero touchdowns.
So why should Dalton expect to have a great game?
The answer is that there will be no Joe Haden. Haden is a shutdown corner and is one of the best in the NFL. Fortunately for Cincinnati, Haden starts serving his suspension this week as he was officially suspended four games due to violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs.
Without Haden, the Browns only have a decent secondary with absolutely no one that can cover WR A.J. Green. Cincinnati’s 2011 first-round pick is a future star in this league, but he was held to 70 yards against Baltimore.
Green will dominate the Browns. All Dalton has to do is throw Green the ball and he will use his hands, size and speed to just have his way with the defense.
Michael Vick was still able to throw for over 300 yards despite Haden and the pressure from the line. If Dalton uses his weapons correctly, there is no reason he should not throw for over 300 yards and two touchdowns.
Alex Smith is the final quarterback that should be expected to have a monster game this week.
Smith has slowly-but-surely turned into a starting NFL quarterback. He is finally justifying his selection as a No. 1 overall pick.
Smith led the San Francisco 49ers to the NFC Championship before losing to the New York Giants. Though he did not reach the Super Bowl, Smith played exceptionally well in the playoffs and even won a shootout with Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints.
Week 1 was another step by Smith on his path to becoming a great quarterback.
He outplayed MVP Aaron Rodgers, as the 49ers stomped the Green Bay Packers 30-22. Smith went 20-for-26 with 211 yards and two touchdowns.
The impressive part was not the 125.6 QB rating or the fact Smith had just defeated a Super Bowl contender. The impressive part was the fact San Francisco once again did not turn the ball over.
According to the Associated Press via WashingtonPost.com, San Francisco has not committed a turnover in six consecutive regular-season games. The 49ers can tie the NFL record if they go clean against Detroit.
Smith only threw five interceptions last season, and he will need his accuracy and decision-making skill against the Lions. Detroit held the St. Louis Rams to 4-of-12 on third down and the defense sacked Sam Bradford four times.
What Smith has going for him is the fact the Lions did not force a single turnover in Week 1. The secondary also allowed Bradford to earn a 105.1 QB rating. That is great news for Smith as Bradford had success and did not have TE Vernon Davis, WR Randy Moss or WR Michael Crabtree.
Throw in the three turnovers the Rams forced and it looks like Smith could have great field position to go along with little threat of having a turnover.
Alex Smith could cement the 49ers as Super Bowl favorites with a decisive victory against Detroit, and he just might get it.