The NFL's Five Most Anticipated Games of the 2009 Season
I have officially hit something of a writer's block, so I haven't been very active in the Bleacher Report community in the recent past.
During my hiatus I've been watching YouTube videos, selling and bidding for stuff on eBay, and playing football; all the while not being able to come up with anything to write about. I was stymied to say the least.
Today I was looking at the NFL schedule, and that's when a thought occurred to me: There are a few very interesting games on the schedule this season, and it would behoove me to come up with a little preview and analysis on what to expect.
I'm not going to be a homer and pick all Panthers games in this one, though the Panthers do have some potentially exciting games this season, but this is geared toward the casual or beginner NFL fan.
Here are my five most anticipated games of 2009.
5. Week Two, New York Giants @ Dallas Cowboys; 8:20 PM, NBC
Week Two; the Dallas Cowboys play their first home regular-season game against division rival New York Giants in their brand new state-of-the-art facility.
It will be quite interesting to see how the Giants fare in Dallas on the national stage.
Both teams are used to the hype and pressure of the national stage, so that should have little bearing on the outcome of the game. In all likeliness it will come down to which team makes the fewest mistakes, commits the least penalties, and does all the right things to win the game.
The Giants still have a solid one-two punch in their backfield, returning running back Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw.
The Giants also have some promising talent at the receiver and tight end positions.
The loss of Plaxico Burress might have a lingering effect on the Giants early in the season, but I wouldn't expect it to carry on much further than the fourth or fifth week of the regular season.
The Dallas Cowboys' main goal is to not lose their regular season home opener in their billion dollar stadium.
Dallas lost a lot of star names this offseason, but nothing more than overpaid underperforming names is all they really were.
T.O. went to Buffalo. Tank Johnson is in Cincy. Pacman Jones, if he isn't in prison yet, is still an unsigned free agent.
Tank Johnson aside, Dallas washed itself of it's biggest egos this offseason.
The Cowboys also have a seemingly solid running game with Marion Barber and Felix Jones.
Dallas' receivers will have their work cut out for them. While Terrell Owens wasn't always consistent, he always drew the attention of the opposing defense's double-teams, leaving at least one man open for a pass from Tony Romo.
Romo is also a question mark on Dallas's season. How will he perform without the security blanket and tantrums of Terrell Owens? I say he has a better chance at proving what kind of player he really is without Owens.
My prediction is Dallas will not lose their home-opener to the Giants. It will be a close game, but Dallas pulls away in the fourth quarter, winning by no less than seven points.
4. Week Five, Indianapolis Colts @ Tennessee Titans; 8:20 PM, NBC
A lot of things have changed, particularly for the Colts. Tony Dungy retired, Marvin Harrison is no longer with the team, defensive coordinator Ron Meeks is in Carolina, and the lines of communication between the coaching staff and Peyton Manning have been out of service.
The Titans have remained fairly intact this offseason. Their most notable loss on defense was Albert Haynesworth to the Redskins.
The Colts have some areas of question on both sides of the ball.
On offense, there isn't that No. 1 go-to receiver that Manning had in Harrison, and the only remaining big name running back the Colts have is Joseph Addai, after losing Dominic Rhodes to the Bills in free agency.
On defense, the biggest question mark is, well, the defense overall. How will they react to their new defensive coordinator? What kind of defense will he implement, and how fast will the players absorb the new playbook?
In the past, the Colts have had a strangle hold on the AFC South, but I am looking for the Titans to remain atop the South, while the Colts could surprise a lot of us and not even finish second in the division!
My prediction is the Titans will win this matchup with their solid running game of LenDale White and Chris Johnson, adequately named "Smash and Dash," by no less than seven points.
3. Week Three, Atlanta Falcons @ New England Patriots; 1 PM, FOX
He's back; yes, Falcons quarterback—you thought I was going to say Tom Brady—Matt Ryan begins his second year as the Falcons field general, in the hopes of not hitting the proverbial wall known as the "Sophomore Slump."
Tom Brady makes his return under center to the Patriots starting lineup, after undergoing reconstructive surgery to an ACL injury that sidelined him for virtually all of 2008.
This early in the season I can't imagine Brady being in his form of perfection this soon out of surgery. Speaking from past experience, it takes a good year to fully recover from such an injury.
The Falcons added some depth to their offense and defense through the draft and free agency, their most notable acquisition was free agent tight end Tony Gonzalez from Kansas City.
The Patriots have been pretty quiet all offseason; they did pick up a few free agents, but in usual New England fashion, everything is quiet and status quo.
This game will be a classic AFC vs. NFC matchup, which with the caliber of personnel on both teams, should be an exciting game to the end.
My prediction is the Falcons will upset the Patriots in Foxborough by a narrow margin of no more than seven points.
2. Week 10, Philadelphia Eagles @ San Diego Chargers; 4:15 PM, FOX
The last time the Eagles played the Chargers in a regular season game, Terrell Owens was in the midnight green. He wasn't happy about his contract, but he was an Eagle nonetheless.
The Eagles also had Jeremiah Trotter and Brian Dawkins.
The Eagles had a very productive offseason, solidifying the offensive line via free agency and the draft, drafting the talented duo of Jeremy Maclin to complement DeSean Jackson and Kevin Curtis, and selecting running back LeSean McCoy in the second round.
The Chargers have all-pro Shawne Merriman returning to the defensive lineup, their running tandem of Darren Sproles and LaDainian Tomlinson, and we'll see quarterback Philip Rivers connecting with Antonio Gates and Chris Chambers.
By Week 10 a lot can change. Injuries to key players, team discord, who knows? A bad day, even. Off the subject and to my chagrin, the Panthers know a lot about bad days.
If Donovan McNabb and Brian Westbrook can stay healthy; if the defense hasn't lost a step after losing Brian Dawkins; if LeSean McCoy can be a better running back in the absence of Correll Buckhalter, the Eagles should win.
On the Chargers side of the ball, their biggest advantage is home crowd. Add to that, Philip Rivers is one of the top quarterbacks in the league, the Chargers defense is tenacious, and their receiving game is nothing to take lightly, either.
My prediction is a healthy Eagles team will show the Chargers what's going on, winning by a margin of seven points.
1. Week 16, Baltimore Ravens @ Pittsburgh Steelers; 1 PM, CBS
One of the most anticipated games of the season will come at the end of the season: Ravens at Pittsburgh.
The Ravens habitually have a problem trying to beat Pittsburgh—a lot of teams have a problem trying to beat Pittsburgh.
A running game that pounds the ball like a migraine headache after a night of heavy drinking and an unyielding defense that dominates both the passing and rushing attacks of it's opposition.
The Ravens still have the uncanny ability to keep their opponents on their toes and chip away with their passing game or exploit any holes the defense might give their running attack.
Both teams are tenacious on the field, and the matchup between Baltimore and Pittsburgh is rarely boring.
However, I have to go with Pittsburgh when they're playing at home late in the season. It will be a very close game, and the Steelers will come away with the win in the closing minutes of the fourth quarter.
Steelers by three.