10 Things to Watch for in Week One of the NFL Season
The NFL regular season kicks off Thursday night with a rematch of the NFC Championship game from last season. New Orleans enters the season as the reigning Super Bowl Champions.
With so many offseason transactions and suspensions, this season could be an interesting one. Several big names were released, including JaMarcus Russell, while other big names were suspended, including Ben Roethlisberger.
With the NFL season just around the corner, here are ten things to watch for in Week 1 of the NFL season.
10. Dennis Dixon Leads the Pittsburgh Steelers
Ben Roethlisberger was originally suspended for six games due to his off-the-field conduct. After meeting with Roger Goodell, his suspension was knocked down to four games.
Pittsburgh then looked to competition during the preseason for their quarterback for the first four weeks. Byron Leftwich and Dennis Dixon both had decent preseasons. Leftwich went down with an injury, however, so Dixon will start.
Dixon completed almost 72 percent of his passes during the preseason with two touchdowns and two interceptions. He needs to step up right away because Atlanta has a tough defense.
9. Darrelle Revis Is Back
As one of the top cornerbacks last year, Darrelle Revis often faced off against the opposing team's top wide receiver. He shut down some tough receivers such as Randy Moss, Terrell Owens, and Chad Ochocinco.
After a 36-day holdout, Revis signed a four-year contract Monday. This all happened right before the rosters were cut down and not a moment too soon.
The Jets will need Revis as they face Baltimore in Week 1. The Ravens just signed T.J. Houshmandzadeh, adding to their depth at wide receiver. Housh joins Anquan Boldin, Derrick Mason, and Donte Stallworth. Revis will have his hands full.
8. Donovan McNabb Facing Old Competition with New Team
Sunday Night Football kicks off in style with divisional rivals taking the stage. Washington hosts Dallas in a pivotal Week 1 matchup.
Last year, Donovan McNabb faced Dallas three times, losing all three. But he did play for Philadelphia last year.
McNabb went 55-103 for 680 yards, two touchdowns, and three interceptions against Dallas last year. He will face very familiar competition on Sunday, but with different weapons.
7. Teams Trying to Start Better Than They Finished
Cleveland takes on Tampa Bay on Sunday. The Browns finished 5-11 last year, and the Buccaneers finished 3-13. Though the records are different, the teams are very similar.
Both teams hired new coaches last year in Eric Mangini and Raheem Morris. Cleveland has a new quarterback, Jake Delhomme, while Tampa Bay will rely on Josh Freeman, who started 10 games last year.
Each team is in a division where they have the potential to compete, but both will probably settle for improving on last season. The season starts now.
6. New Quarterback Debut
After struggling at Washington, the Redskins released Jason Campbell. Similarly, Oakland released JaMarcus Russell.
In 2009, Russell completed less than 50% of his passes with only three touchdowns, 11 interceptions, and six fumbles lost.
Oakland decided to cut their losses and try a new quarterback. Campbell will face Vince Young and Tennessee in what the Raiders hope is a new era.
5. Matchups Between Teams Looking to Get Back to the Playoffs
Denver and Jacksonville face off on Sunday. Denver finished 8-8 last season and Jacksonville finished 7-9. Both missed the playoffs.
Denver is having trouble keeping their running backs healthy, so they will rely a lot on defense and Kyle Orton. Jacksonville beefed up their defense, so they will look to shut down Denver early.
Close by in New York, the Giants and Carolina face off. Both teams finished 8-8 and missed the playoffs last year.
Carolina will look to their young quarterbacks to get started off right, while the Giants have experience on their side with Eli Manning.
All four teams need a win in their quest to get back to the playoffs.
4. Early Implication Games
Two games in Week 1 could be previews of playoff games or even championship games. New England takes on Cincinnati and Green Bay meets Philadelphia. All four teams have the potential to make a playoff push.
New England has a healthy Tom Brady, but an unhappy Randy Moss. The Patriots will most likely be in a divisional battle with the Jets, so they need to win against Cincinnati. Similarly, the Bengals return a healthy Carson Palmer and will probably battle the Ravens for the top of the AFC North.
In the NFC, Green Bay comes into the season as one of the favorites in the NFC. Philadelphia has a very different look this season. While the Eagles are not a favorite to make the playoffs, anything can happen in the NFC East. Both teams could play in January.
3. Inter-Divisional Games
Several teams have to start the season off with a bang. There are a lot of inter-divisional matchups in Week 1. Every team has to be on its toes—you never know who you will be chasing in December.
Detroit versus Chicago: Matt Stafford and Calvin Johnson lead the offense into Soldier Field to face Jay Cutler. Both teams will most likely be chasing Green Bay and Minnesota all season.
Houston versus Indianapolis: The Colts are the Super Bowl runners-up, while Houston just missed the playoffs. Either team could fight for the division this season.
Miami versus Buffalo: Miami continues improving, while the Bills continue rebuilding. Miami could be the surprise of the AFC.
Arizona versus St. Louis: The Rams have a rookie quarterback, but Arizona is lacking experience as well. With Leinart and Warner gone, the Cardinals have some fighting to do for the division this season.
San Francisco versus Seattle: Both these teams want to kick the Cardinals out of the top spot for the division and need a win in Week 1 to do so.
Dallas versus Washington: Who will be atop the NFC East early?
San Diego versus Kansas City: In arguably the weakest AFC division, San Diego was the only team to make the playoffs last year. Will the offseason changes help Kansas City?
Some of the bigger headlines this offseason have been made by the rookies and who will start. There was a lot of talent in the 2010 NFL Draft and all had the potential to step into starting roles. Here are some rookies to watch for:
Sam Bradford, QB, St. Louis
C.J. Spiller, RB, Buffalo
Jahvid Best, RB, Detroit
Ryan Mathews, RB, San Diego
Jermaine Gresham, TE, Cincinnati
Golden Tate, WR, Seattle
Devin McCourty, CB, New England
Brandon Graham, DE, Philadelphia
Ndamukong Suh, DT, Detroit
Rolando McClain, LB, Oakland
1. Rematch of the NFC Championship Game
Although they only won by three points, the New Orleans Saints dominated on defense against the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Championship Game last January. The Saints forced six fumbles and had two interceptions.
The Vikings led in almost every statistical category, but the Saints never gave up. They did not have any sacks, but the Saints kept hitting Brett Favre until he couldn't take it anymore.
The NFL regular season kicks off with a rematch of the NFC Championship Game on Thursday Night Football. There really is no better way to start the season.
Look for the Minnesota Vikings to take revenge while the New Orleans Saints want to defend their Super Bowl title.
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