10 Things You Must See in the NFL This Week: Week 1 Edition
This is the first of the new weekly column 10 things you must see in the NFL this week.
In this column, I will be looking at some of the most interesting matchups and impact players around the NFL each week.
Week 1 of the NFL season is overflowing with must-see matchups, rookie debuts, and players looking to start off the season with a bang.
Can the Vikings Get Revenge in the Superdome?
This year, the Vikings will be kicking off the season Thursday night in the Superdome hoping things go differently, but they will have to try to do it without one of the main offensive weapons from last year, Sidney Rice, who will miss at least the first six games of the season after undergoing hip surgery.
The Saints, on the other hand, will be without one of the key components to their defense last year, Darren Sharper, who, like Rice, will begin the season on the PUP list.
Both teams should have powerful offenses, but I think this game will be decided by the team that makes the most plays on defense.
Ndamukong Suh vs. the Bears Offensive Line
By now almost everyone has seen the "highlights" of Ndamukong Suh nearly decapitating Browns quarterback Jake Delhomme, and on Sunday, he will set his sights on the Bears' Jay Cutler.
The good news for Mr. Suh and the rest of the Lions defense is that the Bears offensive line has been suspect this preseason, giving up nine sacks in the first two preseason games. And if you combine the poor offensive line of the Bears with Mike Martz's offensive scheme, which is known for getting his quarterback hit, the Lions defense could have a field day.
The good news for the Bears is that although the Lions have greatly improved their defensive line this offseason, the Lions secondary remains a concern. If Cutler can stay in the pocket and still make his throws, he should still be able to find open receivers.
Who Will Have the Better Passing Game, Indy or Houston?
The Texans and Colts had the first and second ranked passing offenses in the league last year, so this opening weekend matchup should not be lacking in offensive fireworks.
The Texans will be looking for their first playoff berth, while the Colts will look to add to their streak of consecutive 12-win seasons and once again get back to the Super Bowl.
Matt Schaub remains one of the most underrated quarterbacks in the league, Last year, Schaub led the league in passing yards and threw 29 touchdowns. It doesn't hurt that Schaub gets to throw to arguably the best receiver in the league in Andre Johnson.
Peyton Manning is also surrounded with talent on the offensive side of the ball, although one could argue that Manning makes the players around him better. Manning again had a great regular season in route to winning his fourth MVP trophy, but like all but one of his previous seasons, he came up short in the postseason, losing to the Saints in the Super Bowl.
This matchup should be one of the most entertaining games of the week.
Dennis Dixon Starting QB
With Ben Roethilisberger being suspended for the first four games of the season it looked as though Byron Leftwich would become the starting quarterback for the Steelers to begin the year, but a late preseason injury to Leftwich has pushed Dennis Dixon into the starting role.
Dixon's play has been somewhat inconsistent during the preseason, at times using his athleticism to make plays, but at other times making poor decisions that have led to turnovers. Dixon has a lot of weapons on the offensive side of the ball, but the offensive line of the Steelers has been a weakness for the past couple of years, so Dixon's ability to scramble and make plays with his feet may come in handy.
The Steelers are hoping to have a bounce-back year after missing the playoffs one season after winning the Super Bowl and are going to need some consistent play out of Dixon over the next four games if they hope to have a shot at getting back to the postseason. Going 0-4 would probably ruin the Steelers' season, but if they are able to go 2-2 or better, the Steelers should be able to compete with the Bengals and Ravens.
Chris Johnson Begins His Quest for 2,500 Rushing Yards.
Chris Johnson has lofty expectations this year. After rushing for over 2,000 yards last year and accumulating over 2,500 total yards, Johnson this year would like to rush for over 2,500 yards this season. While breaking Eric Dickerson's single season rushing record of 2,105 yards is not impossible, it will be very difficult to shatter the record the way Johnson hopes.
The good news for Johnson is that he gets to run behind a great offensive line that includes Pro Bowl left tackle Michael Roos. The bad news is the Titans decided not to re-sign eight time Pro Bowler Kevin Mawae, who is still without a team.
I think teams will game plan for Johnson enough to keep him from getting back to 2,000 yards, but assuming he stays healthy, I expect Johnson to have another great year, which could solidify him as the NFL's best rusher.
Have the Rams Found Their Franchise QB?
Sam Bradford looked great his last two preseason games, going 21-for-28 on pass attempts and throwing three touchdowns, so the Rams have decided to get the Bradford era started in St. Louis. Bradford should be an upgrade over A.J. Feely, but there will definitely some obstacles to overcome at the start of his NFL career.
The No. 1 overall pick will be without his best wide receiver in Donnie Avery, who was lost for the season with a knee injury this preseason. The Rams did, however, swing a trade for wide receiver Mark Clayton this weekend, who like Bradford played at Oklahoma, Clayton could become Bradford's go-to target.
The offensive line for the Rams is still a concern. The Rams gave up 44 sacks last season and will be starting rookie second round pick Rodger Saffold at left tackle and 2009 first round pick Jason Smith at right tackle, who up to this point has been somewhat of a disappointment. With Bradford's injury history, a porous offensive line could be very detrimental to his career development.
The Kevin Kolb Era Begins in Philly
Kevin Kolb impressed the Eagles enough in two starts last season to allow them to make the decision to trade long time franchise quarterback Donovan McNabb within the division to the Washington Redskins, a bold move considering the success McNabb has had with the Eagles.
Kolb has not looked spectacular in the preseason, but will get to start the season at home against a Packers secondary that will be without one of last years starting corners, Al Harris, who will be starting the season on the PUP list, and will be starting rookie third-round pick Morgan Burnett at safety.
The Packers do, however, have two Pro Bowlers in the secondary in safety Nick Collins and reigning Defensive Player of the Year Charles Woodson.
The fans in Philadelphia can be a tough on their players and teams, McNabb never really seemed to win over the city completely because, despite numerous championship game appearances, he was never able to bring home the Lombardi Trophy. Kolb will have a lot of opportunity to showcase his arm in Andy Reid's pass-happy offense, but if this team falters under his leadership, Eagles fans may wonder if the McNabb era came to an end too soon.
The Debut of Dez Bryant
The Cowboys have high expectations going into this season, but they have struggled mightily on the offensive side of the ball this preseason. The good news for the Cowboys is that they should have rookie wide receiver Dez Bryant back on the field for their opening game against the Redskins.
Whether or not Bryant can fix the Cowboys' offensive woes remains to be seen, but Bryant had top-10 talent going into the draft and only fell to the Cowboys at the 24th pick over supposed character concerns. If Bryant can fully live up to his potential, the Cowboys will have added another very dangerous weapon to an offense that was already ranked second in the league last year.
How Much Will Albert Haynesworth Play?
As of writing this, there are rumors surrounding a potential trade of Albert Haynesworth back to the Tennessee Titans, the team that originally drafted him and who he left last season for a huge free agent contract with Washington. But until a trade actually takes place, he will be with the Washington Redskins and play the Dallas Cowboys on the first Sunday night game of the season.
Since Mike Shanahan's arrival in Washington, Haynesworth has not been happy. Haynesworth has made it known that he does not want to play in 3-4 defense, and Shanahan has made it known that he is the boss and will not tolerate any sort of insubordination. Haynesworth failed numerous conditioning tests and spent most of the preseason in Shanahan's doghouse.
After playing poorly in the last preseason game, there are now questions whether Haynesworth will even be active on game day. Benching your best defensive player when you are up against a hated division rival may not seem like a wise choice, but I would not put it past Shanahan just so he could prove his point; no one player is bigger than the team.
Who Will Win the Battle of the AFC Super Bowl Hopefuls?
The Jets had a very busy offseason, trading for Antonio Cromartie and Santonio Holmes, acquiring free agents LaDainian Tomlinson and Jason Taylor, working out a new deal with Darrell Revis, and staring in Hard Knocks.
The Jets had the number one defense in the league last year, but did they do enough to upgrade an offense that ranked 20th in total yards and a passing offense that was ranked 31st?
The Ravens made fewer moves, trading for wide receivers Anquan Boldin and picking up T.J. Houshmandzadeh, but the moves could have just as much impact.
The Ravens already had a solid running game and a great defense, so adding a couple of targets for quarterback Joe Flacco might be enough to push this team in to Super Bowl contention.
Both teams have Super Bowl aspirations, and both teams have tough opening schedules, making this one of the more intriguing matchups of the opening week.