There are a lot of interesting factors and players to keep an eye on heading into Week 2. Most interesting, the Packers face the Panthers, and we'll see if the most scintillating rookie to hit the NFL this year, Cam Newton, will be able to follow up his phenomenal debut.
The media isn't expecting this one to be close, which isn't all that surprising considering the Packers were the best team in the NFL a year ago, while the Panthers were the worst. Green Bay came out firing in Week 1 against New Orleans, but its defense has to be a concern going forward.
As for the Panthers, Cam Newton was fantastic last week and many feel he is in for a rude awakening against the Packers. Speculation and predictions won't matter when both teams hit the field tomorrow, though.
Without further ado, here's a list of 10 guys (five from each team) to watch in Sunday's game.
I might as well start with the man, the myth, the legend: Cam Newton.
All kidding aside, Newton was a joy to watch against Arizona and it definitely was the greatest rookie debut of all-time, regardless of the final result. The way people have been trying to minimize Newton's play is quite comical. People are claiming the Cardinals have an atrocious secondary, which may be accurate, but give the man his props.
This was a guy that struggled throwing the ball against Oregon in the national championship a little over eight months ago, yet in his first start in the NFL, he's throwing the ball like Tom Brady. The Newton we saw in the preseason was not the one we saw in Week 1.
Now he has to follow it up with a solid showing against the Packers. It could be a rough day for Newton, or it could be a field day once again if the Packers' defense doesn't step it up from last week.
All eyes will be on No. 1 on Sunday to see if he can somehow top last week's performance.
Matthews was dynamite all of last season, but he was fairly quiet in the opener against the Saints. New Orleans threw a healthy dose of double teams at Matthews and it worked.
An easier opponent awaits this Sunday for the Packers, which means "The Claymaker" could have a big day. If he has another quiet game, you can just chalk it up to a slow start and teams being better prepared for him this season.
It will be very hard for Matthews to top last year's sack total of 13.5, as opponents are going to be focusing on containing him this season. But, if he's going to, this would be an optimum game to rack up a couple of sacks against a rookie quarterback and a banged up offensive line.
With big Jeff Otah doubtful for Sunday's tilt with the Packers, undrafted rookie free agent Byron Bell will get the start at right tackle.
Bell has an amazing story about his journey to the NFL, and what's even more amazing is that he will be making his first start in Week 2; although, it is largely due to a rash of injuries on the offensive line.
It will be a big opportunity for Bell, who played at New Mexico, to make a long-standing impression on head coach Ron Rivera. Expect Green Bay to try to exploit the rookie by sending Clay Matthews his direction.
How Bell handles the situation could determine his future with the team this season and his chance for more playing time.
James Starks and Ryan Grant are splitting carries this season—at least for the moment. But Starks is the better of the two at this stage in his career. As the season goes along, Starks will emerge as the top back and he has a prime opportunity for a big day against Carolina.
The Panthers are starting two rookie defensive tackles, are without Jon Beason for the rest of the season and just allowed Beanie Wells to rush for 90 yards on 18 carries. None of the above should make Panther fans feel good about seeing Starks and the Packers' offense on Sunday.
Keep a close watch on No. 44 as he is due for a breakout performance.
Steve Smith gets all the headlines at the wide receiver position for the Panthers, but Brandon LaFell's progress this season is worth watching. The receiver finished with four grabs for 70 yards against the Cardinals and made some big catches when the Panthers needed to move the chains.
Carolina has been searching for a legitimate No. 2 option next to Smith ever since Muhsin Muhammad bolted for Chicago in 2005. Keary Colbert and Dwayne Jarrett were both drafted to solve the answer and even Keyshawn Johnson was brought in for a year, but none of them panned out.
If LaFell continues to play at a high level the Panthers' passing attack will develop into a dangerous force.
The 337-pound nose tackle is an absolute beast, yet the Saints were able to keep Raji from being disruptive. Carolina can only hope that its offensive line is up to the task of stopping Raji and Co.
I'm especially going to have my eye on No. 90 though, because of the Panthers' rushing attack. If DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart have success on the ground this game will be a lot closer than people may think.
The Arizona defensive line was able to keep "Double Trouble" in check, so one would think that the Packers shouldn't have a problem. They won't...if Raji shows up ready to wreak havoc like he did all of last season.
Jon Beason's replacement will have his hands full. Connor is a solid linebacker, but will have the unfortunate task of replacing a Pro Bowl player, who is also a captain and a team leader.
Expectations won't be that high for Connor; although, if he struggles it will only emphasize the impact Beason had on the Panthers' defense. Connor filled in for Thomas Davis last year, so it isn't as if the third-year pro has little experience in this role.
The Panthers aren't going to expect Connor to be Beason, but they are going to need him to play exceptional against the Packers.
Finley has a minor ankle injury coming into the game against Carolina, but is listed as probable and should be good to go. In his return to the field, Finley caught three balls for 53 yards. At this time last season, he was Aaron Rodgers's favorite target, but a season-ending injury would put a stop to the Rodgers-Finley connection.
I'm curious to see how he performs against a Panthers' defense that gave up four receptions for 101 yards and a touchdown to the Cardinals' tight ends. Fantasy owners should be salivating over this matchup, not just because of last week's performance by Arizona tight ends, but by how Carolina has defended the tight end position over the past few years.
The Panthers have always struggled against tight ends that are dynamic in the passing game. And Finley fits this mold of a tight end Carolina struggles containing.
DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart combine to form "Double Trouble", yet they definitely weren't a double dose of trouble against the Cardinals. The pressure on them this Sunday will be immense.
Without a strong running game, the Panthers are going to get blown out. The goal is to ultimately keep Rodgers off the field for long stretches and the best way to do that is to run the ball.
Williams wasn't healthy last season and only appeared in six games, while Stewart played in 14. Health issues have plagued the two backs throughout their careers, so it is refreshing to see them both healthy at the same time. Now, they just need to produce like they did in '09, when both members of "Double Trouble" rushed for over 1,000 yards.
Woodson was fined this past week $10,000 for throwing a punch on New Orleans' tight end David Thomas. That won't fly this week against the Panthers, because Steve Smith will be lining up across from Woodson. If you don't remember, in '08 Smith threw a punch during a fight at training camp that broke Ken Lucas' nose. And that was his teammate.
I will be especially locked in on Woodson to see how he handles Smith. Smith tore apart the Cardinals' secondary, so we know that Woodson will want to show up on Sunday and shut down the trash talking receiver.
This will be one of the key matchups in the game and should be a blast to watch.