NFL Week 3: Tom Brady, Michael Vick, Greg Jennings and Key Matchups to Watch
Every NFL Sunday heroes are born, whether by means of a game-changing hit or drawing an opposing lineman offsides. This weekend I will begin my weekly series, analyzing the top three player-against-player matchups that will likely have big impacts on how these Week 2 games turn out.
Well, without further ado, take a look at my key matchups, and feel free to voice your disagreement.
San Francisco 49ers vs. Cincinnati Bengals
49ers ILB Patrick Willis vs. Cedric Benson
San Francisco 49er Patrick Willis helped the the Niners lead the league in rush defensive yards. In the first two games, Willis has recorded 14 tackles, and forced two fumbles. The Bengals have been running the ball well with rookie quarterback, Andy Dalton, under center, but you can be certain that Willis will be looking to bring down Benson hard.
49ers RB Frank Gore vs. Cincinnati's Rush Defense
Frank Gore might now carry the ball less effectively than he had since entering the National Football League, but he remains a versatile power back that can pound the rock. The Bengals are ranked 15th against the run, allowing 105.5 yards per game on the ground.
Gore has always been a workhorse, but throughout the first two games of the year, he has carried the ball 42 times, gaining 106 yards, and scoring one touchdown while averaging a mere 2.6 yards per carry.
49ers Secondary vs. Bengals' QB Andy Dalton
Dalton, the Bengals' second-round draft pick, has played extremely well in his first two outings. He has completed 61.3 percent of his passes, while passing for 413 yards, three touchdown passes, and zero interceptions; posting a quarterback rating of 105.7.
The 49ers have two high caliber safeties in Donte Whitner and Dashon Goldson, and a front three that penetrates gaps, allowing the linebackers to read plays with ease.
New England Patriots vs. Buffalo Bills
Who would've thought that a New England Patriots bout with the lowly Buffalo Bills would be one of the most notable games of the weekend? After both AFC East rivals mauled their way to 2-0 starts, the Bills are looking to defeat the Patriots for the first time in roughly eight seasons.
Buffalo Bills Wide Receivers vs. New England Patriots Secondary
The Bills have capitalized by creating mismatches with their three and four wide receiver sets. This could present some blatant mismatches for the struggling Patriots secondary, who is ranked last in the league in pass defense, allowing 381 yards through the air per game.
It's not like there is one weapon on this Bills team that needs to be accounted for at all times, as head coach Chan Gailey finds a niche for each and every one of the players on the roster.
Bills NT Kyle Williams vs. Patriots Center Dan Connelly
Kyle Williams has continued to impress, penetrating gaps and closing the pocket. In former years against the Patriots, there weren't any true pass rushers to get Tom Brady riled up. With Marcell Dareus expected to line up against second-year tackle Sebastian Vollmer, there will be a lot of room for linebacker blitzes to rattle Brady into forcing throws.
Bills Secondary vs. Tom Brady & Co.
We've seen Brady toss for over 500 yards against the Miami Dolphins, and over 400 last week against the San Diego Chargers. The Bills need to be balanced at times and pick their shots. The cornerbacks need to be ready to lock down Deion Branch, while Wes Welker will have to be accounted for over the middle.
Thankfully for the Bills, tight end Aaron Hernandez will miss this game, leaving Buffalo native, Rob Gronkowski full reigns to the offense.
Miami Dolphins vs. Cleveland Browns
Dolphins WR Brandon Marshall vs. Browns CB Joe Haden
This matchup will be an interesting one, as Joe Haden is significantly smaller than Brandon "The Beast" Marshall. However, Haden has been productive through his first two games, recording eight tackles, a sack, and a tackle for a loss, while defending five passes.
Marshall has caught 13 passes for 213 yards and a score; continuously building a report with quarterback Chad Henne in the process.
Dolphins ILB's Karlos Dansby, Kevin Burnett vs. Browns RB Peyton Hillis
The Miami Dolphins rank in the top 10 in both rushing and passing yards, yet are ranked below the 20's in opposing rush and pass defense. Karlos Dansby has been a leader on the Dolphins defense since departing from the Arizona Cardinals to join the squad. Kevin Burnett was a quick sign after fellow inside 'backer, Channing Crowder, decided to retire.
Throughout the first two games, the two have combined for just 17 tackles, and they have a tough test ahead of them this week, as they face Peyton Hillis. Hillis has carried the ball 44 times for 151 yards, while scoring twice this season.
Denver Broncos vs. Tennessee Titans
Broncos CB Champ Bailey vs. Titans WR Kenny Britt
Since Matt Hasselback departed from the Seattle Seahawks to join the Tennessee Titans, he has found a new go-to guy in Kenny Britt. Britt has caught 14 of the 23 passes directed his way for a total of 271 yards and three touchdowns.
Champ Bailey doesn't have eye-popping stats, as he is one of the true lockdown corners in the game.
Broncos OLB Von Miller vs. Titans LT Michael Roos
The No. 2 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, Von Miller, will have a huge test this weekend as he will face off against one of the elite left tackles in the National Football League. Miller has racked up eight tackles, a sack, deflected two passes, and forced a fumble in his first two games as a professional.
Detroit Lions vs. Minnesota Vikings
Lions DT Ndamukong Suh vs. Vikings interior O-Line
In his second year in the National Football League, Ndamukong Suh has already established himself as one of the greatest defensive tackles in the game. While his stats have been suffering due to constant double teams, he has still managed four tackles and a sack in the first two games.
The Vikings interior line is aging, and they can't forget the guys surrounding Suh, such as Kyle Vanden Bosch, Cliff Avril, and Corey Williams.
Lions WR Calvin Johnson vs. Vikings CB Antoine Winfield
"Megatron" is finally playing with the quarterback he deserves, and it has already paid off, as the former Georgia Tech standout has caught nine passes for 117 yards; finding the endzone four times.
Antoine Winfield is 34, a lot less stronger and physical than Calvin Johnson, and will get smoked despite his respectable stats of 21 tackles, a forced fumble, an interception, and a pass deflection in two games.
Houston Texans vs. New Orleans Saints
Texans RB Ben Tate vs. Saints MLB Jonathan Vilma
When Arian Foster, last season's National Football League rushing leader, went down with a hamstring injury, Ben Tate was quickly inserted into the lineup and didn't miss a step. In his first two professional games, Tate has benefited from Houston's zone blocking scheme to rush 47 times for 219 yards and a score.
Jonathan Vilma of the New Orleans Saints is asked to do a lot on the defense for the "Who Dat" nation. Stopping the run will be his main priority, as the Texans have a potent and underrated offense.
Texans WR Andre Johnson vs. Saints CB Jabari Greer
Andre Johnson is arguably one of the best wide receivers in the NFL, and throughout his first two games of the year, he has reeled in 14 passes for 188 yards, scoring twice. He simply has the speed, power, and physicality to beat the smaller corners that have no chance of covering him.
Jabari Greer is a veteran and should be able to put up a show with Johnson. On the year, Greer has made 11 tackles while defending three passes.
New York Giants vs. Philadelphia Eagles
Giants DE Jason Pierre-Paul vs. Eagles LT Jason Peters
With fellow defensive end Osu Umenyiora holding out, second-year defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, a former first-round draft pick out of South Florida, has had an opportunity to shine throughout his first two games of the season. He has racked up eight tackles, 2.5 sacks, three tackles for a loss, and a forced fumble.
This week, he will line up across from Jason Peters, a perrenial Pro Bowl left tackle, with a mean streak. The Eagles offensive line has been shaky in their pass protection, so with Pierre-Paul and Justin Tuck gunning for either Michael Vick, Mike Kafka, or Vince Young, Peters will need to hold his own at the point of attack to keep Vick from suffering another concussion.
Giants Pass Offense vs. Eagles Secondary
The New York Giants have been plagued by injuries thruoght the offseason, and now that trend has continued through the regular season, after losing wide receiver Domenik Hixon to an ACL injury.
Quarterback Eli Manning still has his favorite target in Hakeen Nicks, who has caught 11 passes for 160 yards and a score, along with Mario Manningham, who has caught 7 passes for 105 yards. Now, with Hixon out, Victor Cruz and Brandon Stokely will serve as the No. 3 and No. 4 receivers.
The Eagles "Dream Team" secondary has been shaky, as Asante Samuel, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, and Nnamdi Asomughua have combined for 13 tackles, four pass deflections, and just two interceptions.
Giants Rush Offense Vs. Eagles Front Seven
The Giants are built to run with Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs holding down the backfield to limit Manning's errant throws. Bradshaw has rushed 28 times for 103 yards and a touchdown, while Jacobs has rushed 22 times for 79 yards and a score.
However, if the offensive line can't hold their own at the point of attack, look for Jason Babin and Cullen Jenkins to feast on Eli Manning.
Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Carolina Panthers
Jaguars QB Blaine Gabbert vs. Panthers Cam Newton
This is the first game of the year that NFL fans get to see two of the quarterbacks of the future. One being Carolina Panthers quarterback, Cam Newton, who has already gained high recognition, passing for over 400 yards in each of his first two starts, shutting up the critics that swore he couldn't read defenses.
On the other side, rookie Blaine Gabbert was inserted into his first NFL action after Luke McCown threw four interceptions against the Jets, and finished the day completing five of six passes for 52 yards.
Jaguars RB Maurice Jones-Drew vs. Panthers Beat Up Front Seven
Maurice Jones-Drew has already rushed 42 times for 185 yards for an average of 4.4 yards-per-carry, while finding the endzone twice. He may be licking his chops at this matchup, considering that linebackers Jon Beason and Thomas Davis both suffered season ending ACL injuries. This leaves James Anderson, Dan Connor, and Jordan Senin as the three starting linebackers.
New York Jets vs. Oakland Raiders
Jets RB Shonn Greene vs. Oakland's Defensive Line
Shonn Greene has been a disappointment to Jets fans who hoped he could be the savior of the franchises ever decreasing rushing attack. Behind one of the best offensive lines in the National Football League, Greene has rushed 26 times for 29 yards, dismally averaging 2.9 yards-per-carry.
This week, he will have a tough task against a massive four man front consisting of John Henderson, Richard Seymour, Tommy Kelly, and Matt Shaughnessy.
Jets OLB Calvin Pace vs. OT Jared Veldheer
Calvin Pace is one of the premier pass rushers in the league, and you can bet that Rex Ryan will be dialing up some blitzes to get in the head of Raiders quarterback, Jason Campbell. Jared Veldheer has a high ceiling for improvement, but its unlikely that he can hold his own against a veteran of Pace's caliber.
Baltimore Ravens vs. St. Louis Rams
Ravens DL Haloti Ngata vs. Rams C Jason Brown
Haloti Ngata recently agreed to a five-year, $61 million dollar contract that pays him $40 million in the first two years of the deal. Now, he will be ready to prove he is worth every dollar of that as he will line up against the Rams' center, Jason Brown.
Ngata has recorded 10 tackles, a forced fumble, and a pass deflection on the year, and the Rams offensive line has allowed quarterback Sam Bradford to be sacked seven times.
Ravens ILB Ray Lewis vs. Rams RB's Steven Jackson, Cadillac Williams
Steven Jackson has been nursing a quad injury that kept him out of Monday Night's game against the New York Giants, but it seems that he will at least get some limited reps against the Ravens. Cadillac Williams has performed substantially in his replacement role, rushing for 147 yards on 32 carries.
Ray Lewis, on the other hand, is one of the most ferocious football players of the generation, and will bring the heat on every down. This year, Lewis has made 15 tackles, forced a fumble, and intercepted a pass.
Kansas City Chiefs vs. San Diego Chargers
Chiefs WR Dwayne Bowe vs. Chargers CB Quinten Jammer
Last year, Chiefs wide receiver, Dwayne Bowe, led the National Football League in touchdown receptions. This year, however, he has caught just seven passes for 118 yards, and has been a non-factor in coach Todd Haley's offensive scheme.
He will line up across from Quinten Jammer of the San Diego Chargers this weekend, who was overshadowed by Antonio Cromartie during his time with the Chargers, but is a far better cornerback. This year, Jammer has brought down 7 players for tackles while defending a pass.
Chiefs CB Brandon Flowers vs. Chargers WR Vincent Jackson
After signing a pretty lucrative deal just days ago, Kansas City Chiefs cornerback, Brandon Flowers, needs to prove he was worth the investment. Especially with Eric Berry out for the year. Flowers has made seven tackles, a tackle for a loss, deflected five passes, and intercepted another.
However, lining up with the 6'5" Vincent Jackson is no easy task, as the former Northern Colorado standout has caught 12 passes for 203 yards and found the endzone three times.
Green Bay Packers vs. Chicago Bears
Packers OLB Clay Matthews vs. Bears LT J'Marcus Webb
J'Marcus Webb, along with the rest of the suspect Chicago Bears offensive line, is setting quarterback Jay Cutler up for a serious injury. Think about it—Clay Matthews twice a year, Ndamukong Suh twice a year, and Jared Allen twice a year.
Matthews has already made nine tackles, a sack, a tackle for a loss, and deflected a pass.
Packers LT Chad Clifton Vs. Bears DE Julius Peppers
Julius Peppers is arguably one of the most athletic football players to step on the field at any time. Due to receiving constant double teams, he hasn't been able to put up numbers of his expectations. In fact, on the year, he has just three tackles and a sack.
Chad Clifton is receiving high praise from coaches and teammates alike, and looks as if he can grow into a serviceable left tackle.
Packers WR Greg Jennings vs. Bears CB Tim Jennings
Greg Jennings was a focal part of the Green Bay Packers Super Bowl run just a year ago, and doesn't seem to be slowing down anytime soon. With quarterback Aaron Rodgers under center, the two have connected nine times for 144 yards, scoring two touchdowns.
Chicago Bears cornerback, Tim Jennings is very familiar with Jennings as the two have squared off twice a year since Jennings entered the league. On the year, Jennings has racked up 17 tackles, two tackles for a loss, and deflected a pass.
Arizona Cardinals vs. Seattle Seahawks
Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald vs. Seahawks CB Marcus Trufant
Larry Fitzgerald is right at the top when it comes to breaking down the top wide receivers in the league, and now that he has a new quarterback in Kevin Kolb, he should return to his consistent 100 reception years. In the first two games, Fitzgerald has hauled in 10 passes for 195 yards and a touchdown.
Marcus Trufant is a veteran corner that has his technique down, but it's hard to believe he will be able to shut down Fitzgerald for a full 60 minutes. This year, Trufant only has eight tackles, one for a loss, and 2 pass deflections.
Cardinals RB Beanie Wells vs. Seahawks Run Defense
Beanie Wells has finally found his role in the Arizona Cardinals offense, rushing 32 times for 183 yards and two touchdowns in the first two games of the year. The Seattle Seahawks are currently ranked 15th against the run, allowing 104.5 yards-per-game on the ground.
Atlanta Falcons vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Falcons WR's Roddy White, Julio Jones vs. Buccaneers CB's Aquib Talib, Ronde Barber
Atlanta Falcons quarterback, Matt Ryan, has a new toy to play with in first-round draft pick Julio Jones out of Alabama. Once things start clicking, Roddy White and Jones could provide a Cris Carter-Randy Moss-esque receiving corps in Atlanta. Roddy White is already a stud, and has caught 11 passes for 84 yards and a touchdown, while Julio Jones has caught seven passes for 100 yards.
Aquib Talib and Ronde Barber were exposed by the Detroit Lions in Week One, and keeping up with the Falcons' offensive weapons is no easy task.