Week one of the NFL season is here, and now its time to breakdown these matchups on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. Since I analyzed the Thursday night game, there are only four games analyzed here, but every other week I will analyze five games every weekend.
To me there is no contest that the best game this weekend features the toughest game of the year. I feel this game should be played later in the season when it could determine who wins the AFC North title. If the Baltimore Ravens want to make a statement, they need to win this game and prove to the Steelers that they are there to play and ready to win the division for the first time since 2006. Also, since 2007 including the playoffs, the Steelers have won 7 of the last 10 meetings.
Key Matchups: Baltimore Ravens wide outs vs. Pittsburgh Steelers secondary. If Joe Flacco proves he can step up and make key throws, then Pittsburgh won't be able to blitz as much and bring Troy Polamalu into the block. If Flacco can drive the Ravens down for a first quarter touchdown, it will open up more opportunities for Ray Rice and the rest of the Ravens. As for the Steelers offense vs. the Ravens defense, I feel we need to look at the Ravens pressure defense against the Steelers offensive line. I feel the Ravens need to not just get to Roethlisberger but also tackle him or force him to throw the ball away.
Prediction: Steelers 16 Ravens 20
And the era of the "Dream Team" begins in St. Louis. Many people feel this will be a walkover for the Eagles, but I feel the Rams will be a tough first game, and starting in a dome is going to be difficult for the Eagles. With the Eagles have an entirely new defense with many new players and a new defensive coordinator (Juan Castillo); coupled with the Rams offense, I feel it's going to be a learning experience for the Eagles defense. As for the other side of the ball, I feel the Eagles will put up a lot of points as the Eagles key offensive players are returning which include: (Vick, McCoy, Jackson, Maclin Celek, and Jason Peters).
Key Matchups: St. Louis Rams offensive line vs. Philadelphia Eagles linebackers. With all of the high paid players on the Eagles defense, I decided to examine the linebackers of the Eagles. I feel its necessary for the Eagles linebackers to play well because they will most often bring their linebackers on blitzes which will force Bradford to release the ball early and allow chances for Asomugha, Samuels, and Rodgers-Cromartie. If the linebackers don't get to Bradford, he will have time to examine the field and take apart an Eagles defense that has only played for one month together.
On the other side of the ball, the key matchup is the Rams linebackers vs. Michael Vick. The Rams need to contain Vick, and not allow him to run all over the field. If he runs wild on the Rams, it will open up the passing game for him, and lead to a long day for the Rams defense.
Prediction: Eagles 30 Rams 25
The two teams who finished third and forth in the AFC South is the third best game this week? Actually, yes. With the news on Peyton Manning that he will be out at least 2-3 months, this becomes a vital matchup for positioning in the AFC South. I feel the Titans can become a surprise team in the AFC South and might be a sleeper team to win the AFC South.
Its also a chance to answer many questions about both of these teams which include: how will Matt Hasselbeck pick up the new offense, will Chris Johnson show he's worth the big contract he received and show he stayed in playing shape while on his holdout, can Kenny Britt burst out and have a big year with a non-running quarterback, and did the Jaguars make the right decision by releasing David Garrard? Also, this will be the first game coached by new Tennessee Titans coach Mike Munchak.
Key Matchups: Tennessee Titans offensive line vs. Jacksonville Jaguars defensive line. The Titans have been fortunate to have a very solid and stable offensive line the previous few years. Lead by tackles Michael Roos and David Stewart, the Titans have one of the best offensive lines. One the other side, the Jaguars need front four need to get some pressure on Matt Hasselbeck and force him out of the pocket. If the Titans want to succeed on offense, they need to win the battle in the trenches.
As for the reverse matchups, I would look at the Titans front four against Luke McCown. If Titans (Shaun Smith, Sen'Derrick Marks, and Jason Jones) get in the Jaguars backfield, Luke McCown will make mistakes and give the Titans plenty of chances on the defensive side of the ball.
Prediction: Titans 25 Jaguars 18
Last year, both of these two teams had the best records in the NFC, and is a matchup of one team that is seen on the way up and one on the way down. The Falcons return almost every key player (except offensive Harvey Dahl) and strengthened their wide receiving crop with Julio Jones and a healthy Harry Douglas. We will also see how loosing the NFC Championship game will affect the Bears and if Jay Cutler has matured and is ready to take the next step at the Quarterback position.
Key Matchup: Chicago Bears offensive line vs. Atlanta Falcons defensive line. If the Bears offensive line can give Jay Cutler some time to find people downfield, the Bears offense should be able to have some success against an average Falcons secondary. If Jay Cutler is on the run or getting sacked, the Bears will have some problems on the offensive side of the ball and Cutler will start to get careless with his decision-making and "Bad Jay" will be seen. The second matchup I wanted to analyze involves the Atlanta Falcons offensive line vs. Chicago Bears defensive line.
If the Bears are able to get pressure on Matt Ryan, like Cutler he will start to make poor decisions and give the Bears chances to make plays on the ball. When the Bears don't have to blitz a lot of people and can get pressure from the front four, then the Bears will be able to play the cover two and be prepared for the different weapons that the Falcons have. If the Bears don't get pressure on Matt Ryan from the defensive line, they'll have to bring linebackers or people from there secondary and Matt Ryan will have a field day with the Bears defense.
Prediction: Falcons 25 Bears 20