By NFL Fan
As I heard on another radio show, for the first time ever, there are no interdivisional games this week for the first time ever. This was planned because of the possible lockout in the NFL season. With that said, there are still are a few great matchups this weekend. Here are my top 5 matchups:
Let the Michael Vick bowl commence. As Alge Crumpler said earlier this week, "The stands will look like Christmas because there will be so much red and green." I completely agree with Vick's favorite receiver when he was an Atlanta Falcon as many people in Atlanta still hold the quarterback with high regard and to this day cheer greatly for there old head of the offense. At the same time, this is a HUGE game for the Atlanta Falcons and a game that can prove how good the dream team… I mean the Philadelphia Eagles will be. As for the Falcons, this is a must win game as if they start the season 0-2, they'd most likely be a game down in the division, two games down for the 5th or 6th seed, and 0-2 in conference play.
Key Matchups: Philadelphia Eagles offensive line vs. Atlanta Falcons defensive line. If the Falcons are able to make Vick get out of the pocket and scramble and not allow him to examine the field and find his fast receivers (Jackson and Maclin) downfield the might be able to contain Mike Vick. At the same time, I feel the Falcons need to have a linebacker spying Vick every play. If players like John Abraham and Ray Edwards can't get to Vick, he'll beat them with his legs and arm, which will lead to a long night for the Atlanta defense.
Atlanta Falcons offensive line vs. Philadelphia Eagles blitz defense. If the Falcons offensive line doesn't give Matt Ryan time to throw or open up holes for Michael Turner, the Falcons might be in for a repeat of last weekend's scores. The Falcons don't have Harvey Dahl anymore and center Todd McClure hasn't practiced this week. If the Eagles blitz and the defensive front of Jenkins, Babin, and Cole get to Matt Ryan then he won't be able to get time and find his receivers downfield.
Eagles 35 Falcons 31
Like the Falcons, this is a must win for the Saints this weekend (the Saints have the same reasons as the Falcons for why they need to win this week). The Superdome will be rocking on Sunday for Drew Brees and the Saints season opener. The Saints will be without Brees' favorite target Marques Colston, but should have another of his favorite receivers back, Lance Moore. As for the Bears, they will be playing with heavy hearts as for the unfortunate loss of team leader Brian Urlacher who lost his mother earlier in the week. The Bears and Urlacher will definitely play with more emotion than usual on Sunday.
Key Matchups: Chicago Bears offensive line vs. New Orleans Saints defense. The Saints love blitzing the quarterback, and they bring blitzes from different angles. With the poor Bears offensive line combined with Jay Cutler's decision making and the crowd noise, the Saints should be given a few opportunities for turnovers. If Cutler has time, then the Saints second game could end up just like they did their first game. New Orleans Saints wide receivers vs. Chicago Bears secondary.
Drew Brees is one of the most accurate quarterbacks in the NFL. Because of this, the Bears secondary (Tillman, Jennings, and D.J. Moore need to step up and contain the Saints wide receivers like they did the previous week against Atlanta. The Bears safeties will also have to learn on the job with the injury to Chris Harris as he's listed as doubtful to play on Sunday.
Chicago Bears 24 New Orleans Saints 31
Two 0-1 teams who desperately need a win on Monday night. The Saints started off nicely with Steven Jackson's first handoff of the season going for a touchdown. After that run, the wheels started to go off, and the Rams fell apart. Also, the Rams had a laundry list of injuries during their first week's game: as Steven Jackson and Danny Amendola went down with injuries, and Sam Bradford also hurt his hand though he is expected to play this week.
As for the Giants, they need to recover from a terrible interdivision loss to the Redskins last week. If they loose this game, they'll most likely be 2 games back of 1st place in the NFC East and 2 games back in the wildcard. Also, this is Steve Spagnuolo's first game against the Giants since he left the Giants after the 2008 to become the head coach in St. Louis.
Key Matchups: St. Louis Rams wide receivers vs. New York Giants corner backs. The Giants corner backs last week in Washington were torn apart by Rex Grossman. Unfortunately they've lost three key players in there secondary and it showed last week and could happen again if Bradford can create good continuity with Mike Sims-Walker. I think Bradford can have a nice night against the Giants with all of the injuries the Giants defense has suffered through.
New York Giants running backs vs. St. Louis Rams run defense. The Giants have one of the best 1-2 punches in the league with Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs. The two running backs combined for only 19 carries for 73 yards in last week's game, and that needs to increase to at least 30 carries in the game for the Giants to win. If the Giants run the ball successfully, then Eli Manning will have plenty of time to find his wide receivers downfield against a average Rams secondary.
St. Louis Rams 20 New York Giants 24
Tell me if you haven't before, "this is a must win game for the Dallas Cowboys. Actually, now that I'm thinking about it, I did hear this a year ago when the Cowboys lost to the Redskins on opening day. Like last year, this is a must win game for the Cowboys as they need to split on the road and go into there week three matchup (Monday night against Washington) on a high note. As for the 49ers, they won a home interdivision matchup last week against the Seahawks. This matchup for the 49ers shows if they defeated a below average Seahawks team that on the road is horrendous, or a team that can defeat quality opponents.
Key Matchups: Felix Jones vs. San Francisco 49ers run defense. Felix Jones has so far not been worth the 1st round pick that the Cowboys made him 4 years ago. The 49ers run defense last week was fine but Felix Jones should be a bigger test for the 49ers than the Seahawks were last week. Alex Smith vs. Dallas Cowboys defense. The Cowboys passing defense gave up 315 passing yards to Mark Sanchez and a very average Jets passing game. This is a chance for Alex Smith to show if he's progressed under Jim Harbaugh, as Sanchez last week showed the Cowboys pass defense is very average.
Dallas Cowboys 27 San Francisco 49ers 20
Yes, I actually did pick the Browns @ Colts as a key game this week, but not to analyze the game, instead to examine which team I feel has a better chance at receiving the first pick in the NFL draft. That's why I've given this game the title "the possible number one pick bowl." The looser of this game will be directly in line to draft Andrew Luck, Matt Barkley, Justin Blackmon, or other prospects. This is a big season for Colt McCoy because if the Browns struggle then they might be tempted to draft one of the top three quarterbacks in next year's draft.
Cleveland Browns 20 Indianapolis Colts 16