Tag:NFL Week 1
Posted on: September 15, 2011 7:04 pm

NFL Week Two Match-ups to watch

Here are 10 match-ups I can't wait to see from Week Two of the NFL season:

Browns left tackle Joe Thomas vs. Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney

Freeney is one of the game's best pass rushers. He is explosive off the edge, but he can also bull rush a tackle. Thomas is one of the better tackles, but speed players can sometimes get the best of him. These two should be fun to watch all day long -- especially if it is loud, which will play to Freeney's speed.

Redskins outside linebacker Brian Orakpo vs. Cardinals left tackle Levi Brown

Brown had a tough time last week against Carolina and still doesn't come close to resembling a top-10 pick, which he was. Orakpo now has help on the other side from rookie Ryan Kerrigan, which will mean fewer doubles. If the Cardinals single-block him, it could be trouble for Brown. Orakpo has been bothered by an ankle injury this week, but he expects to play.

Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith vs. Green Bay corners

Smith had a huge game last week against the Cardinals secondary. The Packers are significantly better on the back end than Arizona. Charles Woodson, Tramon Williams and Sam Shields form the best corner threesome in the league.  That will make for tough going for Smith. If the Packers single him, as good as they are, they will be playing with fire. Williams has a sore shoulder and hasn't practiced, but there is a chance he can play.

Eagles left tackle Jason Peters vs. Falcons right defensive end John Abraham

Abraham had a sack last week against J'Marcus Webb of the Bears and he's usually even better at home in front of loud crowd. Peters was solid last week against the Rams, but Abraham is a step up in competition. If the Falcons get a lead, and Abraham can pin his ears back and go, this could be a bad matchup for the Eagles.

Titans center C Eugene Amano vs. Ravens nose tackle Terrence Cody

The Titans got little push inside last week against the Jaguars. Amano isn't over-powering at the point of attack, which could be a big problem against Cody. He was fantastic last week against Steelers Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey. He pushed him into the backfield a couple of time. If the Titans want to get Chris Johnson going, Amano has to do a good job on Cody.

Patriots tight ends Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski vs. Chargers safeties Bob Sanders and Eric Weddle

The Patriots tight ends destroyed Miami, catching 13 passes and two touchdowns Monday night. They did a lot of damage against the linebackers, but the Chargers have the cover safeties to handle them. I look for Sanders and Weddle to spend a lot of time on those two second-year tight ends. If they can take those two away from Tom Brady, force him to go to his receivers more, it should be a big help to the Chargers defense.

Bills offensive line vs. Raiders defensive front

The Bill front, which is a major concern this season, did a nice job against the Chiefs last week. They weren't dominant, but they held their own and gave Ryan Fitzpatrick time to throw. But this Raiders defensive line sacked Kyle Orton six times and dominated the Denver offensive line, which is a step above the Bills line.  This is the battle that will decide this game, not what happens outside.

Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson vs. Dolphins corners 

Dolphins corners Sean Smith and Vontae Davis had a rough start to their season last Monday against the Patriots. They both got beat at times, and both had cramps. They had to live with Tom Brady throwing for 517 yards. Now they get the NFL's best receiver and another top-tier passing game. I would imagine Smith, who is bigger, might spend more time on Johnson than Davis. They can only hope to contain Johnson. They won't stop him.

Bears defensive end Julius Peppers vs. Saints LT Jermon Bushrod

Peppers is one of the top pass rushers in the game. But he also can hold up against the run. If the Saints are to get the run game going, Bushrod has to win against Peppers. But even more importantly, Bushrod has to handle him in pass protection. Drew Brees is good getting the ball out, which will help neutralize Peppers some, but I was there when DeMarcus Ware worked over Bushrod a couple of years ago. Peppers has that same type of ability.

49ers center Jonathan Goodwin vs. Cowboys nose tackle Jay Ratliff

You know the 49ers want to run the football with Frank Gore. Goodwin is a good center the 49ers added in free agency. He will be matched against Ratliff, a smaller nose tackle who is quick at the point of attack. Goodwin has to handle Ratliff to allow the guards to get out on the Cowboys linebackers if Gore is going to run the football.

Category: NFL
Tags: NFL Week 1
Posted on: September 12, 2011 10:13 pm
Edited on: September 12, 2011 10:29 pm

Brady lights up Dolphins

MIAMI -- You look at the Miami Dolphins defense and you see good cover corners. You see an elite pass rusher in Cameron Wake. You see big, strong down linemen, active inside linebackers and a top-notch coordinator.

That's why I picked them to be a playoff team.

Then you watch Tom Brady and the New England Patriots carve them to shreds and it make you wonder.

Are they any good?

Or is Brady just that good?

Brady played a game of pitch-and-catch with his receivers in leading the Patriots t a 38-24 victory Monday night at Sun Life Stadium. He stood in the pocket at times for what seemed like 10 minutes, picking apart a Miami secondary that had no answer for a receiving group that isn't exactly filled with burners. Brady threw for a career-best 517 yards, four touchdown passes -- one a 99-yard throw -- and seemed to barely break a sweat.

I still think Miami's defense will be fine against mortal quarterbacks.

On this night, they faced one of the all-time greats, and Brady got them again.

But the Dolphins should get some solace in knowing he's done this to a lot of defenses that think they've arrived. Just not as bad. 

Category: NFL
Tags: NFL Week 1
Posted on: September 12, 2011 11:58 am

Monday Musings

---All we heard all summer long was how moving the kickoff back 5 yards was ruining the game. What people missed about the change was that the cover players could no longer have a running start. They could only have a 5-yard lead-in. To me, and I insisted this all along, that would even things up. Return men could take more chances. And that's what's happening. There have been three kickoff returns for touchdowns so far, which ties the NFL record for opening weekend with two games to go. If there's one in either of the Monday night games, the record is broken. I love the way teams are playing this. It brings even more excitement -- not less. There aren't as many returns, but the ones that do happen are full of excitement.

---When I talked to Panthers receiver Steve Smith this summer about Cam Newton his face lit up. He was so excited to be in a new offense with a quarterback that had a big arm. Now we know why. Newton got all the headlines Sunday for his 422-yard passing performance in the 27-20 loss to the Arizona Cardinals, but Smith was special as well. He caught eight passes for 178 yards and two scores. There was some talk that Smith's best football was behind him. He showed Sunday that's not the case. It must be nice to play in an offense where blocking for the run isn't the only requirement anymore.

----I worry about the Tampa Bay speed on offense. Mike Williams is a really talented receiver, but he isn't a burner. And there isn't much speed away from him. The backfield is also slow and lumbering with LaGarrette Blount and Earnest Graham as the feature runners. The lack of speed really showed up against the Lions. That's the next big step for Tampa Bay, finding a speed threat in the backfield or outside.

---The Atlanta offensive line was horrible against the Bears. They missed Todd McClure in the middle. He isn't the most physical center, but he's great with all the line calls.

---One of the interesting trends of the past couple of years is having a guard tell the center when to make the snap. The Lions did it all day against the Bucs. The Lions do it because the want center Dominic Raiola with his head up to make the line calls. So right guard Stephen Peterman, in a set stance, looks back at quarterback Matt Stafford to see when he's ready. Once he gets the signal that he is, Peterman taps Raiola's leg once or twice or three times to tell him to snap it. "You have to be an athlete," Peterman said about looking back in a set position. I also asked him about changing the snap count. "We change it," he said. The plays I watched, it looked like it was mostly one tap and go. The Lions, like so many other teams, only use this on the road for crowd-noise reasons.

---So much for the preseason talk of how Mario Williams would struggle playing the new stand-up position in the team's 3-4 scheme. A pass rusher is a pass rusher, no matter what the scheme. And he is rushing on almost every down anyway. He had two sacks and a forced fumble against the Colts Sunday.

---Irritating talk of the week: The Colts lack talent and it's showing now. No, they have talent. It's just what happened to them in getting blown out by the Texans shows just how valuable a franchise quarterback is to a team -- especially Peyton Manning. You tell me other teams wouldn't line up to get Dallas Clark, Reggie Wayne, Robert Mathis, Dwight Freeney, Jerraud Powers or Antoine Bethea? Of course they would.

---Smart move by the Texans to sit Arian Foster with his hamstring issues. But hurry back. Ben Tate looked good rushing for 116 yards. 

---I couldn't figure out why the Cowboys kept Dez Bryant on the field Sunday night. It was clear he couldn't run. I also noticed several times where he seemed to be in the wrong place on a route. He is so talented. But he needs to work on the little things.

---Tony Romo, get ready for more heat. He played a great game until the final five minutes or so. But that's when great quarterbacks make their names.

---The Jets still have pass-rush issues. They have to blitz so much to compensate for a lack of outside rushers. If that's the case, look for teams to take advantage of safety Eric Smith if he's in coverage. He lacks the ability to cover tight ends who can run.

---The Steelers have offensive line issues. Again. That really showed up against the Ravens. They have a way of fixing it as the season moves along -- see 2009 -- but for now it has to be troubling.

---Luke McCown was serviceable for the Jaguars. You don't make noise in the playoffs with serviceable. When Blaine Gabbert is ready, he plays. I've been told it could be less than a month for that to happen.

---Bad news for Panthers if linebacker Jon Beason is lost for the season with a torn Achilles tendon, which could be the case. He's the heart of that defense.

---I know the Eagles offensive line isn't good now, buy Mike Vick can't run for 98 yards on a weekly basis. He has to stay in the pocket more, or he might not finish the season.

Category: NFL
Tags: NFL Week 1
Posted on: September 8, 2011 11:40 am
Edited on: September 8, 2011 4:42 pm

Breaking down 10 key battles from Week 1

Here are 10 intriguing battles from this week's NFL games.

Falcons right defensive end John Abraham vs. Bears left tackle J'Marcus Webb -- Webb started as a rookie on the right side, but now is on the left side protecting Jay Cutler's backside. His first game pits him against an elite pass rusher, known for his ability to blow by people. Webb has good feet, and will be a good tackle down the road, but this is a tough first test. If he handles it, it's a good sign for the long run for the Bears. Look for Webb to get a lot of help from the backs and the tight ends.

Cowboys wide receivers Dez Bryant and Miles Austin vs. Jets corners Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie

The receiver-corner battles are always fun to break down. When it's two talented man-cover players on a team known for leaving them in single coverage, it's even better. Bryant looked special in the preseason, so it will be interesting to see what he does against these two. Austin can run, and he's Romo's favorite target outside. Revis is one of the league's best -- if not the best. Cromartie has to cut down on his penalties this season. The outside battles will decide this game.

Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh vs. Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy

They aren't facing each other, but the battle is there. Suh was a force as a rookie last season, earning Defensive Rookie of the Year honors after being the second overall pick. McCoy went third after him. He had a solid first season, came on in the second half, but then got hurt late. McCoy doesn't like talking about Suh much and I could tell this summer that it was a sore topic. He will be stoked Sunday to show the football world that he is a top young tackle as well.

Patriots right tackle Sebastian Vollmer vs. Dolphins outside linebacker Cameron Wake

Wake is an explosive edge rusher who had 14 sacks and told me this summer he really didn't play that well after he went back and watched the tape. That's scary. Vollmer is a third-year player who has trouble at times with speed rushers. Tom Brady is great getting the ball out, which will help here, but Wake could pose big problems for Vollmer. He might need help. Vollmer is bothered by a back injury and could be limited -- or even miss this game. 
Panthers right end Charles Johnson vs. Cardinals left tackle Levi Brown

The Panthers paid Johnson big time this spring to keep him from leaving as a free agent. He had his breakout season in 2010 with 11 1/2 sacks. He has to show that wasn't a fluke. Brown is a former first-round pick who has never lived up to the hype. If the Cardinals are to make a move in the NFC West this season, he has to play better. Johnson isn't a pure speed rusher, so Brown has to be ready for power and the bull rush. Johnson is also good anchoring in against the run.

Eagles right tackle Todd Herremans vs. Rams left defensive end Chris Long

Herremans is moving from left guard to right tackle. He played some tackle in college, but this is a major move. He's a tough-guy mauler who should be fine in the run game. Long emerged as a good pass rusher last season when he moved to the left side. He said that's his more natural position. He isn't an explosive rusher, but he gets by with his technique and tenacity. These two will be going at it full go all day long.

Jaguars defensive tackles Tyson Alualu and Terrance Knighton vs. Titans running back Chris Johnson

If you're looking for a breakout player, keep an eye on Alualu. He is another second-year defensive tackle who has that star look. He was good last seson, but he's been dominant this summer. Knighton was at a Pro Bowl level for 10 games last season and then tailed off when he got heavy. He came to camp at 365 pounds, but has shed 30 and will be a force against the Tennessee running game. Johnson is explosive when he gets room. That's why the tackles have to be good. The other issue is Johnson's conditioning. How did the contract holdout hurt him? Or did it?

Bills receiver Stevie Johnson vs. Chiefs cornerbacks Brandon Flowers and Brandon Carr

Did you see what Carr and Flowers did to the Baltimore receivers in the playoff loss last season? They smothered them in man coverage. Both are rising players who can play press-man coverage. Johnson is the speed threat in the Bills offense. He has his breakout season in 2010. If the Bills are to be good on offense, and possibly pull off the upset here, he has to win down the field against these corners.

Bengals right guard Clint Boling vs. Browns defensive tackle Phil Taylor

This is a battle between two rookies making their first NFL start. Taylor was a first-round pick who has impressed with his power in the preseason. He's also a better inside rusher than what I thought he would be. Boling, a fourth-round pick, was a tackle much of the time in college who is moving inside. He is starting for the suspended Bobbie Williams. Bolng is 6-4, 310 pounds, so he has good size to deal with the power of Taylor. Boling is a tough guy who won't back down.

Dolphins running back Reggie Bush vs. Patriots linebackers

Bush will add a special dimension to a Miami offense that needed it. The Dolphins will be much more wide open. That means Bush in the passing game, but it also means the Dolphins can spread New England out and run him as well. The Patriots starting linebackers are not known for their coverage skills. If the Dolphins can get Bush matched up on the Patriots linebackers -- especially Rob Ninkovich -- the Dolphins will have some success with him in the passing game.

Category: NFL
Tags: NFL Week 1
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