Three games to watch in week one

Posted: September 6, 2013 in Uncategorized

Cincinnati at Chicago

This contest might not draw the same attention as Baltimore vs. Denver or Green Bay vs. San Francisco, but it should be a competitive match of underrated defenses and deceptively talented quarterbacks. Additionally, the potential to see some phenomenal catches by A.J. Green or Brandon Marshall should provide for an exciting match as well.

Trestman’s welcoming party

This game also serves as the NFL head coaching debut of Chicago’s Marc Trestman, a surprise hire after the abrupt firing of former HC Lovie Smith. Smith actually guided the Bears to a very respectable 10-6 season. Unfortunately, Minnesota and Green Bay finished 10-6 or better as well, leaving Chicago out in the cold come playoff time. Chicago Bears GM Phil Emery emphasized the lack of offensive production under Smith’s tenure as one of the core reasons for his release. Emery also mentioned the importance of winning championships in Chicago. Chicago, believe it or not, actually is in 2nd place for most NFL championships, with 9. They are behind division rivals and the more well followed Green Bay Packers with 13. The decision to release Smith makes more sense as the perspective shifts from a 10-6 team trying to make the playoffs to a 9 championship team trying to get to 10, 11, etc. This is not the Jacksonville Jaguars looking to get over the hump. This is Chicago Pride trying to catch up with a divisional opponent in a rivalry older than your grandparents.

Rookies in action

Some young, potentially exciting NFL talent to watch for might include any of the following:

For the Bengals: First round pick TE Tyler Eifert, slightly undersized-yet-talented RB Giovani Bernard- also the first running back taken in the 2013 draft, and last but definitely not least 6’8” 26 year old Estonian native Margus Hunt. Hunt is a particularly curious talent totalling 8 sacks, 11.5 stops for a loss, 1 interception, 3 passes defended, as well as 2 forced fumbles in his senior season at SMU. He also has the wingspan of 12 bald eagles. Really? No. But the man is enormous and has the potential to become a household name like Clay Matthews if he can live up to expectations.

For the Bears: former gator Jon Bostic has been pegged as the backup to DJ Williams for the season opener against Cincinnati. The second round pick is said to have gone up in teams’ draft charts as coaches had more of a say in who to draft. Just watching tape on Bostic shows his aggressiveness, football instincts and awareness, and a tendency to hit runners like a mack truck.

Another rookie prospect, Kyle Long, won the starting job in the brilliant master plan to move Cutler down the list of most sacked qb’s from #5 closer to #25. Cutler was sacked thirty-eight times last season. That doesn’t mean he was actually hit thirty-eight times. That number is probably twice that high. More time in the pocket should alleviate many of Chicago’s offensive woes by giving Cutler more time to make good decisions and put that Vanderbilt “human and organizational development” bachelor’s degree to use.

Fortunately for Chicago, Long has shown much promise in his limited time during preseason. Despite only 4 starts at Oregon, Long has garnered high praise from Peter King, senior Sports Illustrated writer, Daniel Jeremiah, NFL network analyst and former nfl scout, and Chris Wesseling, NFL.com writer. Long has drawn comparisons to current NFL starter Marshal Yanda.

Atlanta at New Orleans

High scoring affair

Two of the top offenses, two of the best quarterbacks start the season with NFC South divisional play. New Orleans took a major step back last season as HC Sean Payton was suspended from coaching and the defense was historically awful. The 2013 Saints defense gave up the most yardage in a single season ever, according to Sports Illustrated. Having (arguably) the worst defense ever makes a 7-9 record actually rather impressive. If you like touchdowns, this game should have plenty of that.

Teach an old dog new tricks

Atlanta airlifted former Rams RB Steven Jackson and placed him in the Falcons offense. Jackson’s proven himself as a capable pass catcher as the heir apparent to the legendary Marshall Faulk in St. Louis. What he has yet to prove is whether or not he can compete at an elite level at the cursed age of thirty. Jacksons’ complementary back appears to be Jacquizz Rodgers. Rodgers, while quick, hasn’t convinced any major decision makers in Atlanta that he’s capable of starting sixteen games as a complete running back.

Why Atlanta is relevant

If you’re unfamiliar with Atlanta, you might remember them as the team to finally stop the rampaging Seahawks as they began their late season Bruce Banner to Hulk transformation from a good team to a “holy-crikey-did-you-see-that” team that demoralized an Arizona Cardinals football club that they had actually lost to at the beginning of the season with a 58-0 obliteration. Fifty-eight to nothing. Seattle scored in the air, on the ground, by field goals, with a fumble returned for a touchdown and an interception returned for a touchdown. And they allowed zero points. The week following Seattle hosted Buffalo and decided to only humiliate them with a 50-17 win. Seattle is not a team built to throw for 300-400 yards and score tons of points. The Seahawks are modeled loosely after the 2010 Jets. Play suffocating defense and watch as the opponent loses hope with Marshawn Lynch and the ‘Hawks o-line drain the clock away on their way to another score. But I digress, the ‘Hawks wake of devastation wasn’t finished as they faced San Francisco, the eventual NFC representatives in the super bowl and won 42 – 13. We’re not talking about Buffalo or disheveled Arizona any more. These are the to-be NFC champion San Francisco 49ers. An elite defense, a surprisingly talented young quarterback and possibly the most fanatically competitive Head coach in recent memory. And they lost 13-42. This is not the 2010 Jets. This is the powerhouse, video game-like blowout Seattle Seahawks. Seattle didn’t lose again until they faced Atlanta in the playoffs. Atlanta brought a speeding train to a dead stop. That’s why Atlanta is relevant.

Green Bay at San Francisco

Green Bay and San Francisco have a well established rivalry, most especially in the ‘90s with Brett Favre and Steve Young playing respective roles of gunslinger for their team. Both teams won championships in the ‘90s as well. Green Bay has already accomplished that feat this decade with arguably the best quarterback in football with Aaron Rodgers. San Francisco made an appearance last season but failed to capitalize. What San Francisco does have is the quarterback and coaching talent to get them to the playoffs for the foreseeable future. Recently, San Francisco’s been on top of the rivalry with two wins over the past season.

Head coach Mike McCarthy should still put an A+ product on the field as Green Bay reloads with wide receivers Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson, James Jones in the absence of former leading receiver Greg Jennings. And they have the best quarterback in the league. And they drafted two blue chip running back prospects this past April in Eddie Lacy and Jonathan Franklin. Lacy is being talked about as X-factor for Green Bay’s offense, despite his puzzling 2.0 yards per carry in the preseason. Green Bay, barring a freak Aaron Rodgers injury should be great this year.

San Francisco has a host of new faces on the roster. Former ravens wide receiver Anquan Boldin, former Eagles CB Nnamdi Asomugha, first round pick DB Eric Reid, 2nd round pick TE Vance McDonald and enigma 4th round selection RB Marcus Lattimore. San Francisco wasn’t exactly starving for running back depth, but Lattimore could really be something special if he can get healthy. Or he might flop. Either way, he’s worth the fourth round pick to find out.

This should be an exciting contest. Kaepernick’s athleticism gave Green Bay’s defense fits in the playoffs last year. The addition of first round pick DE Datone Jones should help Green Bay better contain mobile quarterbacks like Kaepernick, Robert Griffin III and Michael Vick, whom Green Bay will have the pleasure of defending against this 2013 season. Jones, in his senior season at UCLA, contributed one forced fumble, five and a half sacks, and nineteen tackles for a loss. Jones and the Green Bay D will have a tall order to fill against the 49ers offense this Sunday.

Take care, enjoy your weekend, and watch some football. It’s week one.

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