No Sleep Till Football

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2012 NFL Week 1

I was going to try and pick the “must see” NFL games the way I did in the past, but after a couple of years figuring up the playoff seeds after every week, what I’ve found is that practically every game in every week is a huge game in the NFL! More than anything this makes the NFL a unique league in that while every week isn’t quite a season because a loss doesn’t mean you can’t win the Super Bowl, every week has some importance of its own whether it be playoff seeding, getting a playoff spot or even potentially playing for the #1 overall pick in the following year’s draft. I still think college football’s regular season is incomparable, but this past week in college football showed why every week in the NFL is better. We have weeks in college football where a vast majority of teams are playing teams they are incredibly superior too, especially early in the season when FBS teams take on FCS teams. In the NFL that isn’t necessarily the case. While the Rams aren’t going to go into Foxboro and whip the Patriots, we do know that if the Patriots play horrific football, the Rams will most likely win the game. For this reason I’m simply going to list all the NFL games. I’m still going to rank them in order of importance, but all the games will be represented.

The NFC Championship game we expected to see last season, the Giants upended the Packers in Lambeau the week prior which prevented this game from happening! The NFL doesn’t make us wait long to start salivating! You can easily argue that this is a game between the best offense in the NFL against the best defense. What’s incredible too is that the units are star studded. Not only do they play well but the players are huge stars & it’ll be fun to see them play at a high level to open up the season. The SF-DEF against the GB-OFF is the obvious storyline here, but I’m interested to see how the 49ers utilize their new weapons in the passing game. How will Mario Manningham, AJ Jenkins & Randy Moss play. On the other side it’ll be interesting to see if rookies like Nick Perry, Jerel Worthy, Casey Hayward & Matt Roth will supplement the Packers defense. Here is something to think about. Aaron Rodgers dealt with concussions in 2010 & came away unscathed in 2011. The 49ers have a brutally tough defense. Could be interesting. NFC Seeing implications here especially if GB & SF end with the same record.
The NFL starting on Wednesday night? That’s what we get this season as the defending Super Bowl champs welcome in the Cowboys! Tons of storylines here that should be fascinating to watch. The Cowboys feel like they’ve significantly upgraded the secondary with guys like Brandon Carr & Morris Claiborne manning the cornerback spot. The Cowboys felt their secondary was their biggest weakness on defense & it has been significantly upgraded. You can be sure Eli Manning is going to test them early & often to see if the Cowboys really have solved their defensive issues. The Cowboys also have issues with their offense. Can Dez Bryant mature enough to live up to his incredible potential? How is Miles Austin going to handle a hamstring issue that is likely going to haunt him the entire season? Will Jason Witten see any time on the field against the G-Men? Don’t forget either that Demarcus Ware is nursing injuries. Dallas certainly has issues with a lot of unanswered questions. Huge implications here within the NFC East division and the Wild Card.
I’m really excited to see what the Bengals can do in a follow up year. With really no summer work last season, it’s fairly amazing that Andy Dalton & AJ Green could come in & lead the Bengals to a playoff spot even though ti didn’t end well with a 31-10 road loss to the Texans. Dalton passed for 3000+ yards & 20TD. Green caught for 1000+ yards & 7TD. What can this duo do with a full off season & in their second year in the league? Something else I want to see is how “lucky” the Bengals can get. They were a top-10 defense last year by all sorts of yardage metrics, but their scoring defense ranked just 24th in the league & I wonder if that isn’t a function of their TO margin being a net zero? Baltimore should also be intriguing. I have no doubt that a leader such as Ray Lewis won’t let the team get down, but losing Terrell Suggs for the season isn’t easy. With Suggs gone & Jarret Johnson to San Diego, the Raven will have two new starting LBs in rookie Courtney Upshaw & Paul Krugar. Remember that in a 3-4 defense, the OLB provide the pass rush & the Ravens have two new rushers. Lot of stories here.
The return of Peyton Manning against a team he struggled against while playing for Indianapolis! This game really is all about Peyton Manning, but it’s going to be an incredible atmosphere as the Broncos kick off the Manning Era against a Super Bowl contending team which is going to make everyone around Manning better. Denver has to win some early games as they have a very tough schedule early on & this might be one they can get. The Steelers running game is a mess right now with a rash of injuries. Mike Wallace didn’t get any reps in the preseason so he’ll be rusty. The Steelers lost an interior O-Linemen in David DeCastro. A lot is going wrong with Pittsburgh. Throw in a new OC in Todd Haley & a change in offensive philosophy & there is a lot of transition going on in the Steel City. Manning has looked fantastic and so has the Denver defense. It’s going to be interesting to see Peyton with receivers such as Thomas, Decker, Stokley, Tamme & Dressen to work with along with some very talented runners in McGahee & Hillman. Huge AFC Wild Card & seeding implications should these two win their divisions. HUGE GAME!
It might not seem like much considering both of these teams missed the playoffs last season, but this should be one of the better games in the NFL during Week 1. The Bucs were 10-6 in 2010 before falling off a cliff last season. Ownership replaced Raheem Morris with Greg Schiano and I think it’ll be interesting to see what type of team personality change we’ll see from Tampa Bay. We already have read about a return to a strict disciplinarian regime & Tampa was very active in making the team better by bringing in guys like Vincent Jackson, Eric Wright & Carl Nicks while drafting guys like Mark Barron, Doug Martin & Lavonte David. The Bucs want to win now. The Panthers obvious draw is Cam Newton and the offense. Offensively the Panthers were a playoff team. Defensively the Panthers sucked. Rookie LB Luke Keuchly had a great preseason & is the pick for NFC ROY by many pundits. It will be interesting to see how much of an impact he makes. These are two teams with playoff aspirations. Divisional games are extremely important & although the Saints & Falcons aren’t involved, this one matters.
Pete Carroll made a very ballsy move naming rookie Russell Wilson the starting QB for a Seattle team that believes it can compete with the 49ers for the AFC West title! One of the more under reported things about the NFL over the past couple of seasons is how physical & tough the Seattle defense is. I’m really excited to see what guys like Chris Clemons, Jason Jones, Bruce Irvin & Bobby Wagner can do. Robert Turbin is a Marshawn Lynch clone so the Seahawks should be solid in the run game. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Wilson come in and simply take over I know this isn’t college football but you can’t help but be impressed what he did at Wisconsin last season. As for Arizona, they are still mired in QB problems. John Skelton was named starter which is the right move & now it’s just a matter of letting him get settled into the position. Arizona is another team with a very strong & physical defense. Both squads believe they can compete for the NFC West title so division games are a premium when it comes to the tie-breaker. This should be a great game.
The AFC East has changed so dramatically from just a year ago. The Bills are now a sexy pick to win a wild card berth from the East while the Jets are a sexy pick to finish last in a division where there should be no possibility of them falling below the Dolphins! I’m really excited to see what the Buffalo defensive front-7 does against a Jets offense that was downright embarrassing during the preseason. The additions of Mario Williams & Mark Anderson to go along with Kyle Williams & Marcel Dareus give the Bills arguably the best D-Line in the NFL! Also look for Buffalo’s secondary to be much improved with CBs Stephon Gilmore, Aaron Williams & Terrence McGee. Dave Wannstedt might never be a great HC, but the can coach a defense & Buffalo should reap the benefits. The Jets of course will be the Mark Sanchez-Tim Tebow-Rex Ryan show. New York gets this game at home & it’s one they have to win if they want to be taken seriously. If they open with a loss then they are at best 2-4 in the East and that’s not getting it done which means Sexy Rexy could be on a very hot seat.
For the first time since maybe 2003, the pressure isn’t on San Diego to win the AFC West now that #18 is residing in Denver. The Chargers are almost understated in a way. Philip Rivers is still the QB, but Ryan Mathews is now the starting RB for real. Antonio Gates is still around, but guys like Eddie Royal, Robert Meachum & Vincent Brown were going to be the weapons. Even the defensive players aren’t household names anymore. Injuries haven’t been kind to the Bolts heading into the season. SD had high hopes for both Brown & Mathews, but both have been beset by injuries. Mathews might be able to play in Week 1 so maybe the losses aren’t that bad. The Raiders still look to be a team in transition. I’m excited to see what Carson Palmer does with a full season and there is no doubt the Raiders have some weapons at receiver. Darren McFadden can be the best RB in the NFL if he’s healthy so Oakland can put up some points. The problem will be whether or not Oakland can prevent anyone from scoring. The defense was terrible last season & it didn’t significant improve for 2012.
For the most part nobody thinks Indianapolis has a snowball’s chance in hell of beating the Bears at Soldier Field, but I don’t think the Colts are going up to the Windy City & getting blown out. Andrew Luck is for real and he’s going to be able to handle the pressures of the NFL. What will really determine how well Indianapolis does this season will be the surrounding cast. Donald Brown really does have to breakout as a legitimate starting RB. It will help if Austin Collie can avoid concussions. The O-line has to be WAY BETTER than it ever was for Peyton Manning. The Bears of course are gearing up for a Super Bowl run. Drafting guys like Shea McClellen & Alshon Jeffery to go along with acquiring Brandon Marshall & Michael Bush set the Bears up VERY nicely to compete with Green Bay. If Jay Cutler can have an MVP type of season then Chicago is going to be exceptionally dangerous. Obviously the Bears will field a strong defense & for the first time in a long time it seems as if the Bears have offensive weapons to spare. If they really are ready for a championship run, they should blow Indy out.
A lot of talk will surround the Saints losing HC Sean Payton for the season, but I’m really excited to see how the Saints defense plays after grabbing DT Brodrick Bunkley, LB David Hawthorne, LB Curtis Lofton & LB Chris Chamberlain this offseason! The Saints completely revamped their LB corps with 3 new starters and Bunkley is a beast on the interior defensive line. DE Cameron Jordan will be in his second year & Will Smith will be back after his 4 game suspension. New Orleans offense is going to go no matter what with Drew Brees at the helm, but improved defensive play could carry New Orleans back to 11-12 wins as the schedule isn’t that easy. The Redskins of course are going to be all about Robert Griffin III, but the real reason to watch the Redskins play is the OLB tandem of Ryan Kerrigan & Brian Orakpo. There isn’t a pair of 3-4 OLBs I’d rather have then what Washington trots out every Sunday & watching those guys is worth the price of admission. The Saints should easily win this, but watching Kerrigan & Orakpo get after Brees should be a lot fun.
A couple of interesting things to watch for both teams going forward. With the Lions we all know about the Matt Stafford to Calvin Johnson connection, but I’m really interesting to see how Titus Young develops this season. He’ll be in his 2nd year & he should face a lot of one-on-one coverage with Megatron drawing so much attention. Would love to see Young exploit this. Another interesting thing to watch will if Nick Fairley & Ndamukong Suh can both play DT at the same time and how disrupting both can be. Detroit rotates their DTs a lot, but getting both on the field for significant time will be important. As for the Rams, they don’t expect to be good, but Jeff Fisher has a long record of success in the NFL & I think he’ll turn it around in St. Louis. Defensively the Rams have significant problems, but Sam Bradford looked A LOT more comfortable this preseason & the Rams have some offensive weapons in Steven Jackson, Brian Quick, Danny Amendola, Lance Kendricks, Steve Smith & Isaiah Pead. This is one of those games Detroit should easily win which are sometimes tricky.
The assault begins! New England sets out on a schedule that could easily have them going 16-0 for the second time in 6 years! Offensively the Patriots are downright ridiculous and they’ll continue to be that way with the addition of a guy like Brandon Lloyd at WR. Giving the running duties to Shane Vereen & Stevan Ridley is going to pay dividends too. New England does have legitimate concerns with their O-Line because one bad hit on Brady means Brian Hoyer is taking over which could very well eliminate them from Super Bowl contention. The offense will be exciting obviously, but I’m really excited to see DE Chandler Jones & LB Dont’a Hightower for the Patriots. These guys are difference makers and definitely will get run time. I think New England’s defense could be very underrated this season so be on the look out. For the Titans we’re going to be talking about the Jake Locker Era beginning. The Titans have an intriguing rookie starting in WR Kendall Wright. The DE play should be better with Kamerion Wimbley & Derrick Morgan. Of course everyone is expecting a bounce back season from Chris Johnson. Lots to see.
This doesn’t seem like a marquee game, but there are some interesting implications. An NFC-AFC matchup doesn’t hold a lot of sway in the playoff tiebreakers, but this one is interesting because the game is in Kansas City & the Cheifs believe they are good enough to win the AFC West. They played well down the stretch. They gave the Packers their only loss and QB Matt Cassel is coming into the season healthy. That doesn’t mean he’ll stay healthy but they at least have him for the opener. The Chiefs are also getting a ton of players back like Eric Berry, Tony Moeaki, Cassel & Jamaal Charles. Throw in Peyton Hillis & a solid defense & the Chiefs look pretty darn good if they can keep everyone on the field. While the game might not have huge implications for the tiebreakers, it does have huge implications for Atlanta due to overall record given how competitive the NFC South & the NFC is as a whole. This is a game on the schedule the Falcons probably feel they should win, but it won’t be easy. The most interesting thing to watch for the Falcons is the influence of new OC Dirk Koetter. His pass happy influence have people predicting huge years for guys like Matt Ryan, Julio Jones & Jacquizz Rodgers. Should be fun to see if those things come true.
Most people believe the Eagles are going to win the NFC East while those same people mostly believe the Browns are going to wind up last in the AFC North. This is certainly one of those games without much meaning. The Eagles should roll and seeing that this is an AFC/NFC game, there isn’t much relevance to the tiebreaker system. For the Eagles it’s all about execution. There isn’t much “Dream Team” talk this year surrounding the Eagles & with the Giants being the defending Super Bowl champions, the spotlight is somewhat off the Eagles. As for Cleveland, this is certainly a team on the rebuild. The Browns will start guys like QB Brandon Weeden, RB Trent Richardson & WR Josh Gordon. I also am looking forward to seeing how well Greg Little plays with Weeden as the QB. This game should get out of hand, but doesn’t it have the feel of an old school NFL game that is all about being physical & tough. Browns-Eagles has a great ring to it. Too bad the Browns aren’t too good because this is a solid game that would be interesting to see the jerseys playing for a Super Bowl.
I think the Dolphins might be sandbagging a bit. It’s interesting to see Miami go ahead and hand the QB job to Ryan Tannehill, but it makes sense seeing how he knows OC Mike Sherman’s system so well from playing for Sherman when he was HC at Texas A&M. Miami certainly has problems at receiver, but with Tannehill’s mastery of the offense, maybe guys like Brian Hartline & Davone Bess become more valuable. Miami isn’t all that bad at RB either with Reggie Bush & Daniel Thomas. The O-Line is promising & the defense was more than good enough to be a playoff contender. To me the Texans are somewhat like Philadelphia in that they are all about execution. The Texans do have Matt Schaub & Andre Johnson at 100% to start the season. The trick is getting those guys to be 100% throughout the season. If that happens & Arian Foster stays healthy then Houston can think about Super Bowl aspirations. I’m really interested to see how well the Dolphins play. I think they’ll lose in Houston, but it’ll be interesting to see how they’ll lose.
The very definition of a meaningless game. The Jaguars & Vikings are projected to be last place teams (or close to it depending on how the Colts play). The game has no implications as far as tiebreaker issues given that it’s an NFC-AFC game. This is sort of an interesting game in respect to the two starting QBs. Not everyone is convinced that Blaine Gabbert is the answer for the Jaguars, and while Christian Ponder has engineered more confidence in his abilities among the Vikings faithful, not everyone is convinced that Ponder is the QB of the future for the Vikings. I am interesting in seeing how the addition of Justin Blackmon along with this being his 2nd year under center will affect Gabbert. Gabbert has a chance in 2012, but if he’s terrible this season he might not be around for 2013. Minnesota doesn’t have any huge storylines other than when Adrian Peterson returns 100%, but Minnesota definitely needs to win this game. There aren’t going to be a ton of opportunities to win games this season and a home opener against the Jaguars is a perfect opportunity. Jacksonville’s defense won’t make it easy, but Minny needs to win.

September 5, 2012 - Posted by | Arizona Cardinals, Atlanta Falcons, Baltimore Ravens, Buffalo Bills, Carolina Panthers, Chicago Bears, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, Dallas Cowboys, Denver Broncos, Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars, Kansas City Chiefs, Miami Dolphins, Minnesota Vikings, New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints, New York Giants, New York Jets, NFL Schedule, Oakland Raiders, Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Steelers, San Diego Chargers, San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, St. Louis Rams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Tennessee Titans, Washington Redskins, Week 1

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