The National Football League has finally returned as week one kicks off Thursday night at Mile High Stadium for a rematch of a key 2012 AFC playoff matchup!
Here are some match-ups and potential story lines to look forward to during the opening week of the 2013 NFL season.
Who is going to contain Wes Welker?
With Lardarius Webb occupied with Demaryius Thomas, it may be up to Baltimore Ravens’ strong side linebackers (Terrell Suggs, Daryl Smith) or whomever is assigned nickel coverage duties to contain the adroit Welker. Baltimore doesn’t have much strength in pass coverage and will have to rely on pressure to get Peyton Manning to make mistakes. It will be interesting to see how complete the chemistry between Manning and Welker is during their first game together as well as how the Ravens defense works together without Ray Lewis and Ed Reed.
Will the Bears’ O-Line give Matt Forte enough running room?
The Chicago Bears are going to need a big game out of Forte if they want to win at home against the Cincinnati Bengals. Carlos Dunlap, Michael Johnson and Geno Atkins are going to make it tough for an overmatched Bears OL to create holes for Forte. The Bears simply don’t have a strong enough receiving core to win the game through the air, not to mention they are facing a stout Bengals secondary.
Could Andrew Luck throw for 400 yards?
Luck is facing one of the weakest secondaries in the NFL during week one, and after a year under his belt, is ready for a breakout season. It could all start against the lowly Oakland Raiders who will have to keep up with the speedy T.Y. Hilton and the crafty veteran Reggie Wayne. There is also a potential breakout player in tight end Dwayne Allen that safety Tyvon Branch will have to keep an eye on. Yes, Ahmad Bradshaw may be ready to go on Sunday but that would simply be icing on the cake. Luck should pick apart the Raiders early and never look back.
How many points will Atlanta and New Orleans put up?
Both teams have a mediocre defense coupled with a high-powered offense–this one could be a barnburner by the end of the first quarter. The key in this game is who can produce the better pass-rush. Osi Umenyiora and Jordan Babineaux might have a tough time with middle penetration but look for Umenyiora to have a strong game versus Saints’ left tackle Charles Brown. And can Cameron Jordan overpower Falcons’ left tackle Sam Baker, forcing double teams and while asking center Peter Konz to handle Saints’ NT Brodrick Bunkley?
How are the Jets going to stop Doug Martin?
The Tampa Bay Bucs don’t have the greatest offensive line, but having a runner with Martin’s ability, it can be overlooked somewhat. The matchup to watch is how well the front seven of Jets are able to contain him. There is tons of upside on the Jets’ DL, but after that there are some question marks with the linebackers–mainly their ability to tackle consistently. With the passing attack the Bucs have, the Jets’ secondary will be occupied with keeping them in check, which could often find them being caught off-guard on running plays.
The right side of effectiveness for Green Bay and San Francisco
The Packers and 49ers will be hands-down the best matchup of the weekend. Both teams are stacked on both sides of the ball and are favorites to not only reach the Super Bowl, but hoist the trophy as well. The decisive edge in this game will come from the right side of both teams’ front seven. For Green Bay, Clay Matthews and B.J. Raji are going to do battle with two of the best offensive lineman in the game–Joe Staley and Mike Iupati. It will be imperative that Raji and Matthews shed their blocks and contain the option that San Francisco runs so well. The Niners’ Smith duo–Aldon and Justin– will have it a bit easier, but will need to keep pressure on Aaron Rodgers consistently throughout the game. The success of either of these duos could likely decide the game.
Robert Griffin III makes his ‘comeback’ against an average Eagles defense, while Vick makes his debut under the leadership of rookie coach Chip Kelly. If Vick takes off to run, he’ll have to make sure that OLB’s Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan are engaged elsewhere. The Eagles OL is much improved but Washington has a powerful front seven. They’ll not only have to give him space to run but time to throw as the injury cloud is never hovering far away from Vick. As for RG III, I’m certain he’ll want to show off that newly-healed leg but he’ll have to keep an eye out for the likes of DeMeco Ryans and Fletcher Cox. I see plenty of option plays as he and Alfred Morris will try to cause confusion for the Eagles defense in order to open up the passing game which should be easy to attack the Philly secondary.
BY MICHAEL AUGUSTINE ON SEPTEMBER 5, 2013
Follow Michael @AugieSports on Twitter.