Broncos v. Giants
So I stand corrected. . . Perhaps pigskin panic isn't what we as gridiron goers will be gorged with most through the week leading up to Sunday. It's the brotherly battle between 2 top NFL QBs who share the last name of Manning. Eli and his New York Giants will host Peyton and his Denver Broncos.
Peyton holds the overall advantage lifetime against his younger brother at 2-0. With Big Blue's defense suffering a history of identity crisis on whether they will show up week by week, there's little reason to deny that Peyton along with WRs Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, Wes Welker, and America's favorite new TE Julius Thomas are the favored force here -- especially after scoring 7 passing TDs in the season opener.
While the Mannings are the headliners, Welker's name has a personal stake in achieving victory over Eli as well. He's twice been turned away from Super Bowl hardware at the hands of the Giants in games XLII (52) and XLVI (56). It's time for a bit of payback in the form of participating in this football family feud.
On the other hand, conventional wisdom reminds us that you can't spell "elite" without Eli. The Super Bowl MVP of the previous 2 games mentioned, he's since shown several clutch efforts that have helped his team win late in games. This includes a performance last year over the Tampa Bay Bucs where he threw for 510 yards. There are some more humble Giants fans who admit that the need for such clutch performance comes at the hands of Eli himself, at times digging his squad into a hole in the first place. The most current example can be found in last week's loss to the Cowboys.
Inconsistency aside, the New York WR corps is pretty strong. So whether Eli is hot or not, WRs Victor Cruz, Reuben Randle, and Hakim Nicks supported by their new TE Brandon Myers, assure at least some production in the air every game.
With all the weapons launching on both sides, we are guaranteed to see numbers lit on the jumbo-tron. Nonetheless, it looks to me like Peyton will be going 3-0 over Eli despite the suspension of LB Von Miller.
49ers v. Seahawks
After the 42-13 nightmare, San Francisco suffered in Seattle during Week 16 last year. The Seahawks had established not only their dominance at home yet again, but that the Niner defense can be made mortal. Moreover, QB Colin Kaepernick (also known as Kap) was forced into his worst starting performance wearing a gold helmet.
Having since claimed a conference championship and a Super Bowl appearance, Kap and company started this season solid in a 34-28 win over the Packers where he threw 412 yards. Moreover, WR Anquan Boldin refuted all concerns of his age with 13 catches for 208 yards and a TD.
Sporting one of the best defenses on paper, the Seahawks silenced the Panthers in a grueling 12-7 contest bailing out QB Russell Wilson and an offense that didn't do as well as PreSeason advertised. But we must remember that the game was in Carolina -- not at Century Link field. Seattle has proven they don't play as well on the road.
With what little we've seen of teams so far, we've no reason to expect another 42-13 lopsided affair. Yet, I don't see the Niners visiting the Seahawks and leaving with a 'W' -- especially if San Francisco continues to have problems with false starts as they did Week 1 in their own house. Imagine how much concentration that offense will lack in Seattle, the NFL's loudest venue.
Steelers v. Bengals
This game represents the first of 4 regular season opportunities for the AFC North torch to be taken from Pittsburgh and Baltimore by the team formerly known as the "Bungles". It seems now, even after losing to the Bears in the infancy of the 2013 season, that Cincinnati's defense may be just as fearsome as the rebuilding Ravens or the severely seasoned Steelers.
Let's not make the mistake of thinking the Black and Yellow are going into this game scared, though. They still have talented names on "D" such as S Troy Polamalu, S Ryan Clark, and CB Ike Taylor who are experienced and revered names in the NFL. With leadership like that and LBs like Lawrence Timmons on the squad, we'll still see physical football. But with a LB corps that is 7 deep with 4 rookies in a 3-4 scheme, math says that at least 1 of them must be on the field at all times. On top of that, physical football leads to injuries which means if older players miss time (like Larry Foote who was injured last week), more rookies will have to fill the space. On top of that, the Bengals are much more of a challenge with the "Red Rifle" Andy Dalton at QB throwing to WR AJ Green than Jake Locker throwing to Titans' receivers -- to whom Pittsburgh lost, 16-9.
The Steelers Offense Isn't that bad on paper, but their WR corps seems to miss WR Mike Wallace. While WRs Emanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown still able to stretch the field with check down support from TE Heath Miller (who expects to be back), QB "Big" Ben Roethlisberger will need more support from the run than he did the previous 2 seasons where Pittsburgh looked to be transitioning to a "pass first" team. Looking at the roster and seeing RBs like Isaac Redman, Jonathan Dwyer, Felix Jones from the Cowboys, and La'Veon Bell in his rookie year out of Michigan State, perhaps the tradition of running the ball well will return to the Steel City.
It seems that despite veterans sprinkled throughout Pittsburgh's roster, there's still a lack of identity. Worse, they've only had one week in the regular season so far to figure it out and have had to deal with major changes due to last week's key season ending injuries. Overcoming that adversity is hard enough, but when you face the haunting specter of a hungry team like the Bengals on a Monday Night stage, the degree of difficulty is multiplied. Considering I've picked the Bengals to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl back on September 2nd, I see them pulling out the win in a hard fought divisional rivalry game.
Cowboys v. Chiefs
The Chiefs whooped up on the Jags playing controlled, calculated and consistent football with new QB Alex Smith reprising his role as a game manager under new Head Coach Andy Reid. The Cowboys, however, beat the Giants in a performance that was precisely the opposite of Kansas City's . . . rampant with errors. Both Dallas and KC are teams said to be much improved from their 2012 versions. This contest represents an opportunity for either side to continue to earn that reputation.
Browns vs. Ravens
I'm not saying that this match-up is necessarily worthy of space on your DVR, but considering the entire AFC North is 0-1 going into the week, every team in the division is in need of a confidence booster. Another battle of a team claiming to be on the rise in Cleveland against the another apparently declining squad in Baltimore, this outcome may have implications late in the season as to who is successful or who is a spoiler.
Kyle Nash -- @TheSoTG on Twitter
Founder and host of The Student of the Game show
VP of Operations and Editor for The National Gridiron Network
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