Friday, September 14, 2012

NFL Week 2 Games to Watch

As you get ready for the weekend, be sure to schedule your less important activities (like grocery shopping, birthday parties and weddings) around these must-see games of Week 2:


Baltimore Ravens @ Philadelphia Eagles (Sunday, 1:00 PM ET on CBS)


Before last week, experts looking at this Week 2 contest would predict that the main battle would be between the Eagles’ electric quarterback, Michael Vick, and the stout defense of the Baltimore Ravens—an opinion without much risk, as this has the familiar refrain for these two teams in recent years.  But Ravens QB Joe Flacco (above) has gotten sick of trying to step out of the large shadow of his team’s defense for the last five years.  Well, he finally got his turn in the spotlight with his stellar outing Week 1 against the Cincinnati Bengals.  Last week, Flacco completed 72.4% of his passes for 299 yards (fantasy owners everywhere were screaming for that one yard), two touchdowns and a gaudy quarterback rating of 128.4. 


Michael Vick, on the other hand, fell far short of expectations against the lowly Cleveland Browns in Week 1, with a 51.8% completion percentage, two touchdowns and four interceptions—adding up to a QB rating of 51.0. Cleveland being, well, Cleveland, Vick was still able to lead his team to a game-winning drive at the end of the game.  In this game, see if Flacco can ride his wave of confidence against the Eagles D and whether Vick can shake off the bad mojo from last week and stand firm against a Ravens D that eats QBs for breakfast, lunch and dinner.


New York Jets @ Pittsburgh Steelers (Sunday, 4:25 PM ET on CBS)


Mark Sanchez really needed to have a great game against the Buffalo Bills in Week 1.  With the Jets’ acquisition of Bronco phenom Tim Tebow in the offseason, speculation was rife among fans and media over Sanchez’s future in the Big Apple.  The whispering continued through the preseason, despite consistent protestations from the Jets that Sanchez was their starting quarterback. 

Sanchez quieted the critics, at least momentarily, with numbers against Buffalo that rivaled Flacco’s:  70.4% completion percentage, three TDs, one interception and a rating of 123.4.  He will face a greater challenge in the pass rush of the Steelers, especially with the Steelers D coming off an embarrassing outing against Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos (see below), so expect Sanchez to continue to play like he has something to prove—which, of course, could lead to another impressive outing, or disaster.


Denver Broncos @ Atlanta Falcons (Monday, 8:30 PM ET on ESPN)


If anyone had doubts about Peyton Manning’s ability to come back after a neck surgery-induced season off, they aren’t admitting to it now.  Manning simply dominated in his return to the national stage, throwing for 253 yards, two touchdowns and a 129.2 passer rating against the Pittsburgh Steelers.  Despite the unfamiliarity of seeing Peyton in an orange uniform instead of white and blue, his mastery of Denver’s offense, and use of the no-huddle, it seemed like he had been in Denver for the past fourteen years and not Indianapolis. 

That’s why the loss of Atlanta Falcons’ cornerback Brent Grimes (#20, right) for the season is especially hard to take for Atlanta fans.  The last thing the Falcons need is a weakened secondary against the league’s most skilled and intelligent passers—with opposing defenses seeming to move at half speed from his perspective, Manning will be sure to find and exploit Atlanta’s weaknesses. 

Falcons fans hope that Matt Ryan and his new rapid-fire passing game (with a new emphasis on short-yardage and screen passes) can simply outscore Denver.  By the way, Ryan will need to fire fast this week:  as I pointed out in my post on the NFC South storylines, the Atlanta offensive line needs improvement, and the Broncos were able to sack “Big Ben” Roethlisberger five times last week.

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