NFL Week 1 Players To Watch
Each week, I’ll discuss 10 players in key matchups that some of you (or many of you) aren’t really considering. Some will seem obvious, but hopefully most of them give you some new insight and perspective.
Cortland Finnegan, CB, St. Louis- Finnegan signed a lucrative offseason contract to reunite with new head coach Jeff Fisher, who coached the talented defensive back in Tennessee. Finnegan’s first assignment? Cover Calvin Johnson, the league’s most dominant offensive player. Piece of cake! Watch out for how he performs and adapts this afternoon.
Chandler Jones, DE, New England- Thought about new Patriots receiver Brandon Lloyd for this, but it was probably too obvious. We all know Tom Brady is going to get New England enough points to defeat Tennessee. That puts the pressure on Titans QB Jake Locker. You know who else is going to put pressure on Locker? Players like Jones, the first round pick out of Syracuse who will go after the QB knowing he’ll be dropping back to throw. New England needs a pass rusher to replace the departed Mark Anderson, and they think Jones is the man for the job.
Rashad Jennings, RB, Jacksonville- Blaine Gabbert is not ready to be a decent NFL QB. The Jags have determined that Maurice Jones-Drew, who won last year’s rushing title, is ready to be the team’s primary back after holding out the entire preseason. Enter Jennings, who is set to be the team’s leading offensive weapon going into the opening game against a steady and stout Minnesota defense.
Brandon Flowers, CB, Kansas City- Teammate Brandon Carr headed south to Dallas in the offseason, leaving Flowers as the top corner for the Chiefs. The problem is that Flowers allowed eight TD’s last season, the second highest mark among corners last season. A bigger problem? The Chiefs replaced Carr with Stanford Routt, who allowed nine TD’s. An even larger problem than that? KC’s first opponent is Atlanta, which boasts the tandem Roddy White and Julio Jones on the outside. Will Flowers bloom and blossom against the Falcons stars, or wilt under the early season pressure?
Pierre Garcon, WR, Washington- Life is pretty good for Garcon. After being Peyton Manning’s main deep threat in the last few years of his reign in Indianapolis, Garcon cashed in and is now heralded rookie Robert Griffin III’s lead receiver. Teams never like having to go tit-for-tat with the Saints offense, especially inside the loud and hectic Superdome, but it’s probably something RG3 and company will need to do. Enter Garcon, who needs to be a consistent threat down the field for the Redskins to stay competitive today.
Mark Anderson, DE, Buffalo- Anderson led the Patriots with 10 sacks last season, and joins Mario Williams as the “other” defensive end that has the Bills so excited and pundits and prognosticators (like the idiot whose article you’re currently reading) picking Buffalo to make the playoffs for the first time in the 21st century. The AFC’s best defensive line goes to East Rutherford, where the Jets offensive line, QB play and offense as a whole was a major issue in the preseason. Anderson smells blood in the water and an opportunity for the Bills to get a statement division win on the road.
Ben Tate, RB, Houston- If you’re in a fantasy league, Arian Foster was probably the top overall pick. Back over here in reality, Foster is nicked up and his understudy is going to get significant playing time this afternoon against Miami. With the Texans expected to hold a rather comfortable lead in the second half, it’s going to be up to Tate to keep the chains and the clock moving.
Carlos Rogers, CB, San Francisco Green Bay hasn’t proven it can run the ball and the Niners front seven is going to put pressure on QB Aaron Rodgers. That will leave things up to the 49er secondary to keep receivers like Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, James Jones, Donald Driver and Randall Cobb in check. For San Francisco to be successful at Lambeau, Rogers needs to lock down his side and keep the score manageable for his offense.
Robert Turbin, RB, Seattle- Russell Wilson would love to have RB Marshawn Lynch for his rookie debut against Arizona today. If Lynch can’t go, it will be the fourth round pick out of Utah State getting the assignment in his debut against the Cardinals.
Jason Worilds, LB, Pittsburgh- The Steelers begin the 2012 regular season where its 2011 season left off, in Denver on national TV. Tim Tebow shocked Pittsburgh in overtime and sent the black and gold packing its bags in the Wild Card round. Back here in September, Tebow is out and Peyton Manning is in. James Harrison, the fearsome OLB, is expected to miss the game and players like the 24-year-old third year LB Worilds will have to read Manning and help cover tight ends like Jacob Tamme and Joel Dreesen who are expected to be a large part of Manning’s Denver offense. Good luck and enjoy week one!