Laces Out NFL Blog

Week 1: Here's everything you need to know for Sunday

Laces Out

By Ross Jones, It's finally here. Week 1 of the NFL season couldn't get here fast enough and now it's time to get up to speed on what to look for on Sunday. Atlanta Falcons vs. New Orleans Saints What should you know? Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan hasn’t been done any favors this preseason. Injuries have devastated the Saints defense and now it is tasked with slowing down one of the most efficient offenses in the game.  How can it be done? Ryan runs a defense that uses multiple sets and alignments with a ton of motion before the snap. It’s important that all of the Saints defenders are on the same page. Jabari Greer and Keenan Lewis will have their hands full with the Falcons receivers, but if they can get decent enough coverage, linebackers Junior Galette and Martez Wilson can get to the Matt Ryan. Storyline nobody is talking about: Of course, Sean Payton makes his return to the sideline, but how will the Falcons look on defense? Atlanta has four former Pro Bowlers and coordinator Mike Nolan could have what it takes to make this a special unit. “I think that we can be dominant,” Falcons safety Thomas DeCoud said. “I think that this is the year that we can show that we’re a top tier defense in this league and can be consistent. I think we’ve been kind of streaky in what we’ve been able to do the past couple of years. But I think this is a year that we can dominate for 16 games.” Injury to watch: Falcons wide receiver Roddy White has been nursing an ankle injury the past two weeks, but should be good to go. White has never missed a game and it would be a big shock if he didn’t get a full load on Sunday. What will the weather be like? Dome. Partly cloudy. 88 degrees. Point spread: Saints -3, 54.5 Where can I watch it? 1:00 p.m. ET on FOX Stat that stands out: The last time the Saints played the Falcons, Drew Brees threw five interceptions and his streak of throwing a touchdown in 54 straight games was snapped. New England Patriots vs. Buffalo Bills What should you know? Nobody has had a bumpier couple of weeks than the Bills. After learning that starting quarterback EJ Manuel would need surgery to undergo a “minor procedure” in his knee, they lost backup QB Kevin Kolb to a concussion and temporarily named undrafted free agent Jeff Tuel as Week 1 starter. Fortunately, Manuel has returned to practice and will make his first career start against the Patriots. Head coach Doug Marrone has been impressed with Manuel, who has “looked a little bit faster” because of the time off. It’s no secret that Bills coordinator Nathaniel Hackett will find different ways to get the team’s premier playmaker C.J. Spiller the ball. Storyline nobody is talking about: Patriots wide receivers could have a monster game. Yep, it’s true. After an offseason of turmoil and wondering what the young crop of pass catchers would look like, New England will benefit going up against a beleaguered Bills’ secondary. Although Danny Amendola (groin) and Aaron Dobson (hamstring) have been limited in practice this week, the Bills are undermanned as Stephon Gilmore is out with a broken wrist and safety Jairus Byrd is 50-50. Injury to watch: Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski spoke publicly for the first time this week in over a month and said that he’s taking it day by day, but “improving a lot.” Gronkowski, underwent a back procedure nearly 10 weeks ago, and while he participated in a padded practice this week, he’s unlikely to play. What will the weather be? Partly Cloudy. 63 degrees. Point spread: Patriots -10, 51 Where can I watch it? 1:00 p.m. ET on CBS Stat that stands out: Manuel is set to become the first rookie quarterback to start a season opener for the Bills since Joe Ferguson in 1973. Seattle Seahawks vs. Carolina Panthers What should you know? The Seahawks will look to establish the running game with Marshawn Lynch, but Panthers general manager David Gettleman has done everything this offseason to make the team’s front seven a strength. Rookies Star Lotulelei and Kawaan Short must overpower the inside of the Seahawks offensive line for star linebackers Luke Kuechly and Jon Beason to clean up ball carriers. Carolina’s defense must contain the running game as everything Seattle does on offense stems from it. Storyline nobody is talking about: Cam Newton is most dangerous when he is running. The Seahawks know it, and they’ll be doing everything they can to limit him. Outside of Jordan Gross and Ryan Kalil, the Panthers’ offensive line is a mess. Fortunately for them, key Seahawks pass rushers won’t be available as Bruce Irvin starts his suspension, Chris Clemons continues to rehab a knee injury and Cliff Avril battles a hamstring. A burden of responsibility will be placed on Seattle’s young linebackers Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright to halt the running game of DeAngelo Williams and get back in coverage. Injury to watch: Seahawks cornerback Brandon Browner’s hamstring injury surprised several people, which could make him a game-time decision on Sunday. Second-year corner Jeremy Lane filled in admirably last season for Browner while he served a four-game suspension for PEDs. What will the weather be like? Partly cloudy. 88 degrees. Point spread: Seahawks -3.5, 45.5 Where can I watch it? 1:00 p.m. ET on FOX Stat that stands out: Newton completed 12 of 29 passes for 141 yards in a Panthers’ loss against the Seahawks last October. Cincinnati Bengals vs. Chicago Bears What should you know? Everyone gets a chance to see what Marc Trestman’s offense looks like. Although his offense has been coined as “quarterback friendly,” running back Matt Forte figures to big. Forte’s versatility in his first five seasons has proven that he can be effective in just about any offense and this season won’t be any different. Bears offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer will install a balanced game plan to keep rookie offensive linemen Kyle Long and Jordan Mills comfortable against one of the most intimidating defensive lines in the league. Storyline nobody is talking about: Every fantasy football player has pondered the Bengals’ dilemma at running back: Go with the steady hand of BenJarvus Green-Ellis or the more explosive playmaking rookie Giovani Bernard. Third-year offensive coordinator Jay Gruden is tasked with the same responsibility and will look for each to make the most of their opportunities. Gruden has also stressed the importance of being aggressive and getting defenses to play on their heels. “The tempo has been a big part of what our focus has been this training camp,” Dalton said. “The faster you play, the more plays you’re going to get and the more plays you get the more chances you have to score.” Injury to watch: Bengals offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth has been rehabbing from a “minor” knee surgery, which took place in March. Although there was growing optimism of the situation, he hasn’t practiced all week and considers himself doubtful. What will the weather be like? Partly cloudy. 72 degrees. Point spread: Bears -3, 41.5 Where can I watch it? 1:00 p.m. ET on CBS Stat that stands out: Chicago forced an NFL high 44 turnovers in 2012 with eight interceptions returned for touchdowns. Miami Dolphins at Cleveland Browns What should you know? The Browns have been a trendy pick this offseason to become a sneaky team that may surprise people in 2013. Much of that is due to upgrades in the coaching staff. Offensive coordinator Norv Turner has been outspoken about how impressed he is with Brandon Weeden and how quickly he has learned the new offense. Turner’s most impressive quality is his confidence in his play calling. The Dolphins made a splash in free agency acquiring some big names. Wideout Mike Wallace got all the headlines, but Dannell Ellerbe and Brent Grimes will play a critical role in the Dolphins defense. Head coach Joe Philbin has said that every move this offseason was made with two things in mind: create more turnovers and limit explosive plays. Storyline nobody is talking about: Wallace and Browns cornerback Joe Haden have a long history dating back to their days in the SEC. Wallace, who starred at Ole Miss, has made it loud and clear that he is looking to have his coming out party against Haden, from the University of Florida. “We go way back,” Wallace told reporters this week. “Joe is a great player. The thing that makes Joe a great player is he’s real confident. He’s confident in his abilities. He’s going to look sweet. He’s going to wear all white. He’s going to wear orange shoes. He’s going to amp himself up. That’s half the battle. “When you look good, you play good. He’s going to feel good about himself, but I’m going to come out even sweeter. I’m going to really wear all white. I’m going to have my swag out too so he better be ready Sunday. Injury to watch: Dolphins rookie defensive end Dion Jordan hasn’t played since the second week of the preseason following an injury to his shoulder. Although he’ll see some playing time as a situational pass rusher, look for Jordan to have an impact on special teams. “We think we have a chance to be a very, very good special-teams unit,” Philbin said. “We want to utilize our personnel in the best way possible. If [Jordan] is on one of those teams, then we’ve come to the conclusion that is going to help that particular phase of special teams. What will the weather be like? Mostly cloudy. 72 degrees. Point spread: Browns -1, 41 Where can I watch it? 1:00 p.m. ET on CBS Stat that stands out: Weeden and Ryan Tannehill are the two forgotten rookie quarterbacks of the 2012 NFL Draft. Tannehill was selected eighth overall and Weeden was picked 22 nd overall. Minnesota Vikings at Detroit Lions What should you know? Adrian Peterson averaged 139.5 yards rushing in two games last season against the Lions. Although the Vikings will make sure to keep Peterson heavily involved in the game plan, the Lions must account for tight end Kyle Rudolph. Minnesota acquired wide receivers Greg Jennings and Cordarrelle Patterson this offseason, which will dramatically open things up more for quarterback Christian Ponder’s favorite target, Rudolph. Ponder will deal with pressure from the Lions defense and it’s how he responds is what will dictate the success of Minnesota’s offense. Storyline nobody is talking about: Reggie Bush is making his debut for the Lions and figures to be the missing piece to the Lions offense. Bush’s greatest asset is when he has the ball in open space and his effectiveness in the passing game. During Bush’s five seasons in New Orleans, he had more production as a receiver than a running back. Expect the Lions to do the same. Vikings linebackers Chad Greenway, Erin Henderson and Marvin Mitchell will have their hands full keying in on Bush to limit the big play. Injury to watch: Lions rookie defensive end Ziggy Ansah was a full participant in practice on Friday after being sidelined 11 days following a concussion. Ansah, the fifth-overall pick, is likely to play after his increased participation. What will the weather be like? Dome. Clear. 74 degrees Point spread: Lions -5, 46.5 Where can I watch it? 1:00 p.m. ET on FOX Stat that stands out: Traditionally, the Vikings own the Lions with an all-time record of 68-33-2. Oakland Raiders vs. Indianapolis Colts What should you know? Andrew Luck enters his sophomore season with his former offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton calling the plays. Hamilton, who has repeatedly said that the Colts will be a run-first team, will utilize running backs Ahmad Bradshaw and Vick Ballard in the game plan. Hamilton’s thought process is that an offense that is built on the running game takes pressure off of the quarterback and gives them opportunities to challenge defenses down the field. The Raiders, who have nine new starters on a revamped defense, must be disciplined. Storyline nobody is talking about: The Raiders still haven’t announced who their starting quarterback will be, but whoever it is will likely be on the run for most of the game. Since starting offensive tackle Jared Veldheer went down with a torn triceps, Raiders head coach Dennis Allen has been searching for someone to take his place. Rookie Menelik Watson, who never played the position before, was going to start but was ruled out with a knee injury. Right tackle Khalif Barnes will move over to the left side which opens the door for Tony Pashos playing right tackle. Oakland has some serious issues up front and it wouldn’t be shocking to see Indianapolis expose them. Injury to watch: Bradshaw has been dealing with a foot injury for quite some time, but has been officially listed as probable. What will the weather be like? Dome. Clear. 74 degrees. Point spread: Colts -10, 47 Where can I watch it? 1:00 p.m. ET on CBS Stat that stands out: Pryor would be the Raiders’ 14 th starting quarterback since the beginning of the 2004 season. Kansas City Chiefs vs. Jacksonville Jaguars What should you know? Third-year quarterback Blaine Gabbert has been questionable all week as he recovers from a broken thumb, but got a good deal of work on Friday. Expect a healthy dose of Maurice Jones-Drew as tight end Marcedes Lewis has been ruled out with a calf injury and Justin Blackmon begins his four-game suspension. The Chiefs’ new-look defense vows to play fast, but it all begins up front with former first-round pick Dontari Poe. Kansas City returns three Pro Bowl linebackers in Justin Houston, Tamba Hali and Derrick Johnson. It could be a long day for Jacksonville’s offensive line. Storyline nobody is talking about: The Jaguars defense, which was last in sacks a season ago, has been revamped with Gus Bradley at the helm. Injury to watch: Chiefs guard Jon Asamoah practiced for the first time on Friday following two weeks of being sidelined with a calf injury. Asamoah, who is the Chiefs starting guard, would likely be replaced by Rokevious Watkins. What will the weather be like? Clear. 88 degrees. Point spread: Chiefs -4, 42.5 Where can I watch it? 1:00 p.m. ET on CBS Stat that stands out: Alex Smith is 19-5-1 in his last 25 starts. Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. New York Jets What should you know? Geno Smith and Rex Ryan will grab all the headlines, but it’s the Jets defense that could get all the recognition. Ryan’s unique fronts could create types of pressure that makes Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman uncomfortable. If that’s the case, New York’s secondary is a strength and will make him pay. Where the Jets are vulnerable is against the run. Defensive tackle Muhammad Wilkerson and linebacker David Harris are the only proven commodities and the Bucs return a running back in Doug Martin, who finished top 5 in the league. Storyline nobody is talking about: It’s no secret that Freeman must perform if he wants to keep his job. The fourth-year starter has been a captain every season … until now. Head coach Greg Schiano assured reporters that the team still looks to Freeman as a leader, but veteran guard Davin Joseph has assumed the responsibility. Injury to watch: Santonio Holmes sustained a severe Lisfranc injury last season and his participation was unknown until this week when he began practicing. Holmes was listed as questionable, but teammate Stephen Hill said that he thinks he’ll be on the field on Sunday. What will the weather be like? Partly cloudy. 76 degrees. Point spread: Buccaneers -3.5, 39.5 Where can I watch it? 1:00 p.m. ET on FOX Stat that stands out: On Sunday, it will be 349 days since Darrelle Revis tore his ACL with the New York Jets. Tennessee Titans vs. Pittsburgh Steelers What should you know? The Steelers defense might have some aging veterans, but they continue to instill fear. Third-year quarterback Jake Locker will be making his first career start against the Steelers and has said this week that he’s most impressed by the way they communicate silently before the snap. Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau is famous for his zone-blitzing schemes, where he disguises who will rush the passer, and is sure to do so against Locker. Storyline nobody is talking about: Football in Pittsburgh is known for its black-and-blue, grind-it-out mentality. One thing that accompanies that thought is a downhill running game. Although offensive coordinator Todd Haley would like to establish the running game, the Steelers have a lot of success through the air. Watch for Ben Roethlisberger to hook up with speedy targets such as Markus Wheaton, Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown. Injury to watch: Steelers rookie Jarvis Jones had full participation Thursday and seems to be fine after a scare during the preseason. Jones looks to be a big factor in the pass rushing department. What will the weather be like? Chance of thunderstorm. 76 degrees. Point spread: Steelers -7, 42 Where can I watch it? 1:00 p.m. ET on CBS Stat that stands out: The Steelers have won three straight at home against the Titans Green Bay Packers vs. San Francisco 49ers What should you know? Packers defensive coordinator had zero answers for Colin Kaepernick and the read option in the divisional round playoff in January. Kaepernick totaled 444 yards and 4 touchdowns. Expect the 49ers to try to challenge the Packers the same way. Linebacker Clay Matthews has been adamant that the Packers must hit the QB when he tries to get outside the pocket. Storyline nobody is talking about: Aaron Rodgers was the most sacked last season. That’s a problem. Offensive tackle Bryan Bulaga tore his ACL and has been replaced by rookie David Bakhtiari, a fourth-round pick from Colorado. Bakhtiari will be lined up against Pro Bowler Aldon Smith, a  tough assignment. “David is a very confident guy, who has a good set, and you just need to trust his fundamentals,” Rodgers said. “He’s up against a Pro Bowl guy who’s one of the best in the business. “If you want to be considered an elite player at your position, like I know David does down the road – he’s a confident guy – then these are the kind of matchups you want.” Injury to watch: 49ers cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha was limited in practice on Wednesday following a collarbone injury. Asomugha is key to the Niners’ defense as Green Bay likes to feature several three- and four-wide receiver formations. What will the weather be like? Clear. 70 degrees Point spread: 49ers -4.5, 49 Where can I watch it? 4:25 p.m. ET on FOX Stat that stands out: San Francisco has given up a league-low 10 rushing touchdowns total in the last two seasons. Arizona Cardinals vs. St. Louis Rams What should you know? Sam Bradford enters his fourth season and has not lived up to his six-year, $78 million contract, which included $50 million guaranteed. This is the season for Bradford to do so. Great quarterbacks elevate  players around them but now Bradford has some protection ( Jake Long) and offensive threats ( Jared Cook and Tavon Austin) alongside him. The Cardinals defense matches up well against the Rams, but could be without their two leading sack artists as Daryl Washington begins his suspension and Calais Campbell has a bruised thigh. Storyline nobody is talking about: Fantasy favorite Rob Housler will be out with an ankle sprain, so that will open the door for fourth-year veteran Jim Dray. Carson Palmer likes to utilize all of his receivers and Dray could be a part of the game plan. Injury to watch: Rashard Mendenhall was wearing a brace on his right knee earlier this week and is listed as probable, but Bruce Arians has said that the running back will be “more than ready” to play. What will the weather be like? Dome. Chance of thunderstorm. 92 degrees. Point spread: Rams -4.5, 42 Where can I watch it? 4:25 p.m. ET on FOX Stat that stands out:  The Rams haven’t won a season opener since 2006. New York Giants vs. Dallas Cowboys What should you know? The Cowboys plan to roll out their new defense and no one could be more excited that DeMarcus Ware. The seven-time Pro Bowler will play defensive end and has become a trendy pick to win Defensive Player of the Year. There are a lot of moving parts, but coordinator Monte Kiffin and defensive line coach Rod Marinelli should have this unit prepared. Of course, Eli Manning will try to get the ball in the hands of his playmakers, including Hakeem Nicks. Storyline nobody is talking about: The Giants are known for their fierce defensive line and their relentless pass rush. Although Osi Umenyiora is in Atlanta, Justin Tuck and Jason Pierre-Paul remain. The latter has said that he’s a game-time decision while he continues to recover from his surgically repaired back. Injury to watch: Defensive end Anthony Spencer is likely to be sidelined with a knee injury. Spencer had surgery on his left knee in late July. What will the weather be like? Dome. Partly cloudy. 97 degrees. Point spread: Cowboys -3.5, 49.5 Where can I watch it? 8:30 p.m. ET on NBC Stat that stands out: Since the Cowboys moved into their new stadium, they have never beaten the Giants at home.

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