Matchups to Watch  

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Season starts with some great quarterback duels

How important is Week 1?

Since 1978, when the NFL went to the 16-game schedule, teams that are victorious on Kickoff Weekend are more than twice as likely to reach the playoffs than losers of the opening game. Consider:

» Of the 458 teams that won openers, 243 went to the playoffs and 142 won division titles.

» Of the 458 teams that lost openers, 102 went to the playoffs and 60 won division titles.


Predictions for 2010

» Packers unanimously picked to reach Super Bowl
» These teams have the profile to reach the big game
» Gimme 5: 2009 non-playoff teams for 2010 postseason
» Brooks: Early 2010 award predictions

Watch now

» NFLN debate: Which teams will reach Super Bowl XLV?

Also

» Marshall to Dolphins among 2010's impact moves
» Immense pressure put on Chargers rookie RB
» Tough being the guy replacing The Guy
» Texans lead list of new contenders

2010 team previews, predictions

» NFC EAST: Cowboys | Giants | Eagles | Redskins
» NFC NORTH: Bears | Lions | Packers | Vikings
» NFC SOUTH: Falcons | Panthers | Saints | Buccaneers
» NFC WEST: Cardinals | 49ers | Seahawks | Rams
» AFC EAST: Bills | Dolphins | Patriots | Jets
» AFC NORTH: Ravens | Bengals | Browns | Steelers
» AFC SOUTH: Texans | Colts | Jaguars | Titans
» AFC WEST: Broncos | Chiefs | Raiders | Chargers

The Dallas Cowboys hold the record for the longest opening weekend winning streak (17) from 1965-1981. They went to the playoffs in 16 of those 17 years.

Fun facts, for sure. Now onto the matchups I'll be keeping an eye on in Week 1:

Colts QB Peyton Manning vs.
Texans QB Matt Schaub

Sunday,1 p.m. ET, CBS

Matt Schaub led the league in passing yards last year, with Manning finishing second. The Colts and Texans have played 16 times, and Indianapolis has won 15 of those matchups. Houston's only win came in 2006.

Manning became the first quarterback last year to win five consecutive games while trailing in the fourth quarter. He has the best completion percentage of any quarterback with over 3,400 completions (64.8). Joe Montana is second with 63.6.

Edge pressure does not affect Manning. He just steps up in the pocket and delivers strikes. He puts the ball in the right spot 9 of 10 times. Teams will spend a lot of time looking at the tape from his game against the Broncos last year. Denver picked him off twice and kept him under a 50 percent completion rate in that matchup.

Schaub has completed 65 percent of his passes the last three years. He was the MVP of last year's Pro Bowl. He is tall, has a good frame and throws a very catchable ball with good accuracy. He has poise, pocket presence and makes good decisions. He is excellent at throwing slant routes.

Bonus matchup: Texans RB Arian Foster vs. Colts MLB Gary Brackett

The Texans will try to run and control the clock to keep Manning off the field. Foster's ability to elude Brackett and gain key first downs will be crucial to that goal.

» Colts-Titans Game Center

Bengals CBs Leon Hall, Johnathan Joseph vs.
Patriots QB Tom Brady

Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, CBS

These two teams won their division last year, but then lost in the first round of the playoffs. The Bengals were fourth overall in total defense and sixth in pass defense. New England was third in total offense and passing.

Hall and Joseph shared the team's most valuable player award last season. Both had six picks. Hall plays right corner and is physical in coverage with good ball skills. In addition to being a solid tackler on defense, he also makes an impact in special teams coverage.

Joseph, who plays the left corner, is a physical player with top speed and outstanding coverage skills. Also known as a good tackler, he has a knack for making big plays, scoring three touchdowns last year.

Brady is 3-0 vs. the Bengals in his career, with seven TDs and two interceptions. Last year, the Patriots passed on 56 percent of their offensive plays and expect more of the same in 2010. Brady is adept at recognizing the blitz and feeling pressure from the backside.


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He is one of the best ever at throwing deep passes with great accuracy. While not very fast, Brady makes up for it with his awareness of what is going on with the defense.

Bonus matchup: Cincinnati OT Andre Whitworth vs. New England LB Tully Banta-Cain

Banta-Cain will not go head-to-head with Whitworth all the time, but when they do lock horns, it is up to Whitworth to keep Banta-Cain from knocking down Carson Palmer.

» Bengals-Patriots Game Center

Cowboys LB DeMarcus Ware vs.
Redskins OT Trent Williams

Sunday, 8:30 p.m. ET, NBC

It's interesting to think this will be the third consecutive game Donovan McNabb will play against the Cowboys. Mike Shanahan has 12 season-opening wins, most of any active coach.

DeMarcus Ware has 64.5 sacks in his first five seasons and has sacked McNabb 7.5 times (twice in the playoffs). Ware is a dominating player at his position. He has unbelievable quickness that prevents offensive tackles from getting their hands on him. His exceptional speed and athletic ability also allow him to cover running backs in space and stuff the run. He is very competitive and never slows down.

Trent Williams was the fourth overall pick in the 2010 draft. He started 39 games at Oklahoma, splitting time between the right and left side. He is a very good athlete with long arms and outstanding feet, and ran a 4.81 in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine while weighing 315 pounds. Being at home should make it easier for Williams, since he won't have to worry about crowd noise affecting his ability to hear audibles.

Bonus matchup: Redskins LB Brian Orakpo vs. the Cowboys' right tackle

Orakpo is coming off a rookie season in which he tallied 11 sacks and earned a Pro Bowl berth. Marc Colombo is listed as Dallas' right tackle, but his availability is in question for the opener.

» Cowboys-Redskins Game Center

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