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While Cutler tries to survive, CJ2K looks to keep streaking

  • By Pat Kirwan NFL.com
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1. How long can Cutler survive?

Jay Cutler is a very talented quarterback but is playing with an offensive line and in a system that could see him get sacked 50-plus times. He got taken down 10 times in the preseason or once every 4.7 attempts. Dan Marino said he never heard of such a thing. Well, Cutler got sacked four times in the opener and if you look at all of his throws in the Mike Martz system, including preseason and regular season, he is getting whacked once every six throws. If Martz calls 500 passes this season, Cutler could go down close to 80 times. This week, Chicago travels to Dallas, which should make things even worse.

2. Steelers aim to contain CJ2K

The Steelers held Chris Johnson to 57 yards on 15 carries in Pittsburgh last season, but this game is in Tennessee. Johnson averaged 188.5 total yards and 1.5 touchdowns per home game a year ago. He was a little off last week with a mere 150 total yards and two touchdowns. The Steelers don't allow 100-yard runners and Johnson is two games away from tying Barry Sanders for the most consecutive 100-yard games at 14.

Look for Vince Young, who is 6-1 in his last seven home starts, to work the bootlegs and play-action game early as the Steelers try and hone in on Johnson. Johnson will pop some big runs and try to get to the 100-yard mark. Will the Steelers or Johnson win the battle?

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3. What if Vick keeps performing?

I know Kevin Kolb is supposed to be the next Aaron Rodgers. Take over for a fading star, learn the game in a season and start producing big numbers in a system that you are supposedly made for. Well, the offensive line is a liability and there was no comparison between Kolb, who suffered a concussion against the Packers, and his replacement, Michael Vick.

If Vick, who had 278 yards of offense in a limited role with very little practice, lights up the Lions this week and the Jaguars next week, how does he go back to the bench with Donovan McNabb coming to town in Week 4? Vick is a three-time Pro Bowler who covers up the offensive line deficiencies with his escapability. He still gets sacked a lot (once every 10.3 attempts in his career), but he might be just what the young Eagles need right now.

4. Rookie QBs come out throwing

Last year, I thought it was amazing that Matthew Stafford, Mark Sanchez and Josh Freeman all threw 30-plus passes in their NFL debuts. Sam Bradford threw 55 passes in his first game and, after talking to coach Steve Spagnuolo this week, I'm sure they're trying to bring that number down. But stop and think about it: Steven Jackson got 26 touches and the coach has never let him carry the ball 30 times in a game. For a team with limited talent, who else is going to get the ball? There's no way a backup running back is going to share the load with Jackson to the point where the reserve ends up with 20 carries. Bradford could easily wind up with 40-plus throws again this week.

5. The Manning Bowl

It doesn't happen often, but it's intriguing to think about Eli and Peyton Manning going at each other for 60 minutes. Peyton and his Colts can't fall to 0-2, and Eli won't take a back seat to his older brother. I could easily expect to see 90 passes in this game and six touchdowns. Think that's a reach? The Manning boys were right there last week. Get ready for some fireworks.

6. My favorite matchups

I love the line battles that have a major impact on the games in Week 2. Vikings DE Jared Allen is at home and faces Pro Bowl left tackle Jake Long. Titans LT Michael Roos draws LB James Harrison from the Steelers. Bears DE Julius Peppers was a man possessed last week and now faces Cowboys LT Doug Free, who replaced Flozell Adams. On the other side of the ball, it looks like DeMarcus Ware will square up with Chris Williams, which almost looks unfair. My favorite matchup of all is Texans RT Eric Winston on Redskins LB Brian Orakpo.

7. Head injuries mount

I wonder how many players would pass the baseline test for concussions if everyone had to take the test every Monday. Many players refuse to tell team officials when they get their bell rung. The backups and special teams guys are fighting to just stay in the league, and as one player said to me years ago, "I never had a concussion, but I did see the bright white light flash a few times." There were seven players on the Wednesday injury report with some form of a head injury. Don't let any of them play this week for their own good.

8. Run first, ask questions later

Nothing from Week 1 was more impressive than the Texans' run calls on first down. Most teams want a balanced play-call sheet on first down, striving for a 50/50 run-pass ratio. The Texans were 20 run and seven pass and couldn't care less about a tendency. On the 20 first-down runs, they rushed for 184 yards at 9.2 yards per try. At one point early in the fourth quarter, they ran the ball four straight plays (all resulting in first downs for 91 yards and a score). Will the Redskins play that run tendency or continue to worry about WR Andre Johnson?

9. Something special in the works

The Chiefs visit the Browns, and it seems like yesterday when Josh Cribbs took two kickoffs back for touchdowns last year when Cleveland beat Kansas City. Will he do it again? It's very possible. Week 2 of the regular season can be very dangerous for special teams. Special teams coaches study the game tapes from Week 1, when inexperienced rookies are running down in coverage lanes and there are plenty of spots to take advantage of for the smart returners. Last week, we only had one kickoff return and one punt return go to the end zone. Mark my words, there will be at least four kickoff or punt returns for touchdowns this week. Due to injuries, a number of rookies now have to step up and play on offense or defense, and their special teams play will suffer.

10. Reserve QBs already called on

We are already seeing backup quarterbacks playing. Who says a quality No. 2 isn't worth $3 million a year, and who really believes you can go a whole season with just two QBs on the roster? The Ravens, Packers, Colts, Jaguars, Chiefs, Patriots, Saints, Giants, and Seahawks all keep just two. There's a real chance we will see the Browns, Eagles, Lions, and Panthers use their backups this weekend. By the end of the week, there's little doubt more teams will be in the same boat.

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