|Tim Heitman/US Presswire|
|Albert Haynesworth (left) will be motivated to stick it to Mike Shanahan and the Redskins in Week 14.|
Vick brings out Falcons fans' emotionsInitially, I thought about Plaxico Burress facing the Giants, because there is the chance that he could be in position to make a game-changing, hero/goat-type play. But I'm settling on Mike Vick and the Eagles playing the Falcons in Week 2. I know, this isn't the first time Vick's been back in the ATL. But no player in Falcons history had the emotional investment of fans like Vick. There will be thousands of people in the stands wearing No. 7 jerseys from Atlanta and Philadelphia. I live in Atlanta and I covered Vick's rise and success with the team before joining the NFL Media family. Though there are tons of people who can't stand Vick for his role in dog fighting, there are thousands who are happy for him that he's matured, moved on and appears to be on a successful path.
The good thing for the Falcons is that this is the second game of the season. Had this been late in the season with a playoff berth on the line, the conflicted allegiances in the Georgia Dome might not have given Atlanta much of a home-field advantage. I'm not exaggerating that point.
Redskins will have hands full with HaynesworthIt's been quite some time since we've seen a motivated and determined Albert Haynesworth on the loose. But some of us remember what that guy looked like way back when and we know he'll be looking to bring that full fury when he faces the Redskins in Week 14.
Haynesworth clashed mightily with head coach Mike Shanahan in the most public of ways. It was ugly. The chance to go against Washington's weak offensive line and send a message to Shanahan will be all the fire he needs. Trust me, for that Sunday, if nothing else, Haynesworth will come alive.
It will make for three entertaining hours of drama for what would be an otherwise nondescript game between out-of-conference foes. And I can only imagine the reception the FedEx Field crowd will give Haynesworth.
Kolb can stick it to EaglesKevin Kolb returning to Philadelphia in Week 10 to face the "dream team" secondary is of most interest to me. It is extremely hard to find and develop a franchise quarterback and if the Cardinals come into Philadelphia and beat the Michael Vick-led Eagles, it will make the large compensation the Eagles received in the trade look insignificant. After visiting the Cardinals this past week and watching Kolb lead his new team, it may prove to be a very big mistake on the Eagles' part. At any rate, this game and the return of Kolb has a lot riding on it.
Broncos fans will let Cutler have itThere is no doubt that Jay Cutler's return to Denver is going to be one of the biggest highlights of the 2011 NFL season. Cutler is going to face the kind of hatred and vitriol that is typically only found in the comments section of one of my Pick Six columns.
And when you consider that Broncos fans also will have Cutler's less-than-manly (at least according to Maurice Jones-Drew) performance in the NFC Championship Game, they will have plenty of ammunition to harangue Cutler with.
Me being the mean-spirited guy that I am, I cannot wait.
Vick in Atlanta will fascinateIt's close, but I'll go with Mike Vick in Atlanta, simply because the quarterback still holds iconic status in some circles in that city and the reaction should be fascinating. Not far off would be Albert Haynesworth returning to D.C., if only to gauge his performance in that one -- with the Redskins expecting him to be supremely motivated -- against some lower-profile games on the Patriots' schedule.
$100 million worth of boosMichael Vick has already returned to Atlanta (as a backup) and was welcomed. Plaxico Burress has not alienated the Giants fan base, they simply miss him. But if Albert Haynesworth returns to D.C. and is playing up to his potential?! Look for that frustrated fan base to really welcome him back with $100 million worth of boos.
Huge opportunity for HaynesworthAlbert Haynesworth's return to Washington in Week 14 is the most compelling revenge game for me. He languished on the Redskins sideline last season due to a simmering feud with Mike Shanahan, and he will certainly bring his A-game in this matchup. Given the havoc that Haynesworth is capable of wreaking when focused and motivated, this late-season battle will allow him to reestablish himself as one of the most dominant interior defenders in the game.
Broncos QB nightmaresCutler's return to Denver in December is going to be a weird one. By the time Chicago gets to town in Week 13, Broncos fans will resemble unwilling Scrooges as they're visited by the grim visages of QB ghosts Past, Present and Future.
Kyle Orton (the Ghost of Football Present) will be holding a clipboard after proving unable to pull a generally subpar team into AFC West contention.
Tim Tebow (the Ghost of Football Future) will be showing John Fox, John Elway, and the rest of the world that he'll never be a legit NFL QB.
Jay Cutler (the Ghost of Football Past) will be deep into a toxic season that'll go south fast after a nasty three-game opening stretch of Atlanta, at New Orleans, and Green Bay. Combined with the lingering questions about his mopey behavior during last season's NFC title game, Cutler's teammates will have fully turned against him. Matter of fact, they may just want to leave him in Denver and take Brady Quinn back to Chicago with them.