Inside Slant  

IBM  

Vick's return to Atlanta leads Week 2 slate

I'm not gonna lie, we don't have quite the juicy menu to sink our teeth into this week. The schedule was stacked in Week 1 with five footlong matchups; this week, it's not so top-heavy. We don't have as many marquee teams battling each other, and, unlike last week, we're bereft of a single divisional contest (remember, there were some quirks with the schedule given the uncertainty of the lockout). Matt Pomeroy, our esteemed research guru, tells me it's the first weekend in 43 NFL seasons that no division opponents meet.


Listen to the 2011 NFL season LIVE -- hear all the action online in premium sound quality with NFL Audio Pass. Sign up now!

And, unfortunately, we're down to football just two days this week as opposed to three a week ago. There are enough emotionally charged games on the schedule to appease us all, however, as no squad wants to start the year 0-2. And we still haven't approached bye season yet, so it's a full slate of 16 games.

Remember, games will be rated as either a footlong, a six-inch, a pita or a finger sandwich.

    • Philadelphia at Atlanta

      Sun 8:20 p.m. ET, NBC Get Tickets
    • Why to watch:

      Two teams in Super Bowl-or-bust mode that made some of the biggest and boldest moves this offseason meet with Atlanta reeling from a Week 1 drubbing in Chicago. Everything that these clubs do will be micro-analyzed based on the offseason, and the Falcons can ill afford an 0-2 start.
    • Inside slant:

      Oh, did I fail to mention that Michael Vick, for the first time as a starter, makes his return to Atlanta, the city where he became a local hero and larger-than-life athlete and then left in disgrace after a dogfighting conviction before getting written off in his return to the NFL, only to have an MVP-type season in Philadelphia and then procure a $100-million (really $80 million) deal in the offseason? Yeah, he's back. I expect to see a ton of Vick jerseys in the stands.
    • Rating:

      Footlong (all nice and heated up, with the extra cheese melted to the side of the roll)
    • Watch: Game Preview
    • Green Bay at Carolina

      Sun 1:00 p.m. ET, FOX Get Tickets
    • Why to watch:

      The streak ends here. Cam Newton, in his first NFL action ever, put up 422 yards against the Cardinals. I doubt he does that against the Super Bowl champion defense, but this will be quite a litmus test regardless. Who doesn't want to see that? The Packers also looked pretty much unstoppable in the Thursday kickoff.
    • Inside slant:

      This is a lockout mismatch to me -- a veteran, stable coaching staff coming off a Super Bowl win against a group seeking its first-ever win while trying to make up for lost time during the work stoppage. The Packers find ways to win games and the Panthers are still in a stage where they find ways to lose them (though Cam could be changing that faster than expected).
    • Rating:

      Footlong
    • Watch: Game Preview
    • Cleveland at Indianapolis

      Sun 1:00 p.m. ET, CBS Get Tickets
    • Why to watch:

      This is like watching a car crash. You can't turn away even though you know it's ugly. You won't find two teams that looked worse than these two in the opener (okay, the Chiefs did), and seeing just how far the Colts can fall without Peyton Manning feels like a bizarre sports sociological experiment. Personally, it's kinda captivating. If Indy loses a home opener to a Cleveland team that lost its home opener to the Bengals, well, look out. And maybe, hello Andrew Luck.
    • Inside slant:

      Lost amid all of the Manning talk is the fact that the Colts couldn't run the ball or stop the run, and they faltered on special teams. Last I checked, the quarterback was important, but not that important. Cleveland has the ability to play ball possession, physical football with that other Peyton, Peyton Hillis, and the Texans just provided quite the template to manhandling the Colts.
    • Rating:

      Six-inch
    • Watch: Game Preview
    • Jacksonville at New York

      Sun 1:00 p.m. ET, CBS Get Tickets
    • Why to watch:

      The Jets might seem primed for one of those emotional letdown games here, after a fairly wild win over the Cowboys on Sunday night while commemorating 9/11 in New York. Add in the fact that it was on a night when their head coach was coaching against his brother with his father putting off cancer surgery to attend, and it wouldn't surprise if the Jets lacked the Week 1 passion. But if the Jags can't muster a run game, Luke McCown could be in trouble.
    • Inside slant:

      When will Mark Sanchez start to put together four full quarters of football? Will he ever have to -- in the regular season, at least -- or do the Jets have enough around him that the bouts of inaccuracy won't derail the team? And, along those lines, which Antonio Cromartie will show up?
    • Rating:

      Six-inch
    • Watch: Game Preview
    • St. Louis at New York

      Mon 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN Get Tickets
    • Why to watch:

      Eli Manning fell prey to the turnovers again, and the Giants were beat up by the Redskins. Tom Coughlin won't like that, but unlike years past, he'll be limited with how much he can do in practice all week because of the new CBA. For two teams with playoff hopes, starting the year with consecutive losses is not a good proposition.
    • Inside slant:

      Injuries have robbed this game of some star power. No team was hit harder in the preseason than New York, and in Week 1 the Rams had injuries to Sam Bradford, Steven Jackson, Danny Amendola, Jason Smith, and others. Bradford is expected to play, but on the road, against a New York pass rush with Justin Tuck possibly back, he could find conditions inhospitable.
    • Rating:

      Six-inch
    • Watch: Game Preview
    • Oakland at Buffalo

      Sun 1:00 p.m. ET, CBS Get Tickets
    • Why to watch:

      Two monster defensive lines -- two of the biggest and most underrated in the NFL -- will be on the field here. Both teams want to run the football with multiple backs, so the war in the trenches will tell the tale, with guys like Kyle Williams and Matt Shaughnessy trying to wreak the kind of havoc they did a week ago. One of these teams will be undefeated and feeling good about the season after Sunday.
    • Inside slant:

      Move the Bills to the AFC West! They dropped a 40-burger on the division champion Chiefs and now get to face a team that went 6-0 against the AFC West a year ago and has won eight straight overall in the division. The Bills face the two teams with the best rushing attacks from 2010 in back-to-back weeks to open 2011.
    • Rating:

      Six-inch
    • Watch: Game Preview
    • Arizona at Washington

      Sun 1:00 p.m. ET, FOX Get Tickets
    • Why to watch:

      Two upstart teams with visions of division titles face off in D.C. The Cards often struggle on the East Coast, but QB Kevin Kolb knows the Redskins' defense well from his time in Philly. Rex Grossman, after beating out John Beck for the starting QB spot, comes in off a superb performance and faces a pass defense that looked even worse than that Giants secondary he feasted on last week.
    • Inside slant:

      Mike Shanahan loves the one-cut ability of new RB Tim Hightower, who he just happened to acquire from Arizona in the preseason. And the Cards just happen to find themselves pretty thin in the backfield now.
    • Rating:

      Six-inch
    • Watch: Game Preview
    • Seattle at Pittsburgh

      Sun 1:00 p.m. ET, FOX Get Tickets
    • Why to watch:

      This one has major beatdown potential. When the Steelers were pushed around by Washington in the preseason, they came out and smacked the Eagles in the mouth the next week. Baltimore embarrassed Pittsburgh last Sunday and the struggling Seahawks are flying cross-country right into a rabid situation. And they know it, too.
    • Inside slant:

      Ben Roethlisberger was a turnover machine in Week 1, throwing three picks, fumbling twice and absorbing a bunch of hits. Wouldn't be surprised to see Pittsburgh revert to a power-running strategy and go to the ground heavily to punish Seattle off the bat.
    • Rating:

      Finger sandwich
    • Watch: Game Preview
    • Baltimore at Tennessee

      Sun 1:00 p.m. ET, CBS Get Tickets
    • Why to watch:

      No team last week made a more complete statement -- on offense, defense and special teams -- than the Ravens did in mauling the Steelers, while the Titans needed some time to show signs of life in their loss to Jacksonville. Ed Reed and Ray Lewis are timeless, making huge plays a week ago, and are worth the price of admission themselves.
    • Inside slant:

      Chris Johnson, just back from his long holdout, was a complete non-factor in the opener. One would imagine the Titans try like heck to establish him this weekend, but that might be easier said than done against this defense.
    • Rating:

      Finger sandwich
    • Watch: Game Preview
    • Houston at Miami

      Sun 4:15 p.m. ET, CBS Get Tickets
    • Why to watch:

      Arian Foster could make his season debut. Whether he plays or not, however, expect the Texans to find yards on the ground after Miami gave up 600-odd yards in the opener.
    • Inside slant:

      The Dolphins need to find a way to fill the seats and establish a home-field advantage coming off Monday night's game, and that's going to be tough again. Or maybe they need to win a few road games, first? Which comes first, the chicken or the egg? Since beating New England at home in Dec. 2009, the Dolphins are 1-10 in Miami.
    • Rating:

      Finger sandwich
    • Watch: Game Preview

Follow Jason La Canfora on Twitter @jasonlacanfora.

Headlines

The previous element was an advertisement.

NFL Shop

NFL News
CONTENT
15