Matchups to Watch  

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Jets turn to motivated L.T. for boost against Bolts

Andrew Mills/US Presswire
LaDainian Tomlinson is averaging around seven touches per game for the Jets this season.


Every Thursday, Steve Wyche will examine a handful of the week's premier matchups on the field.

L.T. vs. the Chargers

LaDainian Tomlinson finally gets his chance to face his former team -- the team we'll all remember him playing for when he's inducted into the Hall of Fame. So does Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie, but it's Tomlinson who's the focus here.

Don't think Rex Ryan doesn't know this either. Though Shonn Greene clearly is New York's lead running back, Ryan is giving Tomlinson a ceremonial start for this game. L.T. has been preserved thus far, totaling just 46 touches, and with relatively fresh legs and emotional incentive, he could be a factor.

Tomlinson's departure from San Diego didn't go smoothly. How could it? It's hard to part with such a community and franchise fixture. He won't see it that way, though. He'll want to ball out. If given the chance, you should assume he would.

Shame this game isn't in San Diego.

Carson Palmer vs. rust

The indicator for whether new Raiders quarterback Carson Palmer will start against Kansas City is how he holds up physically this week in practice. In other words, he'll start.

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Palmer probably will be sore from exerting his body like he hasn't since last season, but he won't get hit since quarterbacks aren't allowed to be touched in practice.

That's where the key matchup for this week comes into play. Palmer is going to be challenged physically and mentally.

Come Sunday, he's going to get hit. Then he'll get hit again. Sure, he's a football player who survived close to a decade Cincinnati, so we know he's tough; however, his first contact could come from the blind side from Chiefs outside linebacker Tamba Hali. Palmer physically can deal with it, but could he get rattled?

He's learning a new system and new players and if the game is a tough, grind-it-out, back-and-forth deal with plays to be made under tense circumstances, can he cope with everything that's going on around him?

It's easy to assume he will but Palmer hasn't played since Jan. 2. How does he respond if he throws one or two or three interceptions -- in the first half?

I'm sure the Raiders are hardly expecting perfection and they'll try to protect Palmer by running the ball and having him throw more deep passes than timing routes. However, he's going to have to show his worth immediately by maintaining his composure against a division opponent that's won two straight.

Old friend vs. Steelers

On paper, it doesn't look like Arizona stands much of a chance against Pittsburgh. The Cardinals are 1-4 and haven't looked like much on either side of the ball. However, Arizona defensive coordinator Ray Horton spent the previous seven seasons on the Steelers staff -- four as DBs coach.

He knows what he's up against, what the personnel and packages can dictate and how coaches could call plays in certain situations. He should have his players in position to make plays. It will be up to them to make it happen, though.

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If Arizona can limit turnovers and explosive plays, this game could be a lot closer than it seems on paper.

Megatron vs. The Athlete

Detroit wide receiver Calvin Johnson, at 6-foot-5 and 235 pounds, looks like a matchup nightmare against Atlanta cornerback Brent Grimes, generously listed at 5-10, 183. Well, Johnson is a matchup nightmare against anyone but his size disparity is one the Lions will try to routinely exploit, especially on throws to the corner of the end zone.

The Falcons will give him safety help, but don't underestimate Grimes' ability to hold his own. Each week he goes against larger receivers and is targeted frequently, as his 29 tackles validate. However, Grimes is one of the most spectacular athletes in the NFL.

His leaping ability and late burst on the ball can't be underestimated. If Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford is a little off, Grimes, who had 11 picks the past two seasons and one this season, could make him pay.

Follow Steve Wyche on Twitter @wyche89

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