1. Kolb, Dixon in the spotlight
Kevin Kolb faces the Packers, offering an ironic twist considering he replaces Donovan McNabb just like Aaron Rodgers took over for Brett Favre. The Packers fans loved Favre but were extremely tolerant of Rodgers' learning curve in 2008. It will be interesting to see how the Eagles faithful handle the growth spurt Kolb has to go through.
Dixon has thrown 27 regular-season passes in his NFL career. The Falcons aren't going to let him escape to his right where he creates problems. Look for Atlanta to keep Dixon contained and force him to win with his arm, not his legs.
The big question for both young quarterbacks is will the coaches feature the running attack in an attempt to help each of them when they are known passing teams?
2. Week 1 a predictor of success
It's always important to get off to a good start, but when you open the year against a divisional foe, the stakes are raised.
Last season, there were seven division matchups in Week 1. Of the seven teams that lost, only one rebounded to have a winning season and win a division title (Arizona Cardinals). In 2008, there were eight division games to open the season and only two of the eight losers (Miami Dolphins and Minnesota Vikings) went on to win their division.
This year, we have seven division games and the loser of the Miami-Buffalo, Detroit-Chicago, Indianapolis-Houston, San Diego-Kansas City, San Francisco-Seattle, Arizona-St. Louis and Dallas-Washington games will have plenty to worry about this season.
3. Brady's home streak in jeopardy
4. Growth of 3-4 continues
Although the Seahawks will be in more of a hybrid scheme, confidence in DE Red Bryant helps them move towards an odd-front package. The teams coming into play the Bills (Dolphins) and Redskins (Cowboys) really know how to attack the 3-4 defense. We will quickly know if these teams are ready to play in their new schemes.
5. Matchups to watch
Every week produces intriguing individual matchups. Catching my eye this week are rookies facing veterans: Redskins LT Trent Williams against Cowboys OLB DeMarcus Ware, Texans CB Kareem Jackson vs. Colts WR Reggie Wayne, 49ers RT Anthony Davis on Seahawks DE Red Bryant, Lions DT Ndamukong Suh facing Bears G Roberto Garza and Eagles DE Brandon Graham, who already tweeted his plans to sack Aaron Rodgers, against Packers RT Mark Tauscher.
6. Pressure on Cutler
Mike Martz is a brilliant offensive mind and will be a great influence on Jay Cutler over time. However, I have some questions about this year. Can the offensive line protect Cutler? The Lions have a good four-man rush and will check out the pass blocking. If LT Chris Williams can get beat by Kamerion Wimbley, you have to figure Kyle Vanden Bosch is going to be in Cutler's face. Secondly, are any of the receivers even close to Isaac Bruce, Torry Holt and Az-Zahir Hakim? I am very interested to see how coach Martz adjusts to the talent he has in Chicago.
7. Get out of the way
The umpire has never been under a bigger microscope than this week. The league moved him from next to the middle linebacker to the offensive backfield for his own safety. The problem is many teams use a no-huddle package, and it takes time for the umpire to get to his new spot. The alignment has been tweaked at certain points of the game, but problems could still arise. A team looking to move quicker than the official could find its drive stymied with a penalty or see its rhythm slowed, which will be a bone of contention next week.
8. Impact of suspensions
9. Ready to make an impact?
10. Passing time
Go back one year and look at the starting quarterbacks. There are 13 different starters this season. The point is which quarterbacks getting the call this week will be on the bench or long gone a year from now. Here's the list from last year to this season.
Arizona Cardinals: Kurt Warner (2009), Derek Anderson (2010)
Carolina Panthers: Jake Delhomme, Matt Moore
Cleveland Browns: Brady Quinn, Jake Delhomme
Kansas City: Brodie Croyle, Matt Cassel
Miami Dolphins: Chad Pennington, Chad Henne
Oakland Raiders: JaMarcus Russell, Jason Campbell
Pittsburgh Steelers: Ben Roethlisberger, Dennis Dixon
Philadelphia Eagles: Donovan McNabb, Kevin Kolb
St. Louis Rams: Marc Bulger, Sam Bradford
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Byron Leftwich, Josh Freeman or Josh Johnson
Tennessee Titans: Kerry Collins, Vince Young
San Francisco 49ers: Shaun Hill, Alex Smith
Washington Redskins: Jason Campbell, Donovan McNabb