Le'Veon Bell, Devin Hester players to watch in Week 2

Several players served notice in Week 1 that this season will go a lot differently than last. The most impressive of those are involved in Thursday night's game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens.

Let's take a look at four players we are excited to watch this week after catching our eye on Game Rewind:

1. Le'Veon Bell, Steelers: When I studied Bell for our offseason "Making the Leap" series, I saw a power back with three-down skills capable of sustaining a rushing attack but lacking any semblance of big-play ability. We can throw the last portion of that scouting report out the window after Bell racked up 197 yards from scrimmage, the most by a Steelers back since Willie Parker's 223 in 2006.

Down 10-15 pounds from last season, Bell was not only shiftier and looser in the hips, but also showed an extra gear that he didn't have in his arsenal last season. On the Dave Dameshek Football Program, NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah compared Bell to an early-career Deuce McAllister, the version responsible for 1,641 rushing yards and 516 receiving yards in his age-25 season. With apologies to Marshawn Lynch and Knowshon Moreno, Bell was easily the best back I saw on film in the season opener.

2. Devin Hester, Falcons: Offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter served notice versus the Saints that Hester will have a significant role, as the Falcons went four-wide on roughly 20 snaps. There are NFL teams that won't play four wide receivers that many times all season.

Hester responded with 99 yards, two shy of his career high. He made several key plays, including a 21-yard reception that set up Matt Bryant's game-tying field goal. It will be interesting to see if Koetter starts utilizing one of the greatest open-field runners in NFL history on the jet sweeps that made Percy Harvin and Cordarrelle Patterson so dangerous in last week.

3. Chris Johnson, Jets: We noted last month on the Around The NFL Podcast that Johnson showed more burst and was cutting more decisively in the preseason than he had in his past couple of seasons with the Titans. That carried over to the regular season, as Johnson was running north and south and breaking tackles as if he was still CJ2K. The Jets have to be thrilled about their tag-team of Johnson and bruiser Chris Ivory, a destitute man's Marshawn Lynch.

4. Markus Wheaton, Steelers:Emmanuel Sanders' replacement in the starting lineup was responsible for the prettiest play of Week 1, laying out and tapping his toes on a beautiful sideline bomb from Ben Roethlisberger.

After a series of three-and-outs in the second half, Wheaton came up big with back-to-back clutch catches on the game-winning drive. Don't be surprised if he ends up with better numbers than Sanders ever generated in Pittsburgh.

The latest "Around The NFL Podcast" makes some bold predictions about the 2014 season and backs them up by putting some sandwiches on the line.

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