Today’s post comes from guest blogger Mike Steiner. Mike is a StarStreet trader and recent graduate that can be found on twitter and on his personal blog. Want to contribute? Get in touch at Jason@starstreet.com or on twitter.
Just a few short months ago, many wondered whether there would be an NFL season at all this year. Yet, here we are on the brink of opening kickoff. Strap in because the NFL has scheduled some amazing games in week 1. Here are a few you should keep an eye on while you are trading on StarStreet.
Saints vs. Packers (Thursday, 8:30 Eastern)
The opening game of the NFL regular season proves to be a big one, as the reigning Super Bowls champion Packers take on the previous year’s winners, the New Orleans Saints.
The Pack boast one of the most intimidating defenses in the league with star pass-rusher Clay Matthews, monster interior lineman B.J. Raji, and lockdown cornerback Charles Woodson holding down the fort. On the other side, the Saints lay claim to arguably the best aerial attack in the league with quarterback Drew Brees as well as receivers Marques Colston, Lance Moore, and Devery Henderson.
Green Bay, no slackers on offense themselves, return Super Bowl MVP and resident championship belt-wearer Aaron Rodgers, as well as receivers Donald Driver andGreg Jennings, as well as rising start tight end Jermichael Finley. They face off against a Saints defense that will be adjusting to the loss of emotional leader Darren Sharper, who left via free agency. Replacing Sharper will be cornerback-turned-safety Malcolm Jenkins, who may need time adjusting to the position change. Alongside Jenkins at the other safety position is the versatile Roman Harper, who forced six fumbles, eight passes defended, and had three sacks last year.
In a game featuring two of the top fantasy quarterbacks in the league, this game might come down to whichever team’s leader makes the first mistake.
Colts vs. Texans (Sunday, 1:00 EST)
In a game that looks dramatically different today than it did a week ago, there is still one major question between these two teams: Is this the year the Texans finally beat the Colts for the AFC South crown?
A Peyton Manning less Colts team looks dramatically different than it did just a few days ago, with much of the offense now relying on newly-signed QB Kerry Collins. The Colts still have Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark, but will Collins be able to get them the ball against a revamped Texans defense?
On the Texans side of the ball, Matt Schaub looks to improve on his 2010 Pro Bowl season. Although a fully healthy Andre Johnson returns for the Texans, more question marks emerge with the hamstring problems of running back Arian Foster. A star last year, there are already significant question marks going into the season about Foster’s ability to repeat his success.
Steelers vs. Ravens (Sunday, 1:00 EST)
The Ravens-Steelers rivalry is without a doubt the most physical and violent rivalry in the NFL today.
The Steelers didn’t make any noteworthy offseason moves, but in reality they didn’t need to. They return Big Ben and deep threat Mike Wallace, as well as emerging back Rashard Mendenhall.
On defense, the Steelers boast arguably the angriest and most feared linebacker in the game, James Harrison. Along with Harrison, the Steelers linebacker core is made up of LaMarr Woodley, James Farrior, and Lawrence Timmons. Playing behind them in the secondary is All-Pro safety Troy Polamalu.
The Ravens had a quiet but important offseason with sneaky acquisitions Lee Evans and Vonta Leech. Evans struggled recently in Buffalo, but the former 13th overall pick in the draft is looking for a fresh start with the Ravens. Joe Flacco now has the deep threat he’s always wanted to balance the field for Anquan Boldin. Leech is a powerful fullback who helped in leading both Steve Slaton and more recently Arian Foster to thousand-yard seasons. Expect the same to happen when he lead blocks for Ray Rice.
The Ravens defense boasts the intensity to match the Steelers, led by Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs. Those two, along with All-Pro Ed Reed behind them, will be the key to shutting down the Steelers.
Whoever wins this week one battle will have early pole position in the race for the AFC North crown. Both teams will be looking to set the tone early, so expect a physical game from both sides.
Falcons vs. Bears (Sunday, 1:00 EST)
Atlanta seems to be the favorite team of many analysts to unseat the top dogs in the NFC and it’s no secret why. After going 13-3 last year, the Falcons are returning the core of their team, led by emerging superstar Matt Ryan.
Ryan and wide receiver Roddy White make up one of the most productive duos in the NFL and should continue to get better with age. To go along with White, the Falcons made a surprising draft day trade to move up and select Alabama receiver Julio Jones. The Falcons are hoping the speedy Jones will be the perfect complement to go alongside White and make the passing game one of the best in the league. Throw in Michael Turner and Tony Gonzalez for good measure and the Bears defense could be in for a long game.
Luckily for the Bears though, they still boast a very solid defense, lead by household names Julius Peppers and Brian Urlacher. Peppers teamed with the surprisingly productive Israel Idonije last season to combine for 16 sacks.
For the Bears offense, most of the questions revolve around Jay Cutler and his perceived weaknesses. The last time fans saw Cutler, he was hobbling off in a playoff game. Will Cutler repeat his 2010 campaign under Mike Martz or regress back to the quarterback Bears fans saw in 2009? The addition of Roy Williams should help, but what type of production can be expected from running back Matt Forte in 2011?
On the other side of the ball is the Falcons defense. Lineman John Abraham (13 sacks) will be joined by newly acquired lineman Ray Edwards from the Vikings, who was good for eight sacks last year. In the middle of the defense, the Falcons have Curtis Lofton, who emerged last year as one of the most productive middle linebackers in football.
Maybe the most underappreciated secondary in football, the Falcons will be looking to capitalize on errant Cutler passes on Sunday. Brent Grimes and William Moore each picked off five passes last year, while Dunta Robinson is one of the game’s best man-to-man coverage corners in the league.
Patriots vs. Dolphins (Monday, 7:00 Eastern)
Chad Henne was greeted at the Dolphins first team practice of 2011 by swarms of fans booing. While not the ideal first interaction of the season, Henne shouldn’t have been completely caught off guard. Entering his third full year behind center, this will more than likely be a make or break year for the former Michigan standout.
The Dolphins offense will have to rely heavily on receivers Brandon Marshall and Devon Bess, as well as a new backfield and return weapon in Reggie Bush, if they want to have a successful 2011 campaign.
Henne and the Dolphins will be facing a New England Patriots defense that boasts Pro Bowlers on every line of the defense in cornerback Devin McCourty, linebacker Jerod Mayo, and defensive lineman Vince Wilfork. Factor in newly acquired Albert Haynesworth, as well as rising star safety Patrick Chung, and it will certainly be a tough beginning to such an important season.
The Patriots offense, featuring newly acquired wide receiver Chad Ochocinco, will look to put up big numbers like they have in the past few seasons. Expect a pass happy Patriots team to spread the field early and often, looking to isolate their speedy running backs and tight ends against the Dolphins linebackers.
The key for both teams will be protecting their own quarterbacks while getting to their opposition’s signal callers. With the Pats trying to bounce back from their second straight early exit from the playoffs and the Dolphins looking to get back into playoff contention, this seems to be a very promising battle.
Did we miss any games you’re looking forward to? What’s your biggest storyline for week 1 of the NFL season? Who are you waiting to invest in? Let us know in the comments section.