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NFL: Chargers Face Tough Task To Earn First Win

football

Week two of the NFL regular season is ahead this weekend, and if it can live up to the high standards of week one then we will be in for a treat. It is also a critical juncture for a lot of teams, and results at the end of this week may set the tone for the season. Start the season with two losses and it’s a long road back, with the words losing streak echoing around the camp. On the other hand, any team that can notch its second victory is already well-placed to make a run for a playoff spot. With so much on the line already, let’s preview five of the weekend’s most highly anticipated games.

Detroit Lions at Carolina Panthers

The Carolina Panthers were somewhat surprising week one winners, overcoming the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in spite of starting quarterback Cam Newton missing the action. Picking up a victory away from home in the NFC South could be telling come the end of the season, and it’s all the more impressive considering the Panthers secondary and wide receiver positions were decimated in the off-season.  Back-up quarterback Derek Anderson did well in Cam’s absence, but the 2011 first overall draft pick will be back under center this weekend. The Panthers vowed not to change the playbook with Cam out, but Anderson failed to supply the same running threat. Newton’s return should give Carolina’s running backs more room to run.

 

The Detroit Lions obliterated the New York Giants on Monday Night Football, with big games from Matt Stafford, Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate. That is a devastating offensive trio to have, especially considering how much improvement Stafford seems to have made under new head coach Jim Caldwell. Stafford was ducking and diving in the pocket, extending plays like never before. If he can continue to turn that previous weakness into strength, then the Lions will have a chance in every game, because Megatron is always going to make plays. Yet penalties follow the Lions around like a bad smell. Poor discipline loses NFL games quicker than anything else.

Verdict: Carolina Panthers

Atlanta Falcons at Cincinnati Bengals

The Cincinnati Bengals beat up the Baltimore Ravens in week one, even if the final score said otherwise. Yet the Bengals scored most of their points from field goals and that inability to convert on third-down nearly cost them late following a Ravens comeback attempt. Andy Dalton has critics coming at him from all sides, and a lack of precision when the game is on the line won’t ease that pressure. Still, the Bengals have tremendous depth on the defensive side of the ball, as well as some strong players at the skill positions. Tight-end Tyler Eifert will miss the next few Bengals outings, but this is a team that can potentially go toe-to-toe with anyone in the league.

The Atlanta Falcons scored a huge divisional win over rivals the New Orleans Saints in week one, and in some style too. They came back from an early Saints onslaught by finally finding some defensive pressure. Yet the most obvious thing we saw was the depth of offensive talent the Falcons now have on offense. Matt Ryan will continue throwing for big numbers, because no team can shut down all of Julio Jones, Roddy White, Harry Douglas and Devin Hester at once. The Falcons were beset by injury last season and are a strong candidate to bounce back this year, if everybody stays healthy. How they do in a tough away assignment in Cincinnati may show us if this team is for real.

Verdict: Cincinnati Bengals

Seattle Seahawks at San Diego Chargers
The San Diego Chargers came unstuck last weekend against the NFC West’s Arizona Cardinals. It was a tough loss, only going down by a single point in the end. The schedule hasn’t handed them an easy follow-up game, as the next NFC West team up are the reigning Super Bowl champions. This will force the Chargers to raise their game once more, as they simply cannot afford to fall two games behind the Denver Broncos so early. Danny Woodhead will be key to their attack on the champs, as he has been running with great success since he got down to the west coast. Brandon Flowers is also massive help in a struggling secondary, and he effectively shut out Larry Fitzgerald last weekend. His defensive partners will need to aid him, as the offensive line will need to help out Woodhead.

On paper, there is no team who could beat the Seattle Seahawks. They have such tremendous young players, who all appear so hungry. They’ve got great depth throughout the side and they can beat you in any number of ways. Still though, it’s unlikely that they will go unbeaten through the season, and this game could be a potential banana-skin for them. Teams are going to raise their games against them, and the Seahawks should expect a sterner challenge than the Green Bay Packers put up against them. That being said, if Percy Harvin and Marshawn Lynch pick up where they left off in the season-opener, it’s really hard to see the Chargers defense living with them.

Verdict: Seattle Seahawks

Chicago Bears at San Francisco Forty-Niners

The San Francisco Forty-Niners had barely broken a sweat in establishing a 21-3 first quarter lead over the Dallas Cowboys in their first outing. This was partly attributable to a lousy performance from the Cowboys, but it went some way to allaying fears that the Niners may struggle early in the season until key parts of their defense return. Justin Smith appeared evergreen on the defensive line, causing a reputable Cowboys offensive line significant hassle. Colin Kaepernick continues to grow into his role of quarterback, making some majestic plays under pressure, most notably a massive touchdown pass to Vernon Davis. If they are to keep pace with the Seahawks and contend for the NFC title, home games are must-wins. The Forty-Niners have a lot of key players who are getting up there in years, and it would be a shame if their Super Bowl window closed without them claiming the title. If they can win this one comprehensively, they might not be finished yet.

The Chicago Bears were turned over at home by the Buffalo Bills at home in week one. Not many people thought they would be writing that sentence when the fixtures came out, but Buffalo have a much better team than they are credited with. Still, Chicago should have been able to see that game out. They get to let their personal frustrations out on a Niners side who will happily take it all and dish out some more. Bears fans may have pined for Josh McCown while watching Jay Cutler make more awful mistakes. Whether it’s of comfort or not to know that McCown had an awful time himself last week remains unclear. But what is clear is that the Bears are going to have to find a few extra gears if they are to live with San Francisco. It’s hard to find any reasons to believe in them yet.

Verdict: San Francisco Forty-Niners

Philadelphia Eagles at Indianapolis Colts

The Indianapolis Colts were dealt a monumental task in week one. An away game against the Denver Broncos has never been easy, let alone when Peyton Manning is running the show. But the Colts first-half performance was really poor, altitude or no altitude. It was a performance typical of Indy in the last couple of season; fall behind early, rally hard in the fourth quarter and try to pull it out of the bag. They never really threatened to actually steal the win in Denver, but they made it close at least.  But Manning did expose some real issues in the Colts defense, notably in their failure to apply any kind of serious coverage to Julius Thomas, who ran amok and scored three touchdowns. At least after playing Denver, they have had some practice of covering multiple talented receivers. Their ability to do that successfully this weekend will be vital. But it really would be nice if Indy could come out and lead from the front, for once. Or run the ball.

The Philadelphia Eagles were also sluggish starters in week one, falling seventeen points behind the Jacksonville Jaguars before they came back to win. Philly are quite like the Colts in some ways, especially that defense is not their forte. They can move the ball on the ground though, and LeSean McCoy could well have a big day, both in the backfield and through the air. It’s hard to see too many of Indy’s linebackers coping with him if he can find open space. Jeremy Maclin provides a fine deep threat, but the onus is on Nick Foles to prove he isn’t a one-season wonder. Expect this to be a very high-scoring game on Monday Night Football.

Verdict: Indianapolis Colts

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

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