Point 1. Drew Brees versus Matthew Stafford. That's just not fair.
While the 0-16 finish by the Detroit Lions last year was slightly amusing,
there's nothing funny about this weekend's matchup between the New Orleans Saints and the Detroit Lions.
I mean, come on. Give these guys a break, will you? This is an out-of-bounds
late hit by whoever drew up this year's schedule.
Brees is playing the quarterback position like he owns it. He threw for over
5,000 yards last year and tossed 34 touchdown passes with tight end Jeremy Shockey and wide receiver Marques Colston missing substantial playing time due
Meanwhile, the Lions have decided to throw top draft pick Matthew Stafford
into the starter's role--even though he was the team's second-best quarterback
during the preseason. Despite my high regard for head coach Jim Schwartz, it's a
move I disagree with on a number of fronts--but none more important than the
fact that Stafford truly doesn't look close to being ready.
While I understand the desire to get your franchise quarterback of the future
started as soon as possible, this has the makings of being a
confidence-shattering outing for the rookie--and one that could leave some marks
on him, compliments of the New Orleans defense.
Point 2. Kevin Boss will play a major role in the Giants'
Boss enters his third season working with quarterback Eli Manning.
Getty Images/Jim McIsaac
With New York entering the season a bit unsettled at the wide receiver
position, quarterback Eli Manning's needs to be able to lean upon his steady,
third-year tight end. Fortunately, Kevin Boss is up to the task.
"Our relationship and chemistry on the field has definitely grown every
year, and we're continuing to get more comfortable with each other," Boss
told me this week. "I think he's starting to be able to read my mind, what
I'm thinking, and we're saying the same thing. I think we're more on the same
After primarily playing a blocking role during his rookie season, Boss
stepped up as the team's No. 1 tight end last year, making 33 catches for 384
yards and scoring six touchdowns. But as he heads into this weekend's matchup
against the Washington Redskins, the 6-foot-6, 253-pound player isn't too
concerned about his stats.
"Most importantly, I want to win. That's the number one thing I want to
do, whatever it takes to help this team win and help get us back to a Super
Bowl," Boss said. "If that takes catching 60 balls, that'd be great.
If it takes catching 35 or 40 and we're still winning, that's fine by me."
Point 3. Unless Matt Cassel's knee is fully healed, the Chiefs should keep him
on the sidelines this Sunday.
I'm sure that new head coach Todd Haley would like to give his team a
fighting chance to win at Baltimore this weekend, but if Cassel isn't
one-hundred percent healthy, the smart move would be to sit this one out.
It's a long season, but it could become considerably shorter for Cassel if he
takes a hit to an injured knee from the likes of Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs or
Haloti Ngata. Haley wasn't there to witness it first-hand, but the "Quarterback of
the Week" situation in Kansas City drained the club's morale. And the last
thing the returning Chiefs players need to see is a similar scenario unfold during Week One action.
But no matter what the Chiefs decide to do about the quarterback position,
the Ravens aren't going to be distracted from the fact that they need to focus
on stopping the running game.
Entering his seventh NFL season, Kansas City's Larry Johnson has an opportunity to reward
the confidence that the team's new management and head coach have shown in him
after two very rocky and disappointing seasons. The former Penn State star
rushed for more than 1,700 yards in back-to-back seasons before his slump, and
sophomore running back Jamaal Charles is hungry for more playing time so that he
can play a more
prominent role in the success of the Chiefs offense.
"They like to run the ball, and we like to stop the run," Ravens
linebacker Ray Lewis said this week. "That's what you really grab from this
type of battle."
Point 4. Rams safety Oshoiomogho "O.J." Atogwe deserves more respect.
Atogwe has been a big-time playmaker in St. Louis over the past three seasons.
Getty Images/Lisa Blumenfeld
Over the past three seasons, the Rams playmaker has notched 21 turnovers for
his team. That's just four short of the mark of the Baltimore Ravens' Ed Reed
during that same span, or roughly one per season. Reed also holds an edge over
Atogwe in passes defensed (54-40), but falls short of St. Louis' franchise tag
player in two other important categories. Atogwe has forced 11 fumbles for his
club versus just two for Reed. And in total tackles, it's not even close.
Atogwe's 232 tackles, including a career-best 85 last year, dwarf Reed's count
of 139 during that span.
But don't get me wrong. Reed is a future Hall of Famer who is one of the most
dominating playmakers of his era. My point is that Atogwe, who has been putting
on quite a show of his own, has been largely overlooked by comparison--and we shouldn't let it happen again, because
he's amazing in his own right.
This weekend, Atogwe heads to Seattle to play the Seahawks, a team that the
Rams have never beaten during his four-year career. But the friendly and humble
defensive back told me this week that Seattle is one of his favorite places to
"We haven't had much success up there, but you can't ask for a better
environment, fans screaming, you feel like they are directly on top of
you," he said. "Regardless of when you're playing, you're going to get
a little bit of rain. It just feels like real football--the environment you
watched as a kid, what you dreamed of playing in--and I think it definitely
meets up to those standards and expectations."
Atogwe is also looking forward to the return of Matt Hasselbeck to Seattle's starting lineup, even though that means a bigger challenge for the Rams
"He has been in this offensive system for so long, there's not too much
he doesn't know about it, not too much he hasn't seen," he said. "It's
really a chess match, so to speak, to try to rattle him and get in his mind,
because he's been doing it for so long at a high level. In my eyes, he's still a
Pro Bowl-caliber quarterback."
Point 5. For some real fun this weekend, keep an eye on Dwight Freeney and
Robert Mathis in the Colts-Jaguars game.
Dwight Freeney will be a huge test for Jaguars rookie Eugene Monroe.
Getty Images/Harry How
Congratulations Eugene Monroe and Eben Britton, you've earned the right to be
the Week One starting bookends on the Jacksonville Jaguars' offensive line as
rookies. That's an impressive feat and both players should be extremely proud of
But the bad news is that they have to face two of the most talented
pass-rushers in the NFL during their debut against the Indianapolis Colts.
Monroe, the team's top draft pick, draws the matchup at left tackle against
Dwight Freeney. Britton, the first offensive lineman taken in the second round
of the draft, will dig in against Robert Mathis.
While both rookies are worthy of their high draft status, I give Britton a
better shot at keeping Mathis in check. The former University of Arizona
offensive tackle worked out of the spread offense, so he's gotten more than his
fair share of pass protection reps. And despite his 6-foot-6, 310-pound frame,
he has good speed and long arms that will help him immensely in his upcoming
battle with the quick and dangerous defensive end.
Point 6. The 49ers-Cardinals matchup is an important test for both teams.
Who would have thought it? After watching the Cardinals nearly win a Super
Bowl, a season opener against the 49ers should have been an automatic checkmark
in the win column for this team.
But after an erratic preseason by the Boys of Birdland, and a new attitude in
San Francisco, this game could actually be worth watching.
Head coach Mike Singletary has drilled home the message that he expects his
players to bring an intensity to the field that's been lacking in San Francisco
for years. And while it appears that the team is on a much better track, that
nagging question about the stability of the quarterback position with Shaun Hill
taking the snaps this weekend still lingers..
Bottom line? The Cardinals need to stop inspired running back Frank Gore and get their
talented passing game on a roll early if they want to put the preseason
rumblings of doubt to rest.
Point 7. The NFL knows how to get fans excited like no other sports league
in the world.
If you watched the opening of the Steelers-Titans matchup on Thursday night
and didn't get chills, have someone heck your pulse to make sure you're still
They had me riveted once again as I watched the emotionally-charged clips of
last year's Super Bowl action. A wave of nostalgia hit me as I looked at the
smiling faces of great Steelers players of the past proudly displaying their
rings. And the gleaming six Lombardi trophies were yet another reminder of the
exhilarating triumph that only a single team out of this year's field of 32 will
The music swelled, the fireworks filled the night skies over the city of
Pittsburgh and Heinz Field. And then the Steelers roared out of their tunnel
with the music blaring, "Let's get it started."
Indeed. Let's get it started.
Be prepared to spend plenty of time on the edge of your seat for the next few
months. There's nothing like NFL football, folks.
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A member of the Pro Football Writers of America, Ed Thompson's player interviews and NFL features are published across the Scout.com network and at FOXSports.com.