January 27, 2013; Honolulu, HI, USA; AFC quarterback Peyton Manning of the Denver Broncos (18, left) shakes hands with NFC quarterback Eli Manning of the New York Giants (10, right) after the 2013 Pro Bowl at Aloha Stadium. The NFC defeated the AFC 62-35. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Quarterback rivalries are the backbone of what makes the NFL so much fun to watch. Few have captivated fans more than the brother vs. brother slug fest between Peyton Manning and Eli Manning. As they prepare to square off for the third time in their careers, what are some other story lines to watch for in week two?
New York Giants eager to give Eli his first victory over Peyton
Family rivalries are nothing new in life, especially on the fields of sports. So there will always be an argument about whether Peyton Manning or Eli Manning is better. Peyton has the stats and awards while Eli has two rings to his one. However, in head-to-head matchups there is no argument. Peyton has beaten the New York Giants both times he played them with Eli at quarterback. This season marks the third and perhaps last chance the younger brother has to erase that stigma. He will need a tremendous effort from the Giants defense to make that happen.
Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers set for war after contrasting debuts
While not quite the most competitive rivalry yet, the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers are certainly the most important and entertaining rivalry in the NFL. Both teams are clear Super Bowl contenders with an extreme hatred towards the other from head coaches Pete Carroll and Jim Harbaugh on down. What makes their week two showdown even more interesting is the contrast in their opening week wins. Seattle won a defensive scrap in Carolina 12-7 while San Francisco outran the Packers 34-28 in a shootout. Something has to give. Will the 12th man of Seattle provide it?
Geno Smith about to get his first taste of Bill Belichick
Bill Belichick is like any other coach. He loves when he gets a chance to go up against rookies, be they offensive linemen or quarterbacks. During his tenure with the New England Patriots, Belichick is 64-24 against passers who haven’t played his team before. So the idea of New York Jets rookie Geno Smith coming into Foxborough must have him very excited. Smith has loads of physical potential but he proved during opening week that he tends to make mistakes under pressure. Expect the Patriots to take advantage. The Jets must counter by leaning more on their run game and having Smith play smart without becoming too aggressive.
Green Bay Packers face another dual-threat quarterback in Robert Griffin III
Colin Kaepernick once again had his way with the Green Bay Packers defense. After smoking them for 181 yards rushing in the playoffs last season, he delivered an encore of 412 yards passing in week one. Clearly the Packers seem to struggle with dual-threat quarterbacks. So the idea of the Washington Redskins and Robert Griffin III coming to town certainly won’t set their minds at ease. Despite his horribly inefficient Monday night performance, RGIII still had 329 passing yards and two touchdowns. Green Bay must look to force him into mistakes like Philadelphia did, otherwise they could experience a horrible case of déjà vu.
Chad Henne in prime position to unseat Blaine Gabbert as starter
The Jacksonville Jaguars are an afterthought, which really doesn’t surprise anybody. Still, it’s interesting when any team has a quarterback controversy and the Jags are no exception. Blaine Gabbert had a terrible first game against Kansas City and compounded that with a hand laceration that has knocked him out for week two against Oakland. This development opens the door wide for veteran Chad Henne, who received a loud message from head coach Gus Bradley wanting him to capture the starting job. A good showing against a bad Raiders defense or especially a win could clinch it for him.
Andrew Luck and Ryan Tannehill set to meet for rematch
The quarterback matchup that a lot of people aren’t talking about much. The last time Ryan Tannehill and Andrew Luck faced each other it was a highly entertaining game that went down to the wire. Both played well, not turning the football over once. In the end Luck had the better day, torching the Miami Dolphins defense for 433 yards and two touchdowns. Tannehill wasn’t quite as aggressive but posted solid numbers at 290 yards and a TD. With another year in the system and a revamped defense, Miami is eager to prove they should’ve won last year. If anything else it could become one of the best games of the week.
Minnesota Vikings facing potential early knock out at hands of Chicago Bears
The division record was what catapulted the Minnesota Vikings to the playoffs last season. Ironically, it’s the same thing that could sink their 2013 campaign before it ever really gets off the ground. After a dreadful opening week in which they lost to the Detroit Lions, the Vikings must now venture into Soldier Field against the Chicago Bears, a place they haven’t won since 2007 and have won just twice in 13 visits dating back to 2000. On top of that they face a Bears team with a new-look offense and a roster out for revenge after Minnesota knocked them out of the playoffs last year despite a 10-6 record. A loss would not only make the Vikings 0-2 to start the season, a stat that rarely ends with teams in the playoffs, but an 0-2 record in the division, which is far worse.
Tony Romo about to get a stiff test from Kansas City Chiefs defense
The Dallas Cowboys started the season off right with a huge win over the division rival Giants. So it might be easy for them to overlook a Kansas City Chiefs team that finished last season 2-14. That would be a mistake. Tony Romo had only 263 passing yards in the game despite his defense forcing six New York turnovers. He also threw an interception and fumbled. Now he goes into a notoriously loud stadium against a defense that boasts four Pro Bowlers. That unit shut down the Jaguars, allowing no points and collecting six sacks. Provided Alex Smith continues to play as efficient as he does, the Chiefs can most certainly spoil the Cowboys’ week.
Pittsburgh Steelers pray Ben Roethlisberger can survive against Bengals
One stat that will linger in the minds of Pittsburgh Steelers fans is 39. That’s how many sacks the Tennessee Titans had a year ago, and they managed to collect five on quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. So with Maurkice Pouncey already out for the year at center, what can be expected from a Cincinnati Bengals defense that had 51 and is coming off a humiliating loss in Chicago where they had zero? Put simply, the Steelers offense better buckle the chin strap tight. Roethlisberger is fixing to have a very long Monday night in Cincinnati unless his team can find a running game or discover a magical solution to overcome the ongoing offensive line problems.
Cleveland Browns hope to actually use Trent Richardson in Baltimore
Perhaps the biggest critique coming out of their loss to Miami was that the Cleveland Browns lost but that they largely asked for it by having quarterback Brandon Weeden drop back 53 times to throw. That is asking a lot of a superstar like Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers. Doing so to a player in his second season as a pro is irresponsible, especially when the Browns have a talented running back in Trent Richardson. He only ran the ball 13 times. Though it was only for 47 yards, it still didn’t make sense there were so few carries considering the team never trailed by more than three points until the fourth quarter. That will have to change heading into Baltimore if they want any hope of getting the 2013 season started right.