Breaking down five early Week 1 matchups

With game plans being handed out tomorrow, plus the Saints and Packers going through their red zone prep today as they work towards the Thursday night opener, let’s talk some early Week 1 matchups. Here are five that I am looking at already…

1. Charles Woodson vs. Jimmy Graham: I’ve talked about this recently at the NFP, and although this isn’t an every down matchup to discuss, think crucial situations of the game (third downs, red zone, etc.). What you are going to get from Graham is multiple alignments in a variety of personnel groupings—both inside and outside of the numbers. The Saints will use him down the field and in the intermediate passing game. I want to see the Packers’ CB test him at the line of scrimmage and play the ball in the air.

Anqqun Boldin ICONBoldin has to be "that guy" when the Ravens need a play vs. the Steelers.

2. Anquan Boldin vs. the Steelers’ defense: Extend drives. That’s what I’m thinking with Boldin on Sunday vs. Pittsburgh. And what I’m looking for are inside breaking routes that work the middle of the field vs. the Steelers’ zone blitz schemes. Align as the No.2 and run the underneath crosser in the Hi-Lo concept, the slant and the option route. Quick, simple concepts that put the ball in his hands. I am a big fan of adding WR Lee Evans to the mix in Baltimore, however Boldin has to be “that guy” for QB Joe Flacco when this offense needs a play in the passing game.

3. Felix Jones vs. the Jets front seven: Can’t ask Cowboys QB Tony Romo to beat the Jets’ defense in third and long situations for the entire night. To counter that, Dallas has to get solid production from Jones in early down and distance situations. Win up front with the Lead Open, Lead Strong, etc. and mix in the draw game. Because with Rex Ryan calling this defense, third and 7-plus situations will lead to pressure. The Cowboys need their run game to win early on Sunday night.

4. Kerry Collins vs. Wade Phillips’ defense: I am taking the stance that Peyton Manning will sit this week for the Colts and that should give Kerry Collins the start in the Indy offense. The veteran QB can throw any route concept in the vertical passing game, and on Sunday he will get some one-on-one situations down the field when the Texans play their single high safety defenses (Cover 1, blitz-man). Phillips should challenge Collins with some different pre-snap looks, but it all comes down to the QB's ability to make the throws and test the top of the Houston defense.

5. Julio Jones vs. the Bears Tampa 2: Really anxious to watch the rookie WR play this Sunday in Chicago. I know he has talent, size and deep ball speed—but I want to see him at the line of scrimmage vs. Lovie Smith's Tampa 2 scheme. The Bears’ CBs (Peanut Tillman and Tim Jennings) will work to re-route the Falcons’ WR and force an inside release. Can he consistently win and get into the route stem when the Bears show their Cover 2 shell? Because if he does, then we get to see him work a deep half safety on the 9 (fade), 8 (post) and 7 (corner). That’s good football to check out.

Much more to come on the Week 1 slate of games at the NFP as the week rolls on…

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