Week one of the 2014 NFL season continues on with the only installment of two games on Monday Night Football for the year. NFL seasons have been kicking off with two prime time games on Monday night’s for a few years now, and that trend continues as the New York Giants, Detroit Lions, San Diego Chargers and Arizona Cardinals are all set to grace your television screen.
The week of exciting NFL action is almost over, but two more games might make it feel like it will never end. That’s sort of the plan (and really the hope). With more NFL action coming our way, let’s take a second to break down both matchups and note the top keys to each game:
New York Giants @ Detroit Lions
Eli Manning and the G-Men’s pitiful offense will try to avoid a second year of 0-6 awfulness to get things going, but to keep the first part of the hole going to 0-1, they’ll need to beat a decent Lions team on the road. Detroit has a good pass rush, but otherwise isn’t all that scary on defense. That leaves the door open for Manning to bounce back and put his new system and solid supporting cast to good use.
On the flip-side, the Lions are stacked on offense and despite the Giants being better on defense (on paper, at least), they shouldn’t have much trouble hanging some points on Big Blue on their own turf. The only question will be whether the Giants crumble in a blowout or make this an interesting shootout.
Key to the game: Rashad Jennings beasting out. The G-Men badly need an effective rushing attack in this one (and likely all future games) or Eli will crack under the pressure and force the issue. Doing so will at a minimum keep Detroit honest and help set up a hopefully improved passing attack. If that happens, we just might have a classic shootout on our hands.
San Diego Chargers @ Arizona Cardinals
Arizona has a banged up defense across the board, as safety Tyrann Mathieu (knee) might not play and Darnell Dockett (injury) and Daryl Washington (suspension) are both out for the year. With just one effective pass rusher on the outside of their 3-4, the Cardinals could plummet in the defensive ranks. That’s good news for the Chargers, who are a pretty talented and balanced offense.
On the other side, San Diego had one of the worst pass defenses a year ago, but drafted Jason Verrett and added veteran corner Brandon Flowers. On paper, they could take a pretty big leap in that department.
Key to the game: Mathieu’s availability. Mathieu is necessary for preventing big plays over the top, as well as helping against the run. Without all three of those stud defenders, Arizona won’t be able to shut down Ryan Mathews and San Diego’s rushing attack. If that happens, that’s an ugly can of worms that opens up for the Bolts to go nuts offensively. If Mathieu plays, he could help keep the Chargers in check to a certain degree.