|Peyton Manning will square off against Tom Brady for the 14th time on Sunday. (US Presswire)|
It's the start of the second quarter of the NFL season and there is plenty of tape for coaches to evaluate. Games should be a lot closer this quarter of the season as game plans start to reveal tendencies. Here are the things that I will be looking at this week.
1. Peyton Manning vs. Tom Brady: It's the 14th meeting between two HOF quarterbacks, and both defenses will be tested. Each loves the no-huddle offense, allowing them full control of play-calling at the line of scrimmage. Denver has 125 snaps and the Patriots 98 snaps of no-huddle. Both teams have unveiled very effective running games from the no huddle, too. The clues about defending these attacks may lie in how the opposing defenses attempt to play it. Both head coaches (Bill Belichick, John Fox) are defensive-minded coaches, so they could provide clues as to how future opponents attack these offenses. Typically, defenses can't substitute against the no-huddle which reduces defensive options. Keep a close eye on this chess match.
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2. Scoring hasn't slowed down: We've witnessed the most points scored during any four-week stretch in NFL history (2,986), and the most touchdowns (327). Games are averaging more than 46 combined points, and it doesn't look like it's about to slow down. We did have the first shutout last week when the 49ers blanked the Jets, and they have a chance to do it again this week when the Bills visit the Niners, but it's highly unlikely. I looked at shutouts since 2007 and there have been only 27 shutouts in 1,280 games. Over the past five years, 32 percent of teams blanked one week, managed to win the next. I suspect that will not be the case for the Jets this Monday when the Texans visit.
3. QBs under the microscope: At least three quarterbacks enter this week facing calls to bench them. However, the coaches making such decisions aren't ready to make a change. But with another bad game this week, who knows what Week 6 will bring. Mark Sanchez, Matt Cassel and Russell Wilson need to play well this week. Pete Carroll said the competition continues at every position and that includes the quarterback. Tim Tebow waits on the sideline in New York (he threw for 308 yards against the Texans in 2010). Apparently, Chiefs fans are going to fly over the stadium Sunday suggesting changes in Kansas City. All three QBs have tough games this week and I truly hope they answer the bell.
4. Will the real Steelers please stand up? The Steelers are known as an intimidating defense, though that's hardly been the case this season. There is a hope for Steelers fans because Troy Polamalu and James Harrison are ready to return. Without them, the Steel Curtain has given up 92 points, 4.3 per rush, and generated only one turnover in three games. The battle of Pennsylvania vs. the Eagles will be very telling for the Steelers' defense with Polamalu and Harrison back. History says the Steelers' defense at home -- especially after a bye -- should dominate by force. Pittsburgh is 15-4 at home in its past 19 games, yielding only 12 points a game and averaging three sacks. Is that a sign of things to come?
5. Don't think about running against these teams: Houston hasn't given up a rushing touchdown yet in 83 rushing attempts. So, good luck, Jets. When it comes to yards per carry, the Seahawks and Dolphins are he only two teams limiting opponents to fewer than 3 yards per carry. Good luck, Carolina and Cincinnati. Hoping for a big explosive run or two? Don't try it against the Vikings, because the longest run they have given up is 15 yards. Good luck, Tennessee.
6. Road test: Three teams take to the road this weekend with 0-2 road records. Miami heads to Cincinnati, Cleveland heads to the Giants and the Seahawks will be in Carolina. Over two seasons, the Seahawks are 5-14 as a road team, the Browns 3-15 and the Dolphins 8-10. I'm looking for one of these teams to get a road win, despite the odds. The Seahawks can play defense and contain Cam Newton, the Browns face a banged-up Giants and the Dolphins have the defense to make the Bengals one dimensional. The biggest problem all three road teams face is asking a rookie quarterbacks to get the job done.