There are going to be some tremendous matchups when the first full slate of NFL regular season games get going later this weekend.
There are also some pretty obvious mismatches up and down the schedule. None more than the Philadelphia Eagles offense taking on a Jacksonville Jaguars defense that is still attempting to find an identity.
And that’s where we begin this article that focuses on 10 NFL players set for huge Week 1 performances.
1. LeSean McCoy, Running Back, Philadelphia Eagles
Projected Statistics: 20 attempts, 115 yards, three receptions, 35 yards and two touchdowns
McCoy should be able to do pretty much whatever he wants against a Jacksonville Jaguars defense that ranked 29th in the NFL against the run last season. While adding Red Bryant to the mix should help Gus Bradley’s team improve a unit that gave up 131.8 rushing yards per game last season, it won’t be enough to hold McCoy in check.
The All-Pro running back averaged 134.1 total yards per game in 2013. There is absolutely no reason to believe he won’t match or surpass those numbers come Sunday.
2. Colin Kaepernick, Quarterback, San Francisco 49ers
Projected Statistics: 19/29, 260 passing yards, five attempts, 50 yards, three total touchdowns and zero interceptions
Dallas’ pass defense ranked 30th last season. Quarterbacks threw for nearly 4,400 yards and 33 touchdowns in 16 games against Lane Kiffin’s group. This came with both DeMarcus Ware and Sean Lee in the lineup for the most part. Enter into the equation a Cowboys defense that may take another step back this season, and Kaepernick has all the indicators to put up some huge numbers in this one.
The talented young quarterback finished last season by tallying 17 touchdowns compared to five interceptions in his final nine games. He now lines up against a Cowboys defense that yielded 340-plus passing yards six different times last season, including 400-plus yards three times. He does so with a full complement of healthy receiving options, including recent acquisition Stevie Johnson. There is no reason to expect No. 7 to struggle at all on the road come Sunday. Also, remember what he did against the Green Bay Packers to open the 2013 campaign.
3. Peyton Manning, Quarterback, Denver Broncos
Projected Statistics: 24/38, 330 yards, four touchdowns and zero interceptions
Manning will find himself in similar articles throughout the entire 2014 season. What he did last year was nothing short of amazing. And going up against an Indianapolis Colts defense without the pass-rush threat that is Robert Mathis (suspended) is going to be pretty big in this one.
If Manning is given the time to find open windows come Sunday night, he will eat apart a lackluster Colts secondary that saw Manning put up 386 yards and three scores in their matchup last season. In addition to this, Manning put up an average of 352 yards and 3.4 touchdowns at home last season. Look for a similar performance here, win or lose.
4. Kendall Wright, Wide Receiver, Tennessee Titans
Projected Statistics: Eight receptions for 110 yards and one touchdown
Don’t look now, but Wright is set to break out big time in 2014. The former first-round pick put up 94 receptions for over 1,000 yards as a sophomore in 2013. He did so without the services of Jake Locker, who appears to have taken the next step towards relevancy, for all but seven games last year.
Tennessee will take on a Chiefs team with a suspect secondary. They released Brandon Flowers during the offseason and will be forced to throw out the likes of Sean Smith and Marcus Cooper as starting cornerbacks in 2014. If Tennessee’s above-average line holds up, Wright will be able to put on a show at Arrowhead. Expect a big game from him.
5. Vincent Jackson, Wide Receiver, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Projected Statistics: Six receptions, 115 yards and two touchdowns
Sunday will be the first big test of Chicago Bears 2.0 in Tampa Bay. Head coach Lovie Smith makes his Buccaneers coaching debut with familiar face Josh McCown under center. He does so with the ability to utilize both Mike Evans and Jackson at receiver against a Carolina Panthers defense that will be starting Melvin White, Antoine Cason, Roman Harper and Thomas DeCoud in the secondry. That’s not necessarily the Legion of Boom right there. Expect a huge game for Jackson here.
6. Tony Romo, Quarterback, Dallas Cowboys
Projected Statistics: 29/45, 340 yards, three touchdowns and one interception
Romo might have to throw for 6,000 yards in order for the Cowboys to have a shot at the playoffs in 2014. Seriously, their defense is going to make it difficult on one of the most under-appreciated quarterbacks in the NFL.
Fortunately for Cowboys fans, Romo appears to be healthy and has a strong offense to help him put up some franchise-record numbers in 2014. They will also be taking on a 49ers team that is going to be without the services of NaVorro Bowman and Aldon Smith. This means that Romo should be able to find the likes of Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams and Jason Witten on a consistent basis. In terms of statistics, Romo will have to put the ball up a whole heck of a lot if the Cowboys are going to have a chance in this one.
7. Michael Floyd, Wide Receiver, Arizona Cardinals
Projected Statistics: Six receptions, 100 yards and one touchdown
Now that Andre Ellington is likely going to be out for some time, Carson Palmer and Co. are going to have to put the ball in the air a lot in order to stay competitive. This starts on Monday Night football against a San Diego Chargers pass defense that left a lot to be desired last season.
It is expected that newcomer Brandon Flowers will line up against Larry Fitzgerald, which means Floyd will get the task of going up against Shareece Wright. The Notre Dame product recorded 65 receptions for over 1,000 yards as a sophomore last season. He should produce at a higher level when all is said and done Monday night.
8. Nick Foles, Quarterback, Philadelphia Eagles
Projected Statistics: 25/38, 310 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions
I am having a hard time figuring out how Jacksonville is going to game plan against the Eagles offense. Surely a lot of coordinators have had that issue with Chip Kelly both in college football and his one year in Philadelphia. It really has to be mind numbing at this point.
Considering that Jacksonville’s focus in the offseason was to improve its run defense and front seven, we can expect Gus Bradley and Co. to stack the box against LeSean McCoy. The issue here is that Foles will find a ton of open windows to throw through against single coverage on the outside. Once the Eagles have success there, it will force the Jaguars to throw nickel coverage the Eagles way, giving McCoy lanes to run through. Yeah, it’s just not a good matchup for the home team in this one. And expect Foles to take full advantage.
9. Dez Bryant, Wide Receiver, Dallas Cowboys
Projected Statistics: Seven receptions, 120 yards and two touchdowns
The opportunites Bryant gets to eat come Sunday is going to be absolutely ridiculous. Likely forced to go up against a 49ers offense that will put up points at will, the Cowboys are going to have to counter punch all afternoon long. This means that Bryant will get a ton of targets against Chris Culliver, who hasn’t played in a real competitive game since Super Bowl XLVII.
Bryant was targeted an average of 10 times per game last season. Based on all the indicators for this game, you can expect that number to be on the lower end of the spectrum Week 1. If so, the Pro Bowl receiver will put up some rather large numbers when all is said and done.
10. Frank Gore, Running Back, San Francisco 49ers
Projected Statistics: 16 attempts, 100 yards, two receptions, 15 yards and one touchdown
Running backs tallied over 2,000 yards and 17 touchdowns against the Cowboys defense last season. Offenses also averaged 150 rushing yards against the Cowboys during the final nine games of the 2013 campaign. With Henry Melton hobbled and Sean Lee out for the season, we can expect these numbers to remain near the same in 2014. While Gore will likely be on a pitch count come Sunday, he’s still going to put up some elite numbers against this horrendous defense.
Photo: USA Today