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NFL Match-Up Mania: Week 2

Second half comebacks were the name of the game as Week 1 brought us multiple teams who went from down double digits to the thrill of victory with 1-0 records. I don’t see that occurring this week, but there are still plenty of pleasing pairings prepared for the coming week. Check them out in Week 2’s edition of The Student of the Game’s Match-Up Mania.

Steelers v. Ravens

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For those who’ve not read the Match-up Mania for any length of time during its inaugural run last year, Let me be clear — accept as fact that for the foreseeable future I will be listing this pairing as a feature every week it will occur.

Are both defenses a fraction of their former self compared to their recent respective championship campaigns? — yes. Have both teams offense lost key elements due to cap concerns? — yes. But looking at the depth chart and players facing on another doesn’t necessarily paint the whole picture of what makes games between these teams great. What makes this match-up work is by what it’s built in — the best new age rivalry in the NFL that’s not “San Francisco vs. Seattle”.

These games between the historic Pittsburgh organization run by the Rooney family and the franchise formerly known as the Cleveland Browns have a number of memorable moments in the past few years. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger leading a comeback for the Steel City after suffering an epic beating and injuries including a broken nose, signal caller, Joe Flacco, hitting then rookie wide receiver, Tory Smith, for six after he dropped a sure touchdown pass previously in the game’s final scoring drive, or Pittsburgh Head Coach Mike Tomlin allegedly tripping Jacoby Jones during a kick return on Thanksgiving. While these moments may not resonate throughout NFL history as say , “The Ice Bowl”, the image of Roethlisberger’s bloody nose in the shape of a “V” as he awaited attention from medical staff is burned into my mind and somewhere in the pro football archives.

But this particular match still has some compelling competition in various match-ups. Even some of them featuring new faces featured to boot.

Who will the on-field face-off managing their units. . . Flacco or Steeler staple Troy Polamalu? What about Big Ben vs. Matt Elam? Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata vs center Maurkice Pouncey’s battle is literally and figuratively central to the outcome of this contest. And of course, I’m all about which veteran wins the day when pass catcher Steve Smith in his second regular season game as a Raven goes against cornerback, Ike Taylor.¬† Sure, I expect the Steelers to win because Ben’s a better quarterback than Flacco, but it’s not a lock. And no matter what, there’s enough angry passion in this pairing to provide plenty of fine football.

49ers v. Bears

While I was not one of those spewing with negative hype surrounding the inevitably of 49er failure going into the Week 1affair against the Cowboys (and we all saw how that turned out), when it comes to San Francisco facing the Bears, even I have to follow the cynical crowd on this one. . . to an extent. With linebacker Navarro Bowman on the Physically Unable to Perform list, pass rushing great Aldon Smith serving suspension, and the uncertain future surrounding the defensive tackle position with Ray MacDonald’s recent domestic violence arrest, there are questions that may stymie that squad’s ability to stop an offense that was top 5 last year even with starting quarterback Jay Cutler missing five games.

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However, season opening performances by both teams suggested that Chicago’s winning in Week 2 is not a foregone conclusion. The Niners’ running game has the look of pure Rice-A-Roni. . . a San Francisco treat. Conversely, when defending the run against the Buffalo Bills, the Bears look like Chicago deep dish pizza at times. . . a whole lot of melted cheese.

If the Warriors of the Windy City remain unable to wind down the ground game, it’ll be a big day for Red and Gold running backs Frank Gore and Ohio State rookie, Carlos Hyde. That will keep Cutler and his corps of pass catchers stuck on the sideline. If wide receivers Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, Santonio Holmes and tight end Martellus Bennett are minimized as such, the 49ers go 2-0.

Eagles v. Colts

Two young quarterbacks looking to take both their teams back to the top of their respective divisions. Philly’s New Hope, Nick Foles, who commanded a 34 point comeback in the second half of the Eagles’ Week 1 win and Indy’s Comeback Commander Andrew Luck who nearly raised his squad from the proverbial dead after a 24-0 deficit against Peyton Manning and the Broncos in the 31-24 Mile High opener. With both sides in this contest lacking any sort of intimidating defensive threat, look for this game to be a Monday night firework show.

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Victory is a concept made more difficult an undertaking for Luck since Trent Richardson and Ahmad Bradshaw provide far less support from the running back position than do Foles’ friends LeSean McCoy and Darren Sproles.

It’s unwise to bet against the Comeback Commander as a rule, but with what I evidence I do have, I see the Eagles flying based on their ability to run.

Honorable Mention

Dolphins v. Bills

When I first looked at the schedule for Week 2, I wouldn’t have given this pairing a second look. . . But then Buffalo upset the Bears in Chicago and the Dolphins won hosting the Patriots and shocked the football world.

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While Miami’s D-line featuring edge rusher¬† was a strong force rushing the passer, the Phins running defense left much more to be desired. This could be a problem when considering what Bills running backs Fred Jackson, Anthony Dixon, and CJ Spiller did last week. That all being said, I still need more proof before I believe that the Bills are circling the wagons to pioneer an expedition to this year’s postseason.

Author Profile

Kyle NashThe Student of the Game
Host of the Student of The Game Podcast Monday @ 7:30pm EST
Writer for NGSC Sports
Narrator of Sport Symposium on NGSC Sports YouTube Channel.

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