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Wednesday, September 5, 2012
Initial thoughts on Week 1 matchups

By Paul Kuharsky

Some initial thoughts on the four games we’ll be watching this weekend:

Miami at Houston

Miami left tackle Jake Long is coming of a knee injury and right tackle Jonathan Martin is a rookie. How well can the Dolphins protect rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill against a smothering Texans’ defensive front? Set the over-under on sacks at 4.5, minimally. Maybe everybody gets one, maybe Connor Barwin or Brooks Reed or J.J. Watt ends up with several.

Indianapolis at Chicago

I expect a big season from Bears quarterback Jay Cutler. But the Bears would be wise to start off with a heavy dose of Matt Forte and Michael Bush. The preseason didn’t do much to prove the Colts will be capable of stopping the run. Opponents would be wise to set the tone with a running back before trying to find the holes in the secondary.

Jacksonville at Minnesota

How good is rookie left tackle Matt Kalil out of the gate for the Vikings? The Jaguars own rookie starter, right defensive end Andre Branch, draws the matchup. The second-round rusher will look to get past the first-round blocker to harass second-year quarterback Christian Ponder. We’ve not heard a great deal about Branch yet, but he’s a key addition for the Jags. (We hit on the importance of Eugene Monroe yesterday.)

New England at Tennessee

The Titans love Jake Locker's ability to rebound from tough stuff, and he's likely to be in position to have to do so in the course of this game. The Patriots' defense had some severe deficiencies last season. Can rookie right end Chandler Jones help disrupt Locker, or will Michael Roos hold him at bay? And what kind of coverage wrinkles will Bill Belichick come up with?