Saturday, August 27, 2011

What to Watch for: Falcons at Steelers

I always like the third preseason game, because it's more like an actual game than any other in the preseason.  The starters will get more time, maybe the starting five on the offensive line will be in the game deep into the third quarter, and you get a better sense for what the team will actually look like when the games start counting.  The fourth preseason game, the starters are usually only in for a series or two and it's pretty depressing to watch, since you know that everyone else involved in the game is playing for their job.

For tonight, I'm going to keep an eye on the following things:

  1. I just mentioned the starting five on the offensive line.  But, really, the only position that's completely set is center.  With injuries, the release of Flozell Adams and Max Starks, and general ineffectiveness from the field, we're really not sure who's going to be in the line-up when the season kicks off against the hated Ravens on September 11th.  It would be really nice if a few guys stepped up in this game and gave us a clearer picture.  I'm also interested in finding out who they roll out as the five starters.  Then, of course, how those guys run block and pass protect.  I was impressed by how the collection of walking wounded and back-ups protected Roethlisberger in the second game and I'm hoping they can keep that up, whoever the four guys that are surrounding Pouncey are.
  2. Keenan Lewis and William Gay played well against the Eagles and the reps they're getting with the first team will help the defense throughout the course of the season.  But, they're facing off against Roddy White and Julio Jones tonight and that's some tough competition.  I would like to hope that they won't get burned, but I have a bad feeling that they will regress.  Since there's no doubt that they read this blog and are wondering what I have to say, I'm officially issuing a challenge to Lewis and Gay to step up their games and play well tonight.  It's on, guys.  See you at Jack's after the game so we can break down the film.
  3. I like the signing of Jerricho Cotchery, but I'm concerned that he wasn't running with the first team in the last game.  Hopefully, he'll be running with them tonight and I can get a better look at him.  With Cotchery, Wallace, Ward, a healthy Emmanuel Sanders, Heath Miller, and the way Antonio Brown has been developing, this could be a very, very potent passing offense.  That's provided, of course, that the offensive line can keep Roethlisberger upright.
  4. I want to see how much gas Michael Turner has left in the tank, strictly for Fantasy purposes.  He got a late start in his career, but it seems like he already has a lot of miles on him.  He's pushing 30, which is like 85 in running back years, so it will be good to see how he performs against a great run defense like the Steelers.
  5. Similarly, I'm going to have an eye on Matt Ryan, Jones, and White.  Atlanta traded their entire draft to get Jones and I want to see if he's as good as advertised.  The Falcons have no shortage of offensive talent, either, and all those guys are on my Fantasy watch list.
  6. The linebackers all have their story lines and I want to keep an eye on them. LaMarr Woodley and Lawrence Timmons both signed huge deals in the offseason.  I want to see if they'll try to go out and earn that money or if they'll sit back and spend the rest of the contract counting it.  James Harrison had a rough offseason and he turned 33 in May.  James Farrior took a big step back in 2009 after a solid 2008 and he turned 36 in January.  Surprisingly, I'm not that worried about the defensive line, since they have plenty of quality, young depth, even if the average age of the starting three is death.
  7. On both sides, I want to watch timing.  It has seemed off thus far this preseason -- which is understandable, considering that there weren't any team-sponsored practices in the offseason -- but all NFL team have had a few weeks to get that ironed out.  Really, I'm watching to see if it's still pretty far off and timing issues will drag out into the regular season.
I usually try to figure out what the Steelers need to do to win the game, but I have to say that I don't care if they win or lose this one.  I'm just watching out for the items discussed above.

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