Week 1 - AFC Notes

Kickoff Weekend 2010 will conclude in doubleheader fashion this Monday in primetime as four AFC quarterbacks aim to start the season on a winning note. 

Round one on Monday consists of two former first-round picks – quarterbacks JOE FLACCO of the Baltimore Ravens and MARK SANCHEZ of the New York Jets – who will meet at The New Meadowlands Stadium in the first Monday Night Football game (7:00 PM ET, ESPN) of the season.  Flacco enters his third NFL season with a 20-12 (.625) record as a starter and aims to win on Kickoff Weekend for the third consecutive year.  After an impressive rookie season in 2009, Sanchez will unveil the 2010 version of the Jets offense on center stage.

The AFC West will be featured in the second contest as MATT CASSEL and the Kansas City Chiefs host PHILIP RIVERS and the San Diego Chargers, showcasing the unique renovation of one of the NFL’s iconic venues – Arrowhead Stadium (10:15 PM ET, ESPN).  Rivers is 20-4 (.833) as a starter against the AFC West and hopes to continue that success.  Cassel begins his second season in Kansas City and will find comfort in a Chiefs offense that made positive strides a year ago.


Below is a team-by-team look at the quarterback position in the AFC in 2010:


BALTIMORE:  JOE FLACCO has hopes of reaching postseason play for the third consecutive year in Baltimore.  Flacco set career highs in completions (315), yards (3,613), TDs (21) and passer rating (88.9) in 2009 and is focused on surpassing his accomplishments from last season.  The strong-armed quarterback will depend on a veteran wide receiver trio of DERRICK MASON and newcomers T.J. HOUSHMANDZADEH and ANQUAN BOLDIN and a rushing attack featuring two All-Stars – running back RAY RICE and fullback LE’ RON MC CLAIN.


BUFFALO TRENT EDWARDS won the starting quarterback job after a three-man competition during training camp.  Entering his fourth season, Edwards will be aided by an assortment of running backs – FRED JACKSONMARSHAWN LYNCH and rookie C.J. SPILLER.  In the passing game, Edwards will target go-to wide receiver LEE EVANS, who led the team with seven touchdown receptions last season.


CINCINNATI:  Excitement is building in Cincinnati as the Bengals aim for back-to-back AFC North titles.  A Bengals offense under the direction of quarterback CARSON PALMER will feature new additions with free agent acquisition TERRELL OWENSand rookies JERMAINE GRESHAM and JORDAN SHIPLEY.  The Bengals’ all-time leader in receptions (684) and receiving yards (9,952), CHAD OCHOCINCO, and running back CEDRIC BENSON will continue to be familiar options for Palmer.   


CLEVELAND:  Signed by the Browns this offseason, JAKE DELHOMME embarks on his 12th NFL season.  The savvy veteran quarterback will look to utilize multi-purpose wide receiver JOSHUA CRIBBS, who finished 2009 with the fifth-most all-purpose yards in a single season in NFL history (2,510), along with a young cast of wideouts.  Newly-acquired tight end BEN WATSON, who spent the past six seasons in New England, will also be at Delhomme’s disposal.    


DENVER:  KYLE ORTON continues to progress under the guidance of head coach JOSH MC DANIELS.  In 2009, Orton set career-highs with 336 completions, 3,802 passing yards and 21 touchdowns.  The sixth-year pro will rely heavily on wideoutsJABAR GAFFNEY and EDDIE ROYAL and a ground game led by KNOWSHON MORENO, who topped NFL rookies with 947 rushing yards last season. 


HOUSTON:  Quarterback MATT SCHAUB will play a huge role as the Texans challenge for their first playoff bid in franchise history.  Named to his first Pro Bowl last season, Schaub threw for a league-high 4,770 passing yards in 2009.  Schaub will look to continue his chemistry with All-Star wide receiver ANDRE JOHNSON, who has led the NFL in receiving yards each of the past two seasons (1,575 in 2008; 1,569 in 2009) and sure-handed tight end OWEN DANIELS.


INDIANAPOLIS:  Coming off two consecutive MVP seasons, PEYTON MANNING aims to lead the Colts to postseason play for the ninth straight year.  The 13-year veteran will once again find comfort in reliable targets REGGIE WAYNE, who caught at least 100 passes for the second time in his career last season, and DALLAS CLARK, who became the second tight end in NFL history to record 100-plus catches in one season (TONY GONZALEZ).


JACKSONVILLE:  A fourth-round pick in the 2002 NFL Draft from East Carolina, DAVID GARRARD enters his fourth season as a starter for the Jaguars.  The nine-year veteran will rely on Pro Bowl running back MAURICE JONES-DREW out of the backfield and wideout MIKE SIMS-WALKER as a go-to receiver as he aims for his third straight 3,500-yard passing season.  The 6-1, 236-pound QB also serves as a threat outside of the pocket.  Since 2007, Garrard has rushed for 830 yards, most among quarterbacks.


KANSAS CITY:  MATT CASSEL looks to flourish under the direction of offensive coordinator CHARLIE WEIS, who returns to the NFL ranks in 2010.  Cassel will have running backs JAMAAL CHARLES and newcomer THOMAS JONES at his disposal to lead the rushing attack.  In the passing game, Cassel will lean on veteran receiver CHRIS CHAMBERS as a key target and rookie wide receiver DEXTER MC CLUSTER to provide playmaking ability after the catch.      


MIAMI:  Third-year quarterback CHAD HENNE will enter his first season as a starter on Kickoff Weekend.  Henne’s top pass-catching option will be All-Star BRANDON MARSHALL, who was acquired via trade by the Dolphins this offseason.  Marshall aims to join MARVIN HARRISON and JERRY RICE as the only players in NFL history with 100-plus receptions in four consecutive seasons.  In an effort to keep opponents off balance, Henne will utilize veteran running backs RONNIE BROWN andRICKY WILLIAMS.       


NEW ENGLAND:  A proven winner, TOM BRADY enters his 11th season with a 111-34 (.765) record (including postseason) – the best win percentage of any NFL quarterback in the Super Bowl era with at least 100 starts.  In 2009, Brady passed for the second-highest yardage total of his career (4,398), while earning Associated Press Comeback Player of the Year honors.  Brady will turn to All-Star receivers RANDY MOSS and WES WELKER, along with emerging wideout JULIAN EDELMAN, as he aims for a third 4,000-yard season in the past four years.


NEW YORK Jets:   After finishing one win shy of Super Bowl XLIV, quarterback MARK SANCHEZ has high aspirations in his second NFL season.  The 23-year old quarterback will be protected by an offensive line that returns four of five starters, including All-Stars NICK MANGOLD and D’ BRICKASHAW FERGUSON.  Sanchez’s top two receiving options BRAYLON EDWARDS and JERRICHO COTCHERY return, while wide receiver SANTONIO HOLMES and running back LA DAINIAN TOMLISON will be new additions to the Jets’ offense.


OAKLAND:  Acquired from the RedskinsJASON CAMPBELL is ready to kick off a new era in Oakland. Campbell, who will be under the direction of offensive coordinator HUE JACKSON, will look to young receivers DARRIUS HEYWARD-BEYLOUIS MURPHY and CHAZ SCHILENS to stretch the field.  The sixth-year veteran has improved statistically in each season since entering the NFL.  In 2009, Campbell registered career-highs in passing yards (3,618), touchdowns (20) and passer rating (86.4). 


PITTSBURGH:  Head coach MIKE TOMLIN named third-year quarterback DENNIS DIXON the Steelers starter on Kickoff Weekend.  Dixon, who was selected by the Steelers in the fifth round (No. 156 overall) of the 2008 NFL Draft has a big arm that can deliver the ball down field and has mobility to keep defenders on the edge.


SAN DIEGO:  The Chargers’ vocal leader, PHILIP RIVERS ranks second in the NFL among active quarterbacks with a .719 (46-18) win percentage.  The seventh-year veteran has led the Chargers to four AFC West titles in his four seasons as the starter.  Rivers posted a career-high 4,254 passing yards last season and can become the first Chargers quarterback to record 4,000-plus yards in three consecutive seasons since DAN FOUTS (4,082 in 1979; 4,715 in 1980; 4,802 in 1981).


TENNESSEE:  At 6-5, 232 pounds, VINCE YOUNG has a 26-13 (.667) regular season record as a starter and serves as a multi-dimensional threat.  Inserted into the starting lineup after the first six games of the season in 2009, Young led the Titans to an 8-2 (.800) finish and registered a career-best 82.8 passer rating.  Young will be protected by an offensive line that allowed the second-fewest sacks last season (16).  Elusive All-Star running back CHRIS JOHNSON, who takes aim at consecutive 2,000-yard rushing seasons, will lead the charge on the ground.   

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