Week 1 - NFC Notes

All eyes will be on two of the NFL’s elite quarterbacks – New Orleans’ Drew Brees and Minnesota’s Brett Favre – when the 2010 season kicks off on Thursday night in primetime (NBC, 8:30 PM ET) as the Super Bowl champion Saints host the Vikings in a rematch of last year’s thrilling NFC Championship Game. 

“Probably the top four players in the league are Drew BreesPEYTON MANNINGCHRIS JOHNSON and Brett Favre,” says NBC analyst CRIS COLLINSWORTH.  “We get two of the four in the opening game.”

Brees led the Saints to the franchise’s first Super Bowl title and was named the Most Valuable Player of the contest after tying a Super Bowl record with 32 completions for 288 yards and two touchdowns.  Last season, Brees was selected to his third Pro Bowl as a Saint and his 70.62 completion percentage set an NFL single-season record.  He led the league with a career-best and franchise-record 109.6 passer rating and threw for 4,388 yards, his fourth consecutive 4,000-yard season.  Favre returns for his 20th NFL season and has started 285 consecutive games, the longest streak in league history.  He was selected to his 11th Pro Bowl last season, the most all-time for a QB, and set career-highs in passer rating (107.2) and completion percentage (68.4) while throwing for 4,202 yards and 33 touchdowns. 

Quarterbacks throughout the league find themselves in the spotlight as the NFL begins the new season, all hoping to lead their teams to a berth in Super Bowl XLV on February 6 at Cowboys Stadium in North Texas.


Following is a team-by-team look at the NFC’s starting quarterbacks on Kickoff Weekend:

ARIZONA:  Sixth-year veteran DEREK ANDERSON will make his Cardinals debut and looks to lead the club to its third consecutive NFC West title.  A sixth-round pick (213th overall) by Baltimore in 2005, Anderson joined Cleveland in 2005 and started 34 games during his time with the Browns (2005-09).  He earned a trip to the Pro Bowl in 2007 when he started 15 games and completed 298 of 527 passes (56.5 percent) for 3,787 yards and 29 touchdowns. 


ATLANTA:  Third-year quarterback MATT RYAN has led the Falcons to back-to-back winning seasons for the first time in franchise history.  One year after joining PEYTON MANNING as the only rookie quarterbacks to reach the 3,000-yard plateau, Ryan threw for 2,916 yards and a career-high 22 touchdowns.  In his first two seasons, the 2008 AP NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year has compiled a 13-1 (.929) record at home, including a perfect 6-0 mark last year. 


CAROLINA MATT MOORE will make his first career Kickoff Weekend start.  Entering his fourth season, Moore has made eight career starts, posting a 6-2 (.750) record.  The former Oregon State Beaver has completed 128 of 205 passes (62.4 percent) for 1,554 yards with 11 touchdowns and three interceptions for a 97.5 passer rating in his career as a starter.  Moore finished the 2009 season with three consecutive victories, completing 50 of 76 passes (65.8 percent) for 632 yards with seven touchdowns and no interceptions for a 122.3 passer rating. 


CHICAGO:  Fifth-year veteran JAY CUTLER makes his second consecutive Kickoff Weekend start for the Bears.  Last year, Cutler’s first with Chicago, he set single-season team records for completions (336) and attempts (555) while throwing for 3,666 yards, the second-highest mark in franchise history.  The former Vanderbilt star also threw for a career-high 27 touchdowns, the third-most in team annals.  Since the start of the 2008 season, Cutler has thrown for 8,192 yards and is one of only six quarterbacks with at least 8,000 passing yards during that time. 


DALLAS:  Three-time All Star TONY ROMO will start at quarterback for the Cowboys as the team celebrates its 50th anniversary.  The eighth-year veteran has compiled a 38-17 (.691) record as a starter, throwing 104 touchdowns and posting a 95.8 passer rating.  Last season, Romo earned a Pro Bowl selection by setting team records for completions (347), attempts (550), passing yards (4,483) and 300-yard games (eight).  He added 26 touchdown passes and is the only quarterback in club annals to pass for at least 4,000 yards and 25 touchdowns in a season (Romo also accomplished the feat in 2007).


DETROIT:  MATTHEW STAFFORD, the No. 1 overall selection in the 2009 NFL Draft, will start on Kickoff Weekend for the second consecutive season.  Last year, he became the youngest QB (21 years, 218 days old) to start a season opener since 1993 (DREW BLEDSOE, 21 years, 203 days old).  Stafford started 10 games and threw 13 touchdown passes, the most by a rookie in team history.  In Week 11 vs. Cleveland, Stafford set an NFL single-game rookie record with 422 passing yards and became the second rookie in league annals to throw five touchdown passes in a game (RAY BUIVID, 1937). 


GREEN BAY Entering his third season as the team’s starter, AARON RODGERS looks to continue his impressive play.  The sixth-year veteran, who earned his first Pro Bowl berth last year, is the only quarterback in NFL history to pass for at least 4,000 yards in each of his first two seasons as a starter.  In 2009, Rodgers passed for 4,434 yards and posted a 103.2 passer rating, both the second-best marks in franchise history, and led the Packers to the playoffs.  In the team’s Wild Card contest, Rodgers set the club’s single-game postseason record with 423 passing yards. 


MINNESOTA:  Brett Favre enters his 20th NFL season with an active streak of 285 consecutive starts, a league record.  Last year, Favre was selected to his 11th Pro Bowl, a record for QBs, and led the Vikings to the NFC North crown and a berth in the NFC Championship Game.  He set career-highs in passer rating (107.2) and completion percentage (68.4) while throwing for 4,202 yards and 33 touchdowns.  The three-time MVP (1995-97) holds numerous NFL passing records, including attempts (9,811), completions (6,083), yards (69,329) and touchdowns (497).


NEW ORLEANS:  The defending Super Bowl champion Saints will once again turn to Drew Brees to lead them.  The MVP of Super Bowl XLIV, Brees last year set the NFL single-season record for completion percentage with a 70.62 mark (363 of 514).  He led the NFL with a career-best and franchise-record 109.6 passer rating and threw for 4,388 yards, his fourth consecutive 4,000-yard season; Brees has the only four 4,000-yard seasons in franchise history.  In his four seasons with New Orleans, Brees has been selected to three Pro Bowls and his 18,298 passing yards during that span are the most in the NFL. 


NEW YORK Giants:  Entering his seventh season, ELI MANNING has started a team-record 87 consecutive games.  Last year, the MVP of Super Bowl XLII passed for a career-high 4,021 yards and 27 touchdowns, becoming the only Giant to pass for at least 4,000 yards and 25 touchdowns in a single season.  Manning, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2004 NFL Draft, is the only quarterback in franchise history to pass for 3,000 yards and 20 touchdowns in five consecutive seasons.  This will be the sixth consecutive Kickoff Weekend start for Manning. 


PHILADELPHIA: A second-round draft choice (No. 36 overall) in 2007 out of Houston, KEVIN KOLB will make his first Kickoff Weekend start.  He enters 2010 with two career starts – both last year – and is the only quarterback in NFL history to pass for at least 300 yards in each of his first two starts.  In Week 2 against New Orleans, Kolb passed for 391 yards, the most ever for an Eagles quarterback in his first NFL start, and two touchdowns.  The following week versus Kansas City, Kolb threw for 327 yards and two TDs while adding his first career rushing touchdown. 


ST. LOUIS Rookie SAM BRADFORD, the No. 1 overall selection in the 2010 NFL Draft, will make his first career start on Kickoff Weekend.  The former Oklahoma star completed 33 of 55 passes (60.0 percent) for 338 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions for a 95.9 passer rating during the preseason.  In college, the 2008 Heisman Trophy winner set school records with 8,403 passing yards, 88 touchdown passes and a 67.6 completion percentage.


SAN FRANCISCO:  Sixth-year quarterback ALEX SMITH will get the nod on Kickoff Weekend after a strong second-half performance in 2009.  The No. 1 overall selection in 2005, Smith started 10 games last season and posted career-highs in touchdown passes (18), completion percentage (60.5 percent) and passer rating (81.5).  Smith led the 49ers to victories in three of his last four starts of 2009, including the final two.  He had at least one touchdown pass in 10 of the 11 games he played in last year. 


SEATTLE Entering his 10th season with the SeahawksMATT HASSELBECK will once again start on Kickoff Weekend.  The three-time All-Star is the highest-rated passer in team history (83.3) and he also holds franchise career records in attempts (3,806), completions (2,293), passing yards (26,433) and 300-yard games (17).  Last year, Hasselbeck started 14 games and threw for 3,029 yards, his club-record sixth 3,000-yard season. 


TAMPA BAY:  JOSH FREEMAN, the team’s first round pick (No. 17) in the 2009 NFL Draft, will make his first Kickoff Weekend start.  Last year, Freeman saw action in 10 games, including nine starts, and passed for 1,855 yards and 10 touchdowns.  He made his first career start in Week 9 against Green Bay and tied a team rookie record with three touchdown passes as he led the Buccaneers to a comeback victory.  Freeman led the team to wins in two of his final three starts of the season.  


WASHINGTON After spending the first 11 years of his career in Philadelphia, DONOVAN MCNABB takes over at quarterback for the Redskins.  The six-time All Star holds numerous Eagles records, including wins (92), attempts (4,746), completions (2,801), passing yards (32,873) and touchdowns (216).  McNabb led Philadelphia to five NFC Championship Games and Super Bowl XXXIX.  Last year, McNabb was selected to the Pro Bowl after throwing for 3,553 yards and 22 touchdowns while posting a 92.9 passer rating.

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