After Peyton Manning set the football world on fire with his seven-touchdown performance on Thursday night, the NFL season is now in full swing as Sunday will present the first slate of games for the 2013 season. While it’s unlikely that Manning’s performance against Baltimore on Thursday night will be duplicated this week, there are a number of NFL quarterbacks with something to prove in Week 1. Here are five:
5. Ryan Tannehill – Miami Dolphins
at Cleveland Browns on Sunday
After being selected eighth overall last season by the Miami Dolphins, big things are expected out of Ryan Tannehill in year number two. Tannehill threw just 12 touchdowns and 13 interceptions a season ago, but has an upgraded arsenal around him with the signings of receivers Mike Wallace and Brandon Gibson. Some believe that Miami can be a playoff team, but getting to that next level will largely depend on Tannehill as he faces a stout Cleveland defensive front in Week 1.
4. Geno Smith – New York Jets
vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday
Geno Smith, a rookie taken in the second round, didn’t earn the opening day start for the Jets, but won it in default. Mark Sanchez and head coach Rex Ryan have fallen out of favor with the fan base in New York and if Smith performs well on Sunday against former Jet Darrelle Revis, Dashon Goldson and an upgraded Tampa Bay secondary, the starting job could be his to keep.
3. Robert Griffin III – Washington Redskins
vs. Philadelphia Eagles on Monday
After leading the Washington Redskins to their first NFC East title in 13 years and first playoff appearance in five, no one doubts Robert Griffin III’s ability as a passer, runner or leader. But what fans will be anxious to see is how Griffin has recovered from the knee injury suffered in last season’s Wild Card loss to Seattle. Griffin’s knee has been the talk of the offseason and if he can truly return to form, fans in the nation’s capital are confident that the Redskins can win more than just a division title.
2. Matthew Stafford – Detroit Lions
vs. Minnesota Vikings on Sunday
After Detroit’s first playoff appearance in a dozen years in 2011, the Lions returned to form in 2012 going just 4-12. Quarterback Matthew Stafford, who’s supporting cast includes the league’s best receiver in Calvin Johnson, tight end Brandon Pettigrew and now Reggie Bush, had one of the best years ever by a quarterback in 2011 throwing for more than 5,000 yards and 41 touchdowns. Last season, Stafford put up big yardage numbers, but saw his touchdown pass total more than cut in half while also seeing a dip in completion percentage along with a rise in interceptions. After years of futility in Detroit, fans are hoping to see a season similar to 2011 rather than 2012 from the former first overall pick.
1. Cam Newton – Carolina Panthers
vs. Seattle Seahawks on Sunday
Another former first overall pick, Cam Newton has brought excitement to Charlotte and after winning the final four games of 2012, expectations. The Panthers will open against a Seattle team that is projected by many to reach the Super Bowl and Week 1 should be a good indicator of Carolina’s viability. The former Heisman winner has struggled to handle off-the-field criticism well, but his numbers speak for themselves and this offseason, Newton was voted a team captain. Newton finished 2012 strong throwing 10 touchdowns compared to just one interception in his final six games.
Mike Ferguson is the founder and editor of Outside the Redzone, follow him on Twitter @MikeWFerguson
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