Thank Christ himself: the NFL is back. No more feigning interest in Super-whatever-it-is-these-days, knockout-bound (however valiant) national teams, and local teams that continually break my heart: the real egos of the sporting world are back in town. It’s time for some emotionally investment-free big-budget television, folks.
So what’s changed? Well, a few things – but first, let the tired saying be rung true: the more things change, the more they stay the same. Which is, of course, to begin by saying that grizzled future Hall-of-Famer Quarterback Brent Favre is back from his third “um-and-ahh” faux retirement in as many years for his 19th season.
My gut says that Favre – who turns 41 next month and is fresh off an ankle surgery to boot – will be resuming the position on Thursday night (Friday daytime for us) and will probably be killed at some point this season by an overzealous blitz package. It’s worth noting that the old gunslinger did have his best statistical season under centre last year for the Minnesota Vikings (no mean feat, given his storied career) – but! He’s a year older, a year-and-gummy-ankle slower, and will be sorely missing his two top receivers for the first half of the 2010 season. The Vikings square off in the season opener for a rematch of the 2009 NFC title championship game against the incumbent NFL champions, the New Orleans Saints. This game will certainly not be short on beef after the beating the New Orleans D-line delivered to the old man last time, and is a definite must watch as the Vikings have sworn to “return the favor” this time around. Expect some spectacular hits on both sides of the football.
Strangely enough, the Superbowl Saints have been suspiciously under-hyped in the off-season hoopla. Retaining all of their offensive starters, and play-calling super-jesus Head Coach Sean Peyton, it stands to reason that the Saints will be every bit as explosive and dangerous as last season. Make no mistake, beating this team will be a two-fold task of denying their ball-hawking defense turnovers whilst simultaneously hanging a 40-burger on them. (This unit led the league last year in clutch game-turning interceptions.) On the offensive side Drew Brees was an absolute stud last year, throwing for 34 touchdowns and well over 4,000 yards – you can be sure that if #9 is healthy, last years league-leading offense will be back to destroy defensive coverages with their insane 5-receiver sets all season long.
Vegas favourites Green Bay might just give them a run for their money, though. Narrowly missing their ticket to last year’s big dance in an insane playoff slug-out with the Arizona Cardinals, the Packers 2010 campaign hopes rest squarely upon the broad shoulders of QB Aaron Rogers, who is now entering his 3rd season as the incumbent starter in Wisconsin. It’s easy to see why people think this is his year – the man has looked downright scary this preseason, and with a full supporting cast of healthy weapons and a defense settling their sophomore year running the 3-4, there’s no reason to think that the Pack couldn’t go all the way. Lookout for the ever-present beef game later this season between the Packers and their nemesis’ the Vikings – featuring, as mentioned, none other than their old QB (did I mention he’s old?) Brett Favre playing for “the enemy”.
And what of the Indianapolis Colts, you ask? You can assuredly bet that last years’ Superbowl losers will be back in the mix again. Peyton Manning looks as sharp as ever, has a new contract drying ink as we speak, and will be playing to show that he deserves every million of it. As long as he is on this team, they are a serious threat that you simply cannot rule out. Jim Caldwell begins his second year as Head Coach; naysayers and skeptics are quick to ponder if last years Superbowl campaign may have some sort of residual steam “fluke” leftover from the Tony Dungy dynasty… “Balls” to these clowns, I say. Manning is in his 11th season running this offense – a “field general” in the truest sense of the phrase, his presence is that of a Coach on-the-field-and-off – Caldwell will be fine, Peyton will be fine, and the Colts will win many, many more games this season and will most likely be there at the business end of the stick.
Other teams thought to be in the hunt this year:
- The New England Patriots – because they have Tom ‘Stetson Man’ Brady who has won them 3 friggin’ Superbowls in the last 10 years. Also, his missus is sweet. Finally, he needs a new bajillion-dollar contract. Dude is buff. So buff. God I’m jealous.
- San Diego’s Chargers, sporting the ever-accurate Philip Rivers and fresh-faced star rookie running back (and LT’s replacement) Ryan Matthews. They certainly look like a Superbowl calibre team – but they’ve looked that way for the last 6 seasons, so it’s difficult to become religious just yet.
- Stars of HBO’s mini-documentary “Hard Knocks”, the New York Jest… er… Jets… will have eternal loud-mouth, fat ass, and all-around shit-kicking Coach Rex Ryan no doubt continuing to talk his hilarious smack – for which he will no doubt continue to be fined for. Some big-time additions to their roster including one-time stars RB LaDainian Tomlinson, WR Santonio Holmes, and CB Antonio Cromartie should see 2nd-year QB Mark Sanchez grow with this usually-anaemic offense – but really, this team is all about the ego of Coach Ryan; swearing and carrying on like the Ozzy Osbourne of Football that he is. God I love the NFL.
- The Dallas Cowboys. Hahahaha.
- The Baltimore Ravens. Big Sugar still leads one of the scariest defensive units in the league, and the addition of pro-bowl receiver Anquan Boldin couldn’t have come at a better time for 3rd year Quarterback Joe Flacco. This team will most definitely make some noise. They open their season on Monday Night Football in a showdown against the loudmouth Jets.
- The Houston Texans. Freak athlete WR Andre Johnson still lives here; and so long as the Texans still have the league’s #1 receiver – and QB Matt Schaub’s arm to find him – they will be dangerous. Injury concerns for Schaub have usually thrown this team into analytical doubt-land (last year was Schaub’s first injury-free season) – but the real trick here will be toppling longtime division rivals the Indianapolis Colts in order to advance to the playoffs. They haven’t managed it yet with a record of 1-15 against them this decade… but you can never say “never”. The Texans open their season against the Colts on Sunday in what will undoubtably be an awesome offensive battle.
- The Cincinnati Bengals (Bungles) – who enter a make-or-break season with sometime-superstar but recent-time-super-nah QB Carson Palmer. RB Cedric Benson finally figured out how to run again last year, which carried this team arguably farther than anyone thought was possible. This year, with the addition of insane-but-insanely-talented Terrell Owens to the receiving corps, Palmer will have to regain his form of old – or face the wrath of the ever-vicarious fans. (Hey, they live in Cincinnati – I’ve been there, it’s totally fair enough.) Finally, prima donna WR Chad “Ocho Cinco” Palmer did dancing with the stars last year and is definitely the funniest NFL player on twitter. Apparently he and Owens have hit it off in training camp and have dubbed themselves “Batman and Robin”. With egos as big as these two, this should be very funny to watch – especially if one overshadows the other, or – perhaps more importantly – they start losing games. The Bengals open their season against the always-scary New England Patriots on Sunday.
- The New York Giants – only because I can’t help but bElieve every now and again, because they’re at their best when no-one is talking about them, and because I included the Bungles so it’s only fair.
Final thoughts and stories of note:
- There is hope for the long standing “doormat” teams: the Lions, the Raiders, and the Rams. What a difference a solid draft makes!
- It is make-or-break for: the 49ers, the Bears, and the Panthers. The 49ers will either win because of Alex Smith or lose because of Alex Smith – the rest of the team is all there.
- 2004 Heismann Trophy Winner and all around party-bro Matt Leinart has lost his newly-inherited starting job in Arizona to ex-Browns QB Derek Anderson – a job that really was his to lose, after backing up now-retired Hall-of-Famer Kurt Warner for the last 5 years. Cut from the Arizona club yesterday like a bad tasting bro-treat, Leinart was quickly signed by the Texans as a backup – but it remains to be seen if he will ever completely shake the “party boy” status that sunk him at crunch time. Quid pro bro, Matt.
- Donovan McNabb is now a Redskin under coaching legend Mike Shanahan. Consistently a baller, #5 put up insane numbers during his career with the Eagles – but failing to bring home the big one left the ever ungrateful Philly fans irate…that is to say, more irate than usual. It really was dumb to get rid of him in this fashion, though – firstly, Philly traded him not only within their NFC conference, but within their own division (the NFC East) so McNabb will get revenge games at least two times this season. Secondly, McNabb being the god-fearing man he is, has taken nothing but the moral high road during the trade – you can bet that this move will bite Philly in the butt when McNabb comes back to play the team he trained with for the last 10 years. It’d be a beautiful parting gift for the worst fans in football – fingers crossed.
- I’ve written “Big Ben the Vagrant” in my notes. ‘Nuff said.
- Dallas have a new superstar Rookie WR named Dez Bryant. Good for you, Jerry Jones. Also, his mother was never a prostitute. Good for you, Dez.
Congratulations, you’re up to date for this season of the NFL! See you in a few weeks for some mid-season power rankings and a Week 7 live review on the Lions/Giants game in NYC.
– Jono Lee