No Such Nonsense

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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

NFL Rundown: This Year's Big Questions

The pre-season games have started and it is almost time for the real football to begin. As with every summer, there are a number of burning questions about this season - the answers to which we'll see played out over the next few weeks and months. Here goes:

1. Whither the Falcons?
The questions of whether Michael Vick will be playing for them this season is well and truly settled - that'd be a big no. Where will Vick be playing? Have you seen The Longest Yard? So now, the real question emerges. What will the Falcons do without their enigmatic marquee player? Will they fold under the pressure of playing without their never-quite-as-good-as-promised QB? Or will they rise to occasion and play better without Vick than they did with him?

2. Can Eli turn things around?
Eli Manning is not Peyton Manning. That seems pretty clear. But can he move from being a whiny Sergio-Garcia-esque player to a true leader for his team? Tiki's gone. Strahan blew a ton of goodwill with his weird pre-season hold-out - and still might retire. The Giants need a new leader in the locker room and on the field. Can Manning, whom Barber recently criticized on-air for his lack of ability in the clutch, step it up? Or will San Diego keep looking like they got the better end of the deal with Phil Rivers?

3. How will Romo and the Cowboys rebound?
Last year was a storybook season for Tony Romo. He took over the Cowboy's starting job at mid-season and led them to the play-offs. But a last minute fumble against Seattle cost them the game and has a lot of folks looking pretty hard at Romo this Fall. Can he overcome the mishap? Will his team support him? Can the Cowboys win under a new coaching regime, with TO still threatening to blow everything out of the water every week? Lots of questions in big D.

4. Are the Eagles still McNabb's team?
Donovan McNabb led the Eagles to the Superbowl in 2004. They've dominated the NFC East for last half-decade, with McNabb at the helm - at least until an injury-plagued disappointment of a season in 2005. Then, last year, McNabb's season-ending injury opened the door for Jeff Garcia to revive his career and the team's fortunes at the same time. Garcia drove the Eagles to the play-offs, then drove to Tampa in the off-season. The team is McNabb's again, and he's ready to play. But is he the McNabb of old? Does his team still believe in him? How long until he's injured this year? I say week 6.

5. How will Randy Moss play in New England?
Can Belichik take another notorious "problem" player and turn him into a team guy? Or was that even Moss' problem in the first place? The guy loves to win, and understands better than anyone that he can't do it alone. And this is the first time he's had a truly outstanding cast of players around him. I'm predicting a return to his Hall-of-Fame form. But there's always a chance that it could all go horribly awry. Moss hates the media - and they hate him - which will be interesting to watch given the love-love relationship between the media and Moss' new pivot, Tom Brady.

6. How many Bengals will be arrested before the season is over?
Can I get an over/under on this? Last year, if I'm not mistaken, Cincinnati had more players arrested than games won. Is the chaos over?

7. Will Rex Grossman suck just as much this year?
Okay, that's not really so tough a question. Yes. Yes, he will. But will the Bears still find ways to keep winning anyway?

8. Will anyone be worse that the Detriot Lions this year?
Last year, the Raiders managed it. This year? Arizona? Oakland, again, even with JaMarcus Russell? Anyone?

9. Was New Orleans a one-season wonder?
Last year, New Orleans had an outstanding season. Back in the Superdome for the first time since Hurricane Katrina, the Saints played their best ball, well, ever and almost made the play-offs. They were, for one beautiful season, America's team. No one wanted to see them lose. And it wasn't just emotion - new QB Drew Brees teamed up with Reggie Bush and Marques Colson to produce a truly potent offense. But that's a heck of a lot to live up to...


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