Five things to look forward to heading into the NFL season
Published: Saturday, June 23, 2012
Updated: Monday, November 5, 2012 20:11
The 21st century’s version of the classic Bird versus Magic NBA Final’s battles, between LeBron James and Kevin Durant has been dominating the airwaves of social media. But with the NBA season coming to a close, we will move on to the next anticipated commodity as sports fans, and I’m not referring to the large portion of the 162 games played by the MLB this summer. It’s the $9 billion enterprise we call the National Football League.
Do you know what the best thing is about the start of the NFL season? The NFL is starting. And what’s the worst? There really isn’t one, but for most it can be associated with the same time of the year that classes begin or if you’re a Rams fan.
Nevertheless the season is only a little more than two months away. This offseason we have been fed stories about the Saints’ bounty troubles, Peyton Manning going to Denver, and Tim Tebow going to New York. The entertainment factor of these ESPN chronicles has been of equal value as the large portion of the 162 games played by the MLB this summer.
I’m here to deliver five important things that you can look forward to upon the start of the season.
1. Drew Brees shredding defenses into oblivion and placing himself at the top of the list for fantasy football quarterbacks once again.In Brees’ six seasons with the Saints he has averaged 4,732 yards and 33.5 touchdowns per season, including breaking Dan Marino’s single season passing record this previous year. That’s not to mention the Super Bowl he brought to the city that was devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2010.
So what did the Saints do for him in return when his contract finally expired? A prolonged stalemate of contract negotiations and a universal controversy surrounding his team that will leave him with the absence of his head coach Sean Payton.
It seems inevitable that eventually the two sides will come to terms, and when they do there is only one thing that should be feared in a year when Brees has a chip on his shoulder: his opposition.
2. The Chicago Bears.When you think of NFC contenders, the frontrunners of Green Bay, New Orleans, and New York come to mind. In 2010 the Bears came close to defeating the future Super Bowl Champs, the Green Bay Packers, in the NFC Championship, before Jay Cutler pulled a Derrick Rose in the 2012 NBA Playoffs and got injured.
Last season they were 7-3 before Cutler suffered a season-ending thumb injury, which resulted in losing five of their final six games.
Now they have added underrated free agent Michael Bush from Oakland and Cutler’s former teammate Brandon Marshall. Marshall averaged 102 receptions a year after his rookie season in his three years with Cutler in Denver. The re-signing of Pro Bowl running back Matt Forte will make the formation of their offensive arsenal complete. The Bears have always had a stellar defense, but now that Cutler has the tools to work with on offense, they should be elite contenders in the NFC.
3. The Buffalo Bills. It pains me to give the Bills any sort of praise, but I’m willing to give credit where credit is due. As a New York resident my whole life, my only positive memories of the Bills are when they have had a bye week, so I’m not forced to endure watching them on CBS every Sunday due to regional television rights.
But denying what the Bills have done this offseason would irresponsible – even foolish. The Mario Williams signing was nothing short of shocking, and then they added former Patriot Mark Anderson as well. To further complement their offseason defensive acquistions, they used the 10th overall pick in the draft to add a cornerback. So what’s left? Potentially the top defensive unit in the NFL. There’s no denying the progress the defense has made, and it’s about time someone invested in a strategy towards stopping AFC East rival Tom Brady and his Patriots.
They even managed to re-sign Fred Jackson to an extensive deal. But then lies the unsolvable question of: “What Ryan Fitzpatrick are the Bills going to get?” There have been glimpses of Fitzpatrick’s brilliance; he once led the team to a 3-0 start including a shocking defeat of the Patriots. But we all know what happened next – they finished the season losing eight of nine games. The Bills are only going to go as far as quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick takes them, and who knows where that road will lead.
4. It’s the year of the quarterback. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I count nine of the 32 teams in the NFL that have some level of controversy or preseason battle at the quarterback position.
We have three rookies fighting for jobs in Washington, Miami, and Cleveland and three more teams with second year quarterbacks ready to take the realms of their offense in Tennessee, Minnesota, and Jacksonville – yes, Blaine Gabbert is a considered a controversy.
Arizona, Seattle, and the New York Jets have battles yet to be decided as well. Bottom line is, these teams are going to make it very interesting for anyone who decides to attend their pre-season training camps, and the fates of a lot of young men’s careers are at stake.
5. Fantasy Football.Is there anyone who doesn’t participate at this point? Fantasy football is almost as popular as the NFL itself these days. It gives people who know their team has no chance a purpose in watching every game, every weekend.