No Clear-Cut Favorite
With over ten teams this year making a case for the Super Bowl contention, it will be interesting to see which teams separate themselves from the pack. The Green Bay Packers seem to be the team that everyone is talking about after a great preseason. Also, can the Cowboys be the first host team to play in the Super Bowl? The Patriots look to bounce back from a disappointing end to the season. Yet can the Colts stay healthy for a full season as they also try to redeem themselves after last year's disappointing finish? The Saints, after winning the Super Bowl, are not the best team in the NFC South according to some.
Ben Roethlisberger Suspension
Roethlisberger was suspended for six games in the offseason for off-field issues. This past week it was reduced to four games, but the real issue lies in whether the Steelers can hold on until Roethlisberger returns. Adding to the Steelers issues is the recent injury of Roethlisberger's replacement, Byron Leftwich, who sprained his knee in the last preseason game. Steelers are now relegated to starting their third string or fourth string quarterback, Charlie Batch or Dennis Dixon. If the Steelers are unable to get off to a quick start, they may miss the Playoffs for the second season in a row.
Brett Favre Return
Every summer around mid-August, it seems like ESPN is un-watchable because of the wall-to-wall coverage Brett Favre receives about whether he will retire or not. After it seemed as though he would retire, Favre announced his return for one last season. The Vikings are equipped to make a Super Bowl run this year but it is contingent upon whether Favre can make it through the season because of an ankle injury.
Will there Be a Lockout Next Year?
From all indications, there will be a lockout next year. As the season goes on, the issue of a lockout will become more widely covered by the media because currently this is the 800-pound gorilla in the room that everyone seems to be ignoring. The only way a lockout can be avoided is if owners and players realize that fans will be the ones suffering the most in a lockout; for the sake of the fans a lockout can be avoided. But at the end of the day, we are dealing with millionaires who will be willing to squeeze out every penny they can get.
Shanahan Tries to Restore Redskins Pride
Redskins' offenses in recent memory have been atrocious, and Owner Dan Snyder hired offensive-minded coach Mike Shanahan in order to correct their woes. The Redskins didn't stop there: they added quarterback Donovan McNabb to further develop their offense. Some believe that the Redskins may be a dark horse team to make it to the Super Bowl if things come together. It will also be interesting to see how the relationship between Coach Shanahan and defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth materializes, as they have been at odds for months and it could very well become a distraction in the locker room.
Development of Second Year Quarterbacks
When there are two quarterbacks taken in the top five of the draft, usually one pans out and the other becomes a bust; but with the development of Lions' quarterback Matthew Stafford and Jets' quarterback Mark Sanchez, that may not be the case. After a dismal decade, the Lions have seemed to figure out how to put a legitimate team on the field, surrounding Stafford with weapons that include rookie running back Jahvid Best, who is an early favorite to be Offensive Rookie of the Year. The Lions offense looked crisp under Stafford's direction in the pre-season, which many believe is a prelude to the regular season.
As for Sanchez, the Jets added weapons to their offense by trading for receiver Santonio Holmes and signing LaDanian Tomlinson to bolster their already-strong running game. Last season, the Jets relatively called a conservative game plan on offense but may open things up this year if Sanchez is up to the challenge.