There is one goal, but hundreds of storylines until then.
We are less than a week away from the 2012 NFL Regular Season. The media buildup already has the snowball rolling down the mountain into an avalanche.
The NFL is the most popular sport in the land which means that the media will be building up stories throughout the season.
With the 24-hour news cycle and social media, a simple story could turn into a big headline quickly. It only takes a little drama and spotlight to go viral.
From stories on the field to off the field, there are some things that the sports media will saturate the airwaves and newsprint with.
Any wager maker can guarantee that these five NFL topics will be covered for the entire season because they all move the ratings meter.
Andrew Luck will be one of the many young QB stars in 2012
The NFL culture is made for quarterbacks to shine because of rule changes that open up offenses.
In years past, unless you were a prodigy, young quarterbacks were holding clipboards. Now they are holding franchises' futures in their throwing hand. With Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III taking the spotlight, other rookie and sophomore field generals will still bring attention. You have rookie Russell Wilson in Seattle and Cam Newton looking to improve from a stellar rookie season.
Young quarterbacks are the new norm in the NFL because many college offenses are based on a pro-style philosophy. Expectations are much higher than in earlier eras for younger talent. Also, teams are willing to dump players if the plan does not pan out for the future of the franchise.
Honestly, almost half of the NFL franchises could be starting quarterbacks with less than three years of experience by November.
Will Dez Bryant build character from his past experiences?
Football fans already know that most of the players are not choir boys.
From Jerry Jones putting Dez Bryant on a leash tighter than a pair of skinny jeans to Jonathan Vilma protesting Bountygate, there will be others who will give Roger Goodell another crack at taking money and games from them.
You can guarantee the NFL will have at least a couple of drunk drivers and assault charges in their ranks. Felonies and misdemeanors as are common as first downs in the NFL. Hopefully nobody will be wearing sweatpants with a Glock in their pocket or punching people in bars, but it would not be a surprise.
Character issues bring lots of attention and negative headlines in the 24-hour news cycle. Who knows, some guy might even get suspended, fined or even cut just for a controversial Twitter post.
Player conduct off the field has become just as important as production on the field.
Tebow is a headline maker no matter what he does
Like it or not, Tim Tebow will be covered more than cheese on pizza.
Even though the Jets can’t score, have an awful offensive line and Mark Sanchez is looking out of sync with his receivers, ESPN will cover the Jets more because it moves the ratings meter. Shows like First Take have taken Tebowmania and ran with it.
The Jets say they have developed a Tebow-Wildcat offense they won’t show until the season kicks off. The Wildcat has been debunked by most defenses, so only time will tell if this experiment will pay off. If the Jets start losing games early, fans will start clamoring for Tebow.
Rex Ryan might have toned down his weight as well as the bravado, but being gregarious is where Ryan shines.
The other team in New York just won the Super Bowl but will once again be out of the spotlight, which is a good thing for most teams.
How much effect will the replacement officials have on games?
Replacement referees will have an effect on games. They have already looked like stooges in the preseason but could throw some make-or-break flags in the regular season.
Gamblers will start to look at who is officiating games like in baseball and make wagers based off of that information. Fans and analysts will have to grasp how personal fouls will be called because of the recent rule changes and enforcements.
Will the players use the officials, maybe even trying to flop or beg for calls like in the NBA? People want to know if the games will be called tighter because the replacement officials will be under such scrutiny.
The NFL is the richest league in the land, and they can’t pay their officials and give them a deserved pension? It seems that the league is still in a stalemate with what actions are being taken to get them back onto the field.
Officials are just as important as the players on the field, so don’t be surprised if your favorite team loses a game over a botched called late in the fourth quarter.
This year might be the case where you can technically blame a referee for a team losing a tight game.
Can Peyton take any punishment?
Peyton Manning’s health will be in question until he takes that first big hit.
There has been so much back and forth about whether he can take any punishment. The only real answer will be once he takes a blindside hit.
Dan Marino had to retire because of a very similar injury, but modern medicine might help Manning. Like Brian Urlacher, Manning went overseas to get special procedures not done in the United States.
Denver has a brutal schedule and has to face defenses like the Steelers and Ravens. Even though Manning is respected, they won’t look to take it easy on him. James Harrison won’t be pulling back if he sees Manning in his sights and won’t be afraid to pay a fine like in years past.
Peyton has the respect, but that does not mean he will be wearing a red jersey.
Nobody will have a definitive answer until the time comes.