Ten Questions for the 2009 NFL Season
The NFL is full of drama. There always seems to be a storyline that is looming or waiting to be resolved—any bets on how long it will be before Brett Favre makes up his mind?
That said, I have posed some questions of my own for the upcoming season.
This isn't a list, and some of these questions may seem easy to answer, but to those who say that they are simple, I only have this to ask you—how many of you predicted the Arizona Cardinals would be in the Super Bowl last year?
Yeah, that's kind of what I figured you might say.
You just never know what will happen to a team as a result of a trade, a release, or a coaching change.
It's always a crapshoot.
So, let's dive in, shall we?
Will the Arizona Cardinals repeat the success of last year?
I don't know that lightning can strike twice, but here's what I do know—Arizona will still have Kurt Warner at quarterback and Larry Fitzgerald at wide receiver.
That was pretty much all they needed last year to make one very nice run in the playoffs and come within an eyelash of hoisting the Lombardi Trophy.
However, Kurt Warner is not getting any younger, never mind that he had 4,583 passing yards and 30 touchdowns during the regular season—he isn't likely to duplicate those numbers.
Never mind that he may be one of the most underrated quarterbacks of his time.
The truth of the matter is, Warner will be 38 years old by the time the new season begins, and prior to last season's playoff run, Warner was 8-18 as a starter. Warner often threw as many interceptions as he did touchdowns—leading to his being benched in favor of Matt Leinart and Josh McCown on separate occasions.
Plain and simple, the old Kurt Warner could still surface.
The Cardinals will be looking at an improved Seattle Seahawks team and a rejuvenated San Francisco 49ers team in the NFC West, and both played the Cardinals tough last year.
Each team has just as much of a shot at winning the West as the Cardinals.
If Warner can stay healthy and continue to play consistently, the Cardinals should remain the favorites, but I don't imagine the road will be easy.
For a deeper look at the Cardinals' chances of repeat success, check out this article.
I am not a fan of the antics of Terrell Owens. I never have been.
However, it's impossible to deny his impact once he's settled in on a new team.
In his first year in Philadelphia, he helped Donovan McNabb to 3,875 yards and 31 touchdowns on his way to leading the Eagles to a 13-3 record and a spot in the Super Bowl.
In Tony Romo's first full season as Dallas' starting quarterback, Owens accounted for 1,355 of Romo's 4,211 passing yards and 15 of his 36 touchdowns. The Cowboys finished with a 13-3 record.
Trent Edwards is not Romo or McNabb (yet), and he doesn't have Brian Westbrook or Marion Barber to defer to in the run game, but Marshawn Lynch is as good as any running back in the NFL when he's focused, and he has looked good so far in camp.
Lynch may be absent for the first three games of the season, but I think that could prove to be Fred Jackson's moment in the sun.
I don't know if Owens will be the catalyst for a Bills playoff run, but I do know that he is an upgrade to what they already had on the field. If Edwards is the truth that some people think he is, it could be a very good year for Buffalo.
Will the Dallas Cowboys be better or worse now that Terrell Owens is gone?
Owens played for the Cowboys for three years and led them in receiving yards in each of them. Tony Romo has never been a quarterback in Dallas without Owens as his go-to receiver.
Will Romo fare better or worse now that Owens is not there to catch his passes?
I look at the roster and know that there is talent on the field, but I find myself being skeptical of Roy Williams suddenly becoming the No. 1 receiver on the field.
Is he ready for that type of responsibility? Does he even fit the bill? I mean, here's a guy who has only had one truly successful season, and it happened three years ago.
Last season he started seven games and amassed 198 yards with one touchdown, and this is the guy who is going to replace Owens?
That just doesn't seem like a promising option to me.
Perhaps Miles Austin will use this opportunity to make his move up the depth chart because, frankly, I don't know how much production D-Town can expect out of Williams next season.
Will Michael Vick play this season?
There have been plenty of articles written about this already, so I don't need to do a recap. Frankly, I feel a little bit like this guy and think the media coverage of this story has gotten ridiculously out of hand.
As a football fan, I can understand a team's desire to have an athlete as versatile as Vick, but as an individual, the thought of him returning to the game alarms me.
Sure, he has done his time, but you have to admit the guy is a public relations nightmare in waiting. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution said it best—Vick is going to be a polarizing figure no matter where he lands.
I pity his teammates, because no matter what they do, his presence will overshadow their play.
Will the Pittsburgh Steelers repeat?
Don't tell me how hard it is to repeat as an NFL Champion. It's been done before and can be done again.
First of all, the Steelers seem to have one of the easier schedules of the 2009 season—significantly less imposing than last year's.
They only lost one key player from that ridiculously good defense, and I doubt they will have any trouble replacing him.
Further, they retained all of their important offensive players, including Super Bowl hero Santonio Holmes.
Does all this point to them making a return trip to the Super Bowl and hoisting yet another Lombardi trophy?
It seems like that would be the case, but here's the problem: There was no New England in the playoffs last season. Tom Brady is back this year, and you have to wonder how successful the Steelers would have been if Brady hadn't gone down in Week One. (Nice article here that touches on this point.)
Second, will the additions made to the offensive line serve to keep quarterback Ben Roethlisberger upright more often? He kissed the turf far too much last year, and that has me concerned about injuries to Big Ben.
Plus, there is still that whole "difficult to repeat" argument that I want to ignore but honestly cannot.
Will Tom Brady return to his Brady-esque ways?
The one question that is on a lot of people's minds is, how good will Brady be one year post-knee injury/surgery/rehab?
The Patriots have to be confident in his recovery because they didn't appear to hesitate in letting his backup Matt Cassel go.
If Brady is in fact 100 percent and ready to go, you have to feel a little uneasy if you are in the AFC because, again, it becomes the Patriots and everybody else.
However, none of us will know if Tom Brady is Tom Brady until he hits the field and takes that first NFL snap.
Many NFL fans both envy and despise the success of Brady, Bill Belichick, and the Patriots and would like nothing more than to see Brady fail next season, but the truth of the matter is this: If he plays well, they will win games, and they will be in the mix for a shot at yet another Super Bowl.
No doubt about that.
Will Matt Ryan lead Atlanta to another winning season?
The Falcons were a surprise to everyone last season. No one expected Michael Turner to run so well behind such a "bad" offensive line.
No one figured Roddy White to be such a great wide receiver.
Who could have imagined that Matt Ryan would mature so far and so fast as to lead a team that was basically in shambles to the playoffs in his rookie year?
So many surprises.
This year finds the Falcons with an improved offense, thanks in large part to the addition of Tony Gonzalez, but with a questionable defense—the Falcons lost some key guys in their defensive unit (Keith Brooking, Michael Boley, Domonique Foxworth, and Grady Jackson to name a few).
Can they continue to win, or will a healthier and defensively improved New Orleans team play the part of Cinderella this season?
Further, will the addition of Tony Gonzalez really be the missing piece of Atlanta's puzzle for consistent success?
No back-to-back winning seasons in this franchise's history? Wow. That's a trend that's begging to be broken—but will it?
If Brett Favre ends up staying retired, what will Minnesota do at quarterback this year?
I have not been a fan of the whole "will he or won't he play" nonsense. I think that Favre likes being in the center of offseason drama, and that has made him less likable in my opinion.
However, if Favre stays out of the Vikings' quarterback picture, what will they do?
Tarvaris Jackson has proven to be a not so great option, at least thus far, and I am not sure that Sage Rosenfels is starting material either.
That leaves the Vikings with unproven talent in both John David Booty and Sean Glennon—it's no wonder they keep trying to lull Favre out of "retirement."
The truth of the matter is this: Adrian Peterson cannot continue to be the focal point of the offense. He carried the ball 363 times last season! Say what you want, but that's not the best way to ensure a long, healthy career for your franchise player.
If the Vikings continue to make him the workhorse, he's gonna burn out quick and may not last five more years in this league.
They have to find a guy who can efficiently manage the offense.
The drafting of Percy Harvin almost guarantees them a playmaker at the wide receiver spot—they just need to find a guy to get it to him.
Who will be this year's Impact/Underperformer from the 2009 NFL Draft?
It's always nice to see who comes out as the beast of the year's draft class.
Last year a few teams got their playoffs tickets punched thanks to some very nice draft additions.
The Atlanta Falcons saw Matt Ryan win Rookie of the Year honors while leading them to an 11-5 record and a playoff appearance.
The Baltimore Ravens went with Joe Flacco, and all he did was quarterback them to an AFC Championship Game.
However, the Oakland Raiders saw their pick of Darren McFadden go unrewarded as he battled injury and never found his groove.
Ditto that for the Jaguars' Derrick Harvey, whose long holdout and subsequent poor play has not made him a fan favorite in Jacksonville.
Who will be those guys this year?
Will Michael Crabtree disappoint while Darrius Heyward-Bey surprises? Is Matthew Stafford really going to be the difference maker in Detroit?
How good will Aaron Curry be?
Questions, questions, questions.
Which team will be this season's Cinderella story?
Last year, the Cardinals made a run that before the season was unfathomable.
In 2007, no one would have thought the Giants would rebound to appear in and beat the undefeated Patriots in the Super Bowl.
There are always teams that seem to make a run; whether that run takes them all the way to the Super Bowl or just to the playoffs, it's not one that most were expecting.
This season begs the question: Who will that team be?
Will it be the New Orleans Saints?
After all, they did have the best offense in football last year and will return with a healthy Marques Colston and a much-improved defense that boasts Malcolm Jenkins as its newest playmaker.
Or will it be the Chicago Bears?
They have the most favorable schedule of any team in the NFL—their opponents' winning percentage is well below .500, and they finally have a franchise quarterback to lead the way.
Better still, maybe it will be the Cleveland Browns.
The Mad Genius, Eric Mangini, may have been a bit of joke at the NFL Draft this year, but he made some nice moves and picked up some quality players this offseason.
If the Browns can get situated at the quarterback position, there's no telling what they could do this season.
These are just a few of the many questions that I will be anxious to learn the answers to in 2009.
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