NFL Controversy on the Horizon: Top 10 Storylines Yet To Unfold
The regular season is within throwing distance right now.
The teams and fans are ready, and with Friday's opening match up between the Minnesota Vikings and New Orleans Saints just around the corner, it seems as if the remainder of Week 4's preseason games are more or less irrelevant.
However, as meaningless as these preseason games are, one very telling factor remains. With Week 1 just about here, there are several storylines that fans and analysts are awaiting, almost as eagerly as opening kick off.
So which ones am I talking about?
Well for once, these storylines don't involve Terrell Owens, who has been in his fair share of controversial lists throughout his career.
No, this time around, these particular storylines involve the likes of Darrelle Revis and Vincent Jackson, who have been quite fond of creating a stir or two in the past month.
Some players are looking for new teams, while others are fighting for their position and contract on their current roster.
Therefore, here's a look at The Top 10 Regular Season Storylines That Are Yet To Unfold, along with a small prediction as to what may happen in the soon to immediate future.
10. TJ Houshmandzadeh On The Move?
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Although this is only a fairly recent headline, TJ Houshmandzadeh has broken into the news room recently due to the Seattle Seahawks talk of possibly trading their biggest free agent acquisition in the past 10 years, to a worthy opponent.
Since Houshmandzadeh's move to Seattle from Cincinnati, it is fair to say that he has struggled a little to maintain the same consistency that we once saw from him during his time under Carson Palmer.
Much of this story can be told by simply looking at Houshmandzadeh's 2009 stats, as he finished the season with a decent effort of 911 yards, but only three touchdowns.
Fortunately for all Houshmandzadeh's fanatics out there though, the interest in No. 84 has been quite high.
Already there are talks of the Seahawks possibly proposing a trade to the San Diego Chargers for troubled wide receiver Vincent Jackson, although nothing has been confirmed just yet.
When it comes right down to it, this is perhaps a storyline that may fade a little as time goes on.
Right now the biggest issue with this scenario is the fact that the Seattle Seahawks have made it totally clear that Houshmadnzadeh is open to offers, as the team cannot afford to pay him his guaranteed $7 million this season..
Where will the Housh land?
I guess we'll have to wait and see. But given the fact that he isn't the youngest guy around town may play against the talented wide receiver, as most teams in need of a wide receiver have already attempted to fill the void back in April with the NFL Draft.
San Diego is a possibility, but we all know that nothing is set in stone. Sit back and enjoy the ride, I have a feeling that Pete Carroll may have a few bombshells for us in the coming weeks.
9. Sam Bradford's Inability To Live Up To Expectations
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Okay, so maybe the above headline is a little hasty, but when it's all said and done, Sam Bradford has failed to be the prolific passer that we all expected him to become when the Rams drafted him with the No. 1 overall pick in this year's NFL Draft.
So far in Sam Bradford's four-game NFL career, he hasn't looked all that brilliant.
To say the very least, Bradford has shown a small lack of confidence in his throwing ability, and when he failed to more or less show up in Week 1 of preseason, many people wondered why everybody jumped on the Bradford bandwagon to begin with .
However, as true as this all is, there is of course the one remaining factor that Sam Bradford is only a rookie, and was never going to come out all guns blazing in the NFL.
In his time with the Oklahoma Sooners, his passing ability was duly noted, but the transition into pro football was never going to be easy.
More importantly, when Sam Bradford was drafted by the St. Louis Rams, we all knew that the pressure would be on.
Not only are the Rams a rebuilding franchise, they are also a team desperately in need of a hero, and when a No. 1 draft pick is found, stand back Superman, Bradford is now the crowd favorite.
Those of you reading this and thinking that I am taking some kind of a stab at Sam Bradford, I am not.
But when he does fail to look impressive in preseason football, it obviously lowers the confidence levels a little in St. Louis, as just about everybody felt they had found their savior.
There is still bundles of time for Sam Bradford to reignite the fire though, and realistically he will.
He is a highly capable quarterback, and we all must keep in mind what a mammoth task awaits him in the future.
But will Bradford show up this season? Your guess is as good as mine. If he doesn't though, well the going will get tough. Let's just hope if this does happen, the tough get going in St. Louis.
8. New Orleans Chance Of a Repeat
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"Champions aren't made in the gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them: a desire, a dream, a vision". -Muhammad Ali
Does the above quote relate to the 2010 New Orleans Saints? Maybe. I guess we'll find out in the next few months.
Ah, New Orleans, fresh off a Super Bowl victory. The city is still buzzing, and with Drew Brees leading the way, every Saints fan has the right to feel a little confident heading into the 2010 regular season.
Last season saw the Saints take over. The NFC South was always a footrace for the top spot, but when New Orleans comfortably slipped in to cruise control and left the Atlanta Falcons with a bitter taste in their mouth, it appeared that the dominant days of Sean Payton were here to stay.
But as great a success as the Saints were last season, 2010 is a whole new year and a whole new decade, that also could slip in a spoonful of disappointment for a team that is already being discussed in regards to repeating the previous year's success.
So while we're on the topic, how realistic is it for the Saints to expect to go all the way again this season?
Well, while the team themselves may not be setting that goal exactly, the talent is still present in New Orleans, along with a strong coaching bond between both players and coaches.
Still, the threat of the Atlanta Falcons is present in the NFC South, and the Saints may not have the cakewalk to the top that they saw last season.
Not only will this be an ongoing issue throughout the season, it should also be an interesting story to watch unfold.
Should the Saints attempt a repeat, it will not only be a momentous occasion, it may be perhaps the proudest moment in New Orleans sports.
If they fail though, well they'll be just like every other previous champion. It's not exactly a sad circumstance, but all the hype will be for nothing.
Keep an eye on the Saints; it should be a very interesting tale.
7. Chicago's Insignificant Offseason Progress
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Prior to the start of preseason football, the Bears looked great on paper. They'd just signed free agent Julius Peppers, and despite Jay Cutler's 2009 woeful ways, he had made some positive steps in the right direction.
That is, until Week 1 rolled around, and the Bears found themselves with many questions to ponder over the coming weeks.
As I'm writing this, the Bears preseason campaign has come to a close.
The team has successfully gone 0-4, and like Sam Bradford, it seems all of the hype has resulted in even more highlighting of just how difficult a task awaits the Bears this season in the NFC North division.
But the most concerning thing for Chicago right now, is the fact that all of their offseason progress may result in just about nothing as all of the money, all of the signings, could be wasted in what may turn out to be yet another dismal effort this season.
For those watching at home this regular season, keep in mind throughout that if the Bears do ultimately fail to change their attitude and start winning, that there will be serious consequences come this time next year.
Head coach Lovie Smith was a mediocre hot seat this offseason, and although the Julius Peppers signing cooled it off a little, it could easily heat up once again in a Charlie Weis fashion.
The Bears are a team that will always be expected to do well. Preseason is meaningless, and we have seen 0-4 teams perform exceptionally well in the past.
However, if the Bears stumble to an 8-8 season or below, expect to see The Windy City become The Angry City in a snap, as the Bears offseason progression will be meaningless.
6. The Darrelle Revis Hold Out
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It has been little over a month now since Darrelle Revis has been refusing to show up for team organized activities in New York, and it seems until he becomes the highest paid cornerback in the league, this holdout situation will draw on longer than the hostage situation at the Discovery Channel.
From a personal perspective, this whole ordeal is becoming a bit much. Sooner or later we all know that Darrelle Revis will make a decision, and it appears that as long as he is holding out, he has no intention to return to the team unless his wishes are met.
Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that we will hear much from this story as the season progresses.
As for the New York Jets, outspoken head coach Rex Ryan hasn't been afraid to express how confident he is with his defense, barring the fact that Darrelle Revis is still absent.
"We can get it done," Rex Ryan said. "We've proven it all through the years. That's all I know is great defenses. That's what we stand for. It's not about one guy or one or two guys...This is what we do. We're a team defense."
It isn't unlike Rex Ryan to be loud and proud when it comes to his team, but when it comes to how realistic he is being right now, it is questionable.
Away from Ryan though, the focus for the Jets will continue to be on Revis. Whether or not he makes a triumphant return to football and puts money aside, or has his wishes greeted in a Babe Ruth fashion, this issue will plague New York no matter what the outcome.
Whether or not this affects the Jets is yet to be seen, but rest assured that Revis' Island is ready to create some havoc for the Jets.
He may come back, he may not, time is ticking though, and Rex Ryan has made it clear that the team will move on with or without him.
5. Pittsburgh's Quarterback Issues
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For those of you that aren't aware just yet, Pittsburgh Steelers replacement quarterback Byron Leftwich went down with a knee injury earlier today, which spells immediate trouble for Steeler Nation, considering Ben Roethlisberger's suspension.
So far the rally for the starting role has been between Dennis Dixon, Byron Leftwich and Charlie Batch.
But as meaningless as the preseason often seems, it has been successful in highlighting the issues with each of these individuals, and also adding some concern for each and every Steelers fan.
Recently suspended quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has set out on having his sentence reduced.
Whether this will become a success remains to be seen, but the unfortunate circumstances are that one of the previously mentioned backups will step in at one time or another.
And who is the favorite out of the three musketeers?
Right now it would be fair to say Dennis Dixon. He does have a questionable throwing arm, but after watching Charlie Batch struggle last week, and seeing Byron Leftwich go down today, the team may be left with no other choice than to go with Dixon.
The worry for the Steelers is that the team under performs without their true leader.
It was always going to be a gamble for whoever was chosen to start, and as Week 1 begins to appear on the horizon, we will soon see how one of these players performs under the most immense pressure.
It's a dirty job, but someone's got to do it.
4. Detroit's Running Game Rally
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Before the season began, we all knew that we would be in for a real treat when it came to who could possibly be winning the starting running role in The Motor City.
Unfortunately we have all been robbed of this experience, as the Lions now heavily favor rookie running back Jahvid Best, over last seasons starter, Kevin Smith.
More importantly though, the Lions have decided to cut ties with Smith all together, as numerous rumors of a possible cut have been looming from just about every NFL source.
Now, while some people do have varying opinions on this issue, the problem remains the same when it comes to releasing Kevin Smith.
Sure, Jahvid Best has looked great all preseason, but what happens if he goes down injured or has a case of rookie jitters this season?
Well, it's fairly obvious, the Lions will struggle as a result, and the run game will become nearly non-existent if Best steps in and crumbles under the pressure of professional football.
All those fans out their like myself that were looking forward to this war between Smith and Best, I agree, it will be a shame not to see these two go at it if Jim Schwartz decides to end it all with Kevin Smith sometime soon.
However, lets cut Jahvid Best some credit. He has been thrown into the deep end here, and it takes a true performer to stand up to the test. So far he is, and perhaps all of the worrying will be for nothing.
But it is better to be safe than sorry, and maybe the Lions will remember that before they make a silly decision.
3. Matt Leinart On The Move
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It has become clear now that once starting quarterback Matt Leinart is open to any trade put forward by a willing candidate, as the Arizona Cardinals informed Leinart's agent that a trade is a possibility in the future.
Before all of this chaos happened, I, like everybody else, believed that Matt Leinart would be the starter for the coming season.
While the Cardinals do remain confident that Leinart will start in the team's opening game, his immediate future is far from certain, as a handful of teams appear as likely candidates to gain the former USC star.
The issue with this whole mess, is that Derek Anderson will step in as the starter.
Those that aren't familiar with Anderson may need some informing, as the former Cleveland Browns player has been light years away from consistent, stable, and a solid starting quarterback.
Therefore, like the Lions, a "better safe than sorry" policy may be implemented by head coach Ken Whisenhunt when it comes to Leinart's situation.
Still, if Leinart wishes to go, and a likely and favorable candidate appears, well we may see No. 7 out of the desert in no time.
Until this scenario unfolds though, a spotlight will be on the Arizona Cardinals. This type of controversy isn't what a now struggling team needed at this time in the season, and seeing as though Leinart is far from "superstar" status, it is almost uncanny to see this whole saga continuing.
Whether or not this issue will be dead and buried by the time the season starts is anybodies guess. But if Leinart moves to a new team and succeeds, well, Arizona may look the fools in this whole situation.
2. Brett Favre's Inconsistent Preseason
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The Minnesota Vikings have had a rather successful preseason campaign completing their record with a 3-1 posting.
But as for Brett Favre, well his woeful ways have left everybody questioning how well he may perform this season.
In this situation, I hate to be the one to jump to conclusions, so I won't. After all, it is not unlike Favre to take his foot off the gas a little in unimportant games, and really step it into overdrive when the regular season rolls around.
With this in mind though, we can't ignore the fact that Favre has looked a little rusty in the past few weeks, and hasn't been the sharp-minded and quick-witted quarterback that we have all come to love.
Firstly, Brett Favre looked flat against San Francisco. He played one drive, and was sacked, hard. This isn't something that Favre is unfamiliar with, but it is a little strange to see him struggling right now.
Secondly, all of this begs the issue that Favre may have returned unnecessarily. Since the Vikings begged Favre to return, maybe his emotions did get the better of him, and Favre may have let his ego get int he way of practical thinking.
Whichever one it may be, the regular season is always a great time to judge No. 4. Last season we were all in the same position with Favre, and we know just how great he looked all year long.
Therefore, no one, and I mean no one, enter the panic room just yet. Favre likes to take it easy in the offseason, and his constant absence of team training camps in the past two decades is evident of that.
Still, he has had a poor preseason, so all eyes will be on No. 4. It isn't anything he is unfamiliar with, but it wouldn't be the NFL without a little Favre watch, right?
1. Vincent Jackson
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Vincent Jackson's situation doesn't need a fancy title, as it is plain as day for even the most mediocre NFL fan.
The most recent news on this front, is that the St. Louis Rams have ended any talks of bidding for Jackson this season.
The team has totally dropped out of the running, leaving the San Diego Chargers to resort back to the drawing board, and try and give Jackson another opportunity to sign somewhere else.
Fortunately for Jackson, the Chargers drawing board has been highly productive, as Seattle Seahawks talks have flared up in the past few days.
Not only do the Seahawks need a wide receiver with T.J Houshmandzadeh on the move, this also proposes an ideal trade, if both Pete Carroll and Norv Turner were willing to reach an agreement.
But still, everybody just hold your horses.
Vincent Jackson has been highly capable of leading us all on lately, and it seems that everyday a new twist in this tale unfolds, as Jackson still finds himself looking for a new home.
I think it's fair to say right now that Jackson may find a home within the next week, as the Chargers will be keen to unload this issue before the start of the season. If the Seahawks come calling, Jackson may just sign, or he may not.
Keep a firm eye on this issue, as it has been the talking point of the past month. It still hasn't gone away, and Jackson is now possibly leaning toward holding out for a year, and sitting out on the 2010 season.
This would be a shame for the league, but Jackson can only blame himself. He's a fantastic talent to watch, but this story is now becoming a laughable situation at best, that keeps on drawing more and more fan attention.