22 Questions That Will Go Unanswered If There Is No NFL Season in 2011
Even the average NFL fan will miss many things about the league if the lockout stretches into the 2011 season. No more football to watch on Sunday afternoons, Monday nights and even Thursday evenings. No more fantasy drafts or tailgating or Super Bowl parties.
However, this offseason has also produced many burning questions that will be left without an answer if the season does not go on as it normally would. Many players should be finding new teams when transactions can take place once again, and many players will have something to prove when play begins.
There are many interesting story lines that will be put off a year if games are lost in 2011, and there are 22 questions (and probably many more) that will linger if such a travesty should occur.
Will Tiki's Planned Comeback Work Out?
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Most people just chuckled when they learned of Tiki Barber's plan to return to the NFL at age of 36 and after several years of doing other things, most of which were not good.
Everyone is waiting to hate on this troubled man when he fails and is rejected by the game that brought him fame. However, it is the doubters that will be fooled when Barber rushes for over 1,000 yards for whichever team wins him among the many that will line up at his door step at the end of the lockout.
Just kidding. I'm pretty confident that very few teams, maybe even none, will be interested in Mr. Barber, and if he does get his hands on the ball, nothing good will come of it.
If there is no season in 2011, it could give Tiki some time to think it over and make a better decision. Even former NFL stars think it's ridiculous.
Where Will Plax Play and at What Level?
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Plaxico Burress stepped out of his cell into freedom as a free agent ready to take bullets from any quarterback on an NFL team that will pay him.
The only problem is he's now facing another lockout so that anyone who would want to sign him will simply have to wait until the league is also released from bondage to pull the trigger.
Unlike Tiki, there is no question that Burress will find a job and quickly. I believe he will return to form and make an impact wherever he ends up, but with no 2011 season, NFL fans will have to wait to find out.
There are many teams we could see Plax playing for whenever play resumes, but it's safe to cross the champs off the list and of course the Giants.
Will "The Indecision" Re-Air?
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I don't care about LeBron's "decision." Brett Favre has somehow captivated sports media, specifically ESPN, and football fans for the last few summers with his indecision over retirement and tops any attention the so-called King received when he famously took his talents to South Beach.
There's no reason to be sure that the 41-year-old free agent won't take his talents back to the Twin Cities, and I'm sure Favre Watch will continue well into 2011, perhaps even until the gunslinger's final breath.
Favre fans and any NFL fans should want to see the offseason and the upcoming season continue on as normal because we will know for sure that good ol' Brett won't be back if football isn't being played.
The man simply loves the game (and possibly the spotlight). Pro football fans love the game. Therefore, NFL fans should love Favre.
For better or worse, he has entertained multitudes for nearly two decades and has brought so much to the league. Even bitter Packers fans know deep down that the game will sorely miss him when he's truly finished.
Although if he does happen to stay retired, this will be an acceptable reason why fans should not want to watch the NFL ever again.
Will the Packers Repeat or Will Another Team Take Back the Lombardi?
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All the buzz around Packer nation lately has been talk of returning to the big game and winning it once again, keeping the famous Lombardi Trophy home. However, is this chatter hometown bias or do the Pack have realistic shot at the enormous task of repeating?
Some would point to the past and say that history will also repeat itself. Every time Green Bay has made a trip to the Super Bowl, they've at least made it back the next season.
Some would point to the future, which is very murky at the moment. The Packers will be very happy to have Jermichael Finley and Ryan Grant back in the line up, but will injuries ravage this team again?
On paper, the Pack are clear favorites in the NFC, but paper burns and tears easily. They will have a titanic target on their backs and are certainly within range of last year's playoff foes—the Eagles, Falcons and Bears.
Should history repeat itself and they do end up in Indianapolis, that doesn't guarantee another ring. You can never count out the Patriots and Steelers when it comes to the Super Bowl lately. The Colts would also be excited to play the big game at home.
History also says that a different team has represented the NFC in each of the last 10 years. Can the Pack break that impressive streak? Of course this is all just speculation if there is no season.
Will the Rams Push into the Postseason?
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After a string of dismal seasons, the St. Louis Rams followed up their 1-15 record in 2009 with a 7-9 campaign in 2010 and controlled their own destiny in Week 17 despite being a game under .500.
Steven Jackson, who has been the best, and often the only decent player in St. Louis for quite some time was disappointed when his team fell just short and lost to the Seahawks. Many players and fans were just happy the season had gone so well with the rookie Sam Bradford under center.
The expectations will be higher in 2011, if there is a 2011, and it will likely be up to Jackson and the young QB to boost the Rams to the next level.
How Will Romo Respond to Last Season's Flop?
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One of the biggest surprises of 2010 was Tony Romo's broken left collarbone and the subsequent fall of the Dallas Cowboys who had hoped to finally make it back to the Super Bowl, in Jerry Jone's palace nonetheless.
Tony Romo is fully recovered and ready to connect with his corps of young receivers and top tight end in 2011, but can he ever achieve the success of his 2007 season in which he threw for 36 TDs again?
Will the Cowboys be back? Or will Jason Garrett's tenure come to an end after one season?
Only a season of football will tell.
Will We Even See T.O. Again?
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The facts that had been hidden for a few months have finally surfaced. The 37-year-old and former star receiver, Terrell Owens, tore his left ACL and had surgery to repair it back in April.
The reason I say former is because T.O. is no longer a star in this league. He has bounced around the nation the last few years, and even without the injury, his best days are certainly cemented in the past.
At first, the question was what team will sign him next, but now, there is speculation that he may have even played his last snap. His agent Drew Rosenhaus claims that all retirement talk is foolishness, and Owens will be ready to go when the season starts.
If the season starts.
Will Madden Curse Strike Peyton Hillis?
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The biggest upset in the NFL's recent history may not have been the Giants over the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII, but Peyton Hillis over Aaron Rodgers in the 2012 Madden NFL cover vote.
The infamous Madden Curse is now lurking in the shadow of Cleveland's workhorse back, waiting to claim its next victim and ruin his 2011 season.
However, if there is no 2011 season, Hillis has nothing to fear.
Will the Lions Continue Forward?
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After years of collecting high draft picks and rebuilding, the Detroit Lions seem like they are finally escaping their historic 0-16 season.
In 2010, they won four straight to end the year, including an ugly 7-3 contest against the eventual champs and finished 6-10 with their former first-round pick QB Matthew Stafford on the sidelines.
The Lions still have one of the best receivers in the league with Calvin Johnson and have added other offensive weapons along the way such as second-year back, Jahvid Best.
However, it is their ever-improving defense that is beginning to become frightening with Ndamukong Suh and now Nick Fairley clogging up the middle and rushing the quarterback.
Detroit will dive into 2011 with an optimistic outlook, seeking their first playoff berth since 1999. Chances are they will continue forward, but it may be a year or two until they can sneak into the postseason.
Will Cam Be a Bust or Savior in Carolina?
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Neither, but it will be hard to determine if 2010's worst team is spared a 2011 season that won't be much better.
Cam will carry this team as far as it can go next season if he sees the field, but that isn't very far. He won't solve the Panthers' problems, however, I don't think he can really make things much worse. He'll bring some excitement and sell a few tickets for sure.
Cam Newton wants to be a star in the league, but we won't know how his quest will begin if Carolina can't sign him soon.
Will the Chiefs Win the AFC West Again?
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Although Kansas City did make the postseason last year after an amazing turn around from 2009, they were easily handled by the Ravens in the Wild Card round.
If Matt Cassel, Dwayne Bowe and the rest of the air attack can become as good as the ground game led by Jamaal Charles, the Chiefs could compete at an even higher level next season should there be one.
Will Cutler Prove There Is More Than One Top Notch QB in NFC North?
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I don't know if Jay Cutler can take the Bears back to the NFC Championship and redeem himself or at least quiet his critics after his highly debated tap out last season. That means I also don't know if he can disprove the current belief that Aaron Rodgers is the only consistent and quality quarterback located near the Great Lakes.
However, what I do know is that there is potential behind center on every NFC North team that doesn't wear purple.
The Vikings quarterback question won't be answered fully in 2011 even if there is football (further discussed in later slide), but the Lions are looking to reinstate Matthew Stafford as their leader and the Bears are hoping Cutler can live up to the expectations he had when he came to Chicago.
Cutler has shown he can be great, but he has also revealed he can kill a team. Stafford hasn't been on the field enough to completely prove his worth as a top pick.
One thing is certain. The NFL will not be able to even begin to guess the future of these two young men if there is no season in 2011.
Where Will Vince Young Find a Home?
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Vince Young's falling out in Tennessee is old news, but it will be breaking news whenever he reappears on an NFL team.
It will be interesting to see where Vince and his attitude end up as well as what role he will take on. But does anyone really care anymore?
Will Tim Tebow Take the Reins in Denver?
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The biggest name in the recent history of college football may get his chance to be an NFL starter for the Denver Broncos as soon as this season.
The team's new coach, John Fox, has declared an open competition for the quarterback position with Tim Tebow as the frontrunner. However, there isn't much hope in Mile High for any kind of future with the former Florida Gator.
Tebow may begin the season in a starting role, maybe even finish it, but he isn't "the answer" for the Broncos.
Will Vick's Success Continue?
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Michael Vick had a marvelous return to the grid iron in 2010 when he was graciously gifted a second chance as a starter in the NFL.
His performance nearly won him the MVP, but we have to ask ourselves, will this miraculous redemption story continue to be written or will Vick run out of ink in 2011?
The Eagles don't seem to have an answer and neither do I. Philadelphia signed Mike Vick to a one-year deal last March and will wait to see how he fares this season before putting their full faith in him, especially after he sent the team home with a poorly thrown pass in the playoffs.
Will Aaron Rodgers Win MVP?
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I said earlier that all Packers fans are talking about is a Super Bowl victory repeat. Well, there is one other thing that seems to push it's way into the minds of many cheeseheads—Aaron Rodgers for MVP.
Rodgers did have one of the best postseasons ever for a quarterback in 2010 and snatched the Super Bowl MVP, but he will have some competition for the regular season prize in 2011.
Yearly favorites like Manning (Peyton that is), Brees, and last season's winner, Tom Brady, won't be giving any ground to the man who's creeping up behind them in conversations of the NFL's top QBs. It may even be a running back's turn to win the award or even the 2010 runner-up, running quarterback Michael Vick.
Rodgers is a sure favorite after his recent dominance but not a surefire winner. The 2011 NFL season can only settle the matter.
Will Julio Jones Be Worth the Cost?
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My guess is no, however, the Falcons believe Julio Jones will be an instant success for them suiting up opposite of Roddy White, and he better be considering all of the picks they traded away for him.
Falcons fans should be looking forward to a 2011 season with a loaded offensive attack, but will failure to draft defensive players early hurt Atlanta in the playoffs once again?
Everyone but the Falcons' management felt the blockbuster deal was risky and unreasonable. No one will be proven right if there is no season.
Who Will Be Saints' Starting RB?
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The Contestants: Mark Ingram, Chris Ivory, Pierre Thomas, Reggie Bush???
The Answer: Mark Ingram
As far as I'm concerned Reggie's time in the Big Easy is over. If that wasn't already settled in stone, it was when the workhorse, Mark Ingram, was drafted.
Pierre Thomas probably won't be traded and will be used as a third down back, meaning Chris Ivory will settle for a third string spot.
Mark Ingram is the man now in New Orleans, although nothing is certain until the season begins.
Will Josh Freeman Take the Bucs to the Playoffs?
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The Buccaneers had one of the youngest teams in the NFL last season which included second-year quarterback Josh Freeman. Freeman was efficient to say the least in 2010, throwing 25 touchdowns to only six interceptions.
He led Tampa Bay to a 10-6 record, but unfortunately, the team did not control its own destiny heading into a Week 17 matchup with the New Orleans Saints. So although the rising Bucs grabbed their final victory against their division rival, the eventual Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers also won and took the last available wild card slot.
The Buccaneers were disappointed of course, but there was also a sense of hope after a season that surpassed expectations and improved drastically from 2009. They play in a tough NFC South, however, they will certainly compete for the division crown or a Wild Card berth if there is a season in 2011.
Will Cardinals Trade for Kolb?
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There is no doubt that Kevin Kolb will be traded after the resurgence of Michael Vick in Philly and Kolb's untapped ability as a starting QB in the league.
The Cardinals have been the most likey candidate since the rumors began and apparently are still very interested. They are desperate for a quarterback, and I'm sure Larry Fitzgerald is especially praying that Arizona will bring him in.
Odds are Kolb will finally get his chance with the Cards in 2011, but only if there is a season of course.
Will Carson Palmer Retire?
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Many believe this threat is empty, which it very well may be, but it is certainly possible that an NFL player with millions in the bank would go home and relax in retirement if he can't get what he wants.
Cincinnatti claims it has no intentions of trading Palmer, but if there is no season, we won't know if the unhappy QB will back up his talk and call it quits.
Will McNabb Move to Minnesota?
All signs point to Donovan's departure from D.C. and his most likely destination is Minnesota. However, it appears that the aging veteran is more interested in the Vikings than they are in him.
The franchise will put their faith in their first-round draft pick, Christian Ponder, as soon as possible and if they do decide to bring in McNabb, it will not be to help resurrect his career but to pave the way for Ponder.
Touching on an earlier note, even if McNabb manages to make several starts in Minnesota, he will never be a top of the line signal-caller in the league ever again.
I could be wrong, but we won't know if there's no season.