NFL: 7 Reasons This Season Is More Intriguing Than Past Years
It's not like fans are hard-pressed to find reasons for tuning-in to football, and this season will give them even more motivation to do so.
Intriguing storylines have always cluttered the airwaves from week to week, and several football-related topics will again provide for interesting water-cooler conversations across the country.
This year is special, though. A catastrophic offseason has reshaped the football earth, leaving several plot twists to emerge in its aftermath.
As we witness these stories take shape over the years, we may keep looking at the 2011 season as a starting point to league-changing events. Most will truly come into their own in years to come, but several will be noticed sooner than later.
That said, it's worth examining seven reasons why this season will be more intriguing than others in recent memory.
New Players and Coaches
Justin Edmonds/Getty Images
It's never easy to be the new guy in town, but this may be the toughest year to have that burden.
Transitional years always come with their share of growing pains, and the lockout-shortened offseason will do nothing to help that. Players and coaches in new locations will have to prepare with a sense of urgency like never before in order to keep-up with teams with familiar players and coaching schemes.
New systems or not, the lockout provided a great obstacle for every team to overcome. In the coming weeks, we will truly see the men separate themselves from the boys after facing difficult circumstances.
Superstars May Face a Decline
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
For years the NFL has branded itself with the faces of its superstars. But now, many are entering the twilights of their Hall-of-Fame careers.
Players like Peyton Manning and Ray Lewis are well into their thirties, and many wonder just how much is left in the tank. Manning faces great adversity now, coming off of a neck surgery that may sideline him for the first time in his 13-year career.
Lewis, on the other hand, took a swig from the fountain of youth after 2007 and has not missed a game in three straight seasons. Though he is no longer the wrecking ball he was in his prime, he is still one of the elite linebackers that the NFL has to offer.
The coming weeks will tell if this is the year that these household names significantly "slow down."
The Torch Will Be Passed to a Younger Generation
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Though the window for veteran stars is closing, a new one may be opening for a younger batch of potential marquee names.
Quarterbacks like Sam Bradford and Matthew Stafford have been classified as players that have more than just loads of potential. They are rare breeds that, if healthy, could usher in a new era of headliners.
Stafford has been familiarized with coach Jim Schwartz's scheme and won't have the task of learning a new playbook in a shortened offseason. With a talented supporting cast around him, he could be heading toward a career-year.
Unlike Stafford, Bradford does have to learn a new offense. The good news is: Josh McDaniels' pass-happy scheme, coupled with an upgraded receiving corps will be much to the youngster's benefit, especially in the long-term.
The torch of the NFL will never stop burning, and these are just two of the new faces that could be carrying it.
Possible Redemption Stories
Patrick McDermott/Getty Images
While the NFL is trying to turn a new corner after the lockout, players that have been given a second chance will aim to do the same.
Plaxico Burress will look to solidify his position on the New York Jets' depth chart after a prison sentence for possession of a weapon kept him out of the league for over two seasons.
So far, Burress has impressed in preseason, and he will look to carry that momentum into the regular season in hopes of rejuvenating his career.
Will This Be the Last (and Only) Year That the New Kickoff Rule Takes Effect?
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
One of the non-CBA changes that the league is amidst, is a new rule that moved kickoffs from the 30-yard line to the 35-yard line. As a result, it's been touchbacks-a-plenty this preseason.
It's a rule that has an almost zero-percent chance of changing before the season's end, but the demand to eliminate the new rule is hard to ignore. Nevertheless, it's an intriguing chapter of the unfolding story that is the 2011 NFL season.
Will Defensive Players Ease-Up to Avoid Fines?
Leon Halip/Getty Images
Ndamukong Suh appears to be James Harrison's successor on the top of Roger Goodell's list of players to make examples of.
And judging by Suh's quotes after his $20,000 fine for hitting Cincinnati Bengals' quarterback Andy Dalton, it won't make a difference.
So, if Suh is a valid spokesman for the players, and players will in fact continue to play to the fullest of their abilities, then how does fining players for hits on the ambiguously-classified "defenseless player" actually make the game safer?
Safe or not, we will likely see a fair share of fines issued this season. What could surprise us, however, is the lack of effect it will have on the game's safety level. If that is a continued trend, we could likely see much unrest coming from the NFLPA.
And we just love it when the league and the players' union is at odds, right?
This Season Almost Didn't Happen
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Despite the money that would be lost from a truncated season, fans and publications still panicked to no end about the looming possibility of having no football this fall.
Whether you bought-in to the idea of a lost season or not, players, owners and fans still endured the longest work-stoppage in NFL history.
So this September, do yourself a favor and kick-back on the couch, pop-open a beer and sigh in relief. You earned it.
Even if you didn't.