It Can Strike Anywhere: Ten Disasters That Could Hit the 2010 NFL Season
There will be a year when the NFL season will play out exactly as expected.
There will be no surprise teams, no major injuries will destroy the playoff picture, and all the first round picks will earn every last penny of their guaranteed money.
Sportswriters everywhere will rejoice, and all of the network TV "experts" will finally know what they're talking about.
...that's a joke, of course.
Nothing ever goes according to plan. And that's a good thing. After all, life just isn't very interesting without a little drama.
Why else do you think we invented reality television? And let's face it, these days, pro football is just as much a reality show as it is a sport.
And when it comes to boosting the ratings, there's no news like bad news.
Make no mistake, this season will see its share of train wrecks. Some are likely to affect teams that are already a train wreck in their own right.
But good teams are not exempt either, and that's where the true catastrophes lie.
So here they are, the top ten disasters waiting to afflict this year's NFL season.
10. Matt Leinart Becomes a Star
We start this list off with a truly terrible "what if" scenario.
The Matt Leinart saga rolls on. For good or ill, he's the Texans' problem now.
But what if, perhaps by some major screw-up of divine providence, both Dan Orlovksy and Matt Schuab go down with injuries, and Matt Leinart inherits the starting gig?
What if he pulls a Tom Brady, and finally becomes the player we all thought he was going to be? The horror would be simply unbearable...
Wait, why would Matt Leinart at long last being successful constitute a disaster...?
As much as us NFL fans like a good hero, we need villains too. And when it comes to current players, Matt Leinart is one of the NFL's biggest goats.
In addition to being an alum of an invalid USC squad, his crimes include being a a truly rotten disappointment in his first four seasons, earning the scornful envy of men everywhere with his hot tub escapades, and bungling the position he inherited from Kurt Warner badly enough to make the Cardinals jettison immediately.
So, if he were to finally become a star quarterback, it's likely that only Leinart, the Texans, and their fans will feel like winners.
The rest of us will have no choice but to bow our heads in shame, and maybe take our anger out on the local sports talk host.
And if we didn't hate him before, just imagine yet another hot tub picture surfacing on the internet, this one with Leinart holding a shiny trophy and giving us all the finger, and with twice as many young women...
9. The Albert Haynesworth Situation Destroys the Redskins
There's no reason Mike Shanahan and Donovan McNabb shouldn't be able to usher the Redskins back towards legitimate respectability.
At the same time, the fact that they now have a $100 million man riding the pine is downright laughable.
Albert Haynesworth certainly brought this fate on himself, and Shanahan deserves credit for having the balls to handle the big guy like he has.
He wouldn't even take crap from Al Davis, so why would he take any from Haynesworth?
But make no mistake. This story isn't going away any time soon.
If the Redskins are able to succeed, the feud between Haynesworth and Shanahan will probably be a moot point, whether or not the big guy ends up starting.
But even McNabb has publicly stated that they need Haynesworth if they expect to win.
Indeed, the disaster waiting in the wings here will strike if the Redskins struggle this year.
If the losses start to pile up, and there is still bad blood between the coach and his expensive nose tackle, we may be faced with a mid-season soap opera on the level of Owens/McNabb.
Like with that one, ESPN will undoubtedly assume that our lives revolve around the Redskins, and will bombard us with each and every headline they can muster, now matter how obscure.
The Skins have reportedly started trade discussions with the Titans. Here's hoping a deal can be made.
Simply shipping Albert back to Tennessee might just be the best way to end this thing once and for all.
But if a deal can't be made, we may have no choice but to try and cope with the drama all season long. Perish the thought...
8. Something Rotten in Cincinnati
Not all wide receivers are whiny, egotistical dingbats. Most of them are, but not all.
How lucky are the Bengals, then, to have two of these guys on their payroll?
True enough, things between Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens are apparently all hunky dory. Their Batman and Robin thing is actually a pretty good laugh, and T.O. doesn't seem to have a problem with Marvin Lewis' plan to use him primarily on short routes designed to open up the field for the younger, quicker Ochocinco. On balance, it would appear that there's nothing to fear here.
But in the words of Indiana Jones, that's what scares me.
If there are two incontrovertible truths in the realm of professional football, they are that Chad Ochocinco never shuts up, and that T.O. alienates every team he plays for.
If the Bengals can live up to lofty expectations, and Carson Palmer can handle the gargantuan task of satisfying both of his two primary receivers, there's no reason for the two to butt heads. But if there's trouble, we may end up remembering Donovan McNabb's wise words from a few years back.
"One guy doesn't make a team," he said. "Break a team? Maybe."
If one guy can break a team, there's no telling what two guys can do. If things do turn sour between Cincincatti's Batman and Robin duo, it could potentially be very ugly, and the Bengals will suffer collectively because of it.
7. The Chargers Don't Win the West
The Chargers once again find themselves heavily favored to win the AFC West. And why not? They've won the division five out of the last six years, and they boast yet another uber-talented roster. And on paper, the other teams in the division just don't stack up.
But that doesn't mean we should hand them the trophy today.
Unlike in years past, this version of the Chargers are noticeably weaker. In fact, only a fool would say that the 2010 edition is as strong or stronger than those of the past several years. The great L.T. and the not-as-great Antonio Cromartie both bolted to New York. Pro Bowl tackle Marcus McNeill is still holding out. Vincent Jackson's own holdout landed him on the Roster Exempt list. And because of his personal conduct suspension, he won't play until Week 7, if at all.
Furthermore, there is reason to believe that some of San Diego's division mates can give them a run for their money. The Raiders have drastically improved their run defense, and they now have a quarterback who can actually throw the ball on target (gasp!).
They're a dark horse in every sense of the term. Meanwhile, let us not forget that the Broncos started 6-0 last year. And if were Kyle Orton, I'd have a chip on my shoulder.
Thus, the Chargers should win the division. Not will. In the event that they don't, it's possible that Norv Turner will get the axe (again). And who knows how slippery the slope could get after that...
6. The New York Jets Underachieve
Initially, before Revis signed on, there was to be no mention of the Jets on this list. The fact is that without the best corner in the league, the possibility of the Jets having a mediocre season didn't seem all that far-fetched.
But with Revis back in the mix, anything less than a serious run at a championship will be an outrage. And therein lies the rub.
As if you haven't already had your fill of Jets gossip by now, just imagine how much crap will hit the fan if they struggle to win games this season.
And even with Revis, there are plenty of reasons why they might. Their offense was decidedly mediocre last season, placing in the middle of the pack in both points and yards per game.
And while it's usually foolish to place too much stock in preseason numbers, Sanchez and Co. didn't exactly impress. Sanchez has good targets to throw to in Braylon Edwards and the newly-acquired Santonio Holmes, however, so the pressure is all on him.
Adding L.T. won't hurt, but he's obviously not the player he once was.
Because of their offensive middle-of-the-packness, they're going to need their defense to be as great as it was last season, when they allowed a league low 14.8 points and 252.3 yards per game. But what if it isn't? Remember, nothing ever goes according to plan. And Revis basically missed all of training camp. Is he in shape? Is he going to be able to earn that ridiculous pile of cash?
They don't suffer losers in New York, and the Jets haven't produced a championship in over 40 years. Time for Rex to nut up or shut up.
(For the record, I wish he would do both).
5. The Rams Can't Protect Sam Bradford
There's not much hope for St. Louis this season. They're going to stink again. But what hope there is for the future all rests on the shoulders of Sam Bradford.
Trouble is that Bradford already had problems with one of those shoulders, and it's questionable whether or not the Rams offensive line is up to the task of protecting him.
In Bradford's debut against the Vikings, he was sacked four times. If things end up going all to hell, that first showing may end up being viewed as a harbinger of sorts, the one game that signaled the inevitability of a major injury to the franchise's $50 million man.
Like any major injury, this is hardly a foregone conclusion. But there's no escaping that the ingredients are there. While it may be unfair to call Bradford damaged goods, it's hard to think of other quarterbacks who were selected No. 1 overall who only attempted 69 passes in his last year of college.
Couple that with the fact that the Rams' O-line allowed 44 sacks last year (seventh worst in the league), and Rams fans have every reason to chew their fingernails down to the nub.
The good news? Bradford was sacked only once in his other preseason appearances, and he had a very strong showing in his final tune-up against Baltimore, making several of his six completions under considerable pressure.
Clearly, he's made adjustments. And why wouldn't he? He's already been hurt once as a result of poor protection.
If Bradford does go down, the Rams face the possibility of being significantly screwed for the long term. Again.
4. The Colts Suffer From Their Super Bowl Defeat
It's hard to look at any team that has Peyton Manning under center and forecast a subpar season, not with a straight face anyway. Thus, I won't try. The Colts should be as solid as ever this season.
But still, the unfortunate truth is that recent history has not been kind to Super Bowl losers. Of the last ten teams who flamed out on football's biggest stage, only three have won as many as ten games the following season, and seven missed the playoffs altogether.
Going back to 1999, Manning's sophomore season, the only year the Colts didn't win ten or more games was 2001 (otherwise known as the "Playoffs?!" year). And that's exactly why it's so difficult to seriously discuss their downfall. But even if one were to disregard their loss in last year's Super Bowl, it is still hard to shake the notion that they're due for a decline.
At eleven years, the Colts' run of success is freakishly long by NFL standards. The grim reality is this. They've spoiled us.
If it so happens that the Colts do stumble this year, failing either to reach the 10-win mark or the playoffs, the notion that their failure is, in fact, a disaster will set in very subtly. As one of the more likable sports dynasties in recent memory, even thinking about their downfall feels like a major bummer.
In fact, this is one of the only disasters on this list that wouldn't be good theater. So here's hoping it doesn't happen.
3. The Dallas Cowboys Don't Make It to The Super Bowl
Does anybody outside the state of Texas actually buy into the nonsense about the Cowboys being "America's Team?" Indeed, you can't just give yourself a designation like that. I know from experience. I tried referring to myself as "America's Man" for a couple days, and people regarded me like I was some kind of scum wholesaler. True story.
All kidding aside, it's no secret that the pressure is on the Cowboys to be hoisting hardware at the end of every season. They're like the Yankees, except not nearly as successful. True enough, the Cowboys are once again among the elites in the NFC, and many like them to go all the way. At the very least, they're pretty much a lock to make the playoffs.
But that's where things are likely to get dicey. Sure, Romo and his mates managed to secure the franchise's first playoff win since the mid 1990s last season. But when they endured a hellfire thrashing at the hands of Favre and the Vikings, all their shortcomings became painfully obvious. Aside from drafting a stud like Dez Bryant, what exactly have they done to remedy things? They weren't good enough last year, why should they be good enough this year?
Of course, just about every team in the league would like to say that failing to reach the Super Bowl would constitute a disaster. But only in Big D is this actually so.
If the Cowboys do fail to make it all the way, it wouldn't be at all surprising if Jerry Jones blew a gasket and had both Wade Phillips and Tony Romo humiliated in a spectacular public fashion, and then had them ceremoniously driven across the land.
That actually sounds like a hoot, so my fingers are crossed.
2. Brett Favre's Return Goes For Naught
I'll admit that I thought last season was going to be disastrous for Favre. Boy was I glad to be wrong.
Indeed, it was hard to not find some enjoyment in watching the old man give his critics a high-five to the face by leading the Vikings to a 12-4 record and an appearance in the NFC Championship.
Favre himself maintains that it was his best season, a claim that the numbers support. His passer rating of 107.2 was a career best, and his seven picks were a career low. Combined with Adrian Peterson and the Vikings' killer defense, it was hard to find a more exciting squad to watch on Sundays than Minnesota's.
But that was last year. Favre has only been back a couple weeks, and already the vibes feel downright perilous. Favre himself took the trouble to stand in front of cameras this past weekend so he could tell fans to tamper their expectations. He looked like a dumb child trying to explain a D+ to his parents. And then there's that ankle, and the fact that the Vikings' opener on Thursday is against the very team that beat Favre to a pulp in his final game last season.
True, even if Favre doesn't come close to last season's numbers, the Vikings are probably good enough to succeed anyway. Their defense is still very strong, and Adrian Peterson is still a beast. But it would be hard to imagine them making it to the Super Bowl with a mediocre Favre. The worst case scenario, of course, involves the old timer finally being dealt an injury that even he can't play through. The Vikings will go nowhere with Tarvaris Jackson, and Favre's final return will have been in vain.
The only question then would be whether or not Favre wants to go out that way, leaving the door open for the circus to continue.
1. The Madden Cover Curse Claims Drew Brees
By all accounts, Drew Brees is a very intelligent man. Therefore, he should have known better than to go and do something as foolish as agreeing to be on the cover of Madden 11. For anybody not in the loop, Madden 11 is a video game. And being on the cover basically means you're doomed.
The curse was born in 1999, when cover man Barry Sanders retired before the start of the season. Eddie George (2000) and Larry Fitzgerald (2009) notwithstanding, the Curse rarely misses. And it's been particularly tough on quarterbacks.
- Daunte Culpepper went 4-7 as a starter in 2001 before a knee injury ended his season.
- Michael Vick broke his leg in a preseason game the day after the game was released in 2003.
- Donovan McNabb missed seven games in 2004, missed the Pro Bowl, and hasn't made one since.
- Brett Favre ended up on another team in 2008, causing mass confusion with the cover. He played relatively well in the early stages of the season, but a bicep injury and other things caused him to falter late.
If the Curse were to claim Brees, it would be a massive bummer for pretty much anyone with a vested interest in the NFL. For all intents and purposes, the Saints are pretty much the darlings of the league right now; some might even go so far as to call them the true America's Team.
Losing Brees would kill any and all hopes of a repeat in New Orleans. In addition, watching the Saints fight for their lives with Patrick Ramsey at the helm would probably be a pretty depressing spectacle to behold.
One of the residual tragedies, of course, would be the affect that an injury to Brees would have on the fantasy football universe. The Saints won't be able to win without him, and neither will John Q. Football Geek's fantasy team.
And that's a damn shame.