Drama-filled offseason has a lot in store
As September arrives, millions of Americans across the nation share a common interest: football. With fall comes the much anticipated beginning of the NFL season - a time when fans everywhere rejoice and saturate their lives with goodness otherwise known as America's most popular sport.
But what is it, exactly, that keeps these fans coming back for more pigskin madness year after year? One plausible explanation is the chaotic offseason drama that preludes every regular season, that rising sequence filled with twists and turns that engages fans long after the thrill of the actual season has ended. The more drama in the offseason, the more storylines during the season. And this year, there has been enough drama in the league to fill an entire Gossip Girl book: Jay Cutler forced his trade to the Chicago Bears after a brief time as the Denver Broncos' "quarterback of the future." Ex-convict Michael Vick finally found a home with the Philadelphia Eagles after serving a two-year prison term. Even Brett Favre returned for his offseason drama, once again initiating his annual guessing game.
This year's intricate offseason storylines have set the platform for an exciting season that will answer numerous questions for fans: How will the Pittsburgh Steelers, defending Super Bowl Champs, return to glory this season? Was trading the supposed "quarterback of the future" Jay Cutler a bad move for the Broncos? How will Michael Vick perform after more than a year in prison, and will he stay on good terms with the law? Is this finally Brett Favre's last year? Only time will tell. NFL season 2009-2010, here we go.
Sunday, Sept. 13
Jacksonville Jaguars (0-0) at Indianapolis Colts (0-0)
Rose - Indianapolis
Dennis - Indianapolis
Ava - Indianapolis
Despite their frequent runs into the playoffs over the last several years, the Colts will have to bring out their best to match the new bold attitude and skilled draft class of their Jaguar opponents. In fact, the new draft may be the best in years, although head coach Jack Del Rio is willing to take some risks. The two top picks are Eugene Monroe and Eben Britton, two formidable tacklers, who will probably become the first ever novice tackling team to start on opening day. But the move won't quite pay off; the Colts are sure to conquer the new up-and-coming team.
The Colts have always been a team to win games through the air, but this time Peyton Manning won't have Marvin Harrison. They'll need former Spartan Anthony Gonzalez to step up to the job. Watch for David Garrard to put up some numbers with a better offensive line. The Colts take the win.
Maurice Jones-Drew is Jacksonville's only real threat. The Colts' home advantage is going to work for them, and Peyton Manning should lead his team to victory.
Detroit Lions (0-0) at New Orleans Saints (0-0)
Rose - New Orleans
Dennis - New Orleans
Ava - New Orleans
Although the Lions just barely scraped a victory over the Colts in a preseason game, it's doubtful they'll be able to brag about similar victories down the line. Rumored to be one of the teams to beat among all those in the NFC South, New Orleans has the power and punch to dominate. Despite the injury of tight end Billy Miller, who was fairly productive last season, the Saints will pull through on this one, even if it is by a relatively small margin.
Drew Brees has flourished in the Saints' offense. For their running game to be successful, Reggie Bush will have to continue where he left off after his knee injury. The Lions are coming off a season of losses and are looking for rookie starter Matt Stafford to put a pulse back in the offense.
The Saints should easily take this game. Not only was Detroit's record 0-16 last year, but New Orleans has Drew Breeze and Reggie Bush in addition to Marques Colston, who is back from an injury-plagued '08.
Philadelphia Eagles (0-0) at Carolina Panthers (0-0)
Rose - Philadelphia
Dennis - Philadelphia
Ava - Philadelphia
This season, the Eagles appear to have it all: Michael Vick and a spot as a top contender among the NFC East. The Panthers, on the other hand, will need much more than they have to manage a win. Without a run-stopper or much depth on defense, Carolina is looking at quite a stumbling block. Looks like the Eagles have an easy opener.
The Eagles have been able to stop the Panther offense in the past, as they have won four of five contests against Carolina. This year, the Eagles have lost a star safety in Brian Dawkins and will attempt to hush the dynamic duo of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. Look for the Eagles to win the offensive battle in what could be a great game.
The Eagles are definitely looking at a victory. With their good leadership and management, the game shouldn't be too close.
Dallas Cowboys (0-0) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-0)
Rose - Dallas
Dennis - Dallas
Ava - Dallas
One glance at the Cowboys' last preseason game would leave any Dallas fan embarrassed. Strewn with missed tackles, penalties, fumbles and turnovers, the Cowboys made it obvious that they were still refining their season roster. But Patrick Watkins seemed to be on his game, with seven tackles and a blocked field goal to show for his offseason training. Tampa Bay's preseason loss to the Texans shows some vulnerability, and they probably won't be able to outdo the competition that lies ahead.
No T.O.? Without former star Terrell Owens, the team is now centered on Tony Romo. With the Buccaneers, Byron Leftwich is once again a starter and going to rely on Cadillac William's running game to boost the offense. Still, the Cowboys are more experienced on both sides of the ball and are poised to win their season opener.
No matter the outcome, it will be interesting to see how Romo plays without the distraction of T.O. But Tampa Bay's new young coach has yet to prove himself, and the Cowboys' Jason Whitten is looking to have a huge year. Dallas will win on Sunday.
New York Jets (0-0) at Houston Texans (0-0)
Rose - Houston
Dennis - New York
Ava - New York
One glance at the competition in the Jets' division will tell all: they simply don't have what it takes. The Texans are constructing a talented team this season, with cornerback Dunta Robinson as their newest addition. Houston head coach Gary Kubiak hinted that Robinson may or may not play prominently against the Jets, but that he would definitely be on the field. Although the Jets mastered the Eagles in a 38-27 preseason game, the lucky win won't be enough motivation to push them past the likes of Houston.
Rookie Mark Sanchez makes his debut in this game as the Jets' starter quarterback. His performance may determine the outcome of the game. With Rex Ryan in command and Bart Scott under his belt, the Jets look to display an upgraded defense. Matt Schaub's ability to get the ball in Andre Johnson's hands will have a major impact on the game. The Jets will defeat the Texans.
You could call this game a toss-up, but Houston has been last in the AFC South for the past couple of years and the Jets should defeat the mediocre team.
Kansas City Chiefs (0-0) at Baltimore Ravens (0-0)
Rose - Baltimore
Dennis - Baltimore
Ava - Baltimore
With quarterback Matt Cassel improving daily from a preseason knee injury, Chiefs head coach Todd Haley is faced with a dilemma. Cassel insists Haley will have to drag him back from the field if they don't want him to play against the Ravens, but despite Cassel's readiness the season opener is still a muddled picture for Haley, who is unsure whether Cassel will play. But the Ravens are less unsure; they seem determined to throw well and are sure to have a game plan that puts the Chiefs down by one.
The Chiefs have attempted to add a little life to their offense with Matt Cassel, but it is uncertain whether he will play. Larry Johnson looks to bounce back from injuries and a disappointing season. Despite the absence of long-time defensive coordinator Rex Ryan, the Raven defense still seems intact and poised for another great season. Many eyes will be on Joe Flacco for his first sophomore game. Ravens take it easily.
The Ravens should win this match-up. Baltimore has one of the best defenses in the league, and Joe Flaco had a great rookie year.
Denver Broncos (0-0) at Cincinnati Bengals (0-0)
Rose - Cincinnati
Dennis - Cincinnati
Ava - Cincinnati
Talk about drama. In response to Cincinnati's Chad Ocho Cinco teasing Denver's Champ Bailey about how he'd love to humiliate him at the Sunday opener, Bailey just laughed. And really, Ocho Cinco doesn't have much to tease Baily about, considering that both players are returning from equally exasperating seasons. But because Denver is experiencing a rebuilding year both for the players and organization-wide, Cincinnati might just snag this one.
Both teams are coming off disappointing seasons, but neither has done very much to ensure that disappointment doesn't happen again. The Broncos lost their
former "quarterback of the future" Jay Cutler, and Brandon Marshall hasn't been very happy playing for them. The Bengals lost their leading receiver in T.J. Houshmanzadeh. However, they've acquired Laveranues Coles in his place and Carson Palmer is back to lead his offense. Bengals win it.
Denver had all the drama with their management this summer, and their new QB Kyle Orton might have a hard time racking up more points than Chad Ochocinco. With Carson Palmer back from injury, Cincinnati will win.
Minnesota Vikings (0-0) at Cleveland Browns (0-0)
Rose - Minnesota
Dennis - Minnesota
Ava - Minnesota
With prime defense and the addition of Brett Favre, the Vikings should be in a desirable position for a win against the Browns. Although Favre has a torn rotator cuff and may have a cracked rib, fellow players insist that the 39-year old star is still more skilled than most other players, even with his injuries. So for this match, the Vikings are clearly the team to beat.
The biggest story in this game is clearly Brett Favre's passing performance after all of his offseason drama. The Browns are going to attempt to settle the quarterback controversy this week with a strong performance by whichever player new head coach Eric Mangini designates. Adrian Peterson is facing a revamped defense in the Browns, but even that might not be enough to stop what is arguably the best runningback in the league.
It's hard to argue with Brett Favre's skills – Minnesota should win. In addition to Favre and star running back Adrian Peterson, the Vikings have arguably one of the best defenses in the league.
Miami Dolphins (0-0) at Atlanta Falcons (0-0)
Rose - Miami
Dennis - Atlanta
Ava - Atlanta
For the Falcons, the recipe for success is as follows: improve the team as often as possible by adding new players. This includes the experienced Brian Williams, who will double as both cornerback and safety for Atlanta, and tight end Tony Gonzalez. But despite this new "veteran," it's probable that Miami will outplay the Falcons. After all, the Dolphins are stemming from an undefeated preseason, and are expected to play on Sunday with renewed vigor.
It's going to be interesting to see how the Wildcat fares in its second season. With the addition of the former Mountaineer QB Pat White, the Dolphin's offense looks to be even more potent, especially against a young Atlanta secondary. Also watch for Falcons playmakers Matt Ryan and Michael Turner to have a big game.
The Falcons should win this evenly matched game. QB Matt Ryan is coming off of a great rookie season, and his two main weapons Roddy White and Michael Tucker are back and supposedly better than ever. Also, the home field advantage can't hurt.
Washington Redskins (0-0) at New York Giants (0-0)
Rose - New York
Dennis - Washington
Ava - New York
At the risk of sounding disloyal, it is important to recognize that the Giants are probably one of the top teams in the NFC East. Any hope that existed for Redskins domination has been suffocated by the realization that the team would simply be unable to give the Giants a run for their money. No doubt our Redskins will put forth dedicated effort and determination, but it's hard to imagine that the Giants will be frazzled in the slightest.
For the past couple of seasons, the Redskins' chances of winning have depended on Jason Campbell's success as QB. That won't change this week. Watch out for big plays from newly acquired star DT Albert Haynesworth and rookie LB Brian Orakpo. The Giants will need to see production from their new WR starters, Domenik Hixon and Steve Smith, for a chance at winning. Redskins upset the Giants.
Sorry, Blazers, but I think the Giants will win this one! Both teams have great d-lines, but a much better QB leads the Giants (Campbell is inconsistent). Rookie Brian Orakpo looks promising, but he probably won't match the skills of Osi Umenyiora, who is returning this year for the Giants.
San Fransisco 49ers (0-0) at Arizona Cardinals (0-0)
Rose - Arizona
Dennis - Arizona
Ava - Arizona
While it's true that the Cardinals had a Superbowl appearance last year, their last season was still full of frustration and toil. Regardless, Arizona expects to push forward as the new season begins. In response to their lofty opener opponents, the 49ers are actually excited. They've been practicing "Nutcracker" training exercises and daily double practices for which the players had to be decked out in their full pads for the entirety of preseason. Now they want a chance to use those skills in a "real" game. Good news for them: it looks like an opportunity has come their way. Bad news for them: it doesn't look like they'll cinch this one.
It's not going to be easy for the Cardinals to repeat their NFC conference championship this year. Nonetheless, offensive keys Kurt Warner, Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald are back to try again. The Niners are hoping first-time starter QB Shaun Hill will be able to adjust in time to break through the Cardinals' impressive secondary led by Adrian Wilson. Look for the Cardinals to leave the field with a ‘W' on their record.
The Cardinals should win this game; they're still riding momentum from last year. Also, they have a better QB than San Francisco.
St. Louis Rams (0-0) at Seattle Seahawks (0-0)
Rose - Seattle
Dennis - Seattle
Ava - Seattle
Last season was nothing short of an embarrassment for the Rams, and while defensive tackle Adam Carriker still recovers from a shoulder injury it's still unlikely the team will match those horrific losses again. In fact, St. Louis will probably show healthy improvement, but not enough to combat the swagger of the Seahawks who will have just returned from a winning preseason game against their previous AFC West Raider rivals.
The QBs from both teams, Marc Bulger and Matt Hasselbeck, will be on the hot seat to effectively lead their respective offenses in this game. The Seahawks' stacked LB core may be a difference maker in the game. The Rams won't be able to break past Lofa Tatupu and his defense. Seahawks win it.
St. Louis ended up at the bottom of the league last year, and stars Matt Hasslebeck and TJ Houshmandzadeh are back for Seattle. The Seahawks will win on Sunday.
Chicago Bears (0-0) at Green Bay Packers (0-0)
Rose - Green Bay
Dennis - Chicago
Ava - Green Bay
When the Bears signed Jay Cutler, excitement ensued. But while offseason drama enveloped eager listeners and distracted Chicago's best, the Packers developed a solid team. They have laid the groundwork for victories against teams like the Bears, and the opener will prove that their quiet team building yielded success.
After their dramatic offseason, the Bears will finally debut Jay Cutler as their starter against their division rivals this week. On the other side of the ball, the Packers will show off their new 3-4 defensive scheme. Whoever prevails – Jay Cutler or the Packer defense – may very well determine the game. Bears take the win in a great game of rivalry football.
Despite Brett Favre drama, Aaron Rogers looks good. On the other hand, the Bears have a good defense. They also have Brian Urlacher, but nonetheless will have a hard time defeating Green Bay.
Monday, Sept. 14
Buffalo Bills (0-0) at New England Patriots (0-0)
Rose - New England
Dennis - New England
Ava - New England
Clearly, the Patriots are the favorite. The Bills are underdog. Since Tom Brady is back and in prime shape to begin a winning season, the Patriots have no fear of losing for quite a while. That is not to say that Buffalo will make it an easy game for Brady and the New England bunch, though. The game will certainly be one to watch.
When Buffalo has the ball, all eyes will be on Terrell Owens as he takes the field for the first time as a Bill. When New England has possession, Tom Brady will be spotlighted as he makes a comeback this season after suffering a serious knee injury. But the defensive upper hand goes to the Patriots, so watch for New England to bring home a victory.
If Tom Brady holds up in his first competitive game after returning from injury, New England should win easily. Buffalo isn't anything special, and it should be entertaining watching T.O. work with Trent Edwards.
San Diego Chargers (0-0) at Oakland Raiders (0-0)
Rose - San Diego
Dennis - San Diego
Ava - San Diego
After a strong finish last year, San Diego is sure to charge into the new season with the same strength and power demonstrated in 2008. But for the Raiders, there is an empty space still waiting to be filled. Richard Seymour continues to be a mysterious no-show, which recently forced Oakland to make a quick decision and re-sign William Joseph as defensive tackle. But four days without Seymour digs a deep hole for the Raiders, and their hasty tackler replacement won't be enough to prepare the team for a victory against the Chargers.
This game is all about how key players will emerge after mediocre seasons last year. Defensive leader LB Shawne Merriman and offensive leader RB LaDainian Tomlinson are bouncing off subpar seasons to bring the Chargers back to the playoffs. Oakland needs former first-round pick QB JaMarcus Russell and first-round pick RB Darren McFadden to live up to their potential and rise as offensive weapons. The Chargers have the more stable team.
San Diego has a good offense, and Oakland has a dysfunctional coaching staff right now. San Diego should win.
Dennis Chae. Whhaazzaaa, I'm Dennis Chae. I love my Baltimore Ravens and shoes. In fact, I collect sneakers and am always looking for a new pair of Nikes. The Ultimate Fighting Championship is probably going to be the greatest thing ever in a year or so. I ... More »
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Rose Wynn. I love piña coladas, getting caught in the rain and the ladies of the Blair Pom Squad. More »