The 2012 NFL season is underway, and the NFL on FOX and FOXSports.com have plenty of intriguing storylines for you to watch. What’s more, Green Day has teamed up with the NFL on FOX to provide a soundtrack for the network’s lineup in September, before and during the games. The band’s current single ‘Oh Love’ is out now, and the new album ¡Uno! drops on Sept. 25. Preorder the album here! So, what can we look forward to this season?
'Warning' in New York!
Like Von Dutch mesh trucker hats or the “High School Musical” craze, I thought, we, as a nation, had long moved beyond the wildcat formation. A hit in 2008, the then-innovative offensive package was silenced in 2009, when NFL defenses adapted and shut it down. Three years later, here we are again. In the Bills-Jets game, all eyes will be on Tim Tebow (pictured) in green, as he comes floating onto the field like an angel to run a few wildcat plays. But it’s not only New York that will run the wildcat. Former Jets player Brad Smith will be used at quarterback in the formation for Buffalo. Though the New York media has positioned Jets offensive coordinator Tony Sparano as the godfather of the package, it was actually Buffalo quarterbacks coach David Lee who brought it from the college ranks to Miami in 2008.
Ryan Tannehill begins to think “Wake Me Up When September Ends”
I’m not only certain that Miami will not beat Houston on Sunday, but I’m legitimately concerned about quarterback Ryan Tannehill’s safety. The Dolphins’ offensive line is shoddy at best. He has no legitimate No. 1, No. 2 or No. 3 NFL receiver to throw to, and he is a rookie going up against, arguably, the NFL’s best defense in his first career start. Robert Griffin III is up against the Saints in the Superdome, Andrew Luck has Julius Peppers to worry about in Chicago, and Brandon Weeden has Philadelphia's Jason Babin and Trent Cole breathing down his neck up in Cleveland. Those will all be days at the beach compared to what Tannehill (pictured) is going up against in his first NFL start. This has 44-10, 10 sacks written all over it. Welcome to the league, rookie.
It’s like a “Holiday” in Kansas City
The secret about the NFL is that it’s just one big family, with members displaced across the league. That will never be more evident than in the Chiefs-Falcons game. General managers Thomas Dimitroff and Scott Pioli worked together in New England. Before that, Pioli worked under Dimitroff’s dad on the staff of Bill Belichick (pictured) and Mike Lombardi in Cleveland. Pioli, son-in-law of Bill Parcells, is the Chiefs’ GM. Romeo Crenell (former defensive coordinator in New England) is his head coach. Dimitroff’s the Falcons’ GM. His defensive coordinator is Mike Nolan, who last year worked alongside Brian Daboll in Miami. Daboll, naturally, is now KC’s offensive coordinator. Oh, and Tony Gonzalez is going back to Kansas City, where he’s the team’s all-time leading receiver. So, yeah, there’s some familiarity — on the field and off.
Diva WRs end preseason on “Boulevard of Broken Dreams”
Chad Johnson’s working out in the ocean down in Miami. Terrell Owens is somewhere. Antonio Bryant couldn’t hack it in Seattle, nor could Mike Williams. And yet, there’s Randy Moss, all 35 years of him, and 20 months since he last took an NFL snap, listed as a 49ers starting wide receiver. When San Francisco opens against the Packers, Moss will be going up against his former Oakland Raiders teammate Charles Woodson. When asked on Jim Rome’s show two years ago what Moss had left, Woodson said: “He’s a guy who’s always a threat. Knowing that he’s out there demands attention — regardless of who he’s with or what team he’s with.” Will the same go two years later?
Maurice Jones-Drew is a “Walking Contradiction”
Fantasy owners are biting their nails and feverishly clicking refresh on Rotoworld this week, wondering what in the hell they can expect from Adrian Peterson and Maurice Jones-Drew (pictured) in Week 1. My gut? Not much. Peterson says he’s ready to go and doesn’t want to hear about how long it took other running backs to return from torn ACLs, but I can’t imagine a 30-carry game out of him this early in the season. As for Jones-Drew, he is healthy, but he’s less than a week into learning a completely new offense under a completely new head coach and offensive coordinator. I’m not sure what was gained from the holdout, other than Rashad Jennings’ carries in September.
No more “Waiting” in Tampa Bay
There’s a new sheriff in Tampa, and his Buccaneers won’t look anything like the team you last saw when they gave up 45-24 to Atlanta’s backups in Week 17. It has been all business since new coach Greg Schiano arrived — wind sprints in 100-degree heat back in April at OTAs and punishing full-contact practices throughout August. Schiano cleaned house and brought in his type of guys. Kellen Winslow, Brian Price, Tanard Jackson and Dez Briscoe were all shown the door. Three rookies — Lavonte David, Mark Barron and Doug Martin (pictured) — earned starting jobs. The Bucs, who open against the Panthers, gave up 86 points in two games against Carolina last year. They’ve been reminded of that fact all offseason.
Russell Wilson turns his opponent into an 'Insomniac'
When NFL schedules were announced in April, this Seahawks-Cardinals matchup was circled as a Matt Flynn vs. Kevin Kolb showdown. Or, it was Tarvaris Jackson vs. Kevin Kolb. Instead, it’s Russell Wilson (pictured) and John Skelton. A third-round rookie vs. a former fifth-round pick out of Fordham. You can have your Peyton Manning-Ben Roethlisberger battles. I love the one between the NFL’s two most unlikely starters. On paper, neither of these guys particularly looks like your typical franchise quarterback, but they have earned the respect of their respective locker rooms and played well enough in August to get the starting gigs. Kudos to their coaches for throwing away the salary figures and picking the guys who earned the jobs.
NFL officials sing “I Fought the Law” and the …
It appears as though the bulk of the mainstream sports media already have made up their minds — the replacement refs are going to ruin the integrity of the game — so expect a bevy of blooper reels consisting of botched calls. I’m not a lawyer and don’t know all the ins and outs of this particular negotiation process, but I am confident a deal will get done between the league and its officials, eventually. In the meantime, just be patient. Football’s back, and that’s what matters most.
Brandon Marshall is “Hitchin’ a Ride” to Chicago
There will be plenty of attention around Andrew Luck’s NFL debut in the Colts-Bears game Sunday, and that’s all well and good. I’m more intrigued by the Jay Cutler-Brandon Marshall reunion in Chicago. They’ve said all the right things, they’ve posed for all the right pictures and they’ve looked incredible in the preseason. Cutler hasn’t had a real No. 1 receiver since he last played with Marshall (pictured) in Denver. If rookie Alshon Jeffery can be what the Bears expect him to be and if the offensive line can hold up, Chicago can have a big passing offense in 2012. That’s a lot of “ifs,” I know.
Peyton Manning enjoy the “Time of Your Life”
Peyton Manning (pictured) looked great against San Francisco in Denver’s third preseason game, he has sportswriters from across the country picking the Broncos to win the Super Bowl and he’s in more TV commercials than the P90X guy. But he hasn’t been hit by a LaMarr Woodley blindside sack yet. He hasn’t been popped by Troy Polamalu. I want to see Manning — looking like the Manning of old — throw a touchdown pass over the outstretched arms of a defensive lineman. But I also want to see how Manning reacts to a real NFL sack — not a preseason one — in a real NFL game. How Manning reacts to that first punishing hit will be the real test.