After what felt like an interminable offseason of discussing which sentences were too long (Plaxico Burress), which were too short (Donte’ Stallworth) and which were just right (Michael Vick) we can finally talk about football.
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Get ready for the season
Whitlock: It’s finally here. The moment you’ve all been waiting for. No, not the start of the season. The return of NFL Truths.
The Blitz: The NFL is back, which means it’s time for The Blitz. Check out our hard-hitting guide to all Week 1 games.
Concha: These are the big ones. We’ve got 10 games that are going to decide exactly how the season plays out.
Schrager: The NFL is back, so let’s play 20 Questions with NFL on FOX’s Brian Billick. First up: Can Indy handle change?
Now when we talk about the “penalty phase” at least we’ll be referring to the latest blown pass interference call.
I don’t sleep much the Saturday night before the first Sunday of the NFL season. Too excited. Up late, up early. But I know one guy I’ll be sleeping better than. And that’s where we begin the Week 1 preview, staring at the ceiling with Trent Edwards.
Worst Week of Sleep Leading up to Kickoff
Trent Edwards can’t catch a break.
First they shipped his left tackle (and the team’s best player) Jason Peters to Philly with the plan of replacing him with converted right tackle Langston Walker. Then, after a lackluster preseason, Walker was released by the Bills. Next in line for the job of protecting Edwards’ blind side is 2008 seventh-round pick Demetrius Bell, who has never taken a snap in the NFL. But that’s only if Bell’s balky back allows him to go on Monday night. If not, Buffalo will go with Kirk Chambers, who was released and re-signed last weekend. We’ll see if Edwards can keep his eyes downfield while bracing for impact between his shoulder blades.
Now that it’s come to light that Edwards was one of the players unhappy with offensive coordinator Turk Schonert in the lead-up to Schonert getting the axe, the 25-year-old QB is going to be under that much more pressure to move the ball for new coordinator Alex Van Pelt. Of course Edwards may find out that the offensive coordinator is fairly irrelevant when you’re lying on your back.
If that weren’t enough to worry about, there’s also the 75 percent chance that Edwards will get berated on the sideline if he misses new No. 1 target Terrell Owens.
And finally there’s the small fact that the Bills open at New England, a team that has beaten them 11 straight times, including by an aggregate 94-17 in the last two games Tom Brady played against them. You can hardly blame Edwards if he’s needed Propofol to sleep this week.
Hottest Hot Seat
Abusively long hours. Alienation from family. Subordinates who get paid much more than you do. Zero job security.
Seriously, why would anyone want to be an NFL coach?
In a profession known for high turnover, the 2009 season opens with an inordinate number of coaches on the hot seat. Coaches on teams that are expected to be bad — Marvin Lewis, Dick Jauron — are naturally feeling the heat. Coaches on teams that are expected to be bad who allegedly assaulted a co-worker — Tom Cable — could be feeling heat from multiple sources (front office, law enforcement).
But the coach on the hottest hot seat in Week 1 has to be Wade Phillips. The Cowboys were supposed to go to the Super Bowl last year. They missed the playoffs. This year Jerry Jones opens his football Shangri-La, complete with low ceiling for enhanced drama on every punt. If anyone has a must win in Week 1 it’s Wade Phillips. (Lucky for him the Cowboys are playing the sure-to-be-wretched Buccaneers.)
Injury Roulette Wheel of the Week
All eyes in Patriot Nation will be on the reconstructed left knee of Tom Brady, but what about the basket of Faberge eggs behind him?
By keeping Fred Taylor, Sammy Morris and Laurence Maroney, Bill Belichick might just be able to wring 16 games out of the trio. Taylor has missed games in each of the last five seasons, including three last year. Morris missed three games last year, 10 the year before that and four the year before that. Maroney missed two games in his ’06 rookie season, three the following year and 13 last year. Not a comforting trend.
Would anyone be surprised if BenJarvus Green-Ellis leads the team in carries?
Raider Melodrama of the Week
After a month of speculation as to whether it was Tom Cable’s fist or a file cabinet that broke assistant Randy Hanson’s jaw, the Raiders have moved on to speculating on just when they might actually see Richard Seymour.
After trading a 2011 first-round pick for the All-Pro Seymour, one of the few guys who can play DT and DE with equal impact, the Raiders are preparing for their opener without him. One set of rumors has Seymour holding out for an extension, but those seem to have been trumped by reports that he has no desire to play in Oakland. It has to be hard contemplating going from the penthouse to the outhouse, from one of the premier organizations in all of sports to a dysfunctional carnival.
No matter how this situation is resolved it begs the question: Do you really want to make a trade with Bill Belichick when he’s been watching a guy in practice every day and decides he’s expendable? Or does Al Davis think the third time will be a charm after the Randy Moss and Derrick Burgess trades?
Will the Raiders give us enough fodder to keep this segment going every week? I’m betting yes.
Distraction of the Week
One word an NFL head coach doesn’t want popping up in a story about one of his players is tequila.
Especially if it’s preceded by Tila.
In the Shawne Merriman-Tila Tequila he-said, she-said there is an assumption that one of them is lying. But the main contention of both their stories could essentially be true. Merriman might have physically detained Tequila against her will. Tequila might have been too drunk to drive.
This would seem to enter into a curious legal penumbra: If a would-be motorist poses a danger to herself or others to what extent can a citizen go to prevent that danger?
Not a legal penumbra Norv Turner wants to be thinking about as opening night approaches.
The Week in Favre
Any good quarterback can see the whole field. So even though it seems like Brett Favre has dedicated his every move with laser focus on destroying his legacy with Packers fans, he was still able to check-down this week to throw a dart at the Jets.
For no apparent reason Favre picked the eve of the ’09 season to let the football world in on a little secret: The Jets had encouraged him to play hurt last year and failed to list him on the injury report in violation of league rules.
The Jets could face sanctions from the league. Consider it Brett Favre’s thank you for taking him in in his time of need.
Victory that Will Spark Biggest Overreaction
The Bengals will put up a big number on the Broncos and people in Cincinnati will be deluded into thinking it’s 2005 again..
This matchup is a perfect formula for irrational exuberance. Will the Bengals be better offensively this year? Certainly. Carson Palmer is back. Chad Ochocinco looks rejuvenated. When he’s not serving a suspension Chris Henry is the scariest third wide receiver in the league.
Will the Broncos be awful defensively? You betcha. After ranking 29th overall defensively last season Denver addressed this deficiency by drafting a running back with their first pick (Knowshon Moreno, 12th overall) and signing safety Brian Dawkins who will be entering his 14th season.
It all adds up to an exhilarating, high-scoring opening day victory for Cincinnati, which will return to Earth with a thud with games against Green Bay, Pittsburgh and Baltimore in the following month.
Biggest Fantasy Headache
With a home game looming against the paper Lions, this could be a potential bonanza for fantasy owners. Except for the part where Pierre Thomas is now listed as the dreaded game-time decision and Reggie Bush only has value (limited at that) in PPR leagues. Mike Bell is probably the best bet of the bunch. But do you really want to start Mike Bell in Week 1 of your fantasy season?
L.A. Awaits, Franchise Relocation Watch
For the 15th consecutive year the second-biggest market in America will open the season without a pro football team. (If you don’t count USC.)
With the economy in the toilet, blackouts looming and 14 million people in the Greater Los Angeles area, how long can this go on?
It’s one thing when the Bengals, coming off a 4-11-1 season, are struggling to sell out their opener, but when the NFC champion Cardinals can’t sell out their incredible facility that’s a problem.
This week’s leader on the Come to Sunny (Low Humidity) L.A. scoreboard is Jacksonville. The Jags make perfect sense. Their season-ticket base dropped from 42,000 to 25,000 and the team has said it won’t even bother asking for extensions to stave off blackouts. And unlike, say, the Bills, the Jaguars don’t have the history with the city that would make their departure wrenching.