Tonight marks the start of the 2012-2013 NFL season as the defending Super Bowl Champions New York Giants take on their personal NFC East punching bag, the Dallas Cowboys. Although every year someone says, “This season will be the most exciting in recent memory,” it really is true this time around. So let’s go over some of these great storylines, making a few snide comments on the way, shall we?
Let’s start with the biggest move of the offseason; Peyton Manning growing up from a Colt into a Bronco. It’s uncommon that a 36 year-old coming off a season-ending neck surgery makes such big news, but that’s what happens when said athlete is Peyton Manning. There are many varying opinions of how he will perform, but my personal one is to never doubt a legend. After being ignored last season and little brother Eli making things awkward at family reunions by winning his second Super Bowl, you know he’ll play great or get horrifically injured trying. For me, as long as his commercials are still just as awkward and funny, I’ll be satisfied.
Now we must awkwardly transition from the best quarterback of his era to a second stringer on a non-playoff team; yes we must bring up a God among men, Tim Tebow. Despite being a special team player, he still gets more publicity than half the starting quarterbacks in the league. If he stubbed his toe at home, ESPN would do a special feature on how it would affect the universe. Please stop media; he’s really not that important.
Bringing it back to players who are important, Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III will make their NFL debuts this week. Although they are two of the best quarterback prospects to come along in years, it is highly improbable that they will do much in their rookie seasons. It is very unfortunate that they will make their debuts on the heels of Cam Newton’s incredible rookie campaign and will be (at least partially) judged on that standard. Both players will need some time to turn around their franchises, but nonetheless, watching their progress throughout the year will be very interesting and the battle for Offensive Rookie of the Year should come down to the wire.
The Saints have been one of the biggest offseason stories for their bounty scandal and ridiculous negotiation of Drew Brees’ contract, but through it all, they still have a damn good team. Although their division has gotten much stronger (Panthers, Bucs and Falcons have all improved), they still have a top-3 quarterback and a ridiculous array of weapons led by Jimmy Graham and Darren Sproles. Also, their defense without Gregg Williams will lack some ‘motivation’ (heh, get it?), but will probably be better than last year with the addition of Curtis Lofton and David Hawthorne. Additionally, new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, the architect of the 2007 Giants’ defense, will overhaul their defensive schemes after finishing 24th in the league in total defense. The biggest issue they will face is the suspension of head coach Sean Payton. His leadership, energy, and gutsy play-calling were huge advantages for the Saints and they will surely miss that.
Another interesting storyline will be watching some key players in different jerseys. Apart from Peyton and Lofton changing teams, the Bears, Bills, and Patriots also made big offseason additions. The Bears reunited Jay Cutler with Brandon Marshall, finally providing Cutler with an elite receiver in Chicago. Although the pair did not accomplish much success from 2006-2008 in Denver, Cutler has drastically improved as a quarterback and the dangerous duo should help the Bears make the playoffs this year. Although the Bills have many holes to fill, their biggest need last season was a pass rusher, as they finished last in the league with just 23 sacks (Jared Allen collected 22 sacks by himself). By adding Mario Williams, arguably a top-5 pass rusher, they may have the team necessary to make the playoffs, especially with the expected struggles of the Jets. One team in the AFC East that will not drop off is the Patriots because they keep adjusting and collecting talented players. This time, it’s the addition of Brandon Lloyd. With Deion Branch losing his battle with age (he was cut this week), the Patriots really had no quality wide receivers other than Wes Welker (third on the team last year was Chad Johnson with 15 receptions). Lloyd is a Pro Bowl-caliber talent and he will improve an already stupid-good offense, giving the Patriots another great shot at a Super Bowl.
Despite all these exciting storylines, for most fans, the most exciting thing about the NFL season is…their fantasy football team. At this point, fantasy football is ingrained in our football watching experience. Whether it’s a channel dedicated to fantasy football (NFL Red Zone), outdated announcers making bad fantasy references or reporters asking players about their own fantasy teams, it never leaves our conscious as football fans. Although it may interest no one else, the biggest offseason movement for you may be your ‘trade’ of Tony Romo for Aaron Rodgers or Adrian Peterson for Arian Foster. I’m glad you’re happy with yourself, but please keep it to yourself; no one likes hearing about other people’s fantasy teams. Enjoy the NFL season everybody.