RESERVATIONS FOR SIX: NFL season full of intrigue
The 2009 NFL season gets underway tonight when the Tennessee Titans head to Pittsburgh to face the defending Super Bowl champion Steelers in an AFC showdown.
Already the most popular sport in the U.S., football has still found a way to grow exponentially in popularity every year. The never-ending storylines contribute to its growth as much as the action on the field, and this year is no different. Leading the charge this season as fodder for water-cooler chatter is none other than Brett Favre.
The indecisive Favre will start at quarterback for the Vikings ahead of former Texan Sage Rosenfels and the underachieving Tarvaris Jackson. This should be a good move for the Vikings, who won the NFC North at 10-6 last season.
Favre is a seasoned veteran with playoff experience and who has not missed a game since 1992. The Vikings have plenty of weapons, led by running back Adrian Peterson, who totaled 1,760 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns last season. They also have a more-than-competent backup in Chester Taylor, who would start for most NFL teams.
The next biggest storyline has to be the return of golden boy Tom Brady. The three-time Super Bowl champion makes his regular season return Monday night when walking-story-line Terrell Owens and the Buffalo Bills come to town.
The Patriots have put all their trust back in Brady by trading away his backup and last year’s savior Matt Cassel. All Cassel did was throw for 3,693 yards and 21 touchdown passes last season, a performance that earned him a one-way ticket to Kansas City.
Should Brady get injured again, the Patriots and their fans will be second-guessing the decision to part ways with a competent backup and everyone else will be enjoying their fall from grace.
Brady had a nice showing in the preseason, but it’s how his knee holds up during the regular season that really matters. Luckily, he has plenty of options around him, namely receivers Randy Moss and Wes Welker. It’s great for the NFL to get Brady back, especially if he stays healthy this season.
Another interesting angle this season will be the sophomore campaigns of last year’s crop of rookie quarterbacks. Last season saw rookies Joe Flacco and Matt Ryan lead the Ravens and Falcons, respectively, to the playoffs. How they respond after a year in the league will help determine whether they are flops or for real.
Those performances will also lead to added pressure on this year’s rookies, most notably No. 1 overall pick Matthew Stafford in Detroit and No. 5 pick Mark Sanchez of the Jets.
Stafford may have the least amount of pressure, with the Lions going 0-16 last season.
He is also lucky to have targets such as Calvin Johnson and fellow first-round pick Brandon Pettigrew. The Lions also should be able to run the ball well with Kevin Smith, who had 976 yards and eight touchdowns last season.
Sanchez will be aided by a great running game, but it will be interesting to see if he can throw the ball when opposing defenses take away the run. Add the pressure that comes with playing in New York, and his season may be one of the more intriguing to watch.
Whatever storyline fans are drawn to most is secondary to the arrival of regular-season football. These games count and get fans closer to the real payoff – the playoffs