Plenty of Favre-Free Stories to Focus on as NFL Season Nears


Plenty of Favre-Free Stories to Focus on as NFL Season Nears With the preseason in full swing (and the Red Sox going through a recent swoon) and not much else going on, it seems like the perfect time to check in on some of the more interesting NFL story lines as Week 1 approaches.

First, staying close to home, what are the New England Patriots going to be capable of with a healthy Tom Brady? If you recall, the last time Brady played a full season, the Pats were 18-0 before … gosh … I managed to completely block out whatever happened in the last two minutes of that Super Bowl.

Speaking of that Super Bowl, will Giants quarterback Eli Manning be able to handle both the pressures of New York and being the highest-paid player in the game? And maybe it's just me, but shouldn't a really good player — like Eli's brother, for example — be making the most money in the league?

And, hey, what about Michael Vick signing with the Eagles? Don't get me wrong, I hate what the guy did — I have a dog, myself — but he's served his time and he deserves the right to do his job to the best of his ability (of course, by the same token, opposing fans have the right to boo the bejeezus out of him). But with an already exciting offense led by Donovan McNabb and Brian Westbrook, the addition of Vick could have no impact whatsoever — or it could make it downright scary.

Terrell Owens has left the spotlight of the Dallas Cowboys for the relative Siberia — in more ways than one — of Buffalo. He's already had trouble finding a place to live and his reality show is getting graciously mediocre reviews. So how long will it be before we see T.O. half-naked in front of the cameras slamming Bills quarterback Trent Edwards for not getting him the ball as often as he needs it? I'll put the over/under at Week 3.

From one attention hound to another, how long will it be before Chad Ochocinco gets suspended for Tweeting during games? (And more importantly, how long will it be before other players adopt ole 85's naming convention? How awesome would it be to have Adrian Veintiocho and DeAngelo Treinticuatro competing for the NFL rushing lead or Nueve Brees and Ocho Hasselbeck battling it out for a Wild Card berth in Week 17?)

Will the defending champion Steelers be able to overcome the offseason sexual assault allegations against QB Ben Roethlisberger? While the lawsuit may be thrown out thanks to Big Ben's legal defense team, a defense as good as the Steelers' on the field — led by reigning defensive MVP James Harrison and Madden 10 cover boy Troy Polamalu should be illegal.

Can Kurt Warner continue to get the ball to his electrifying wideout trio — Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin and Steve Breaston — and have another standout season at age 38? And after adding first-round pick Chris "Beanie" Wells to the offense, do the upstart Cardinals have a shot at returning to the Super Bowl?

Can the Tennessee Titans recapture some of their unexpected success from 2008, especially in the wake of the death of Steve McNair, perhaps the franchise's most recognizable player ever?

Can the Colts win their typical 12 or so games with Tony Dungy now out of the equation?

What about the Broncos? Former Pats assistant Josh McDaniels is taking over in Denver and has already managed to both bungle his All-Pro quarterback out of town and force his stud wide receiver to ask for a trade. Just how bad with the Broncos be with Kyle Orton at the helm, not to mention one of the worst defenses in the league?

Former Pats Mike Vrabel and Matt Cassel have headed west to the Chiefs, where new coach Todd Haley hopes to rekindle some of their successes in New England. Larry Johnson is coming off two injury-plagued, subpar seasons, but reportedly has looked great so far in training camp. Could they surprise some people in the relatively weak AFC West?

Speaking of the AFC West, will new addition Jeff Garcia mesh with Raider Nation and push JaMarcus Russell into finally succeeding as a pro? If not, will Oakland head coach Tom Cable break their jaws?

And what of the Lions … oh, those poor Lions? Can top pick Matthew Stafford bring the Honolulu blue and silver back to respectability? Or will the job fall to Daunte Culpepper? Whatever the case, new coach Jim Schwartz couldn't do any worse than the last guy.

The Bears made a major upgrade behind center, but Jay Cutler has already ticked off some people with his negative comments about receiver Devin Hester.

Elsewhere in the NFC Norris, Aaron Rodgers is still gaining acceptance as the signal-caller in chief in Green Bay, where an improved defense could bring them back into the playoff chase.

The Vikings, too — wait … what? They signed who on Tuesday?

Eh … in the grand scheme of things? … Honestly, who cares? … Not a big deal.

Sorry to burst your bright purple bubble, but there's a lot more to the upcoming NFL season than a 39-year-old quarterback on his last legs — and shoulder — joining a middle-of-the-road team.

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