Today is Christmas day for most sports fans. NFL is back after a tumultuous off-season where we were even threatened that the season may be locked out and we may start losing games. Luckily, better sense prevailed and here we are, on schedule for game 1. The compressed training camp is done, pre-season is all wrapped up, our fantasy teams are all drafted and ready to roll and we are ready for a phenomenal season opening game – Green Bay versus New Orleans. NFL did a lot of things wrong this off-season, but I don’t think they could have come up with a better season opener. Even a Green Bay – Chicago matchup, which I am sure they considered given the rivalry and the playoff last year, would not have us all juiced up quite like this matchup. Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers on the same field is what will remind us of why we love the NFL. Elite QBs make the NFL and these two are as good as it’s going to get in the NFL these days, especially since the native New Orleanoian and the sheriff of all QBs, Peyton Manning seems to be in real danger of missing the entire season. I will definitely miss watching Peyton – he is one of my favorite players to watch in the NFL. It will also be interesting to see how the Colts do. Kerry Collins is old, but can surprise you once in a while. Lets see how he does with this cast of characters. Peyton’s injury is definitely the biggest news in the NFL right now and rightfully so.
But, tonight is all about the Packers, their ring ceremony and a contest between 2 elite QBs, offenses and teams. They are after all the last 2 Super Bowl Champions and they have not fallen off too much like some Super Bowl rosters tend to do, especially 2 years removed like the Saints. Thats the strength of having a good QB. You can stay on top regardless of what happens around him. In fact, I would give the Packers a great shot at repeating this year. Though that doesn’t happen that often anymore, this year could be different. Shorter training camps mean lesser chances of those last to first teams, rags to riches stories. Even if some teams upgraded their talent significantly, they may have problems putting it all together due to the shortened off-season. So good teams with continuity may do even better this year and the Super Bowl champion is obviously on top of that shortlist. Plus, as good as Aaron Rodgers has been so far, he is still getting better. Watch him do some amazing things this season now that he is totally out of drama queen Brett Favre’s shadow and has a championship ring of his own. Thats going to remove a lot of his inhibitions and unleash him. Philadelphia seems to boast of a dream team, but thats going to be a Miami Heat story all over again, only with a slightly more likable cast of characters. Not to digress, but how badly did LeBron and Heat screw up if I am saying the Eagles with the dog killer Vick are a slightly more likable bunch?
I see Philadelphia, Atlanta and tonight’s opponent New Orleans as Green Bay’s primary threats. I like what Kolb brings to my team, the Arizona Cardinals and I am sure they will be good. But not sure if they can make it to that top-tier. In the AFC, I like the Baltimore Ravens and the New England Patriots to be up there and the Pittsburgh Steelers and the New York Jets fighting them for the top spot. Peyton’s injury pretty much eliminates the Colts. It’s not just the talent that he takes away, but the way that offense is structured, it’s all him and without him, even a talented replacement will take a while to figure out what to do. Peyton Manning is the NFL equivalent of “throw the ball into LeBron and get out of the way” strategy. Football is a lot more structured and coached than other sports, but Peyton pretty much is the one exception to that rule. He took a box of chocolates onto the field and picked one out every play and only he knew what and how to pick it. Now Collins will have to learn the bag of tricks and learn it in a hurry. The Houston Texans have been trying to win the AFC South for 3 years now and they may get their wish this season. Unfortunately, even they may not enjoy this tainted victory as much as they would have liked to without the sheriff watching over that division. Long story short, I like a Packers-Patriots Super Bowl with the Packers winning it all.
NFL is king and today is another proof of that fact. Even President Obama had to play around with the timing of his address to the nation because of the NFL season opener. Even the President cannot compete with a nicely thrown Drew Brees spiral. Fantasy football is a major part of the reason for football’s popularity and I can’t even imagine what would have happened to millions of American males if the lockout had eliminated a couple of weeks of football, let alone the whole season. May be we would have invested all our energies in college football, which is not a bad plan B, but it aint no NFL. The college season always gets us in the mood by kicking off first. Last weekend was fun since it reintroduced us to football after a challenging 7 month period. There were some good upsets as usual and Notre Dame losing is always fun, but the college season doesn’t really kick into top gear until week 3 or 4. Arizona State won last weekend, but they are playing one of the few ranked match-ups this week. They are hosting 19-Th ranked Missouri and hope to improve their own 23-Rd rank. Of course I am going with the USA today ranking because thats the only one ASU has broken into. Coincidentally, Arizona will be going against the 9-Th seeded Oklahoma state and let’s hope the Wildcats don’t surprise us and themselves by pulling off an upset. Whatever happens, we will be watching and we are all collectively happy to be talking, reading and writing about football again.
Welcome back NFL. We sure missed you!