Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

2010 NFL SEASON PREVIEW: Ready for some football?

Four-down football. The fun starts Thursday night

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Whether it's through a fantasy league, a gambling jones or for love of the game, most sports fans are geeked for Thursday night and the beginning of the NFL season.

It's the biggest and the most-watched sport in North America. Nothing really compares to it.

The NFL has a marquee kickoff matchup with the Minnesota Vikings travelling to New Orleans for a rematch of last year's NFC championship game. Brett Favre vs. Drew Brees. Adrian Peterson vs. Reggie Bush. Jared Allen vs. Scott Shanle. There's something for everyone in this and enough star power to light up the Prairies.

 

This past off-season had no shortage of drama, between Brett Favre's dithering, Ben Roethlisberger and his continued off-field troubles as well as Darrelle Revis and his holdout. Lots of headlines.

We've altered our NFL team this season and Adam Wazny will be joining Gary Lawless for a weekly picks package. They'll make their calls and we will once again be asking for a fan to make a pick each week. We'll comb through the emails and look for the best prediction each week. Keep them tight and bright -- under 50 words and offer a spread pick as well as a straight-up choice.

Wazny and Lawless sat down and selected the top 10 storylines of the season.

 

-- SLINGIN' MINNESOTA -- Having guys fly down to Mississippi to coax Brett Favre into another go-around on the premise that a bum ankle can hold and that he can repeat his '09 season (4,202 yards passing and 33 TDs) makes for a nice story, but will it amount to a title? Forget about age. The 41-year-old's biggest challenge is duplicating those numbers.

 

-- LAST CHANCE FOR ROMO-ANCE? -- QB Tony Romo has led Dallas to the playoffs three times but has only been able to provide one playoff victory. Owner Jerry Jones expects his team to be in Super Bowl XLV (in Dallas) and if Romo doesn't deliver, his time in Big D could be up.

 

-- BAD RECEPTION -- Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens are calling themselves Batman and Robin? Please. All we see is a pair of Jokers. Sure, the Bengals will be fun to watch but all the sideline theatrics won't translate into more wins in the tough AFC North. Cincinnati QB Carson Palmer has the worst job in the NFL right now.

 

-- AS THE NORV TURNS -- No coach has more heat on him than San Diego's Norv Turner. Owning the AFC West has not translated into playoff success for the Chargers. The Bolts will feast atop the division once again, but things will really start to simmer for Turner if he doesn't get the Powder Blues into the AFC championship.

 

-- BUFFALO'D -- The Bills-in-Toronto endeavour was thought to be a slam dunk in 2008: Toronto considers itself a top sports market and the NFL was a much more desirable gridiron option than the CFL. It hasn't worked out. Not even close. Interest barely registers for the games, and discount tickets are everywhere. Reminder: The Bills 'host' the Bears at Rogers Centre in November.

 

-- BIG BEN BANNED -- The Steelers will open the season without Ben Roethlisberger roster for the first four games. There was a time the Steelers would just run the ball for four games and not worry about who was at QB but this club is built to pass first and run second. Dennis Dixon will start the season behind centre with Charlie Batch backing up. How the Steelers get to the quarter pole -- a record of 2-2 would be great -- will go a long way in shaping their season. Look for the Steelers defence to steal a game. And the team will rely on Dixon to win one on his own.

 

-- WE HATE EACH OTHER -- Rivalries are a big part of what the NFL does right and these days the best of the bunch is Patriots vs. Jets. They're both AFC championship contenders and they have dynamic personalities, from Tom Brady to Rex Ryan to Mark Sanchez to Randy Moss. You want to watch them play every week and it's even better when they line up against each other. Pittsburgh-Cincy is still strong and Cowboys vs. Eagles or Redskins also can be hot. Same with Minny and New Orleans. But the Pats and Jets get the nod.

 

-- Hard to be a Saint in the city -- Can the Saints repeat? In a word, no. Lots of offence but not enough defence. They have a killer schedule this season and likely won't earn a bye through the first round. And they may slip right out of the playoffs.

 

-- SWEET PETE OR JUST A CHEAT? -- It's tough to tell if Pete Carroll is Mr. Sunshine or the biggest phony going. There are plenty of indications that his time at USC was fraught with cheating and that doesn't exactly jibe with his image of positivity and all things happy. It's the NFL now, however, and none of that matters -- just winning. Carroll had a big edge in college at USC and that's all gone now. He failed miserably first time around with the big boys and it will be fun to see how he fares this time.

 

-- MR. MCNABB GOES TO WASHINGTON -- There was a time when a trade between the Eagles and Redskins would have been unthinkable, especially with an MVP-type player like Donovan McNabb involved. McNabb joins new coach Mike Shanahan and we will see if there's still some magic in Mac5. It should be noted that Shanahan turned John Elway into a two-time Super Bowl champ late in his career.

 

 

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 8, 2010 C1

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