With NFL training camps getting into full swing this week, we look at five burning questions.
1) What's up with Brett Favre?
Will he or won't he play? Of course he's going to play. The question with Brett Favre is more like when. The quarterback is coming off left ankle surgery, and being a wise veteran, he can milk this ankle thing to miss a good chunk of training camp. Besides, how much does he need training camp? Not as much as the Minnesota Vikings need him to play. Without Favre, the Vikings might be lucky to finish .500. With Favre, they are good enough to get to the Super Bowl if he can avoid making his last pass of the season an interception.
2) Will the New Orleans Saints repeat as Super Bowl champs?
Very recent history says no. The Saints were the fifth different team to win it all in the past six years. Then again, the Saints did seem to improve in the offseason, particularly on the defensive side with the addition of a first-round draft pick, Florida State CB Patrick Robinson, and free agent DL Alex Brown and Jimmy Wilkerson. The Saints already have one of the best offenses in football with no real questions other than who will be Drew Brees' backup at quarterback. And let's face it: If Brees goes down, the Saints are in trouble anyway. This isn't to say New Orleans will become the first team to repeat since the New England Patriots of the 2003-04 seasons, but they seemed as poised any team since them to do so.
3) Which teams have the biggest quarterback questions?
Let's start in Arizona, where the retired Kurt Warner is being replaced by Matt Leinart, whose career hasn't progressed as expected since winning the Heisman at USC. He started 11 games as a rookie in 2006. But he struggled and was placed on injured reserve early in 2007 and hasn't been a starter since. It's put-up or shut-up time for Leinart, and with backup Derek Anderson, the Cards might not show the lefty much patience.
Oakland is depending on former Redskin Jason Campbell to replace No. 1 overall pick JaMarcus Russell. And he won't have to do much to be considered a major upgrade and help the Raiders win more than the five games they won last year. It's assumed Kevin Kolb is going to replace Donovan McNabb as the Philadelphia Eagles starter. But know this: Eagles offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg is a big fan of Michael Vick and has been talking him up during the past week.
4) Which rookie quarterbacks are looking to make an impact in training camp?
How soon will the St. Louis Rams throw No. 1 overall pick Sam Bradford into the fire? The feeling is the Rams will go with veteran A.J. Feeley to start the season but Bradford could start once the season is lost - which should be about the seventh or eighth week. Former Texas QB Colt McCoy is considered the future starter in Cleveland. But the Browns won't rush him, especially with veteran Jake Delhomme projected as the starter. Same scenario in Carolina, where former Notre Dame QB Jimmy Clausen is expected to back up Matt Moore. In fact, Clausen could end up the No. 3 behind Moore and Hunter Caldwell. The Panthers also have former University of Cincinnati QB Tony Pike, but he likely will head to the practice squad.
One of the biggest stories in all of the NFL is what will happen in Denver with Tim Tebow. The Broncos seem intent on sticking with the former Gator as a quarterback but as a backup with Brady Quinn to Kyle Orton. The real intrigue: Will the Broncos draw up a few trick plays featuring Tebow lining up as something other than a traditional quarterback?
5) Are the Pittsburgh Steelers in trouble without Ben Roethlisberger?
The bad news is Ben Roethlisberger is suspended for the first four to six games because of his off-field shenanigans. The good news is the Steelers know now that they won't have the quarterback, they have a veteran who is familiar with the system (Byron Leftwich) and coach Mike Tomlin's plan even with Roethlisberger is to go back to a more traditional Steelers style. That means running the ball, controlling the clock and playing defense. The first four games won't be easy, home against the Atlanta Falcons and Baltimore Ravens and at Tennessee and Tampa Bay. You get the feeling the Ravens will get an early jump in the division and the Steelers will be playing catch-up all season.