Now that the first quarter of the National Football League's season is over, it is time to find out what to look for as the season goes until the Super Bowl takes place in February 2012.
What to look for:
1. Indianapolis Colts
For Colts fans, this was the year that Indy is supposedly to contend for another Super Bowl, instead this campaign might be a total wash with 4-time MVP Peyton Manning on the sidelines after under neck surgery a few weeks ago. He is alleged to miss 2-3 months, so in the meanime, The Colts signed veteran QB Kerry Collins. But the results so far has not been good because the Colts are 0-3. They have Curtis Painter as the backup quarterback, but they might as well sign another veteran QB such as Carson Palmer (see below) or David Gerrard (see below.) Then again, Indy could say "forget it" about this season and wait in April 2012 for the Andrew Luck sweepstakes in the NFL Draft.
2. Cincinnati Bengals
This is going to be interesting to see how the Cincinnati Bengals are going to do this season. The team has made some major changes on its roster: The Triplets are gone. Earlier this year, the team decided not to renew the contract of Wide Receiver Terrell Owens, making him a free agent; In July, the team traded All-Pro Wide Receiver Chad Ochocinco to the New England Patriots; and starting quarterback Carson Palmer has requested that he wanted to get traded from the Bengals (the team refused the request) because they are not committed to winning (since appearing in the AFC Championship Game vs. Pittsburgh, the team has been going downhill) plus he said that he would rather retire than play for the Bengals this season. Their number one pick in the NFL Draft Andy Dalton has taken over the quarterback duties this season. Despite the ongoing drama, Coach Marvin Lewis was able to keep his job and actually signed a new contract during the off-season.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars
Right before the season began, the Jags have decided to release David Gerrard, their starting quarterback for the last 4 years, in favor of Luke McCown. Ironically, the Jaguars did the same thing in 2006, where the team dumped starting quarterback Byron Leftwich for Gerrard. Currently, the Jaguars are 1-2 but they have changed quarterbacks: McCown is out and the team first round pick in the 2011 NFL Draft Blaine Gabbert is in. We will see how the change at quarterback will pan out this season.
4. Denver Broncos
During training camp, the Broncos had a quarterback controversy on its hands. The incumbent QB Kyle Orton was competing for the starting job against 2nd year backup Tim Tebow and third-stringer Brady Quinn. For a while, the buzz was that Tebow was the odds on favor to take over the job, however there were reported that the team wanted to trade Tebow or even turn him into a wide receiver. New coach John Fox decided to stick with Orton, but the team right now is 1-2. We have to see if this controversy spills over into the regular season.
Teams to look for this season
1. Detroit Lions
After finishing the 2008 season with a 0-16 record, the Lions began to make smarter picks in the NFL Draft and right now it is pay off. The team is 3-0 with both the offensive and defense playing great. Now, it would be great that the Lions can make it to the playoffs and win the Super Bowl, but that all depends on keep Matthew Stafford injury free. The last two season, Stafford lost significant playing time due to shoulder injuries. The Lions resurgence coincide with the Tigers winning the American League Central and the possible odds on favorite to win the pennant in the American League in this year's baseball postseason is showing that the city of Detroit is coming back. Side Note: the story would be even better once jobs come back to the Motor city.
2. St. Louis Rams
The Rams lost in the NFC West Division Championship game in January against Seattle and the thinking was that St.. Louis has quarterback Sam Bradford, Running Back Stephen Jackson and an improving defense that the team can get better since the 7-9 record. Well, right now it does not look good with a 0-3 record. Look for the team to change course and start winning again.
3. Atlanta Falcons
Despite being taken apart at home by the eventual Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers, the Falcons are a team that people should pay attention to right now. It has been a slow build, but ever year since 2007, the team has turned itself into a title contender. Currently, Atlanta is 1-2, but it's like the old saying in football "No one wins the championship in September," so we will see if the team can turn it around by December.
Head Coaches on the Hot Seat
1. Tony Sparano, Miami Dolphins
In 2007, the Dolphins made it the NFL Playoffs and even though they lost the game against Baltimore, the feeling was that they had both the defense and defense to become an up and coming team they were not wanted to play. Since then, the team went 7-9 the last two seasons. So far the Dolphins are 0-3 and there is talk that the team may replace Sparano sometime during the season. Hopefully he can turn it around or another coach will take his talents to South Beach and revive the Dolphin franchise.
2. Jack Del Rio, Jacksonville Jaguars
Once a while of time, the Jaguars were a playoff contending team, now they have gone back and missed the play three seasons in a row. This year, the jags have a new starting quarterback and drafted another one last April. It has not worked out yet because the team is 1-2 so far. The Jaguars has to turn in around this year or else Coach Del Rio might be out of a job.
3. Gary Kubiak, Houston Texans
From their inception in 2002 until 2008, the Texans were an easy win for any team that played against them. Since then, Houston has built a strong defense led by Mario Williams and a really good defense with quarterback Matt Schuab, running back Arian Foster and wide receiver Andre Williams. The problem the team has that Coach Kubiak has led Houston to an 8-8 record for two years in a row and a 9-7 mark last season but no play appearances. The Texans has crossed one hurdle last year and finally beat Indianapolis in Houston two years in a row and the team could possibly beat the Colts in Indy (there's a really good chance that can happen) when the two teams meet again later on this year. In order for Kubiak to keep his job, Houston must make the playoffs or else someone will take over as head coach and make the Texans a serious contender in the NFL.
Who is going to win the Super Bowl?
Your guess is good as mine. No one saw the Arizona Cardinals, a perennial losing team make it to the NFL Championship game in February 2009 versus Pittsburgh, or the New Orleans Saints, a team known as the "Aints" for its 1-15 season in 1980, won in all in February 2010, nearly years after Hurricane Katrina destroyed the city and the Gulf Coast. The title is up for grabs and anyone can win it on any given Super Bowl Sunday.