By far the most important position on the field, quarterbacks receive a lot of heat for messing up, but also get a lot of credit when their respected teams starts winning games.
This year it seems as though most storylines surround the franchise's signal caller.
Here's my take on the headlines involving franchise quarterbacks:
Can Brett Favre Take Minnesota to the Big Dance in his Final Season?
Obviously we all know that Brett Favre has, in fact, returned to the Vikes for his 20th season in the league, and that this will more than likely be his final season. But, what we don't know is how his ankle will hold up.
The one thing that was keeping Favre from making his decision earlier looks to be his bum ankle that he has had surgery on. With loss of Sidney Rice, Minnesota's go-to guy in '09, for at least the first six weeks of the season, Favre's numbers could see a dip from last year's career-highs.
There's no way Favre plays better than he did last season, meaning no, I don't think he will be able to even win the division much less represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.
Will Tim Tebow Start any Games in Denver this Season?
After watching his impressive preseason, Tebow very well may have jumped ahead of Brady Quinn on the Broncos' depth chart. Tebow has shown me that, with a little more hard work off the field, Tebow can be a starter in the NFL. I mean, he can't do any worse than what JaMarcus Russell and Matt Leinart have done in their careers, can he?
Tebow has nothing to lose and a whole lot of potential. Personally, I'm rather tired of all these people hating on the guy.
New York will be looking to pass a little more often with the loss of the team's leading rusher last season, Thomas Jones. Second year running back Shonn Greene will still be adjusting to carrying the load, and who knows how much Ladainian Tomlinson will be able to handle at his delicate age.
All things point to a pass-more-often New York offense with Sanchez (20 INTs last season) at the helm. He's looked solid at points during the preseason, but I don't see him throwing 25 TDs and anything less than 15 INTs this season. At this point, I believe the Jets' stellar defense is the only thing keeping them in championship contention.
Can Dixon hold Down Job until Big Ben Returns?
The good news in Pittsburgh on this wonderful afternoon is that Big Ben's suspension was reduced by Roger Goodell from six games to four games. But, the bad news came yesterday when Byron Leftwich hurt his knee in the preseason finale against the Carolina Panthers.
Today Leftwich was diagnosed with a sprained MCL and he will be out for two to four weeks. Leftwich's injury basically confirms that Dennis Dixon will be the starter for the first four games, which includes a matchup with Pittsburgh's arch rival, the Baltimore Ravens.
Dixon's lone start as an NFL quarterback was against the Ravens, at prime time on Monday night. Considering the amount of pressure he had on him to step up, Dixon played a solid game in the team's 20-17 overtime loss. Dixon stood tall in the pocket, taking hits after many of his passing attempts. Dixon completed less than half of his passes and threw an interception, but his upside showed too as he ran for 27 yards and a touchdown, and threw another one.
There's still a chance that veteran Charlie Batch becomes the starter instead, but all things would lead me to believe that Dixon will be given the role.
Former first round pick Joe Flacco, entering his third NFL season, has improved after each offseason and this season shouldn't be any different. Especially with his team's latest additions. Bringing in YAC-master Anquan Boldin should be the most beneficial acquisition. With Ray Rice and Derek Mason already to Flacco's disposal, Boldin's 586 receptions and 44 career touchdown catches could be enough for Flacco to set career highs in basically every major statistical category.
With the defense being Baltimore's biggest weakness now, expect head coach Jim Harbaugh to go to the air a bit more this season, giving Boldin and rejuvenated tight end Todd Heap plenty of targets. Since Big Ben will miss the first four games of the season, Flacco may take over the spotlight among AFC North quarterbacks this year.
Can McNabb Return Washington to the Playoffs?
I know what you're thinking: why is this even a question? Well, the truth is I came up with this question before the rumors about McNabb possibly missing the season opener began to spread around the 'net. Without McNabb, the Redskins offense has nothing. Even after releasing Willie Parker the backfield is just overcrowded with over-the-hill vets, and the only legit receiving threat on the roster very well may be tight end Chris Cooley.
Even with McNabb, after looking at the rest of Washington's offensive depth chart I really don't see him doing much. You can't forget that Washington is in the NFC East, meaning they would have to beat out the Cowboys, Giants and Eagles. Sorry, that's just not gonna happen.
If you're a fantasy owner who has Steven Jackson on your team then I'm sure you're loving the fact that Bradford will be the starter because, yes, that means Jackson will get the ball quite a bit in an attempt to keep the pressure off Bradford.
Obviously Bradford isn't going to step up here from day one and dominate the league, but I see him having a Stafford-like performance in his rookie campaign: not too great a team record, but solid performance. It was good that Bradford got hit quite a bit in the preseason, this will make it a little easier to adjust to the speed of the game, and his preseason numbers weren't too bad either.
Improvement for Jay Cutler in 2010?
Cutler clearly isn't the favorite in the windy city after leading the league with 26 interceptions last season, but since he was at the very bottom of the league in '09, it really shouldn't be too hard to make an improvement this season. A little help from his relatively unknown receiving corps would be a huge help, but all Cutler really needed improvement on this offseason was limiting the mental mistakes which caused him to throw so many interceptions.
Adjusting to the new offense may be his biggest concern right now, though. If he can settle down quickly in this offense I think he will be ok. Cutler is my pick for comeback player of the year.
With two straight solid seasons of 4,000-plus yards and 28-plus TDs it's tough to not include him with the guys such as Manning and Brees, but right now he may be stuck down there with the likes of Romo and Matt Schaub.
He has a really good chance at taking this Packers team--which has a stellar D and solid run game to complement Rodgers' game--all the way to the Super Bowl this season, but until he does so I think we will need to keep him off any list that includes Manning, Brady and Brees.
Will Matthew Stafford's Lions Improve this Season?
The addition to this Lions team that will help Stafford the most would probably have to be rookie back Jahvid Best. Best has playmaking ability and is a threat to score every time he touches the ball. Nate Burleson at the receiving position was another solid addition that will aid Stafford's second season.
Stafford had a rough ending to the 2009 season (8 INTs in last three games played), but performances such as his five touchdown thrilling victory against the Cleveland Browns showed us that he has guts and is a great leader. After injuring his throwing shoulder on a pass with just seconds left in the game, Stafford went back out and threw the game-winning touchdown to give the Lions a one-point victory.
Just like every other struggling rookie quarterback, Stafford will just need to get past the mental errors and limit his mistakes.
It was confirmed today that the Arizona Cardinals ended the Matt Leinart era by releasing the longtime bench-warmer after he spoke out about his frustration earlier this week. He claimed to have 'beaten out' veteran Derek Anderson for the starting job.
While his numbers didn't look too bad, Leinart's intangibles haven't impressed many people. He has failed to prove himself as a leader and has struggled while under pressure. Lets face it, this guy is a bust and will never be nothing more than a clipboard holder in the NFL. Arizona's best bet was to do exactly what they did: release Leinart and start Anderson. Kudos to you, Arizona!
Jake Delhomme's Redemption season?
If I hadn't already said that Jay Cutler is my pick to win the comeback player of the year award this season, Delhomme would've gotten the nod. So I guess you'll have to be my runner up, Jake.
Personally I am glad he got a fresh start, it was desperately needed. Cleveland may not exactly be the best place for a fresh start, but it will have to do. The season-ending injury to rookie RB Montario Hardesty wont have a positive effect on Cleveland's offense, but Jerome Harrison may be enough to take a little pressure off Jake, allowing him to eliminate some of his mistakes. I'm not expecting a Pro Bowl performance or anything like that, but certainly a great improvement on his 2009 campaign which included just eight TD passes and 18 INTs.
Matt Moore v.s. Jimmy Clausen: Who wins out?
I'm giving the edge to the 26-year old Moore, who backed up Delhomme for the last several years. In just eight starts since 2007, Moore put up a record of 6-2 with 11 TD tosses. After Delhomme struggled to get anything going last season, Moore stepped in and threw for eight TDs and just two INTs in five starts. The team went 4-1 over that span as he threw for over a 1,000 yards and completed 61.6 percent of his passes.
His late-season performance alone should be enough to give him the starting role this season. He has proven himself and the rookie Clausen has struggled during the preseason. Moore will be the opening day starter, mark my words.
Interestingly enough, Brady struggled against the Ravens in the playoffs last season, losing a rare playoff game by blowout (33-14). Brady threw three INTs and just 154 yards in the game. This was the last game we've seen Brady play and it seemed to have worried some people.
His regular season was stellar as always (4,398 yards, 28 TDs, 13 INTs, 96.2 rating), but he shines the brightest in the playoffs and he just didn't show up that day. This is very minor in my eyes, but we have to realize that everyone is human and things are just going to be going downhill from here as he approaches his mid-30s. Questions surround New England's receiving corps and the backfield has never been all that consistent either. I'm not worrying if I'm a Pats fan, but the end seems to be in sight in my opinion.
Romo's Year to take the 'Boys all the Way?
The weapons are all there. Stellar defense. Solid run game. Weapons in the passing game.
If Romo is to win a Super Bowl, I think this would be the year. Romo ended Dallas' playoff win drought, proving he has the potential to win when it matters most. That's not a concern. Not in my eyes, anyways. With Miles Austin and rookie Dez Bryant leading the air attack and running back Tashard Choice poised to breakout, I really don't see this team not winning in the playoffs.
I'll go ahead and say it here first, Dallas and Green Bay will be playing for the NFC Championship this January. I won't say who will win until I come out with my last-second season preview in the next several days, but they will be the two fighting for a chance at the Super Bowl.
Any other questions you would like answered? Just let me know in the comments. Don't forget to come back to read my last-second NFL preview in the coming days.