Top 5 Storylines of Week 1 in the NFL

SAN DIEGO - JANUARY 17: Head coach Rex Ryan of the New York Jets stands on the field during the AFC Divisional Playoff Game against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium on January 17, 2010 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

It’s Week 1 in the NFL, so you know there are going to be some juicy headlines heading into this weekend’s action. Here are my top 5…

1. What will Rex Ryan and the Jets do for an encore?
We’ll have to wait until Monday before we see “Hard Knocks” play out on the field, but Ryan’s squad is going to get a stiff test right off the bat. The Ravens are loaded offensively and some believe could challenge for a Super Bowl berth this season. Meanwhile, Darrelle Revis is back at practice after holding out for 36 days, but is he ready to play after missing all of training camp? How will his chemistry be with a defense that he hasn’t played a live game situation with in over seven months? Can the Jets live up to their own Super Bowl expectations? Something tells me we’re going to find out a lot about both of these teams in four nights.

2. How will the new-look Redskins fair?
The Redskins were a disaster under Jim Zorn last year, so owner Daniel Snyder hired Mike Shanahan to help restore order and then signed off on a trade for Donovan McNabb. Now questions remain not only about McNabb’s health, but about whether or not he has enough help around him. The O-line is still a major question mark, as are the running back and receiver positions. On the other side of the ball, Shanahan has been feuding with Albert Haynesworth for the better part of a decade and rumors have started to circulate that he could be traded to Tennessee (uh, Haynesworth – not Shanahan. That would be ridiculous.). Kind of a bad time to be playing on national television against a divisional rival that is expected to be a Super Bowl contender, huh?

3. Kevin Kolb gets stiff opening test
All eyes will be on Kolb this week in the first game of the McNabb-less era in Philly. He won’t have time to get acclimated to the situation for very long, because the Super Bowl-hopeful Packers are coming to town with their top ranked defense from a year ago. It’ll be interesting to see what the backfield combination of Kolb and Shady McCoy will produce in their first live run of 2010. The offensive line is good and Kolb has plenty of weapons in the passing game thanks to DeSean Jackson, Brent Celek and Jeremy Maclin, but if McCoy can’t find running room then the Packers will certainly amp up the pressure. This could wind up being the best matchup on the Week 1 schedule next to Ravens-Jets’ bout on Monday night.

4. Mike Martz’s Windy City Debut
If you’re like me, I’m waiting for one of two things to happen in Chicago this year: Jay Cutler becoming the second-coming of Jeff George in Martz’s offense…or Jay Cutler becoming the second-coming of Jeff George in Martz’s offense. George, if you remember, could zip the ball around a football field as well as any quarterback in the league. Too bad he also forced passes into small windows instead of throwing it out of bounds or take sacks. He was also a pistol when it came to dealing with teammates and coaches, which is not unlike Cutler. It stands to reason that given Cutler’s skill set, he could wind up having a great season under Martz. But considering his offensive line still isn’t that good and he’ll be throwing the ball even more than he did last year, he could also wind up breaking the NFL record for interceptions in a single season. Either way, it should be fun.

5. Welcome to the NFL, Sam Bradford
Unlike some people, I don’t mind when teams start rookies at quarterback. The best way to learn the game is to play and while young signal callers are going to make plenty of mistakes, they’re also going to gain valuable experience as well. Bradford needs a better set of receivers than what the Rams currently have on their roster, but it’s not like the team is sending him into a firefight with a water gun and a shank. The offensive line is improving and having Steven Jackson in the same backfield will help take some of the pressure off of the rookie’s shoulders. He’s going to make some dumb mistakes and chances are, he’s also going to make some plays that make you say, “Hmm, nice throw kid.” Either way, Week 1 isn’t going to make or beak his future. It’ll be fun to see how he does in his first NFL test though.

Just missing the cut…

6. Is Maurice Jones-Drew healthy?
7. Brady and Welker sans car accidents and knee injuries
8. T.O. and Ocho Act I
9. Can the Texans finally get the Colts monkey off their backs?
10. How will the Ben Roethlisberger-less Steelers fair with Dennis Dixon under center?
11. Pete Carroll makes his debut in Seattle
12. Will we actually see Brandon Jacobs’ head explode if Bradshaw gets more opportunities in the Giants’ offense?

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