5 Intriguing NFL Storylines to Keep an Eye on During the Preseason
After a 2011 season dominated by news of a potential lockout, many football fans were looking forward to a drama-free 2012 campaign. Those fans, however, are going to be disappointed. The 2012 NFL season can already give any soap opera a run for its money, with new storylines developing by the hour. Here are five of the major themes from this crazy preseason:
Griffin and Luck Debut
The football world hasn’t seen this much hype around a pair of rookie quarterbacks since Peyton Manning and Ryan Leaf broke into the league in 1998. The first-year phenoms will each take control of a struggling offense and attempt to establish both themselves and their teams as legitimate NFL commodities. Early returns on their preseason performances are extremely promising, but the rookies will be hard-pressed to equal the debuts of 2011 standouts Cam Newton and Andy Dalton. The Colts and Redskins will settle for some flashes of brilliance and a few extra notches in the win column.
The Tebow/mark Sanchez Saga
Are you sick of Tim Tebow yet? Everyone’s favorite inaccurate quarterback has been a fixture in the news ever since his shocking trade to the New York Jets. Rex Ryan and company claim to have several unorthodox assignments in mind for the lefty, and insist that he is no threat to starting quarterback Mark Sanchez. Still, Sanchez isn’t the most reliable player to begin with, and tends to struggle to pressure-packed situations. Will Tebow add a new dimension to the Jets offense, or just disrupt an already volatile locker room?
Manning to Mile High
The beginning of the Andrew Luck era spelled the end of Peyton Manning’s storied run with the Colts, as the team granted him his outright release in March. Denver wasted no time in signing the aging legend, and sees him as the missing piece to their squad. Still, Manning’s health remains one of the biggest mysteries of this young NFL season. Reports have stated that number 18 looks sharp in training camp, but can a 36-year-old coming off multiple neck surgeries really have that much left in the tank? If anyone can re-establish themselves after such a grueling comeback, it’s Peyton.
The Saints’ role in the Bountygate scandal is certainly one of the darker chapters in league history, and Roger Goodell set out to ensure that nothing like this ever happens again. The result is several suspended players, forfeited draft picks, and a full year without head coach and offensive mastermind Sean Payton. Still, team owner Tom Benson has taken steps to make Payton’s presence known at camp, and the team’s core remains largely the same as it’s been since their impressive run of success began. Even with the shadow of BountyGate looming over them, it’s hard to imagine the Saints missing the playoffs.
The relationship between NFL teams and league officials is usually shaky at best, but players may soon miss their pinstriped counterparts. An ongoing contract dispute has forced the NFL to turn to replacement referees, most of whom have never officiated in a professional environment. Imagine the guy who calls the games in your rec league promoted to ‘Monday Night Football.’ The inexperienced refs have provided some major comic relief to players and fans alike, but will the football world still be laughing when the games count?