The 2005 NFL season kicks of this weekend and gridiron fans all over the country are filled with anticipation with what promises to be yet another fantastic season.
Before we can look forward, we must first look back at an interesting offseason that saw many transactions and events occur to kept fan interest at a peak.
Perhaps the biggest player move was the Oakland Raiders acquisition of controversial wide receiver Randy Moss.
Moss will now start over in a new regime and will try to resurrect a Raider franchise that has fallen off drastically over the past two years.
Speaking of controversy, pro sports most infamous pot smoker Ricky Williams has returned to the Miami Dolphins.
Williams, who left the team last year due to a lack of desire, has found a new spark. The saga that is the on-again, off-again relationship between Donovan McNabb and Terrell Owens hit new heights during the offseason as well. Owens, who is trying to work out a new contract agreement, had become so much of a distraction during practices, Philadelphia Eagles head coach Andy Reid told Owens to hit the road for a week.
During that time Owens lashed out against anyone and everyone who he feels is against him including McNabb.
McNabb on the other hand, has tried to downplay the sitution in front of the media, but one can’t help but wonder what goes on behind the closed doors of the Eagles locker room.
Tragedies of another form also transpired during the offseason, Tedy Bruschi, the heart and soul of the New England Patriot defense, suffered a mild stroke in February, and will sit out the entire season. Bruschi, 31, has indicated that he will be back in 2006, but his prowess on the field and his presence off the field will be sorely missed by the defending Super Bowl champions.
The San Francisco 49ers are also recovering from tragedy, after the untimely death of rookie offensive lineman Thomas Herrion.
Herrion collapsed after a pre-season game with the Oakland Raiders, and died a shortly later at a local hospital.
The biggest question of the 2005 season will be if anyone can stop New England. The Patriots face a tough schedule this season and will have a large target on their backs, but don’t expect that to stop Tom Brady and company, they will be no doubt be there in the end.
Posing a threats in the AFC are the high-powered offenses of the Colts, (with reigning MVP Peyton Manning), the Kansas City Chiefs with a healthy Priest Holmes, the Steelers and Ben Roethlisberger, and the ever tenacious Baltimore Ravens led by all-pro linebacker Ray Lewis.
It will be interesting to see where the Cincinnati Bengals will fit into the mix. 3rd year head coach Marvin Lewis has emphasized the importance of getting off to a good start this season, and avoiding facing must-win games early in the year.
The Bengals when hitting on all cylinders, can be just as dangerous a team as there is in the league, but they cannot allow themselves to internally self-destruct and must improve on the defensive line.
Look for good seasons from Carson Palmer, Chad Johnson and Rudi Johnson, and don’t be surprised to see T.J. Houshmandzadeh come into his own now that Peter Warrick is out of the picture.
Over in the NFC, things are a little less predictable. Expect the Eagles to be tough once again, despite how poorly McNabb and Owens get along, they seem to function fine on the field.
Dallas should be much improved this season, people are expecting big things from running back Julius Jones, who showed flashes of brilliance last season.
The Minnesota Vikings should be near the top of their division this season, but keep an eye on how well quarterback Dante Culpepper functions without Randy Moss.
In the NFC West, look for a two-team battle between St. Louis and Seattle, but watch out for Arizona, that’s right, the Cardinals possess many skilled young players on their team led by wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, and if Kurt Warner can find his touch again, don’t be surprised to see the Cardinals near the .500 mark.
Perhaps the biggest sleeper team in all of football this season will be Carolina.
After nearly winning the Super Bowl two years ago, the Panthers were devastated by injuries last season, but are now healthy and ready to return to the playoffs led by ultra-motivated quarterback Jake Delhomme.
With the pre-season now in the books, it is time for the real show to begin, and this football can’t wait to see how it all unfolds.