Let the new storylines unfold

In opener, Vikings have a score to settle

September 09, 2010|By Sam Farmer, Tribune newspapers

NEW ORLEANS — Lights, camera … satisfaction?

The Vikings will be looking for some of that Thursday night when they open the NFL season against the Saints in a rematch of last season's NFC championship game.

Statistically, the Vikings thoroughly outplayed the Saints when they last met — except for five turnovers. The Saints took advantage of those miscues and rode them all the way to Super Bowl XLIV, where they knocked off the Colts to claim their first Lombardi Trophy.

Can the Brett Favre-led Vikings get it right this time? Or are Drew Brees and the Saints on their way to another fleur-de-glee?

Those are but two of the budding storylines in a season filled with them.

Will Pete Carroll prove he can be a consistent winner in the pros with the Seahawks?

Will the Cowboys be the first team to play a Super Bowl on their home field?

Are the Hard-Knocking Jets for real again, or just a made-for-TV contender?

And what were the Eagles doing trading a six-time Pro Bowl quarterback within the division?

A look at what's new around the league this season:

Uneasy lies the crown

Turnovers are a huge part of the game, and not just those that happen on the field. There's no guarantee a team can stay atop its division. In fact, over the past two years, there have been 11 new winners of their respective divisions — a record-setting six in 2008 and five last season.

New division winners in 2009 were the Patriots, Bengals, Colts, Cowboys and Saints.

Don't I know you?

The blockbuster trade of the offseason had the Eagles trading Donovan McNabb to the NFC East rival Redskins. There were a lot of other noteworthy transactions too.

WR Anquan Boldin (Cardinals to Ravens) : Boldin's first stop after stepping out of Larry Fitzgerald's shadow? Revis Island.

DE Alex Brown (Bears to Saints): The Saints, who let Charles Grant go, picked up a quick pass rusher to pair with Will Smith.

CB Antonio Cromartie (Chargers to Jets): With Darrelle Revis on the other side, Cromartie figures to see lots of passes coming his way.

LB Karlos Dansby (Cardinals to Dolphins): The Cardinals weren't going to franchise Dansby three years in a row, so they had to let him go.

QB Jake Delhomme (Panthers to Browns): Can the Browns reboot a quarterback who had eight touchdowns and 18 interceptions last season?

G Alan Faneca (Jets to Cardinals): Faneca was a key component in a Jets offense that led the NFL in rushing last season. Good guards are vital.

WR Santonio Holmes (Steelers to Jets): The Jets got the former Super Bowl MVP for a fifth-round pick. Obviously, the Steelers were desperate to dish him.

RB Thomas Jones (Jets to Chiefs): At 32, Jones is on the back side of his career. But he still can shoulder part of the load for Jamaal Charles.

DE Aaron Kampman (Packers to Jaguars): Kampman is recovering from a torn ACL, but the Jaguars think he can help them pressure the passer.

WR Brandon Marshall (Broncos to Dolphins): Marshall can be a headache, but he's also a field-stretcher who caught 101 passes last season.

WR Terrell Owens (Bills to

Bengals): The biggest proponent of Owens within the Bengals? Carson Palmer, his offseason workout partner.

DE Julius Peppers (Panthers to Bears): Bears should get a boost from a backfield wrecker who has 25 sacks in the last two seasons.

LB Joey Porter (Dolphins to Cardinals): The Cardinals are betting Porter still can be disruptive to an offense and help galvanize the locker room.

S Kerry Rhodes (Jets to

Cardinals): Rhodes felt like the odd man out in Rex Ryan's defense. Now, he comes to one that is relying on him to be a playmaker.

CB Dunta Robinson (Texans to Falcons): The Falcons have searched for years for a shutdown corner. Their defense was 28th against the pass in 2009.

S Antrel Rolle (Cardinals to Giants): The Giants had all sorts of problems in the secondary last season. Can Rolle be an Antonio Pierce-type leader?

RB LaDainian Tomlinson (Chargers to Jets ): Yesterday's news in San Diego, he showed flashes of the old LT this summer.

DE Kyle Vanden Bosch (Titans to Lions): Coach Jim Schwartz is hoping he can create some of that Tennessee-type pressure with Vanden Bosch.

DT Jamal Williams (Chargers to Broncos): When Williams is healthy, he's as good a run stopper as any in football.

Milestones aplenty

Favre, Vikings: Needs three touchdown passes to become the first player in NFL history with 500 for his career. He's the all-time leader with 497.

Peyton Manning, Colts: Needs three more games with four or more touchdown passes to surpass Favre's record of 23.

Tomlinson, Jets: Needs 1,000 yards rushing to become the fifth player with nine such seasons. Emmitt Smith (11), Curtis Martin (10), Walter Payton (10) and Barry Sanders (10) have more.

Randy Moss, Patriots: Needs two receiving touchdowns to join Jerry Rice as the only players with 150 for their career.

Owens, Bengals: Needs six receiving touchdowns for 150.

Encore! Encore!

The Titans' Chris Johnson ran for 2,006 yards last season, becoming just the sixth player in history to rush for 2,000 yards. How the other five fared the year after: O.J. Simpson, Bills — 2,003 in 1973, 1,125 in 1974; Eric Dickerson, Rams — 2,105 in 1984, 1,234 in 1985; Barry Sanders, Lions — 2,053 in 1997, 1,491 in 1998; Terrell Davis, Broncos — 2,008 in 1998, 211 in 1999 and Jamal Lewis, Ravens— 2,066 in 2003, 1,006 in 2004.


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