Welcome to The Pulse, the place to find out what the sports world is thinking. Every day on ESPN.com, SportsNation registers its opinion on a wide range of topics by casting votes and offering opinions. We'll collect the daily highlights and create a running file throughout the week to measure The Pulse of SportsNation on a wide variety of issues. Check this page every day for an update of what the 'Nation is saying.
Friday's Big Questions
1. Is Byron Leftwich a Super Bowl quarterback?
2. Will Brett Favre bounce back in 2006?
3. What to expect from Mario Williams
How much is left in Favre's tank?
The dog days of summer are here and NFL training camps keep plodding along, offering as many questions as answers at this point, especially for some quarterbacks.
In Jacksonville, the question is whether gutsy passer Byron Leftwich has the stuff to get the Jaguars to the Super Bowl in the near future. SportsNation says he does as over nearly 60 percent think Leftwich will have his team in the Super Bowl within three years.
Brett Favre declared earlier in the week that this year's team is the most talented Packers squad he has been a part of in his career. Some of his former teammates might disagree, but that's another story for another time. The pressing issue for Packers fans is whether Favre will rebound from a 29-interception season in 2005 and throw more touchdowns than picks this year. The 'Nation is overwhelmingly confident he will.
Texans quarterback David Carr threw a career-high 16 touchdown passes last season and a huge percentage of SN thinks the addition of Eric Moulds and other pieces around Carr will allow the fifth-year QB to surpass that total in '06.
Despite the rosy outlook on the quarterback situations SportsNation thinks the Jaguars are the only team of the three headed to the playoffs.
Does Byron Leftwich have what it takes to lead the Jaguars to the Super Bowl in the next three years?
Will Brett Favre throw more interceptions than touchdowns for a second straight season?
Will David Carr improve upon his career high of 16 touchdown passes this season?
53% The Jaguars will make the playoffs
39% The Packers will make the playoffs
7% The Texans will make the playoffs
Can Leftwich remain upright and uninjured this season?
If Leftwich can keep himself somewhat healthy and not have to gut out so many games while hurt, the Jags are a real threat. Super Bowl isn't far off.
Matt (South Beach)
No question the Jags are Super Bowl contenders right now. If the WRs come around this year Leftwich will have a sick year in terms of stats.
Leftwich won't be as successful if Fragile Fred Taylor gets hurt again and misses a lot of time. And I think we all know just how likely that is to happen.
Zachary (Jacksonville, FL)
Who cares about the numbers? I'm just glad we get to see Brett Favre play the game he loves for another year. Did I sound like Madden just then?
Tyler (Lake Champlain)
Favre bounces back but frustrates his new coach by forcing throws, the Packers miss the playoffs again. It's gonna be a long winter in Wisconsin.
Can Favre really look any worse than he did for most of last year? Nowhere to go but up. And with Ahman Green coming back to take some pressure off Favre will be much better.
Walter (Upper Peninsula, Michigan)
Brett Favre threw five picks in an intrasquad game and got called out by his coach for three of them being "unacceptable." Maybe he should have a press conference about it.
Mike (Ann Arbor)
David Carr was thrown into the fire from Day 1 and hasn't been able to keep his uniform clean since he arrived in Houston. With a better offensive line and more weapons on offense this looks like his breakout year.
Playoffs are pretty much out of the question but at least the Texans should be competitive this year. And as an added bonus we'll get the weekly Mario Williams-Reggie Bush comparisons as people try to trash Houston for passing on Bush.
What does it say about Carr that in four full years as a starter his career-high for TD passes is 16? Nothing good, if you ask me.
Thursday's Big Questions
1. Is college football corrupt?
2. What happens now for the Oklahoma Sooners?
Rhett Bomar is out.
College football ended last season on an all-time high, with Vince Young putting together a performance for the ages that highlighted everything good about the game.
It appears the sport will enter this season from a much less advantageous position.
With August less than 72 hours old, national title contender Oklahoma saw its season take a turn for the worse, and possibly go up in flames, when it was reported that the starting quarterback Rhett Bomar and another player had been dismissed from the team for accepting improper benefits linked to a summer job at an area car dealer. The news out of Oklahoma came on the heels of keys players at Miami being suspended for the season opener against Florida State, and it was accompanied by stories of suspensions at Auburn and Tennessee.
So what's the deal in college football these days? An overwhelming majority of SportsNation thinks big-time college football is corrupt, and only 25 percent of voters feel better about the game's ethics based on Oklahoma's willingness to part ways with their quarterback.
78% Big-time college football is corrupt.
How do suspensions to key players at Miami and OU affect your confidence in the integrity of major college football teams?
45% No impact
20% Less confident
25% More confident
Carl (Platteville, Wisc.): How much does it help Miami's image that Coker suspended two starters for the FSU game, considering that last year Bowden refused to suspend two of his linebackers that actually had run-ins with the law, not just missing a study hall?
ESPN.com's Mark Schlabach: I commend Larry Coker more than any other coach in the country for his recent suspensions of Tyrone Moss, Ryan Moore, etc. He is on the hot seat as much as any other coach, yet suspended two of his better players for the biggest game of the year. Don't know how much Moss would help because of the knee injury, but it's still quite a statement. Same for Bob Stoops and Tommy Tuberville. Good to see coaches stepping up.
I was great at math in college, and I got a job once to "work" a few hours but got paid extra money and it cost me my degree. Oh wait, that's not true; that only happens to athletes in the big-time, money-making business known as the NCAA.
I think it's time to start having a serious debate about paying players in the big revenue sports. Wouldn't this eliminate 95 percent of the recruiting violation issues?
Great job by Oklahoma. It's the same type of scandal that Maurice Clarett was part of at Ohio State, but Bob Stoops cleaned house of his bad eggs. I am rooting for the Sooners this year as a result of the right action taken by the program.
Mike (Long Island)
Dumbest move by a major college football player in recent years. At least show up to work and hang out on Sportsnation like the rest of us for a couple hours.
The culture of college football is definitely to blame. You know these kinds of things have been going on for years, it's just now (and too late) that the NCAA has been cracking down.
I have a feeling this was going to blow up in a huge scandal, so Oklahoma did what they could to nip it in the bud. No way they would do this if it wasn't going to blow up in their faces.
Mat (Scottsdale, Ariz.)
There is nothing a school can really do about it, because they have no clue in most cases that a used car dealership in Norman would be paying a kid like that. The school might have been naive, but in most cases the only thing the school gets for summer work is a name and a contact with a phone number.
How will Bob Stoops fare?
Now that we've pondered the big picture, how about the short-term outlook for the Sooners without Bomar? The team struggled to a disappointing record last season, but with Adrian Peterson in the backfield and a more experienced Bomar at quarterback, many had the Sooners as the No. 1 team entering the preseason.
Now? Not so much.
Seven of out 10 voters don't think the Sooners can reach the BCS without Bomar, and the turn of events in Norman has left Texas, even without their own starting quarterback from last season, as the prohibitive favorites in the Big 12.
71% Oklahoma cannot reach a BCS game without Rhett Bomar.
Which team will win the Big 12?
Cameron (Oklahoma): With the dismissals of Bomar and Quinn, how much do you see OU slipping? Do you now see Texas winning the Big 12?
Mark Schlabach: I think with Bomar and Quinn, the Sooners were the favorites in the Big 12 and a national championship contender. Without them, OU is on par with Texas and perhaps Texas Tech. If Paul Thompson moves back to QB, which I think they'll do, and he plays well, they'll have a chance to still win the Big 12. Peterson and that great defense will keep them in every game.
So how fast did Bomar's phone ring from other schools once the news broke? Two seconds? I'd like to see where he ends up.
Mat (Scottsdale, Ariz.)
Oklahoma has a few weeks to work the backup into the system before the season starts. They should be fine by the Big 12 schedule. It would be worse if a QB was injured in the opener.
Tom (Parkville, Md.)
Bomar has been a problem since he arrived at OU. Two underage drinking citations, a noise violation for an insane party. This wasn't a shock; it was a matter of when he did something like this.
Evan (Washington, D.C.)
The Sooners go from national championship favorites to another 8-4 campaign.
Chad (New York)
Peterson is going to face a lot of eight-man fronts now! Look for him to struggle early in the season.
Was Rhett that important to the Sooner team? Last time I checked, they still had one of the best RBs in the country.
Wednesday's Big Questions
1. Are the Yankees now the AL East favorites?
2. Which Jake Plummer will show up in 2006?
Jason Varitek is a valuable clubhouse leader who knows how to handle a pitching staff.
This time, it's the Boston Red Sox who've been bitten by the injury bug as they chase the American League East title.
Catcher and captain Jason is scheduled to have arthroscopic surgery on torn cartilage in his left knee and will miss an undetermined amount of time, bad news compounded by the fact that the Yankees traded for Bobby Abreu at the deadline and on Wednesday overtook the Red Sox atop the division.
The Yankees look to be on the uptick after suffering a rash of injuries and pitching problems early in the season, while the Red Sox have lost one of their most valuable players and are dealing with questions about the back end of their pitching rotation. As SportsNation sees it, it's time for the Sox to panic because the Yankees are now the favorite to win the East.
Which team will win the AL East?
54% New York Yankees
40% Boston Red Sox
6% Toronto Blue Jays
The Red Sox should be VERY concerned. The Yanks have had injuries all year and still stayed within striking distance. Now they have added Abreu and they are getting healthier. The Red sox made no moves and now they are being bit by the injury bug.
The timing is the worst part. Yes, the same thing happened to the Yankees but they had time to squeeze something out of Cabrera and Phillips before they restocked at th deadline. The Sox don't have that luxury with their roster this late in the year.
The comforting thought for the Red Sox is that the Yankee pitching staff really isn't very good either. They won't pull away unless the Sox just completely go in the tank, which shouldn't happen with Schilling and Beckett.
Panic? No. Worried? Yes. Remember, we were calling the Yankees dead a month ago when they got blown out and were four games back. Still, I don't think the Yankees pitching staff is good enough to completely pull away from the Red Sox.
Why panic? It's not like they're 10 games back. And what would panicking help? It's not like the Sox can make any significant deals the rest of the way. They've got to play the hand they've been dealt.
Christian (High Point, NC)
This just in: it doesn't matter what the Red Sox do. They can't beat the Tigers or the Twins or the ChiSox in the playoffs.
Jake Plummer slung the ball more conservatively last year but reverted to old form in the playoffs.
The Broncos won 11 regular-season games last season but were bounced from the playoffs after Jake Plummer threw a pair of interceptions and lost two fumbles in a lopsided loss to the Steelers in the second round.
So will Plummer in 2006 be the heady quarterback who threw only seven interceptions last year during the regular season, or the gunslinger who was picked off 20 times back in 2004? SportsNation is betting Plummer will return to his 2005 form by posting a high quarterback rating and low interception total. As for the vaunted Denver running attack, SN says Tatum Bell and Ron Dayne should share the carries until the hotter of the two takes over as the featured back.
So how many wins are in store for Denver? More than 70 percent of The 'Nation sees 11 or more wins for the Broncos in 2006 while better than 80 percent think they will be in the playoffs.
Which Jake Plummer will show up when it counts this season?
61% 2005: 90.2 QB rating (18 TD, 7 INT)
22% 2004: 84.5 QB rating (27 TD, 20 INT)
17% 2005 playoffs: 72.0 QB rating (2 TD, 3 INT)
How should the Broncos handle their running backs this season?
42% Platoon Tatum Bell and Ron Dayne early, then stick with hot hand
39% Bell gets more carries, but Dayne is short-yardage and goal-line back
11% Give Dayne the full-time opportunity
9% Give Bell the full-time opportunity
The Broncos went 13-3 last season; how many games will they win this season?
73.3% 11 or more
1.8% 6 or fewer
Will the Broncos make the playoffs this season?
Jake "The Snake" reverted to his old form in the playoffs, but here's guessing that was an aberration. He's back in top form and the Broncos are back in the playoffs.
Jonathan (Mile High City)
Does it matter who the running back will be in Denver? Shanahan has proven his system can make any back productive. Give the ball to the hot hand no matter who it is.
November is going to be brutal for the Broncos: at Pittsburgh, at Oakland, hosting San Diego, at Kansas City. Get through that month unscathed and they will be division champs.
Joshua (Oxnard, CA)
Here's a better question: Can a defense full of reclamation projects turn in an outstanding performance for the second straight year. Maybe not spectacular, but they'll be solid enough to get to double-digit wins again.
Why don't the Broncos trade Ashley Lelie to Atlanta for T.J. Duckett? It would help both teams.
Tuesday's Big Questions
1. What is the state of the Arizona Cardinals?
2. Is Chris Simms a question mark in Tampa?
Anquan Boldin has more than 100 receptions and 1,000 receiving yards in two of his first three NFL seasons.
The Arizona Cardinals made quite a splash during the offseason, acquiring the biggest free-agent prize on the market in running back Edgerrin James and having the good fortune of seeing quarterback Matt Leinart fall into their lap during the draft.
Those happenings -- combined with an already potent passing attack featuring wideouts Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin and an improving defense -- have SportsNation feeling good about the future of the Cardinals. Better than 60 percent of SN says Arizona is on the verge of becoming a playoff team and only a minuscule portion feels the Cardinals are spinning their wheels or moving backward.
As for James, The 'Nation likes him to put up yet another 1,500-yard season behind Arizona's solid offensive line, and nearly 60 percent predict at least nine wins for Dennis Green's team. Still, a majority feels all that won't be enough to get the Cards into the postseason.
What is the state of the Cardinals as they enter their new stadium?
57% Most of the pieces are in place, and they're on the verge of the playoffs.
40% Heading in the right direction, but they've still got a lot of holes to fill.
2% In danger of stalling; they didn't do enough to address weaknesses.
1% Moving backwards and heading for disappointment.
Just once in his career has Edgerrin James failed to average 95 rushing yards per game (equivalent to 1,520 yards in 16 games). Will he average 95 yards per game this season?
The Cardinals went 5-11 last season; how many games will they win this season?
3% 11 or more
2% 6 or fewer
Will the Cardinals make the playoffs this season?
Edge is just what the doctor ordered for the Cards. Now they have someone to keep defenses honest and open up even more room for the passing game. They'll be in the playoffs.
Jim (Tempe, AR)
Is 10 wins a bit optimistic for a team that went 5-11 last year? Probably, but if everything falls right and everyone stays healthy it's not impossible, either.
Matt (Scottsdale, AZ)
Arizona's headed in the right direction with the move but the defense will probably hold them back this year. But this looks like a playoff team for years to come once Leinart gets under center full-time.
Will (South Florida)
Boldin and Fitzgerald are the best WR duo in the league. No doubt. They'll make James better and vice-versa, but the D is still too suspect to contend for anything.
Does anyone else think Edgerrin is going to struggle outdoors in the heat?
Bert (Waco, Texas)
Here's guessing Kurt Warner gets hurt early in the year and things fall apart because Josh McCown is now in Detroit.
Chris Simms had a 61.0 completion pct and 81.4 QB rating in 2006.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers got a pleasant surprise when the inexperienced Chris Simms stepped in for the injured Brian Griese at quarterback and led the team to six late-season wins and the playoffs.
It remains to be seen whether Simms can put up a completion percentage above 60 and a quarterback rating north of 80 for an entire season, but SportsNation doesn't think the baby-faced passer is the biggest question mark for the Bucs heading into the season. A shaky offensive line gets that distinction despite some reservations about Simms, and the aging defense is also a concern.
Then there's a bear of a schedule. Thanks to a Thanksgiving Day game at Dallas, Tampa Bay will play three games in 11 days in November then face three cold-weather games in December. But despite Tampa's well-known struggles in cold climates SN says the quick turnarounds in November will be the biggest scheduling challenge for the Bucs.
The 'Nation likes Tampa Bay to overcome all that, though. Well over 80 percent of voters pick the Buccaneers to win at least nine games and better than 60 percent see the Bucs in the playoffs again this season.
What is the biggest question for the Buccaneers this season?
41% Will the offensive line take shape?
30% How good is Chris Simms?
20% Is the defense getting too old?
9% How durable is Carnell Williams?
Which will be a tougher challenge for the Buccaneers?
67% Three games in 11 days in November: at Carolina, vs. Washington, at Dallas
33% Three games in cold-weather cities in December: at Chicago, at Pittsburgh, at Cleveland
The Buccaneers went 11-5 last season; how many games will they win this season?
34.5% 11 or more
0.8% 6 or fewer
Will the Buccaneers make the playoffs this season?
Simms proved the doubters wrong last year and should be even better this year with some real experience -- including the playoffs -- under his belt.
Jason (Tampa Bay, FL)
If Simms can at least maintain his performance from last year and Cadillac can stay healthy at RB they should be able to take some pressure off an old defense and get the Bucs deep into the postseason.
Allen (Biscayne Bay)
The schedule is going to be tough on the aging bodies on that defense. Can they hold up? The answer will determine what happens to the Bucs this year.
Joshua (Oxnard, CA)
Jon Gruden better pray Simms doesn't get hurt, because if he does the whole thing goes down the toilet and they win about five games.
The high point of any Bucs game is watching Gruden go absolutely berserk on the sidelines. One day that dude's head is just going to explode right on the sideline.
Monday's Big Question
What to make of the MLB trade deadline action?
Abreu (left) and Lidle are now sitting together in the Bronx.
The Major League Baseball trading deadline has come and gone and SportsNation is talking about the winners, losers and who will be left standing when the World Series is upon us.
Looking at the deals made last week, SN thinks adding Bobby Abreu and Cory Lidle is just what the doctor ordered for the Yankees with more than half of The 'Nation saying the Yanks will overtake the Red Sox and win the American League East title. There is decidedly less excitement about Carlos Lee landing in Texas, though, as a full two-thirds say he is not enough to get the Rangers the AL West crown.
As for the overall deadline report card the Yankees are the big winners again after adding Craig Wilson from Pittsburgh on Monday, while the Dodgers also get support after working deadline deals for Greg Maddux and Julio Lugo to go with an earlier trade for Wilson Betemit.
The biggest losers? The Red Sox, who are fighting to hold off a suddenly-improved Yankees team yet did nothing to upgrade their club, and the White Sox, who are free-falling from the top of the AL Central and could not pull off a deal as they try to end their slide.
So what does it all add up to? Well, according to the citizens of SportsNation the Tigers and Mets will be meeting in the World Series.
55% The addition of Bobby Abreu (and Cory Lidle) is enough to get the Yankees into the postseason
67% The addition of Carlos Lee is not enough to get the Rangers the AL West title
Which team was the biggest winner from the trade deadline?
50% Yankees (Bobby Abreu, Cory Lidle, Craig Wilson)
23% Dodgers (Julio Lugo, Greg Maddux, Wilson Betemit)
21% Rangers (Carlos Lee, Kip Wells, Matt Stairs, Nelson Cruz)
5% Brewers (Kevin Mench, Francisco Cordero, David Bell)
Which of the following contenders was the biggest loser from the trade deadline?
43% Red Sox
25% White Sox
Which team will win the American League pennant?
17% Red Sox
7% White Sox
1% Blue Jays
Which team will win the National League pennant?
How sick is this lineup and bench: lineup of Damon, Jeter, Giambi, A-Rod, Abreu, Matsui, Posada, Williams, Cano and bench of Sheffield, Wilson, Cairo, Cabrera, Phillips? Pretty nice.
Is there any concern about Abreu's ability to switch over to the AL considering the talent disparity between the two leagues?
Alton (Tampa, FL)
Why don't you consider the Dodgers a winner? They improved their rotation with Maddux and their offense with Lugo without giving up a big-time prospect.
Jason (Ventura, CA)
The Red Sox definitely needed to make a move with the Yankees getting Abreu.
So the Rangers loaded up while the struggling Angels sat idle? What gives?
McAllister (Mission Viejo, CA)
Why didn't the White Sox do something to end their recent struggles? They didn't need Soriano but they definitely needed pitching help. They'll miss the playoffs.
Will (North Side, Chi-town)
Tigers got a little help from the left side of the plate and didn't have to upset chemistry or give up anything of consequence to get Sean Casey. World Series here we come!
Yanks once again did what's necessary to win. This is why they're the best. Chalk up the 27th Series title in team history.
Mets shored some things up and are now even stronger than the rest of the NL. Is there any question they'll be in the Series? Best team in the league, hands down.