Every NFL season has great story lines to watch. Here are five of my most intriguing story lines for the upcoming season.
How the Chargers fare: New head coach Norv Turner hasn't been successful in his previous stints as a head coach, but this is the best team he's inherited by far. The Chargers are a team that could and should be favored to win the AFC this season with the collection of talent they have on the roster. After firing head coach Marty Schottenheimer and watching both coordinators (Cam Cameron and Wade Phillips) leave for head coaching jobs with other teams, general manager A.J. Smith is going to be on the hot seat this year.
Consistency is the key to success in the NFL. It will be interesting to see if the Chargers can emulate past teams like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who weathered a controversial coaching change to go on to win a Super Bowl. Smith is one of the best general managers in the game, but his bold firing of Schottenheimer has put him under the microscope. If this team fails, he could be on the chopping block.
Randy Moss to the Patriots: This has been beaten into the ground by a lot of people, but this is about more than just the Patriots' title chances. This is about the resurrection of a once-great career. It's easy to forget with all the controversy that just three years ago Randy Moss was hands down the best receiver in football and was being mentioned in the same breath as Jerry Rice.
But he's taken one of the most precipitous drops in NFL history without a major injury to blame. Instead he can blame the combination of a lack of talent surrounding him and a lack of effort on his part. This season, and every season going forward, is about Moss' legacy and if he'll be able to make it to the NFL Hall of Fame.
What the Bucs do this season: Whether it is fair or not, Jon Gruden is on the hot seat in Tampa Bay, where there are a lot of questions surrounding the Buccaneers. Jeff Garcia is more than likely going to be the starting quarterback, but nobody really knows because of Gruden's mercurial relationship with his quarterbacks. Just because Garcia starts in Week 1 doesn't mean he will start in Week 2.
But more distressing than the quarterback situation is the age of the defense. Obviously this is still a very talented defense, but they are collectively at the age in which little, chippy injuries can derail a player for a game or two. The Bucs have to hope they are deep enough to withstand any injuries that come along defensively.
Has Indy been passed in the AFC? This has been a tough offseason for the defending Super Bowl champions. They lost a very good running back (Dominic Rhodes) and their two starting cornerbacks (Jason David and Nick Harper). Those two will be replaced by Marlin Jackson and Kelvin Hayden, who have two regular-season starts combined. Coach Tony Dungy believes Jackson and Hayden can take over and anchor the defensive backfield, but that remains to be seen. I do like the acquisition of Ohio State receiver Anthony Gonzalez because he can immediately fit in and give Peyton Manning another receiving threat to work into the fold.
This is a veteran team that will have no letdown like other Super Bowl winners have had in the past, but you have to wonder if they have the skill and veteran presence overall in the defensive backfield to repeat.
What will the Bears do with Rex Grossman? Can the Bears trust Grossman after last season's up-and-down performances? Is he really the quarterback of the future in Chicago or should they start trying to find another alternative? This is a turning point in Grossman's career, because if he doesn't have a good season, he could be on his way out of Chicago as the starter.