Can the Texans protect Matt Schaub? Are the Panthers still a legitimate Super Bowl contender? Our experts tackle those questions and more in our weekly Burning Questions.
1. Who should start in Tampa Bay?
Eric Allen: Knowing coach Jon Gruden, it could be a dark-horse candidate because of his love of quarterbacks and also his constant criticism of them. Before Chris Simms was injured, it looked as though he was starting to understand what he needed to do in the offense and was starting to garner the trust that no quarterback has received from Gruden since he left Rich Gannon in Oakland.
In the end, that's what it's going to come down to for the potential starter ... trust. The best way for any quarterback to gain Gruden's trust is by being at the facility all the time. Gruden practically lives there, and the more he sees his quarterback there running the show and working with the rest of his guys, the more he trusts him to do the job on the field. Simms already knows this, and I'm sure he's going to be there making sure Gruden knows he's working to earn the job.
Joe Theismann: The free-agent signing of Jeff Garcia makes this job his to lose, with Simms backing him up with an eye toward regaining his starting job in the future. The Bucs need a veteran presence at quarterback right now, and Garcia provides that for them. He's a smart guy who knows how to operate this system and who can be the coach on the field that Gruden is constantly looking for in his quarterback.
You have to understand that Gruden wants his quarterback to be an extension of himself on the field. He wants a guy who is out there making the decisions that he would make at critical times, and Garcia is closer to being that guy than Simms is at this point in their careers.
2. Will the Texans be able to protect Matt Schaub?
Allen: I think the Texans are going to have the same protection problems they've had in the past. Houston doesn't seem to understand the importance not only of surrounding the quarterback with playmakers but also of making sure he has the protection to get the ball to those playmakers. There will definitely be times this season when Schaub will wish he was still in Atlanta not taking some brutal hits.
Theismann: I don't think protection will be as big of an issue because coach Gary Kubiak probably will try to run the ball as much as possible. That will provide protection for Schaub and also create space for receiver Andre Johnson on the outside in play-action situations. Kubiak is a brilliant offensive mind, and he's going to find a way to make sure that Schaub stays on his feet this season.
3. Are the Panthers still a legit Super Bowl contender?
Allen: It's hard to say "no" about a team that has playmakers like Steve Smith on the offensive side and Julius Peppers on the defensive side, but I'm not sure they are anything more than a dark-horse candidate anymore. They are obviously a little older, but also more banged up on both sides of the ball, and when a player gets one of those nagging injuries he is more susceptible to getting them again and again. That may be the downfall of this team this season.
Theismann: This team is definitely still a contender. It is a veteran ball club that has the ability to play any type of style offensively or defensively. If an opposing team wants to play grind-it-out football, the Panthers can pound them mercilessly. If a team wants to get into a shootout, WR Steve Smith and QB Jake Delhomme can put up the type of numbers that will make fantasy owners drool. The Panthers had a very good draft and shored up some weaknesses in terms of their depth. They will contend this season.