America's favorite sport: Football begins

The time has finally come. After a long summer of drama because of the NFL lockout, we now get ready for America’s favorite sport: football.

It definitely has been an eventful summer, as many people were extremely skeptical about the NFL actually having a season this year, and negotiations were publicly critiqued and analyzed. However, earlier this summer, the NFL Players Association including its owners were able to work out a deal just in time for the preseason.

Now, halfway through the preseason, we await opening weekend, which will occur in two weeks.
So, what can we expect from this season? Well, we know which teams will definitely be good, such as the Patriots, Steelers, Jets, Falcons, Packers, and a few other teams that consider themselves elite at this point. But who are the steadily improving teams that we should look out for? Some of the teams I have pinpointed are the Lions, Rams, and Texans.

The Lions, who have been notoriously bad for many seasons, have a young quarterback in Matt Stafford who has shown that he can be a top quarterback in this league, but hasn’t proven he can stay on the field. He only has 13 games under his belt over two seasons, and has already garnered the label of “fragile.” Given the fact that the Lions have potentially the best defensive line in the league, along with one of the best receivers in the league in Calvin Johnson, Stafford can take this team to the next level and get them their first winning season in a while.

The Texans, who have always been a hype team, look to stop that trend once again this year. They bring back a similar team as last year, except with huge improvements on the defensive side.
With Colts quarterback Peyton Manning slowly recovering from a neck injury, you get a division that is up for the taking. I would be surprised if the Texans and Colts are not close in the divisional race at the end of the year.

One of the huge stories of this NFL offseason was free agency, which was dominated by the Philadelphia Eagles. They dished out over $200 million in contracts this offseason, and some members of the team, such as backup quarterback Vince Young, have referred to the Eagles as a “dream team.”

Personally, I think the Eagles come into the season as a great team, but to refer to them as a dream team is ridiculous.

The Packers are just as good at every level, and are coming off a season where they won the Super Bowl with relative ease.

Not to mention that I would take Aaron Rodgers over Michael Vick any day of the week. Rodgers is more durable, a more accurate passer, and doesn’t bring as much injury risk as a quarterback who is known to run a lot. One thing that many Eagles enthusiasts fail to realize is that teams began to figure out how to defend against Vick at the end of the year. We shall see whether or not the Eagles are able to adjust to this and take the next step for their first Super Bowl ever.

Of course, this couldn’t be a full article without a paragraph on the Steelers. Coming off a Super Bowl appearance and a disappointing loss to the Packers, the Steel Curtain comes back again with a strong team, one that is extremely similar to last year’s.

Obviously, they are going to be a good team, especially with Big Ben at the helm for the whole season instead of 12 games, and they will most likely win the NFC North and enter the playoffs as a No. 2 or 3 seed.

However, their main problem from last year, their secondary, has not been fixed, and I again think this will be the downfall of their Super Bowl hopes. Ike Taylor, who they re-signed to a big deal in the offseason, isn’t a great No. 1 cornerback, and Bryant McFadden isn’t a great No. 2 cornerback. And of course, there is William Gay, who is notoriously bad and is a liability when he is on the field.

Another worry is the status and health of Troy Polamalu, who hasn’t been healthy for a full year for a long, long time. Either way, expect the Steelers to be a force this whole season barring injuries, and they will definitely be in the thick of things come the end of the year.

I cannot even describe how excited I am for the season this year. It should be interesting how the lockout affects the quality of play in the beginning of the season, and also the health of the players. Some teams, like the Giants, have already suffered some major injuries.

This could be a sign of things to come for other players who didn’t take care of their bodies in the offseason. It should be a great year, and I know that football fans are probably just as excited as I am to see the NFL back on the field.