Are You Ready for Some Football?

 

Courtesy of Associated Press

Ready, set, hike! For us football fans, the nearing kickoff for the upcoming season is a source of anticipation and excitement. In light of recent trades and free agency signings, it’s hard not to mentally check off the days leading up to September 5. With the surprising conclusion to the 2011-2012 season, the football community is abuzz with what’s in store. As Hank Williams Jr. said, “Are you ready for some football?”

Some of the high-profile trades have included Brandon Marshall to the Chicago Bears, Tim Tebow to the New York Jets and Mario Williams to the Buffalo Bills. But nothing outshines the signing of Peyton Manning to the Denver Broncos, marking the biggest free-agent signing in NFL history. Peyton Manning has four MVP regular season awards, has been named to 11 Pro Bowls and was awarded MVP in 2007 as the Super Bowl XLI Champion. He is arguably considered one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time and will most likely be named to the Hall of Fame.

In May 2011, Manning underwent neck surgery to relieve pain that had been bothering the quarterback for the past couple of seasons. After his surgery, he was ready to play in the following season in 2011. However, in September of that same year, he had yet another surgery and this time, it was much more serious. The second surgery was a level one cervical neck fusion, and it forced him to miss the entire 2011 season. As the Indianapolis Colts released Manning in March 2012, Denver was lucky enough to persuade Manning to play and sign with the team a few weeks later. By acquiring one of the best quarterbacks in the game, the Broncos suddenly became a title contender. When Manning still wore the royal blue, he helped shape Indianapolis into the threat they were, and as the Colts struggled without him in the 2011 season, finishing with a 2-14 losing record, his absence proved just how significant the quarterback really was.

Back in Denver, Tebow helped the Broncos become a playoff team, but with the signing of Manning, the added offensive contributions will make Denver more than just a playoff team. However, some might say that in light of Manning’s recent injuries, the signing was a risky move. Despite the dual surgeries, experts have weighed in saying that during training camp, Manning looked better than ever. If Manning truly plays like Manning on the field this season, Broncos fans will be happy with what’s in store.

Aside from the latest news when it comes to the older of the Manning brothers, football fans have had plenty of reading material in the offseason: free agency, Michael Vick’s dynasty comments, and the NFL draft, specifically Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III. However, the New Orleans Saints’ bounty scandal must be the biggest offseason story thus far.

The NFL began investigating the Saints in 2010 in response to allegations of intentional attempts to injure other players during the 2009-10 playoffs. On March 2, 2012, the NFL announced that it had evidence suggesting that defensive coordinator Gregg Williams created a program during the 2009 season in which Saints players would be paid bonuses if they successfully hurt their opponents. The extra money would come from other Saints’ players and Williams himself.

Many of the Saints players and staff members were suspended, including: Williams, having been suspended indefinitely; head coach Sean Payton and Jonathan Vilma were suspended for entire 2012 season; general manager Mickey Loomis and former Saints Anthony Hargrove (now a Green Bay Packer) were suspended for eight games; Joe Vitt was suspended for six games; Will Smith was suspended for four games; and former Saints Scott Fujita (now a Cleveland Brown) was suspended for three games. In addition, the Saints were also fined $500,000 and lost their second-round draft picks in 2012 and 2013. With the loss of two key defensive players and a number of staff members, as well as the distractions of this scandal, it is unlikely that the Saints will be a Super Bowl contender this upcoming season.

After a promising off-season for a number of teams in the league, the question that comes to fans’ minds is: which team will win Super Bowl XLVII?

Green Bay seems favored to take the Vince Lombardi Trophy; will it come down to the Packers at the end? Quarterback Aaron Rodgers not only had a personal season best in 2011, but arguably one of the best seasons by a NFL quarterback ever. At just 28 years old, and as long as he stays healthy, he certainly has more records to break, more MVP titles to win and more ground to cover. In addition to the prospect of Rogers leading the Packers to a title, the team arguably did not lose any significant offensive players; therefore, Rodgers will have help with the weapons he has on his side. Last year, the Packers’ greatest struggle was their defense, as they were ranked last and came up remarkably short statistic-wise. However, the Packers spent their first five draft selections on carefully choosing defensive aids. With very young and talented defensive players teaming up with star veterans such as, Clay Matthews and Charles Woodson, the Packers defense has a great chance of looking more like they did in 2010. With the best offense in the league, excellent staff members, good special teams and an improving defense, the Packers cannot be overlooked.