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article imageOp-Ed: Upcoming NFL season rich with storylines, excitement

By Justin Crann     Sep 4, 2012 in Sports
National Football League fans rejoice: the season is almost upon you! The NFL has long been resplendent with big-name rivalries and gripping games, but the upcoming season could be one of the most exciting in years.
Worried about being left out of the loop at the water cooler? Not sure you know the difference between a running back and a wide receiver?
Have no fear — whether you're an NFL rookie, or just a little out of the loop, what you've stumbled on is the Digital Journal preseason primer for a few key storylines of the 2012/2013 season, so you can talk football with even the most seasoned fan in the office.
The Youth Movement
The arrival of fresh, young talent in the NFL is always big news, but rarely has there been so many rookies taking so many high-profile starting gigs as there has this year. As reported earlier by Digital Journal, 2012 is the year of the rookie, with five rookie QBs landing starting duties in week one of the regular season.
Add to that the fact that 14 of the league's teams are starting quarterbacks with three or fewer years of playing time in the NFL, and you can see why some have dubbed this period the NFL's very own "youth movement."
Without doubt one of the buzziest rookies has been the Indianapolis Colts's Andrew Luck, and justifiably so. The first overall pick of this year's NFL draft, Luck has been branded the best prospect in 30 years.
Rookie quarterback Andrew Luck looked the part of the next great QB in the preseason.
Rookie quarterback Andrew Luck looked the part of the next great QB in the preseason.
Angie Six
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In the preseason, Luck certainly looked the part, posting an impressive 522 yards passing, with three touchdowns, two interceptions, and a rushing score in what was essentially three games of play.
Luck's greatest rival, through virtue of his status as second overall draft pick, has been Robert Griffin III. But the Washington Redskins have kept their brand new starter under wraps in the preseason, and so he has only posted a modest 193 yards of passing, two touchdowns and two fumbles lost — hardly the sort of preview that would enable anyone to assess his abilities.
Meanwhile, other rookie QBs have made big splashes this offseason.
Seattle Seahawks signal-caller Russell Wilson posted a fantastic 536 yards passing, five touchdown throws, and only a single pick, adding another 150 yards and a touchdown on the ground. His performance was convincing enough to land him the starting job on a team that has been struggling to find a dependable leader for some time.
Seattle Seahawks rookie QB Russell Wilson has caused a big splash in the preseason with his impressi...
Seattle Seahawks rookie QB Russell Wilson has caused a big splash in the preseason with his impressive play.
Seth Youngblood
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The Miami Dolphins decided early on to green light Ryan Tannehill for the starting gig, but the rookie has thus far posted a relatively unimpressive 414 yards passing with one TD and an interception.
First-round pick Brandon Weeden, meanwhile, has made headlines in all the wrong ways, scoring no touchdowns and showcasing ball control issues with three turnovers (one interception, two fumbles lost).
While the preseason ultimately means nothing, it is a good showcase of the abilities of the league's newcomers. Whether Luck will continue to dominate or Weeden will turn it around remains to be seen, but the trends have certainly been established.
The Return of Peyton Manning
The Indianapolis Colts may find their second coming under Andrew Luck, but there's no question that the legacy of Peyton Manning will remain for many years to come.
Prior to last year's season-ending surgeries, Manning was a perennial favourite in the "best quarterback" discussion, routinely posting QB ratings in the 90s (or better) and leading the Colts to post-seasons time and again, all while holding the second-longest consecutive games played streak in NFL history and a laundry list of other NFL records.
While Indy has cut ties with Peyton, Peyton has not cut ties with the NFL. After signing with the Denver Broncos in March, the NFL media has been abuzz with speculation about Manning's ability and durability following the sugeries.
If the preseason is an opportunity to assess a player's performance, the verdict must be in: he's still good, but he isn't Peyton Manning good.
Gone is the quarterback who led his team to numerous winning seasons and divisional titles, a pair of conference titles, and a Super Bowl.
Instead, we have a quarterback with 343 yards passing, a pair of touchdown passes, three interceptions and a rating of 81.7 — still better than many of his peers, but not the textbook case of consistency he was a long time ago.
Whether Manning's performance will improve as he eases back into regular season action, or whether his neck injury will be aggravated by opposing defenses and the sacks he will doubtless have to take, is a subject worthy of debate and a question that will only be answered as the season unfolds.
J-E-T-S! Jets! Jets! Jets!
In case you've missed the news, the New York Jets are a mess.
After guaranteeing a Super Bowl win at the start of last season, Head Coach Rex Ryan watched the year slip away. Now he says he regrets making the promise.
And it's no wonder why. Even with the offseason acquisition of former Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow, who helped drag the Broncos into a postseason appearance last year, the Jets have still struggled on the offensive side of the ball.
In spite of the apparent comraderie between oft-maligned incumbent starter Mark Sanchez and Tebow, Sanchez is still Sanchez, and one just has to ask: is it Tebow time yet?
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Mark Sanchez: franchise quarterback or soon-to-be bench rider?
Mark Sanchez: franchise quarterback or soon-to-be bench rider?
Ed Yourdon
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Putting all of the drama at QB aside, the Jets have other problems, not least of which is the continued Infighting that may have contributed to the Jets's nearly scoreless preseason.
And for those taking notes, that score was on a toss from third-string quarterback Greg McElroy, who spent some of the offseason smack-talking the culture of the Jets's locker room.
Whoa.
Notable Mentions
Manning, the Jets and the rookies are all worth watching this season, but they aren't the only intriguing storylines that have developed for the upcoming year of football.
Will the New Orleans Saints still deliver following the suspension of their head coach due to the bounty scandal?
Will the play of Maurice Jones-Drew following his holdout match that of the MJD of old, or can we expect a repeat of Chris Johnson's 2011 post-holdout season?
Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton boomed onto the scene with a multiple-record-setting performance last season, but should we expect a sophomore slump?
And, of course, the follow-up performance of reigning Super Bowl champion New York Giants this season will be of interest to fans and foes of the team alike.
These are all questions that will be answered on the field over the course of the NFL's 2012 season.
Are you ready?
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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