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The NFL returns with a real game tonight (Giants vs. Cowboys). You know what that means. This might be the best Wednesday ever.
Whether you root for one team or just can't get enough fantasy football, the NFL's return is a godsend. This is America's national pastime and, as much as I love baseball, Bud Selig will never talk me out of that statement. This being about the reality of pro sports, my opinion can be bought, of course.
Anyway, welcome back NFL, here's what I'd like to see this season. These are not predictions; these are wishes:
Sure, there would be a bit of pain involved for fans of the Indianapolis Colts if former star Peyton Manning thrives. But I don't know a single sports fan who doesn't want to see Manning come back with a big season. He's just a likeable player and he's fighting back after a huge health issue. I'd love to see him throw for 4,500 yards and make the playoffs.
Here's what I don't want to see: Manning's body breaking down midseason, showing the signs of aging. All athletes, great or otherwise, age. It's not that much fun to watch, though.
There will be more rookie starting quarterbacks in Week 1 than ever before, starting with Andrew Luck in Indianapolis and Robert Griffin III in Washington. It's a quarterback league and there's nothing better than seeing the next wave of stars enter the league at once. We are on the back nine with Manning, Tom Brady and Drew Brees, so an injection of great arms and leaders is essential. I'd love to see Luck and Griffin both at the top of the leader boards in yardage and wins. Might take a year or two, however.
Maybe it's the childhood Detroit Lions fan in me, but nothing would be better than for Calvin Johnson to defy the Madden video game cover jinx and have another outlandish season as a receiver. I'm a fan of new teams making a run for the Super Bowl, and while the Lions play in a division where it'll be tough just to make the playoffs, this is wishing time. The only people who don't enjoy seeing Johnson work his magic on the field are cornerbacks, many of whom give up half a foot in height.
To be honest, 4-12 or 3-13 would probably do the trick, too. If we're going to be fed Mark Sanchez vs. Tim Tebow stories and Rex Ryan utterances, we might as well throw in a terrible season as the backdrop for more infighting and drama. Maybe they could rename the team the Jersey Shore Jets. In an effort to top Sanchez's “romance” with Eva Longoria, Tebow could start dating Taylor Swift.
Let's get the real refs out there, next week if possible. No, we're never happy with every call. In fact, I'm often dissatisfied with what the real refs decide after the video review. But the replacement refs are not up to speed, and someone's going to get hurt. At the very least, the replacement refs will cost some poor fan whose fantasy team “We are Marshall” loses when the refs blow a touchdown catch by Brandon Marshall in a key game.
I'm not a Chicago Bears fan, but I think it would be fun to watch the analysts and fans react if Jay Cutler has a monster (of the midway) year. Let's cut to Cutler in the postgame press conference after his sixth straight win. Is he awake? Is he asleep? Is he in a trance? It's just so hard to tell, even in high definition. The NFL's worst marketing nightmare: Cutler ahead of Brady, Manning(s), Aaron Rodgers, Brees, etc., in the passer ratings. Think of the chaos. Cutler doesn't even have a deal with Subway.
Can you imagine the hype of this one, if Peyton led the Broncos back to the biggest stage only to find little brother Eli on the other side? When it comes to Super Bowls, Eli has more wins (2-1) and more memorable plays. But how would he fare against Big Brother head-to-head?
My second wish pick: Lions vs. Chiefs. Just because no one, and I mean no one, would see that one coming, yet it would feel like NFL Classic films of yesteryear. And Megatron would be in the house.