NFL: 5 Questions Heading Into The 2012-13 Season

Are you ready for some football?

I sure am and I’m guessing much of America is as well. The season will kick off Wednesday night as the Dallas Cowboys take on the defending Super Bowl champions, the New York Giants.

The NFL offseason featured plenty of headlines and controversy. Still, through the good and the bad, the NFL is one of the biggest sports in America, making it the number one league in the States.

With the season coming in hot, here are five questions heading into the 2012-13 NFL season.

1. How Will the Saints Perform After the Bounty Scandal?

During the offseason many fans found out that the New Orleans Saints defense took part in a bounty program.

As a result, Gary Williams former defensive coordinator suspended indefinitely, Sean Payton suspended for the season and Joe Vitt assistant coach suspended six games.  Players Scott Fujita, Anthony Hargrove, Will Smith and Jonathan Vilma all suspended, with Vilma getting one full season. Owner Mickey Loomis was suspended the first eight games. Finally, the Saints’ were fined $500,000 and forfeiture of the Saints’ second-round draft picks in 2012 and 2013.

 With so much bad press surrounding the Saints will they be able to avoid it all and play effectively on the field. Personally I believe so. They still have Drew Brees and that dangerous run and gun offense. However, with up and coming teams like the Carolina Panthers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers it may not be that easy winning the NFC South like years past.

 2. Can Peyton Manning Return to The Old Peyton Manning?

36-year-old Peyton Manning returns from a surgically repaired neck that kept him out the entire 2011-12 season. However, he’s not sporting Colt’s blue anymore. Instead, we will see the four time MVP, sporting the Denver blue and orange.

New team, new supporting cast and a fat new contract. Manning received a five-year, $96 million deal, which includes $18 million this year, $20 million in the 2013 and ’14 season, and $19 million the 2015 and ’16 season. However, in order to get paid Manning must pass a physical.

All contract ranting aside, many are unsure if Manning will be able to play football at a high level. At first, the storyline of the preseason was seeing if Manning can take a hit. Manning got hit and was able to pop right up. Now that we know Manning can take a hit or two, can he return to the old Peyton Manning?

The question should really be could Peyton Manning return to the YOUNG Peyton Manning. Sorry at 36, and coming off major neck surgery I can’t see Manning throwing for 4,000 yards, I just can’t. Age isn’t the only factor. While he has a great offensive line, which will keep him safe from major hits, the supporting cast is a bit weak. You can’t compare Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker and Jacob Tammie (played in Indy with Manning) to Reggie Wayne, Marvin Harrison and Dallas Clark. You just can’t.

In the end, expect Manning to throw for 3,700 yards and 25 touchdowns. Not too bad, but expect his interception numbers to go up (15 or more), as he struggles to find chemistry with his new young wide receivers.

 3. Which Rookie Quarterback Will Have The Most Success?

Five rookie quarterbacks will start week one in the NFL. Will this become a new trend in the NFL? After last year’s success that rookie quarterbacks Andy Dalton and Cam Newton had, it’s possible.

So much attention has been focused on Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson, many people are forgetting about Ryan Tannehill and Brandon Weeden. I too will be forgetting about them. Weeden has struggled taking care of the ball. He has fumbling three times (losing two of them) and thrown one interception. Ryan Tannehill, had good stats but couldn’t lead the Dolphins to a win during the preseason. Also, young Tannehill doesn’t know his geography too well, which doesn’t give me a vote of confidence on him.

So out of Luck, Wilson, and RG III, which QB will make the biggest splash in his first year. After a great preseason I’m tempted to say Wilson, but in the end I’ll choose Andrew Luck.

RG III is a gifted athlete, but he has to play in the toughest division in the NFL, the NFC East. There he sees the great defenses of the Giants, Cowboys and Eagles. He will be running for his life. As for Wilson, I’m rooting for the guy; I think he will have a good season, but not a great season like Luck.

Andrew Luck is the real deal. In his first pass, he threw a touchdown. Granted it was a two yard shovel pass that running back Donald Brown ran 61 yards to the end zone, but it still counts. Also, Luck may have the best supporting cast around him out of all the rookie quarterbacks.

Luck is everything that the Colts need to get over the loss of Peyton Manning, and I think he will provide the stats and the wins needed for many Indy fans to forget about Peyton Manning.

4. Are The Buffalo Bills A Legitimate Contender?

The Bills made a huge splash this offseason when they signed Mario Williams to a six-year deal. Also, with other key moves including the signing of rookie cornerback Stephen Gilmore, the resigning of Fred Jackson and the contract extension of Ryan Fitzpatrick, the Buffalo Bills seem poised and ready to make a run at the playoffs.

However, they are the second best team in the east behind the division powerhouse the New England Patriots. Bills’ fans don’t get discouraged. The Bills have a solid offense and a new and improved defense. Add those elements with a schedule that is easy (minus New England twice, Kansas City, Houston and San Francisco) this team can easy secure a wild card.

With that said, I expect the Bills going 10-6, locking up a wild card. Will they make noise in the playoffs? Too early to tell, but Bills ownership has made great strides in providing a team that can wreak havoc and make noise this season.

 5. Can The New York Giants Repeat?

The last team to win back to back championships were the New England Patriots in 2003 and 2004.

After a Cinderella run last year, the Giants come into the 2012-13 season with the hardest schedule in the NFL. That schedule includes six meetings with NFC East opponents, Pittsburg, Green Bay, San Francisco, Atlanta, Baltimore, and New Orleans. Besides Baltimore, all those teams outside the NFC East made the playoffs.

While the schedule is not in their favor, I truly believe this is a better Giants team than last year. Eli Manning’s confidence is higher than ever, the defensive front four is monstrous, and the wide receiving core is experience, and much faster than in years past.

The Achilles heel of the Giants may be the secondary that is very inexperience with Michael Coe, Jayron Hosley, Prince Amukamara and Justin Tyron all expected to hold down the pass coverage.

As of now I think the Giants have a 60 percent chance of repeating. It may be a bit bias since I am a Giants fan, but out of the schedule that was mentioned earlier, the Giants beat three of those playoff teams (Atlanta, Green Bay, San Francisco), during their run to the Superbowl. So they can surly do it again.

Photo Courtesy: Robert Carr/Getty Images