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Some intriguing subplots with Week 1 finally upon us

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Ah, football's back. Can't you smell it? We get Saints-Vikings to open the season. Ho-hum. Not much of a game, eh?

Week 1 ends with a delicious doubleheader Monday -- Darrelle Revis returns to the Jets and T.J. Houshmandzadeh debuts for Ravens -- and the Sunday night game is fairly epic as well, with Donovan McNabb making his first start for a once-hated divisional rival.

Only two games feature out of conference teams -- Bucs-Browns and Falcons-Steelers -- and we get a nice dose of divisional football as well. Besides the NFC title game rematch, we get three other contests that include all playoff teams from a year ago.

But enough about 2009. The regular season is finally here. All rejoice.


Predictions for 2010

» Packers unanimously picked to reach Super Bowl
» These teams have the profile to reach the big game
» Gimme 5: 2009 non-playoff teams for 2010 postseason
» Brooks: Early 2010 award predictions

Watch now

» NFLN debate: Which teams will reach Super Bowl XLV?

Also

» Marshall to Dolphins among 2010's impact moves
» Immense pressure put on Chargers rookie RB
» Tough being the guy replacing The Guy
» Texans lead list of new contenders

2010 team previews, predictions

» NFC EAST: Cowboys | Giants | Eagles | Redskins
» NFC NORTH: Bears | Lions | Packers | Vikings
» NFC SOUTH: Falcons | Panthers | Saints | Buccaneers
» NFC WEST: Cardinals | 49ers | Seahawks | Rams
» AFC EAST: Bills | Dolphins | Patriots | Jets
» AFC NORTH: Ravens | Bengals | Browns | Steelers
» AFC SOUTH: Texans | Colts | Jaguars | Titans
» AFC WEST: Broncos | Chiefs | Raiders | Chargers

I'm listing these in order of how I see them, best game to the worst. All times are eastern.

Vikings at Saints, 8:30 p.m., NBC (Thursday)

The storyline: Brett Favre and his ankle try to withstand another Gregg Williams' blitz onslaught while a Super Bowl banner is raised in the Superdome. Other than that, nothing to see here.

Why to watch: This NFC title game rematch is filled with subplots, even with the Vikings sans Sidney Rice and the Saints without Darren Sharper. These teams provided a game for the ages last time. Can they duplicate?

Ravens at Jets, 7 p.m., ESPN (Monday)

The storyline: First Monday night game at the New Meadowlands features Rex Ryan against his old team, which passed him over for a head-coaching gig. Oh, and that Darrelle Revis guy is back.

Why to watch: Two of the best defenses in the NFL clash. Baltimore shows off its many offensive additions and New York's Super Bowl hype gets an immediate test.

Cowboys at Redskins, 8:20 p.m., NBC

The storyline: One of the NFL's best rivalries is renewed, with Donovan McNabb taking part for the first time. Mike Shanahan makes his coaching debut for Washington.

Why to watch: Will Albert Haynesworth see the field with the starters? Will the Cowboys get to McNabb's tender ankle? Will a switch to the 3-4 help make the Redskins more competitive?

Packers at Eagles, 4:15 p.m., FOX

The storyline: Kevin Kolb tries to do what Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers already did -- make the hardcore hometown fans forget about a legend. And he does it against the league's second ranked defense from a year ago.

Why to watch: Massive big-play potential all over the field, and quite possibly a good 'ol shootout between two of the better young teams in the league. Will Kolb's first pick elicit chants for McNabb from the fans? Or a call for Michael Vick? Ah, Philly in September.

Bengals at Patriots, 1 p.m., CBS

The storyline: Batman and Robin make their dynamic duo debut for the Bengals. And Tom Brady and Randy Moss enter a contract year with at least a tiny chip on their shoulder.

Why to watch: Division winners open the season with some questions considering the way they exited the postseason. Wes Welker makes a quasi-miraculous return from an ugly knee injury.

Colts at Texans, 1 p.m., CBS

The storyline: Houston gets another chance to beat a team that has long had its number. There are ample potential playoff ramifications and an immediate test for the Texans' wobbly defense.

Why to watch: The Texans try to survive the first four weeks without defensive-playmaker Brian Cushing, who is suspended, and rediscover their pass rush. The Colts try to patch up an offensive line that had Peyton Manning getting knocked around some in the preseason.

Raiders at Titans, 1 p.m., CBS

The storyline: If the Raiders are to be the upstart operation I expect, no better time to display it. Dare I mention it as a possible tie-breaker game come December?

Why to watch: Vince Young is in control of the Titans' offense and Chris Johnson begins his quest for back-to-back 2,000-yard seasons. Jason Campbell makes his debut with the Raiders.

Dolphins at Bills, 1 p.m., CBS

The storyline: Two AFC East rivals going in very different directions after their offseasons. If the Bills are going to be spoilers, might as well start here.

Why to watch: The Dolphins could quite possibly still win this game just running the Wildcat on every offensive snap. C.J. Spiller has the potential to be as explosive as anyone in the league.

Falcons at Steelers, 1 p.m., FOX

The storyline: Dennis Dixon gets the first crack to fill in for Ben Roethlisberger during his suspension. Matt Ryan tries to shake off his sophomore slump.

Why to watch: Troy Polamalu is back for the Steelers after missing most of last season and the Falcons are healthy after an injury-filled 2009. Have a feeling breakout receiver Mike Wallace will give Atlanta's secondary all it can handle.

Lions at Bears, 1 p.m., FOX

The storyline: The Bears, after a splashy offseason that was out of character for them, get to flaunt their new wares. The Lions unveil what could be a very effective offense.

Why to watch: Jay Cutler and Mike Martz must show the preseason woes have been left behind. A slow start for the Bears will only intensify the pressure on coach Lovie Smith and general manager Jerry Angelo.

Chargers at Chiefs, 10:15 p.m., ESPN (Monday)

The storyline: Chargers aim to show Pro Bowlers Vincent Jackson and Marcus McNeill are expendable and the Chiefs open up their renovated stadium looking to become a factor in the AFC West.

Why to watch: Chargers' gamble on McNeill and Jackson will make every game interesting. Rookie RB Ryan Mathews takes over for L.T. Matt Cassel's second season in Kansas City could be his last without marked improvement.

Panthers at Giants, 1 p.m., FOX

The storyline: After winning a coin flip in the Commish's office, the Giants get the right to play the first game ever at the New Meadowlands. And they do so under immediate pressure after a brutal 2009.

Why to watch: Giants need to restore their pass rush and ability to cover the long ball. Panthers trying to replace Julius Peppers and QB Matt Moore makes his first Week 1 start.

49ers at Seahawks, 1 p.m., CBS

The storyline: San Francisco begins what could be a return to glory against a division foe, while coach Pete Carroll tries to show his college success can translate to the NFL.


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Why to watch: Seattle's roster continues to transform and the running game and offensive line, already under scrutiny, opens the season just days after position coach Alex Gibbs resigned. If the 49ers take care of business in the division, on the road, they could run away with NFC West title.

Cardinals at Rams, 4:15 p.m., FOX

The storyline: Sam Bradford tries to eventually become the first true franchise QB since Kurt Warner left town; Cardinals try to replace a retired Warner with Derek Anderson following Matt Leinart's washout.

Why to watch: All about the QBs. Max Hall is now one hit away from getting on the field for Arizona. Bradford will try to hold up with few real weapons at his disposal and a less-than-stellar offensive line. Could be the first start in a memorable career.

Broncos at Jaguars, 1 p.m., CBS

The storyline: Tim Tebow gets unveiled in the season-opener, with the rookie likely to get some Wildcat/short-yardage looks. Two coaches who could find themselves on the hot seat get their chance to make a good impression to start 2010.

Why to watch: Tebow's hometown team passed on him -- perhaps sagely -- but some fans might be ready to tell them otherwise. Denver managed to provide one of the classic finishes of last season in its opener. Maybe the Broncos can do it again.

Browns at Buccaneers, 1 p.m., CBS

The storyline: Hey, everyone starts the season undefeated. And one of these two rebuilding teams still will be undefeated come Monday.

Why to watch: Can Jake Delhomme shake his Interception-itis in a new uniform? Is Josh Freeman ready to take the next step? Will Josh Cribbs have to win games single-handedly again this season?

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