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As season opens, Favre making waves on and off the field

Brett Favre seems to create drama almost every time he meets with the media. This week, the fact that he says the Jets knew the extent of his arm injuries last year has created ripples. On top of that, Favre conceded he may not be able to play all 16 games this season and his games-played streak (currently at 269) could come to an end.

Frankly, I welcome the latter half of those statements. It's a recognition of reality. Banking on Favre to play all 16 games is a gamble. We know about the shoulder issues, we know about his age, we know how difficult it is for an older quarterback to start all 16 games in a season.

The odds are not on Favre's side.

And when Favre's games-played streak does eventually come to an end, I'm not sure it will be of his own accord. The one thing he parted with when he unretired was the ability to end that streak -- and thus his career -- on his own terms. Given the brutality of this game, that's now out of his hands. Favre's realistic approach to that harsh possibility speaks to his years in this league. It's a rough, tough world out there on Sundays, and even the most durable player of all-time (arguably) knows that nothing is guaranteed from week to week.

That's why I figured all along that he'd come in a little later, say October or so, and try to go on an 8-12 game run. Considering wear and tear along with the normal grind that comes from playing quarterback, to me, if the Vikings get 12 solid games out of Favre, that's about what you could expect (which would equate to $1 million per game). You can certainly live with that with the economics of today's NFL. And Favre's return is going to open up lucrative revenue streams for the Vikings. It should be great for ratings, advertisers, all of that good stuff.

But when will those 12 games come? Will there be anything left in the tank come January. That's the inherent risk here, and it's the biggest reason I'm not particularly bullish on the Vikings. Should Favre get hurt, and the team has to turn to Sage Rosenfels or Tarvaris Jackson, that's going to take an interesting mental recalibration.

You would be going back to two guys who you repeatedly cast aside, repeatedly, for the opportunity to land Favre. In this scenario, you would be putting them on the shelf, and then potentially having to go back to them to try to guide the team through the most meaningful games of the season. Again, this is all very hypothetical, but hardly out of the realm of possibility. Not sure that scenario would end up being totally conducive to team harmony or morale.

Also, should Jackson end up as the third quarterback this weekend, and thus essentially inactive, I'm not sure that would sit too well with him. If Jackson is stuck behind two veterans, I would not be surprised at all to hear him ask for a trade.

Worth another look

As Favre's comments fade, with the season finally upon us, the fallout from his illegal block in a preseason game has been a bit under-reported (I take full blame for that. So much stuff to chase down).

Sure, we all know he got fined $10,000. But what about Eugene Wilson, the guy he hurt with the block across the knees? Well, it's far from certain that Wilson will play this week. He's been nursing that knee injury. Wilson missed practice Wednesday and coach Gary Kubiak admitted that there is some "concern" that the safety will miss the opener.

I don't think for a minute Favre intended for any of this to happen, but it's an example of why rules against crack-back blocks are in place. Whether it's a quarterback, kicker or punter throwing them, they are career-threatening in many cases. No one can be cavalier about delivering one.

The Texans secondary faces lots of uncertainty. Corner Dunta Robinson could very well start, even though he skipped all of training camp and the preseason while sitting on his franchise tender. While Robinson worked out like a madman every day, the player and the coaches will have to feel out exactly how many plays he has in him come game day. Until I see more consistency and venom from the Texans defense, and more wins by the club against division foes, it's hard for me to jump on their bandwagon.

And unless the franchise takes a step forward this season, big changes could be in store.

Young guns square off

The Sunday night game has a chance to be the jewel of the weekend. It's a traditional rivalry, and even when the Bears and Packers are struggling the atmosphere is generally electric. I'm not sure it's going to be a great night for the defenses -- for as much as some talk about the Bears' lack of an obvious No. 1 receiver, my deeper concerns with them are on the other side of the ball -- but Jay Cutler and Aaron Rodgers should combine to give us plenty to talk about Monday morning.

Both teams have excellent playoff chances. I'm seeing a shootout, maybe even a game decided on a final drive when one of these young QBs leads a march downfield. Which one, you say? Well, I've got the Packers winning the division, so I'll go that way.

I probably just jinxed all of us, and maybe it turns into a mistake-filled mutt of a game. But, heck, it's Week 1 and we know we'd watch pretty much anything, especially after having to sit through the mental black hole that is the fourth preseason game.

In the spotlight

Shawne Merriman is a player worth keeping a close eye on come Monday night. This has nothing to do with his current off-field troubles. I'm talking strictly football.

He admits that he may not be 100 percent for another month, but we also know he's in a contract year, the Chargers are very judicious about their spending for the most part, and that the team just gave franchise QB Philip Rivers a fat new deal. Merriman is a guy who plays all out, and he knows he needs a big season to cash in during free agency (and, as always, I say/write/blog this with the caveat that CBA issues could end clouding things). The sackmaster is coming back from major knee injury. The club was cautious with his reps in the preseason. I expect that to continue into the opening weeks of the season.

Draft pick Larry English is eventually going to provide another force coming off the edge. But he's a work in progress. If I'm San Diego, I'm going to try to limit the pounding on Merriman early and try to unleash him on obvious passing downs, aiming for 25-30 snaps.

If things go as I expect against Oakland, many of San Diego's stars could be sitting back with their baseball caps on by the third quarter anyway. Keeping Merriman harnessed will be difficult, but that's how I see him being most effective in the first quarter of the season.

Matchup of the week

Cowboys LB DeMarcus Ware was on an absolute tear last season, playing at an MVP level. He ended up with 20 sacks, had at least one in each of the first seven games, including three in Week 7. The following week he faced Tampa Bay, and left tackle Donald Penn (one of the more overlooked young players in this league). Unlike most teams that face Ware, the Buccaneers left Penn on an island with him, getting limited chips and help. Ware was held without a sack (something that would not happen again until the final game of the season).

It was a huge aspect of that game, and given Tampa Bay's limited offensive weapons at this point, if the Buccaneers can win that matchup again, without having to give Penn much help, at least it opens up some options. I think Tampa Bay will have a hard time winning this game, but neutralizing Ware -- and thus limiting the propensity for turnovers and mistakes with plodding Byron Leftwich at quarterback -- would give them a shot. It would also give Leftwich the time to get the ball downfield. The Bucs are craving the vertical element in their passing game, wanting to exploit Antonio Bryant more. And, trust me, the best way to slow down Ware is to run at him. He's an exceptional two-way defender, but he can't bodyslam your quarterback if the ball is being carried by your running back. I'd expect a heavy workload for all three Tampa backs.


It looks like most of the quarterbacks who were among the wounded during the preseason -- Matt Cassel, Carson Palmer, Marc Bulger, Matt Schaub, Kyle Orton -- will give it a go this week. Cassel, who will be limited somewhat by his knee injury, is the guy I'd worry most about, having to deal with the speed, brawn and deception of the Baltimore Ravens defense. ... I'm taking Seahawks QB Matt Hasselbeck and Bengals WR Chris Henry as my picks for Comeback Player of the Year. Both could have very big seasons. ... The Colts should certainly know how to manage this situation by now, but I wonder if they look back on that contract extension for safety Bob Sanders with some trepidation? Looks like it could be at least a month into the season before he recovers fully and is playing again after knee surgery. His presence certainly changes the entire look of that defense and makes them so stouter against the run, but perhaps no one has had worse recurring luck with injuries the past five years or so.

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