Can the Dallas Cowboys continue to be America's team if they're not even state champs in Texas? Can the Hard Knocks New York Jets rebound against the New England Patriots?
Those are but two of the developing storylines to watch as Week 2 of the NFL season is upon us.
The Cowboys, of course, are the biggest brand in the league. But in terms of the product on the field -- the caliber and style of football being played --- the Houston Texans and Cowboys seem to be headed in different directions as they head toward a good, old-fashioned Texas showdown in Week 3.
The Cowboys were lethargic and sloppy during the preseason. The Texans were everyone's trendy pick to finally have all the parts in place and looked sharp during August. When the Cowboys and Texans met in the preseason, with starters on both squads playing well into the game, the Texans whitewashed the Cowboys 23-7. Then came Week 1 of the NFL season.
Both squads faced longtime rivals. The Cowboys collectively spit up on themselves against the supposedly inferior Redskins. The Texans, meanwhile, put forth one of the most impressive opening-weekend efforts with a thorough manhandling of the Colts, 34-24.
The Cowboys looked lost. Their quarterback Tony Romo made an inexcusable decision to pitch the ball on a broken play at the end of the first-half. The mental errors were everywhere. The Texans, meanwhile, found a budding star in tailback Arian Foster (231 yards rushing) and have all the necessary parts with budding elite quarterback Matt Schaub and arguably the best receiver in football, Andre Johnson.
Interestingly, the Texans face the Redskins at FedEx Field on Sunday. The Cowboys are at home against the Chicago Bears. When the Cowboys and Texans face off at Reliant Stadium next week, one team could be 2-0 and the other 0-2. One team could be the struggling America's Team. The other could be on the way to a Texas state championship.
2) Darrelle Revis vs. Randy Moss: Get ya popcorn ready. Terrell Owens may have famously said it, but Revis and Moss have lived it in this NFL border rivalry. Clearly it's a must-win early season game for the Jets. The Pats aren't buying that Revis was limited in practice because of a reported hamstring problem. Moss has contract issues, but promised not to let it distract him anymore. Moss also admittedly obsessed over Revis after getting shut down last year. Revis indicated he enjoys being inside Moss' head. Subplots just don't get any better than this one.
3) Fade to blackouts? This could be a telling weekend not just for the state of football and the economy in San Diego, but also across the NFL. It's one thing for Raiders-Rams to be blacked out in the Oakland market -- I mean, really, did you expect anything less? But the Chargers have won five of the last six AFC West titles and despite stadium and player personnel issues, remain a viable Super Bowl contender. Yet they failed to sell out a home game for the first time since 2004. Is this an aberration you can blame on the economy? Or a symptom of more to come across the league in 2010?
4) Mike Singletary smelled a rat ... should rats everywhere be offended? Things could not possibly have gotten any worse for the 49ers after their dismal opening loss at Seattle. And then they did. When a player griped anonymously about discord, Singletary did his best Jack Nicholson in The Departed and threatened that heads would roll. This would be a good weekend -- and opponent -- to right a Niners ship that already seems lost. The Saints were not exactly overwhelming, but their track record is proven. Things could spiral out of control fast if the Niners don't make some kind of statement.
5) Tick, tick, tick go the Cincinnati Bengals? The Bengals were handled, easily, by the Patriots in Week 1. They weren't exactly the first to get T-boned by the Pats. But with a pair of monstrous egos in the receiving corps in Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco, the Ravens coming in on a short week, higher expectations in 2010 and an expected much-improved defense, it's time for the Bengals to make some noise. Adding intrigue to this one is the return of T.J. Houshmandzadeh.
6) Just how bad are the Oakland Raiders? We'll find out this weekend. It's one thing to look like an unorganized accumulation of second-rate players in Tennessee. But to lose at home to the Rams, a team that had the worst record in football a season ago and is led by a rookie quarterback? There will be no excuses. The Raiders actually have decent talent in spots. A loss here and the only Oakland streak we'll be counting is TV blackouts.
7) Could Tampa Bay be relevant again? Don't go printing playoff tickets just yet, but the Bucs could exorcise some demons and make a statement with a victory in Carolina. A year ago, the Bucs lost both meetings to the Panthers. Coming off a comeback win over the Browns, quarterback Josh Freeman looks much more comfortable in his second season, the receiving corps has been bolstered with Mike Williams, and the defense is much-improved -- particularly against the run, which is Carolina's strength.
8) Playing the role of Brett Favre is Aaron Rodgers. And standing in for Ryan Grant ... Marshawn Lynch? Rodgers always will have the shadow of Favre hanging over him. But with Grant out for the year and and an assortment of great targets at his disposal, Rodgers is going to have to sling it more than ever. Facing the Bills, Rodgers also will be facing Lynch, his former Cal teammate. When asked about the possibility of acquiring Lynch, Rodgers responded, "Bring him on." More than a few eyes will be monitoring the status of the Packers' running game on Sunday.
9) Quarterback controversy in Philly?Andy Reid has it all wrong. He keeps on shouting from the highest mountain that Kevin Kolb is his quarterback and will be his starting quarterback. But it doesn't matter what Reid says. Here's the thing about quarterback controversies. They are the one thing that coaches simply cannot control, no matter how much they try. Quarterback controversies consume entire organizations and cities. Earning his first NFL start since 2006, Michael Vick could well fuel the fire this weekend as Kolb recovers from a concussion.
10) Miami at Minnesota: The Vincent Jackson Bowl? The trade rumor that makes the most sense is the Chargers sending Jackson to the Vikes, considering Sidney Rice is out with a hip injury and Brett Favre needs a go-to guy. But sometimes, the riskiest deal pays the greatest dividend. In another scenario, there's no doubt it would be a volatile mix pairing Jackson, who is serving a three-game suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy, with Brandon Marshall. But in a division that includes Super Bowl contenders New England and the Jets, if the Dolphins truly want to be a player, they have to get this player -- baggage and all. The clock's ticking.