Q: Can Terrell Owens and Bill Parcells coexist in Dallas?
A: Owens is saying all the right things while Parcells, when he is saying anything, is doing the same. The general thought is that Owens will be on his best behavior this year in an attempt to quiet the critics who say he can’t. Next year? Probably not, but by then, it may not matter — Parcells could retire after the season.
Q: Can injured high-profile quarterbacks rebound?
A: Cincinnati’s Carson Palmer and Miami’s Daunte Culpepper are each well ahead of schedule returning from major knee surgeries. They had better be, given the high expectations around their teams rely on their return to health. New Orleans believes Drew Brees is over his shoulder problems. And if the Jets don’t want to be the worst team in the league, they need Chad Pennington to come back strong.
Q: Is Steve McNair the answer to the Ravens’ long-standing QB problems?
A: Already McNair helps, because he has the trust of his veteran teammates — something Kyle Boller never earned. But McNair is prone to injury. If he stays on the field, the Ravens could be dangerous. But that’s still an if.
Q: How will Indianapolis cope with the loss of Edgerrin James?
A: Rookie Joseph Addai is not the Edge. And many — including many close to James — believe the Colts won’t appreciate what they had until now that James is gone. But the Colts still have serious firepower with Peyton Manning, Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne. And don’t forget the last time the Colts dumped a star runner in his prime. They traded Marshall Faulk for a rookie back — named Edgerrin James. It worked out OK.
Q: Is Brett Favre hurting the Packers by sticking around?
A: Pack fans love Favre, but another bad season could start to turn that relationship. Favre isn’t what he once was. But he doesn’t have the talent around him either, and seriously, if you were the Packers, would you want Aaron Rodgers leading the way instead of Favre? I didn’t think so.
Q: Are the Bears for real?
A: A complicated question. The Bears could be primed to pull what happened a few years ago, when they went 13-3 in 2001 when everything broke in their favor and then tumbled to 4-12 the following season. But Chicago has a good coach (Lovie Smith), a good defense and a bad division. That should be a winning equation, as long as either Thomas Jones or Cedric Benson can run the ball.
Q: Will the Bengals have more players on the field or in jail?
A: Four players have been arrested this offseason, with one — receiver Chris Henry — getting pinched multiple times. Linebacker Odell Thurman has been suspended for four games for violating the league’s substance-abuse policies. And coach Marvin Lewis is drawing criticism for having too many players out of control, including star receiver/ mouthpiece Chad Johnson. The Bengals had better win, or it could get ugly in the Queen City.
Q: Will the Saints sign golden boy Reggie Bush to help lift a downtrodden city?
A: Bush was the star of the draft, but he wasn’t drafted No. 1. He still would like No. 1 money, however, and a long holdout looms. The Saints want to slot him with the No. 2 money since that’s where he was taken. Bush’s arrival has electrified a fan base crushed under the weight of Hurricane Katrina hardships and the team they felt tried to abandon them. The Saints have to get Bush on the field.
Q: Can Seattle escape the trap of past Super Bowl losers?
A: History is scary for the Seahawks. Five straight Super Bowl losers, and six of the last seven, have gone from one win shy of a championship to a losing record the next season: Philadelphia, Carolina, Oakland, St. Louis, the New York Giants and Atlanta. Only the 1999 Tennessee Titans had a winning record the next year. Still, the Seahawks have improved, and — even with the improvement of the Cardinals — will be the heavy favorite to repeat as NFC West champs.
Q: Can Ben Roethlisberger steer the Steelers to a repeat?
A: Assuming Roethlisberger is suffering no lasting effects from his scary motorcycle accident, he and his teammates still have hurdles to clear. Jerome Bettis is gone, and the Steelers’ running game might not be as solid. The departure of receiver Antwaan Randle-El hurts. And Pittsburgh plays in a difficult division. Big Ben is going to have to be much bigger for the Steelers to go back-to-back.
Q: Can Art Shell restore Raider glory?
A: Shell may or may not be the right man to coach for Al Davis, but this is certain — he doesn’t yet have the roster to turn things around anyway. His quarterback is either the erratic Aaron Brooks or perhaps the untested Andrew Walter. His biggest playmaker (Randy Moss) is someone who doesn’t always bust his behind. His defense is suspect. Besides, Davis is still lurking in the background, meddling as always.