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NFL Week 1

The exhibition season is over, the rosters are in place, and NFL teams are ready to get rolling. Here are 10 things to watch for in Week 1:

September 04, 2007|Sam Farmer

Rex or Wrecks

1 Chicago Bears quarterback Rex Grossman was wildly erratic last season, routinely following a spectacular showing with an embarrassing one. Now, he's in the final year of his contract and starts his season with a sledgehammer of a challenge, at San Diego. What's more, coaching the Chargers' linebackers is former Chicago defensive coordinator Ron Rivera.

Runner-Up Hangover

2 The Bears made it to the Super Bowl last season, so they should be fine, right? Not necessarily. Five of the last six Super Bowl losers failed to make the playoffs the following season -- that's the Giants, Rams, Raiders, Panthers and Eagles -- with the only exception being the 2006 Seahawks.

My Left Foot

3 Baltimore might have to start the season against Cincinnati without All-Pro left tackle Jonathan Ogden, who has had lingering problems with his left big toe. If Ogden were unavailable, the Ravens probably would move right tackle Adam Terry to the left side, rather than starting promising rookie Jared Gaither.

When No. 2 Is No. 3

4 Early indications from Detroit are that rookie Calvin Johnson, the second overall draft pick, will be the Lions' third receiver in the opener at Oakland. Coach Rod Marinelli is sending the message that no one is simply handed a starting job.

JaMarcus Is JaMissing

5 With No. 1 selection JaMarcus Russell still unsigned, the Raiders are moving ahead with two viable options at quarterback, Daunte Culpepper and Josh McCown. Even if an agreement for Russell is reached soon -- and sources say the sides have inched a bit closer -- there's no guarantee he'll play this season.

Getting Coordinated

6 Five of the league's seven new head coaches are coming off stints as NFL coordinators. Three of those came from offense: Miami's Cam Cameron (formerly with San Diego), Arizona's Ken Whisenhunt (Pittsburgh) and San Diego's Norv Turner (San Francisco); and two from defense: Pittsburgh's Mike Tomlin (Minnesota) and Dallas' Wade Phillips (San Diego). The other two new coaches came from college football: Atlanta's Bobby Petrino (Louisville) and Oakland's Lane Kiffin (USC).

Cheating to Win

7 Pro Bowl safety Rodney Harrison, former No. 1 pick Tim Couch and even Dallas assistant coach Wade Wilson have admitted to using human growth hormone. One gets the feeling that, when it comes to HGH use, that's merely the tip of the needle. If Commissioner Roger Goodell is looking for a new transgression to crack down on, that's a good place to start.

Cleveland Rocks?

8 Phil Savage, general manager of the Browns, says the franchise has finally turned the corner and is ready to compete with the big boys. He has compared his roster to that of the 2006 Chicago Bears, who got to the Super Bowl. But first things first: The Browns haven't had a Pro Bowl player since Jamir Miller in 2001.

Strut at Your Own Risk

9 Each season brings a few rules changes and officiating tweaks. Among the new rules this year, players who spike the ball on the field after the whistle -- anywhere but in the end zone -- will get a five-yard penalty.

Not Your Average Smith

10 Carolina's Steve Smith caught only five balls during the exhibition season and didn't even play in the finale, but the Panthers are hinting they'll have some new wrinkles involving their Pro Bowl receiver for Sunday's opener at St. Louis. Smith says he's aiming for the league's first 2,000-yard receiving season.

-- Sam Farmer

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