Prepare for Impact

KEN FIDLIN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:43 AM ET

Picture an NFL season as a super highway, six open lanes stretching out to the horizon, ready to take you to some amazing places. And we are entering the on-ramp.

But just like most all highways, every once in a while there's a three-car pileup that you just can't ignore even though it's in the other direction.

As you approach the flashing lights, you curse your fellow motorists for their morbid fascination. You tell yourself you're not going to look, but then, the three-car pileup is right there in front of you and your resolve dissolves.

You say you don't care what Terrell Owens has to say. You won't watch Brett Favre's latest tearful retirement news conference. And Michael Vick? He's dead to you.

But you look anyway.

A new NFL season is upon us with a whole new set of soap operas to tempt us.

Here's a roadmap for the wrecks that are waiting just around the next bend.

In a perfect world, with Favre's proven track record and given that he owns just about every passing record known to man, this should be a marriage made in heaven.

The Vikings have one of the best, if not the best, running attacks in football, centred around Adrian Peterson and an offensive line that can open holes for him.

It would stand to reason, then, that defences won't know what hit them. Do you put eight men in the box to stop Peterson, putting single coverage on wideouts Bernard Berrian and Percy Harvin? Favre's a greedy man and his eyes will get big if he sees his speedy receivers open.

Conversely, if defences overplay the passing game, that big offensive line will rip big holes for Peterson.

Problem is, balance has never been part of Favre's game. He is a gunslinger, determined to throw that ball into double and triple coverage. He led the NFL in interceptions last year and the availability of a weapon like Peterson isn't going to moderate that love affair he has with his own right arm.

More often than not, he's going to walk up to the line of scrimmage, see the defence overplaying the run and check off that Peterson dive play to take a shot down the field.

The Vikings were a playoff team that lacked consistency at quarterback last year. In theory, Favre should be able to deliver that consistency and take this team to another level. Don't count on it.

Let's review what happened to the Jets under Favre last year. In the first month, he threw for 12 touchdowns. In his last 12 games, he threw for 10 scores and 18 interceptions. He did not have a 300-yard game in those last 12.

It's even worse when you look at the final few games of his past four seasons. In his first 11 games of those four seasons, Favre completed 65% of his passes for an average of 254 yards, 75 touchdowns and 50 interceptions.

In the final five games of those seasons, he completed 56% of his passes for 211 yards with 13 TDs and 34 picks.

Brandon Marshall

Since the end of last season, when the Broncos blew their last three games to miss the playoffs after controlling the AFC West most of the way, it has been a Gong Show in Denver.

Coach Mike Shanahan was fired shortly after the season and Bill Belichick disciple Josh McDaniels was hired to clean up the mess. Well, the mess got bigger when McDaniels alienated quarterback Jay Cutler before he'd even met him. When it became clear that Cutler and McDaniels were going to be oil and water, the quarterback was sent to Chicago.

Meanwhile, Marshall, who had a monster season catching 104 passes from Cutler with the Broncos last season, and going to his first Pro Bowl, was trying to get the Broncos to renegotiate his $2.2-million US contract. When they refused to renegotiate, and later refused to trade him, Marshall began to act in a petulant, immature manner in workouts, making a mockery of his team's preparation for pre-season games. For that, he was suspended until the end of pre-season.

The Broncos have investigated various trade avenues but are unlikely to get appropriate value, especially in light of Marshall's anti-social behaviour.

The alternative, though, is to risk a disruptive season if Marshall isn't moved.

Marshall has been described as "a defensive end playing wide receiver" because he relishes contact, often repelling defenders and making big yards after the catch. He is a valuable talent but his attitude is poisonous.

It promises to be a long season in Denver because the Broncos have some rebuilding to accomplish. It could get even longer with Marshall around.

Al Davis

Where do you start? Last season in Oakland was a trainwreck, with owner Al Davis engaged in a bizarre public feud with his head coach, Lane Kiffin, who was eventually fired. Then he gave the job to Tom Cable who made headlines himself this summer by coldcocking Randy Hanson, one of his assistant coaches and now could be facing assault charges.

At this year's draft, the Raiders went in needing to select some earth-moving equipment on the offensive line but, instead, came back with a shiny new sports car in wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey, then gave him $23 million, guaranteed.

Davis has long had a fascination with the vertical passing game but there is no indication that speedy Heyward-Bey can catch the football.

Still, Davis, caught in a time warp where Daryle Lamonica flings it 60 yards down the field and Fred Biletnikoff runs under it, made Heyward-Bey the first wide receier taken, at seventh overall, ahead of some better prospects (Michael Crabtree?).

It's been six years since the Raiders won more than five games in a season and every year that passes puts Davis further and further from his glory days. But it's always his way or the highway.

The Raiders have a few good pieces in place, especially if they were to choose to feature the running game of Justin Fargas and Darren McFadden. But that's not Al Davis football.

Unfortunately, there's a whole generation of football fans who believe Al Davis football is eight months of chaos, finishing with a four-win season.

Terrell Owens

With T.O., it's not a matter of 'if.' It's a matter of 'when.'

So far, Owens has been as quiet as a church mouse with the Buffalo Bills.

Invisible, even. In the Bills' first pre-season game, Owens sprained his big toe and hasn't been seen in competition since. The next time will be in the season opener against the Patriots.

But somewhere, sometime, when you least expect it, Owens will make some headlines, the kind that make NFL management teams cringe. It happened in San Francisco. It happened in Philadelphia. It happened in Dallas.

When T.O. gets bored, watch out. He wanted out of his contract in San Francisco so, even though that contract was still in force, he went out and negotiated a new deal with the Philadelphia Eagles, after the Niners had traded him to Baltimore, leaving the lawyers to figure it out.

In Philadelphia, once again dissatisfied with his contract, Owens dissed everybody he could think of, including Donovan McNabb, until they released him and he immediately signed with the Cowboys.

In one bizarre instance in Dallas, Owens overdosed on pain medication and was taken to hospital unconscious. He denied that it was a suicide attempt.

He was constantly at war with Bill Parcells, who ran the football operation in Dallas and was often disgusted by Owens' creative, post-touchdown celebrations that usually ended in a 15-yard penalty and a fine.

Now, having worn out his welcome in Big D, he's found a place out of the national spotlight in Buffalo. But be warned. He carries his own spotlight.

Michael Vick

In Philadelphia, where the pot of controversy is never far from a full boil, the inevitable hard feelings already are developing, even if the SPCA poster child and incumbent quarterback Donovan McNabb insist they are friends.

After Michael Vick ran six plays in his first pre-season game with the Eagles, McNabb complained that putting Vick into the game, largely in a "gimmicky" wildcat-style role, and disrupted the flow and the rhythm of the offence.

For his part, Vick was probably a bit premature in announcing "it's only a matter of time before I'm starting again in the NFL." After all, he should be respectful that this is McNabb's team and that it was McNabb who encouraged upper management to pursue Vick.

Last year, even without a high-profile backup, the Eagles were constantly under pressure from fans and media to dump McNabb and coach Andy Reid. With the spectre of Vick hovering in the background, ready to come off his league-imposed suspension three weeks into the season, you can expect a full-blown fiasco by mid-October.

Television analyst Michael Irvin doesn't agree.

"I don't think it will take that long," said Irvin.

ken.fidlin@sunmedia.ca


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