Top 20 burning NFL questions

Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow has fans and detractors in Denver. (REUTERS/Rick Wilking)

Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow has fans and detractors in Denver. (REUTERS/Rick Wilking)

MIKE RUTSEY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:46 AM ET

1. IS TIM TEBOW A DISTRACTION IN DENVER?

So far, he has been nothing but. Kyle Orton is more than a serviceable quarterback, but the Broncos didn't do him any favours by trying and failing to move him before the start of training camp. That caused the legion of Tebow supporters, and by that we mean his fans, to ramp up their support. The Tebow for top spot movement, though, also brought a tidal wave of criticism, especially from ESPN's Merril Hoge and Boomer Esiason.

2. HOW MUCH WILL THE RAIDERS MISS NNAMDI ASOMUGHA?

You don't lose the best in the business and not go down a step. Still, the Raiders always seem to draft players with speed and will take a long look at rookie DeMarcus Van Dyke, who is a burner. Veteran Chris Johnson will likely get the first crack. Players of Asomugha's ability, though, are impossible to replace.

3. CAN KEVIN KOLB BLOOM IN THE DESERT?

Last season, the Cardinals gave Matt Leinart the boot, but as inconsistent as he had been, the trio of Derek Anderson, John Skelton and Max Hall was even worse. Desperate to find a quarterback, the Cardinals traded for Kolb and paid heavily as they sent the Eagles Pro Bowler Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie as well as a second-round pick. Kolb has the arm and the smarts and is a great uptick over last season's group.

4. WHEN WILL THE COACHING CAROUSEL END IN OAKLAND?

Probably not until Al Davis departs this earth. Hue Jackson is Davis' new bum boy. Last year, as the offensive coordinator, he got the Raiders moving in the right direction. But Jackson is the Raiders ninth head coach since 1994 -- our advice to him is to win early and often.

5. WAS LAST YEAR A FLUKE FOR KANSAS CITY?

There wasn't a person on the planet that picked the Chiefs to go 10-6 and win the division. Not a one. But win they did thanks to solid if unspectacular play from QB Matt Cassel and a devastating running game led by Jamaal Charles. That plus a soft schedule and the collapse of the Chargers. This season the Chargers figure to play smarter, the Raiders to play better and the Chiefs' schedule is a killer.

6. CAN THE CHARGERS REGAIN THE TITLE?

You bet. In 2010, they were simply dreadful on special teams and a repeat of that fiasco is unlikely. They also doomed themselves by their terrible play at the beginning of the season when they opened 2-5 to dig themselves a massive hole. Any team that has Philip Rivers has one hand on the division title.

7. CAN TARVARIS JACKSON FILL HASSELBECK'S SHOES?

Often, fans never know how much they appreciate a player until he is gone. Well, Matt Hasselbeck has moved on to the Tennessee Titans, and in his place, the Seahawks will go with Tarvaris Jackson, who never amounted to much at Minnesota. Jackson has not wowed the Seahawks with his play in the opening two pre-season games, and the fans are already wistful about Hasselbeck.

8. ARE THE RAMS READY TO TAKE THE NEXT STEP?

Everybody is expecting big things from the Rams after the big rookie season by rookie QB Sam Bradford. The Rams went from 1-15 in 2010 to 7-9 last year and just missed out on a post-season berth. Bradford completed 60% of his passes for 3,512 yards and 18 TDs. Not only does he have the experience now, but he should show further growth under McDaniels.

9. WILL QB ALEX SMITH EVER FULFILL HIS PROMISE?

The one-year contract signed by the free agent Smith was greeted with horror by most San Fran fans who had tired of waiting for the No.-1 overall pick of the 2005 draft to live up to that billing. Smith has been a chronic underachiever for six seasons. Who knows? Jim Harbaugh may be the one who unlocks the key. Smith has the talent -- all he needs is the confidence to let it rip.

10. CAN JOHN FOX GET DENVER TURNED AROUND?

Sure he can, as he proved in Carolina. The Panthers sank to a 1-15 record in 2001, moved to 7-9 the following year and, in 2003, found themselves in the Super Bowl. The Broncos have missed the playoffs for five consecutive years, and it will take Fox at least two years and perhaps longer before they can contend in a division where the other three teams seem to be improving.

11. CAN THE EAGLES LIVE UP TO THEIR 'DREAM TEAM' BILLING?

Backup quarterback Vince Young is trying to walk away from the 'Dream Team' label he attached to the Eagles after they went on a free agent signing binge in the off-season acquiring cornerbacks Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Nnamdi Asomugha, defensive linemen Jason Babin and Cullen Jenkins as well as Young. Add those players to the talent the Eagles held on to, and it's no wonder they are everybody's pick to win the division.

12. HOW MUCH DOES S-JAX HAVE LEFT IN THE TANK?

Yes, the Rams will allow Sam Bradford to air it out more, but they will still need to run the ball. Now in his eighth season, Steven Jackson showed last year he hasn't lost much with 1,241 yards and six TDs. Improvement by Bradford will help free up the running game as will the more adventurous offensive schemes of Josh McDaniels.

13. WHICH MICHAEL VICK WILL SHOW UP IN 2011?

It will be near to impossible for Vick to put up numbers like he did in his first six starts when he led the Eagles to a 5-1 record while tossing 10 TDs against no interceptions. The rest of the year Vick and the Eagles went 3-2 with him throwing 10 TDs against six picks. When Vick is on, he's spectacular, but he's also not very big, and at 31, every time he takes off, the Eagles are holding their breath.

14. IS ELI MANNING AMONG THE NFL'S ELITE QUARTERBACKS?

Well, according to Eli, he is. While Manning was either just showing self confidence or being delusional with his answer, the fact is he has to show more consistency in 2011 than last season when he threw 31 touchdown passes but also had a league high 31 interceptions. To be successful, he has to try and rein himself in under pressure and not try to force the ball to receivers in coverage.

15. CAN THE RAMS SURVIVE THE OPENING SEVEN GAMES?

The key to how the Rams season will go will be known early. They have four home dates over the first seven games, including the Eagles in their opener and home dates against Baltimore, Washington and New Orleans. On the road. it's the Giants, Packers and Cowboys. If they could go 3-4 through that stretch, they face just one tough non-division opponent the rest of the way in a road game at Pittsburgh.

16. IS THIS SEASON A TURNING POINT FOR TONY ROMO?

Last year was a non-factor for Romo. He missed the final 10 games of the season after suffering a fractured left clavicle. Leadership has always been a bit of a question mark for Romo, though, and following the disaster that Dallas went through last year when it went 6-10, the heat will be on Romo.

17. IS JOHN BECK THE MESSIAH IN WASHINGTON?

Both head coach Mike Shanahan and son Kyle, the 'Skins offensive coordinator, have been singing his praises since they acquired him, and although he hasn't played a down since 2007, they believe he will be a steady, though unspectacular, performer. Still, any quarterback that was listed back of Cleo Lemon on the QB charts, as Beck was at one time in Miami, is suspect. It's a big roll of the dice.

18. IS DEZ BRYANT A BIG-PLAY RECEIVER OR AN OFF-FIELD TRAIN WRECK?

On the plus side, Bryant hauled in 45 passes and scored six touchdowns before being injured but was also raising eyebrows due to the fact that he would show up late for team meetings and didn't bother learning the team's playbook. If Bryant matures and gets his act together, he could be a prime-time receiver.

19. WILL TOM COUGHLIN MAKE IT THROUGH THE SEASON?

The Giants are currently having all kinds of health issues, particularly on the defensive side of the ball, and that won't help either the team's or Coughlin's chances. If they miss the playoffs this year, look for Coughlin to get the shaft, if not sooner.

20. IS AARON CURRY ANOTHER BRIAN BOSWORTH?

Bosworth has a special place in the team history as perhaps their biggest defensive bust of all time, given the hype that surrounded the linebacker in the late 1980s. Curry could be a close second unless he picks his game up. The No. 4 overall pick in 2009 has been merely mediocre in his opening two seasons for the Seahawks and had his contract redone to make him a free agent after 2012.


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