Get your helmet on: It’s football time

Every morning for the past few weeks I’ve woken up to feelings of depression, loss and helplessness.

Why?

Because it’s still February.

Not even a month has gone by since the Super Bowl. The NFL draft is over a month away, training camp is still seven months away and opening kickoff isn’t as much as a gleam in our collective eye.

Sure, I write about other sports, but who am I kidding? Everything I do, this blog included, is merely a faint attempt to pass time until that glorious Thursday night when the NFL reaffirms its grip around America’s neck.

This morning was a little different, though. This morning I woke up to news of new contracts, offer sheets, extensions and GMs willing to listen to trade offers.

Praise the football gods, free agency is upon us.

We haven’t reached our destination as football fans yet, but this will give us the strength to push on until the draft.

Jonathan Vilma has signed with the Saints, Kawika Mitchell headed west on I-90 to Buffalo and Madieu Williams is Minneapolis-bound while Flozell Adams, Derek Anderson and Teddy Bruschi will all stay put.

All this new football news has given my system a bit of a kick-start. I’m done looking back on 18-1, Redskins coaching searches and Brett Favre’s resurgence. I’m ready to look forward to next year (in fact, if I see that David Tyree catch one more time I may throw up).

With that said, here are five things I’m excited to see in the 2008 season.

1) The Seahawks

This coming year is Seattle’s best chance to bring home the hardware. One of the better NFL masterminds of the past 15 years, Mike Holmgren, has one last shot at finishing the job he came to Seattle to do.

The pieces are in place. Matt Hasselbeck has developed into a top-ten quarterback, and somewhere along the way, the Hawks’ went from perennial underachievers to the model of NFC consistency.

They are the only team in the past eight years to make the playoffs after losing the Super Bowl and have been in the postseason five years running. Forgive me if I’m not sold on the Giants as a shoe-in for a repeat, but I think by August the Seahawks (and their sweet neon green gloves) will be the team to beat in the NFC.

2) Jay Cutler

This might make me sound cruel, but the reason I’m so excited for Cutler is because he’s about to crash and burn.

By the end of next season, it should be apparent that the Broncos need to go a different direction under center.
Since the day Mike Shanahan pulled Jake Plummer for “the future”, I’ve been critical of the move. It cost the Broncos the playoffs in 2006 and Cutler made little-to-no progress last year.

The Broncos had some depth issues on their defense, which contributed to their disappointing season, but Cutler isn’t the cure for what ails Denver.

Cutler is another example of what can go wrong when a team puts too much stock into the combine. Backup Patrick Ramsey may never amount to anything in the NFL, but at this point he deserves more of a shot than Cutler does.

3) The Browns

The Browns made the smartest move of this young offseason by keeping Derek Anderson on board. Anderson is a legit NFL quarterback. Unlike Shanahan, I doubt Romeo Crenell will throw away his team’s playoff hopes based on the round he drafted his backup quarterback.

Just because Brady Quinn was selected in the first round, doesn’t mean he’s entitled to a starting job without earning it. Anderson took the starting job and ran with it. He ran all the way to a 10-6 record and the brink of a playoff berth.

Bravo, Cleveland.

I’ll be rooting for the Browns to get over the hump in 2008.

4) Quarterbacks in make-or-break seasons

There are plenty of them this year. I mentioned Cutler, but there are some with a realistic shot of becoming winning quarterbacks.

Jason Campbell may have bought some more time in Washington because he’s learning the West Coast Offense, but this will be his third year as a starter and second as the starter on opening day. Redskins fans get mighty impatient, mighty quickly, too.

It’s also time for Matt Leinart to put up or move on in playoff-starved Arizona, J.P. Lossman could be out as the Bills starter before the end of the preseason if he’s not careful and Alex Smith is running out of rope in San Francisco.

We’ll see if any of these quarterbacks can get up from off the hot seat and take the starting job by the horns.

5) The suprise teams

It’s a little early to predict who they’ll be, but this offseason reeks of unpredictability. There were too many good teams in the AFC last year for all of them to be good again if you’re betting football online.

The Colts, Patriots, Chargers and Jags were all considered powerhouses.

Fans in every one of those cities are sure of their team’s return to the playoffs in 2008, but I know the NFL well enough to know better.

Can the Cheifs, Jets or even the Dophins displace one of them?

The NFC is wide open, but could anyone legitimately see the 49ers, Rams or Falcons making a run for it all?

It should be a wild 2008… if only it weren’t still seven months away.

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