2009 is shaping up to be an epic football season, the Steelers just came off their 6th Super Bowl in February, the Patriots are getting their MVP QB back in Tom Brady, Dallas decided to add by subtraction, Philadelphia is loaded, Chicago's got a gunslinger, and the NFL has something that no other league has nowadays...parity.
However, there are 5 guys in the NFL that must perform at a high level for their team to succeed. If they fail, I can guarantee that their teams will not make the playoffs, or be a real factor in a run to a championship.
QB Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys - I am probably one of the biggest Dallas Cowboys bashers out, and the reason I don't like the Cowboys isn't necessarily the Cowboys themselves (ok a little bit) but its the fact that EVERYONE loves Da 'Boys. Its a stupid reason, but when you aren't a Cowboys fan and everyone else is, that ish will get on your nerves quick. Here's the thing, I've said for the last 2-3 years that I really liked the personnel on this Cowboys squad, especially on offense. They've got maybe the most intriguing 3-man backfield in the league with Marion Barber, Felix Jones, and Tashard Choice. They subtracted the headache in T.O. and still have a very strong receiving core in Roy, Witten, Crayton, Hurd, Austin, and Co. However, one man has to pull the strings, and that's Romo. He did some subtraction too, in ditching Jessica Simpson from the squad. (If you don't think he ain't got a "squad" then go wear a Favre #4 Vikings jersey in Green Bay one time) Tony Romo is a very good QB, however, he has to play within the system and make the right play, not every play. If he does that, Dallas will go 11-5. If not, Wade Phillips will be fired. Doesn't sound like a bad idea now actually.
RB Matt Forte, Chicago Bears - Just because Chicago landed a stud QB during the offseason doesn't mean that there isn't a just as important guy in the backfield. Forte showed that he is as versatile a runningback in the league, with his between the tackles running style and Velcro hands, he put up a phenomenal rookie season for a lackluster Bears offense. With #6 now taking the snaps, those safeties will no longer be able to crowd the line of scrimmage, which could mean bigger plays for Forte, which could lead to an NFC North crown in January.
LB Ray Lewis, Baltimore Ravens - When your team loses its #1 WR, its defensive coordinator, and 3 of its top defensive starters, your team is in a dire situation. Ray Lewis has dealt with overhauls of Baltimore's defense a couple of times now, but at age 34, the question is can he do this one more time? They still have Ed Reed and Terrell Suggs on the squad, but Ray-Ray is the anchor, and in that defense he HAS TO make plays. He's a hall-of-famer, and I'm looking forward to see if he can do it one more time.
WR Chad Ocho Cinco, Cincinnati Bengals - Hello, #85? Yep, its the truth again. I know that we talked before about how the haters, media, fans, and even your own QB have read you wrong in the past. We know who you really are and know what you're about. So I have no doubt that you understand what this season means for you, the Bengals, and the impact of this football season. See, we miss those flamboyant touchdown dances, wedding proposals for cheerleaders, and HOF jackets. Trust us, we really do, so you've gotta perform in '09. You've also got to lead, show Laveranues how they do thangs here in Cincy, teach Chris Henry how to live in the off-season and in the endzone (remember Chad's never been in legal trouble in the NFL) and show Carson that you are as reliable as they come.
QB Matt Hasselbeck, Seattle Seahawks - Remember this fact, before the Arizona Cardinals won the NFC West last year with a 9-7 record, in the 5 years previous Seattle went 52-29, won 4 of the last 5 NFC West divisional championships, and made
an appearance in Super Bowl XL (which they should've won). Who was the QB? Hasselbeck. Hasselbeck had back surgery last year and missed the entire season, conversely the Seahawks went 4-12. Now #8 is back (literally) and healthy plus he's got a new legitimate receiver for the first time ever since Joey Galloway in the form of former Bengal TJ "Who's Your Momma" Houshmandzadeh. Seattle has always had a pretty stout defense, and if they figure out their running game (Julius Jones & TJ Duckett) then I believe they will win the NFC West back from Arizona. Hasselbeck's about the most underappreciated QB in the decade, and he might show why he's one of the better QB's in the league in '09.
WHO ELSE MUST PERFORM IN '09? LET US KNOW YOUR THOUGHTS!