Temperatures are dropping, leaves are falling and people are screaming. It's not Halloween - football season is here again.
After a long offseason, the preseason has come and gone. Veterans have been dusting off the cobwebs while rookies have started to adjust to the new pressures of the NFL. The 2008 season will officially kick off tonight when the New York Giants host the Washington Redskins.
What a better place to start than with the defending Super Bowl champions? The G-Men begin this season hoping for a repeat of last year's triumphant finish. The offense is still relatively strong - some might argue it's even stronger than last year's.
Although Eli Manning went on a hot streak at the end of last season, he still isn't as reliable as his big brother, Peyton. If Eli continues to build upon last year's successes, he has a shot at someday surpassing his older brother. Until then, Giants fans should keep hoping David Tyree can consistently catch passes off his helmet.
On the upside, the Giants upgraded their offense by trading away Jeremy Shockey in the offseason. As far as team cohesiveness is concerned, look for Kevin Boss to be much less of a distraction than his predecessor. The Giants' defense, however, took a major hit this offseason. The retirement of Michael Strahan, coupled with the losses of Gibril Wilson and Kawika Mitchell to free agency, will definitely hurt them when it comes time for the defense to take the field.
Offensively, the Buffalo Bills have made a few additions such as drafting James Hardy as wide receiver. At six feet, five inches tall Hardy adds height to the relatively small Bills receiver corps, and should help to relieve some of the pressure on Lee Evans, allowing second-year quarterback Trent Edwards to air it out more.
But the Evans-Hardy double threat will never come to fruition unless Edwards builds upon his modest rookie performance. Edwards will have to continue to develop both as a leader and a player if he wants to truly be effective and lead his team to the playoffs this year. Luckily, the Bills figure to have a pretty good running game, which should help Edwards' development process. Coming off an impressive rookie season, starting running back Marshawn Lynch will continue to improve. With their maturing offense, the Bills should be competitive in 2008.
Last, but hopefully not least, the New York Jets are coming off a disappointing 4-12 season. General manager Mike Tannenbaum looked to shake things up a bit with some aggressive additions to the roster. Drafting linebacker Vernon Gholston and tight end Dustin Keller in the first round, the Jets showed signs of looking to improve on both sides of the ball. However, some key issues still remain. With the trade of middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma to the Saints, the Jets lost a key leader of their defense, and will be looking for someone to step up and take his place.
The Jets also lacked a solid quarterback last year. Chad Pennington was efficient and a team player, but in terms of sending the ball long, the injury-prone QB just couldn't get things done. This allowed safeties to play closer to the line of scrimmage, which took a toll on the running game. In order to rectify this, Tannenbaum aggressively recruited legendary quarterback Brett Favre, who dramatically un-retired and was looking for a new home. Favre brings experience and leadership to the team, however, at 38, he's no rookie. Hopefully Favre will be able to deliver what the Jets were looking for and bring them at least a winning record, if not a playoff berth. The first test will come this Sunday, when the Dolphins host the Jets with newly-signed quarterback Chad Pennington at the helm. This potential grudge match should be fun to watch as the Jets hope that all of their offseason transactions pay off.