The NFL finally returned to ESPN this week. Sports anchors, former players and coaches returned to the television machine to talk about something that had been absent from our lives since February — football.
There were segments on training camp, rookies to watch, that gang of four from last season and even playoff predictions. In a segment that featured former running back Merrill Hodge, Hodge and another ESPN personality predicted that the Atlanta Falcons would take the NFC South championship.
Normally, or at least up until a year or two ago, I would have argued right then and there that ESPN was wrong and that the New Orleans Saints were easy favorites to win their division and compete in the postseason. This season is different, however.
Following last year’s disappointing season, expectations should be tempered and fans need to respect the cyclical nature of the NFL. Not every season is going to be like the 2009 Super Bowl season. Long story short, success doesn’t necessarily last forever.
So that is why I didn’t immediately begin to argue against Hodge and his ESPN colleagues. I recognize that Atlanta has a talented, young up-and-coming quarterback in Matt Ryan. New Orleans has a talented quarterback and organizational stability, but, I am nervous for the Saints in the A.B. years — after Brees.
It’s far too early to be able to tell how the quarterback transition after Brees will go. Heck, their next quarterback might still be in high school for all fans know. What I do know is this: Atlanta is on the up-and-up while New Orleans is looking to earn back some respect. Look for their season opener to a barn-burner of a game.