THE FRANCHISE GUYS: Peyton Manning (Colts), Tom Brady (Patriots), Ben Roethlisberger (Steelers), Eli Manning (Giants), Drew Brees (Saints). Duh on Peyton and Brady. Big Ben has two rings and fits his team perfectly. If only he could be a winner off the field too. Even if you don't think Eli is a true franchise guy, he's getting paid like it so he's in the club. When you put up a season like Brees had last year, you're also in.
THE COULD-BE FRANCHISE GUYS: Philip Rivers (Chargers), Tony Romo (Cowboys), Jay Cutler (Bears), Matt Ryan (Falcons). Rivers is on the cusp of greatness. Romo is the Cowboys' guy but he needs to take a few more steps ... like winning a playoff game ... before we all believe in him. Cutler is in sort of the same boat. He had a great season but is now moving to a team that doesn't have a good history of QBs. Ryan had a fantastic rookie season and has the look of a guy who will do great things in this league.
OLD GUY HOLDING OFF THE YOUGIN': Kurt Warner (Cardinals), Kerry Collins (Titans). Brett Favre (Vikings). Warner and Collins are weary vets who are starting in place of immature 2006 draftees. I'm not putting Favre into the "self-inflicted controversy" category because there is no way in Hades that they'll bench Favre in favor of Tarvares Jackson or Sage Rosenfelds.
ON THEIR WAY: Aaron Rodgers (Packers), Matt Schaub (Texans). Lost in this whole Brett Favre saga was the fact that Rodgers played pretty darn well last season for the Packers. He's also been tearing up the preseason. Houston has something if Schaub can stay healthy.
THE CHAD PENNINGTON CATEGORY: Chad Pennington (Dolphins). Is this the year he's supposed to get hurt?
INTO THE FUTURE: Mark Sanchez (Jets), Joe Flacco (Ravens), Trent Edwards (Bills), Matt Cassel (Chiefs). Sanchez, unlike Matthew Stafford, starts as a rookie QB. Good luck, young man! Flacco, to me, isn't in Ryan's status yet. Neither is Cassel, even though he's now making a lot of jack in KC. Is it more the Pats' system or that he's that good?
COMING BACK FROM THE DEAD: Matt Hasselbeck (Seahawks), Carson Palmer (Bengals). Remember ol' Matt Hasselbeck? He's coming off an injury plagued season and now doesn't have Mike Holmgren around to get him going. Palmer was one of the NFL's rising QBs before blowing out his knee in a playoff loss in 2005. After a string of injuries, he says he's healthy.
YOU BETTER BRING IT: Jason Campbell (Redskins), Jake Delhomme (Panthers), Marc Bulger (Rams), David Garrard (Jaguars), Jamarcus Russell (Raiders). Campbell is in a contract year and the Redskins made no secret that they were looking elsewhere for their QB of the future. His future in D.C. and the NFL hinges on what kind of season he has this year. Jake Delhomme left a bad taste in everyone's mouth when he had as bad a game as you could possibly have in the divisional round of the playoffs last year. Though there is really no one to push him out, he's grown out of favor with the locals. Bulger isn't the fantasy darling he once was. Unless he gives them a reason to keep him, St. Louis could be looking at replacing him soon. It still baffles me that Garrard is a starting QB. This is the year that Russell needs to show us that he may actually be getting it ... or if he is David Carr and Alex Smith rolled into one.
SELF INFLICTED QB CONTROVERSY: Donovan McNabb (Eagles). This Michael Vick experiment will get very interesting during that one stretch of the season that McNabb goes on his cold streak. Will Vick get more snaps then? If so, how does Donovan react?
YOU DON'T HAVE A QUARTERBACK: Byron Leftwich (Buccaneers), Daunte Culpepper (Lions), Shaun Hill (49ers), Brady Quinn (Browns), Kyle Orton (Broncos). Leftwich was a guy that hardly anyone wanted a year ago. Now he's the starter in Tampa? That's what happens when you give away all your QBs and draft a guy who is a project at best. In Detroit, Culpepper ... again another guy no one wanted a year ago ... takes the reigns of a 0-16 franchise. The question is when Matthew Stafford gets the starting gig. If the Niners had all that confidence in Shaun Hill, then why did they start three different guys last year? And why doesn't Cleveland just put their foot down and name Quinn the starter? C'mon! Also, do you expect me to believe that Denver is satisfied with Orton as their man?