Biggest NFL Questions Left Unanswered

The NFL preseason is a nuisance to the players that risk injury and after the first or second quarter, each game is boring, by most standards, to the fans. However, it is a necessity to the coaches in making final personnel decisions to begin the season.

Going into the 2006 preseason, one of the biggest unknowns was how three of the league's premiere quarterbacks would perform after significant injuries sustained during the 2005 campaign. By most accounts, Daunte Culpepper, Carson Palmer, and Drew Brees have capped their rehabilitation programs with stellar preseason showings.

Many other questions have been answered, as well. Rex Grossman was able to hold off Brian Griese for the Chicago Bears' starting quarterback role. Chad Pennington won back his starting quarterback spot for the New York Jets. Frank Gore will finally be the featured back in a terrible San Francisco 49ers offense.

Reggie Bush, Matt Leinart, Jay Cutler, and Vince Young each appear to be the real deal and will all contribute eventually, if not immediately, to their respective teams. Thomas Jones continues to be favored by his teammates and has held off Cedric Benson for the time as the Bears' starting running back.

The list of answered questions is lengthy, with many not summarized here. Still, there are some interesting situations that have not fully resolved themselves during the preseason action.

Who blinks first, Deion Branch or the New England Patriots? Embroiled in a difficult holdout, Branch has held firm to his demands for a new contract or a trade. New England seems to be equally resolute in their stance that Branch honor the final year of his contract. The Patriots granted Branch the opportunity to seek a trade. Interested teams were able to satisfy Branch's contract demands, but were unable to meet the compensatory requirements of the Patriots. The Players' Union has filed a grievance on behalf of Branch. This dispute could take months to sort out. In the meantime, the Patriots traded for Oakland wideout Doug Gabriel to try to plug the hole.

Who will win the battle of the Bells in Denver? Mike Shanahan continues his trend of keeping the league guessing as to who will be the starting running back for the Denver Broncos. Shanahan named the unheralded Mike Bell the starter early in the preseason. Many are questioning the sincerity of this designation, citing a possible ulterior motive of lighting a fire under Tatum Bell. Throw Cedric Cobbs into the mix and the waters are muddied even further. Picking who will be Denver's most productive back this year probably is about as difficult as selecting who the eventual Super Bowl champ will be — everyone has their best guess, but most will be wrong.

How many games will Terrell Owens play for the Dallas Cowboys this year? Bill Parcells and T.O. already have given glimpses of a potentially tempestuous relationship. T.O. implied that the team influenced his decision to come back to practice early and take too many reps resulting in a setback in his strained hamstring recovery. Parcells has reiterated his long-standing policy that players don't play unless they practice. Of course, the media is having a heyday stirring the pot. This situation is a ticking time bomb that makes for better drama than most primetime television. I wonder if Vegas has an over/under line on the number of games T.O. will play this year.

Will this be Brett Favre's last season? Favre took so long deciding whether to play this season that many assumed it would be his last. Now he is talking of playing beyond the 2006 season — and hasn't ruled out playing for a team other than the Green Bay Packers. Favre playing in a uniform other than Packers green and gold — sacrilege! Another related question is whether he will in fact survive this season with Green Bay's young, inexperienced offensive line. A repeat of last year's misery would most likely result in retirement or departure to more favorable circumstances.

The answers to these questions, and many others, will come as the season progresses. Great story lines and increasing parity in the league make for great entertainment. Enjoy the ride!

Todd Beckstead is founder of, a fantasy football draft resource.

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