News and notes as we kickoff Week 1

Here’s a few things to keep in mind as we all settle in for a big day of football:

The Cleveland Browns held another negotiating session with return star/Wildcat QB/potential starting WR Josh Cribbs, with a face-to-face session with his agent conducted Saturday in Cleveland. The sides continue to make “good progress” toward a deal, according to a league source.

The Dallas Cowboys have had productive talks with DE DeMarcus Ware as well. I would be very surprised if a deal is not worked out there well before Ware would be able to hit free agency. He is likely to be the last of the big money draft picks from 2005-06 to get a hefty extension, as those players are likely to lose the ability to get to unrestricted free agency if we have an uncapped 2010.

As for the games:

  • I get the sense the Bengals might go big over the Broncos. The Bengals DBs will key on taking away WR Eddie Royal in the screen game, and definitely spent considerable time planning for Brandon Marshall as well. They expect him to be on the field a lot. The Bengals are a different team with QB Carson Palmer. Cincinnati has just 28 plays of 20 yards or more last season — worst in the NFL. That will change with Palmer, Chad Ochocinco, Laveranues Coles and Chris Henry all at WR now.
  • I look for Rex Ryan to have LB Bart Scott attack QB Matt Schaub early and often as Houston faces the Jets. They’ll hunt any QB, especially one who has been hobbled a bit by an ankle injury.
  • In the Detroit/New Orleans tilt, I’d expect Lions coach Jim Schwartz will take the same approach with the Saints as he did when he was the defensive coordinator in Tennessee when he faced the Colts. He would do whatever he could to try to lure the Colts into running the ball, dropping players from the box, trying to entice them to run more and slow down the pace of the offense. That was the game plan. Even with RB Pierre Thomas out, the Saints might still rack up the running yardage (I like RB Mike Bell bigtime). I think Gregg Williams’ schemes will be too much for rookie QB Matthew Stafford.
  • For years the Giants have had a swagger about facing the Redskins, talking to players. They have beat up on the ‘Skins and pretty much expect to beat them. The Washington defense should be very good, however, and look for QB Jason Campbell to take way more deep shots than we’re accustomed to.  With the Giants still sorting through their receivers, look for a heavy workload for RB Brandon Jacobs, even with Washington being pretty stout against the run (‘Skins also activating rookie DE Jeremy Jarmon, their supplemental draft pick).
  • In Minnesota, one area where they will look for QB Brett Favre to shine is against the blitz. Vikings QBs had an NFL-worst 52.6 passer rating against the blitz last season. Overall, I don’t see the Favre signing going all that well, but if he can shine in this aspect — and poise under pressure is part of the veteran’s makeup — that should go a long way.

A few other random thoughts: Cowboys don’t get in the playoffs until they display more discipline. They had more penalties than any other team last season, and that’s part of the reason some wonder if they need more of a taskmaster at coach … As those of you who read here regularly already know, I am a huge Aaron Rodgers guy. Here’s another example of why: Rodgers threw 24 TDs with no interceptions inside the 30-yard line last season. That’s levitation, holmes.

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