Finally … it’s game day.
Well, actually, it’s game overnight here in Western New York. Sleep isn’t coming too easily, so I might as well get a jump-start on the day’s coverage since kickoff will be here in less than 10 hours.
As I began typing this, the shuffled iPod playlist entitled “Andrew Radio” — a compilation that is 994 songs thick — brought up the Great Satchmo himself, Louis Armstrong, singing his timeless opus, What A Wonderful World. I couldn’t think of a more appropriate song for the moments leading into the season.
The morning of the year’s opening kickoff might be my favorite on the football calendar. (Well, it’s either that or draft day.) Optimism is at its crest; aside from the loser of the Thursday night kickoff game, everyone believes they’re headed to the Super Bowl — or at least to a season that is beyond prognosticators’ expectations.
I’ve anticipated this day on an annual basis for as long as I have memories. Some years, it was simply making sure that I could pull the family’s living-room ottoman close to the TV for a better glimpse at the day’s action. Others, it was my father and I getting an early start by pulling away from home at mid-morning for a parking space near Tampa Stadium and a pre-game tailgate feast that awaited, followed by a walk to the stadium in which I felt propelled by my dreams for the day and season ahead. Nowadays, it’s curiosity about what awaits. What are the storylines that will define my work for the days, weeks and months to come? Which players will emerge from anonymity into stardom? How many times will I hear Gus Johnson’s voice and expect to hear a basketball analyst like Bill “mantoman!” Raftery working alongside him?
About the only rain on the parade will be, well, rain — there’s a 90 percent chance of thunderstorms. But, hey, weather happens. I’ll take the late-summer storms over the ice-rink conditions of the teams’ last meeting in December 2005 anytime.
With that, let’s get to the Sunday morning talking points.
Travis Henry’s return to Buffalo … He says it’s not a big deal, maintaining there’s no reason to hold a grudge because the decision makers who cast their lot with Willis McGahee no longer man the controls in Orchard Park. Still, you sense that Henry is eager for this game for a combination of reasons — his recovery from a recent knee injury, wanting to prove to his new team that he’s worthy of their investment in him, his quest to finally help a team make the playoffs (he’s never played in the postseason as a pro) … and then, somwhere way down below is the revenge factor.
Jay Cutler … It’s his first opening day start as a pro, and he’s already a team captain. I don’t think it adds pressure on his shoulders; rather, it confirms how much his teammates already believe in him and trust him. He leads; they’ve got his back.
Simeon Rice … Is he ready to go? Head Coach Mike Shanahan said this week he hopes the new acquisition can go “15-20 plays” against the Bills. If that proves to be the case, how will he fare? Will those plays be enough for him to find a groove? He has, after all, been an every-down guy throughout his career. And if he does play, how will his shoulder feel after a few collisions?
Defense … After going with basic packages throughout the preseason, what will we see from Jim Bates’ unit? As he said this week: “Of course, it’s going to be game plan as far as going into this first game. You’ll see some variables, but we’re going to do a lot building a base and building a foundation. That’s the only way you’re going to build a strong defensive team.”
Saturday’s decision to bring back Chad Mustard and releasing Adam Meadows … Is that move made with today’s game in mind, and if so, would Mustard be able to contribute if needed without the benefit of practicing during the previous week? We’ll find out when the Broncos take the field.
Discuss below. For more gabbery about the game, be sure and listen to the pregame podcast, in which I talk about J.P. Losman, Travis Henry and chicken wings. For now, it’s time to sleep … I’ll talk to you from the stadium later this morning. Until then, vaya con Dios.
Tags: Buffalo Bills