|Last night, America’s No. 1 popular sport, the National Football League, began its 2012 season with a match up between NFC East divisional rivals, the Dallas Cowboys and the defending Super Bowl champions, New York Giants.
The rest of the league action starts Sunday, including the Tennessee Titans.
The Titans’ first game is against the reigning AFC champions and the team that lost to those same Giants in the Super Bowl – the New England Patriots.
This game has special meaning for me.
On one hand, I want to see the Titans go back to the Super Bowl, however on Sunday, they are the enemy.
Since I was a little kid, my favorite team was the Pats.
Back in 1986, when I was five years old, I remember watching New England get destroyed by the vaulted Buddy Ryan Chicago Bears defense in Super Bowl XX. OK, so New England lost by several touchdowns, but it was the red old-school uniforms with Pat the Patriot snapping the ball logo on the helmets that made me a fan for life.
Since then, the Pats have made six more Super Bowls, winning three of them, but lately New England can not get past the Giants in the Super Bowl, including last season.
Also, the three Super Bowl victories have come with some rule breaking, including “Spy gate” a few seasons ago, which I’m not proud about.
I believe a team should win the right way, including following the rules at all times.
Maybe, the man up stairs is paying us Patriot fans back with the two recent world championship losses to the Giants.
But it’s still hard to get past as a fan. Kind of like how Titans fans have not gotten over its team losing it’s only Super Bowl appearance in 2000 in heartbreaking fashion.
Now its 2012, and as with every team in league, including Tennessee and New England, have high expectations for this season, including making the playoffs.
The Titans finished 9-7 last season just missing the playoffs in its first season under head coach Mike Munchak.
Experts around the NFL believe this is one of the biggest match ups in Week 1.
The network that will be televising the game Sunday, CBS, believes so, as the same duo that will call the Super Bowl this season, Jim Nantz and Phil Simms will be in the booth at LP Field to start the season.
As for the game itself, as usual the Pats cut several key contributors to the team, as the staff decided their time was up, while letting the younger players make their marks and keep the winning tradition going.
Of course, All-Pro quarterback Tom Brady is back, and he will have his two playmaking tight ends back in the fold, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez.
Also, premier slot receiver Wes Welker returns along with new deep threat Brandon Lloyd.
Longtime Patriot head coach Bill Belichick thinks the Titans will be a tough opponent for Week 1.
“Certainly they have some players that are there this year like (offensive guard) Steve Hutchinson or (rookie wide out) Kendall Wright – guys that are here this year that were not there last year are players you have to take into consideration,” Belichick said during his Sept. 2 press conference. “There are plenty of players that were there last year that are there this year. The quarterback position, you always have to get ready for all of the quarterbacks but (Matt) Hasselbeck played more than (Jake) Locker did last year. Locker is playing more than Hasselbeck this year but one play can change all that so we have to be ready for all of them.”
Here in Nashville, the quarterback battle between Hasselbeck and Locker has been the talk of the off season.
Earlier in the preseason, the Titans coaching staff decided to go with Locker.
Regardless of who is behind center on Sunday, Tennessee will be without its top receiver, Kenny Britt, because of a one-game suspension because of repeated off-field issues with the law.
Munchak thinks his offense will be fine without Britt this week.
“We feel with the tight ends and things that we do that we are fine there with the four for this weekend,” Munchak said during the Sept. 1 press conference. “A lot of games you are going to carry four when you have five.”
Those four Titan wide receivers will be Nate Washington, Lavelle Hawkins, Damian Williams and Kendall Wright.
Either way, I hope it will be a competitive game. But as a Pats fan, I hope they will begin their journey back to the Super Bowl with a Week 1 victory over the Titans.