American Football: Vick's vision to lead Philadelphia and their 'dream team' to glory
After the lock-out came the shut-out.
The Green Bay Packers raised the curtain on a NFL season many feared would face the blackout blinds with a final-play 42-34 victory over the New Orleans Saints, who came within a yard of going for the two extra points which would have forced overtime.
The thriller at Lambeau Field – which was not to dissimilar to their nail-reducing Superbowl success over Pittsburgh Steelers in February – was just what Uncle Sam ordered. The pre-season was chaotic as teams struggled to make up for the time lost in the lock-out which began in March when the collective-bargaining agreement between the owners and players expired.
The Packers were supposedly one of the least prepared, but made a mockery of that as Aaron Rodgers threw for 312 yards and three touchdowns. Not to be outdone Drew Brees threw for 419 yards and also three touchdowns as the Saints emphasised their quality. And so the quarterbacks took centre stage on opening night and as ever in the next four the brunt of the focus will fall on the glamour boys, with Michael Vick chief of the headline grabbers.
This is the first time in five years the 31-year-old begins the season as a starter. If that implies a comeback then consider that he has signed his second $100m contract of his career – and was declared bankrupt inbetween. Vick's two years in prison for his part in a dog-fighting ring is already written large in grid-iron's roll of infamy and, regardless of however successful the most energetic of quarterbacks proves, many in America would do anything but hail a redemption.
However, in sporting terms, Vick's second coming obviously has the power to be the story of this or any other season; particularly as the Eagles have yet to win a Superbowl. "I've had a vision since the beginning of summer," Vick said. "I'm very optimistic that we're going to have a good chance of having a great outcome this season."
It helps that the Philadelphia Eagles have been signing up free agents to wages which would make certain football club owners in Manchester wince. Never mind Vick, Nmandi Asomugha, AKA the best cornerback in football, has been lured with a $60m deal over five years, while defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins has rolled in with $25m over five years. Somewhat inevitably the "dream team" tag has been affixed and even more inevitably the critics have wondered whether the "team" part of the tag will be their downfall.
First up is Seattle, although it is next week's meeting with Atlanta Falcons, the favourites in an immensely competitive NFC South, that catches the eye. This could well be a preview of the NFC Championship game.
In the AFC, the New England Patriots will remain on every experts' notepad – hardly surprising seeing as they went 14-2 last season and have strengthened the team.
Latest in Sport
Pornhub: Cheeky Liverpool fan uploads Philippe Coutinho wonder-goal video to adult website
Ireland 19 England 9 player ratings: Jonathan Sexton? Devin Toner? Alex Goode? Who was the star man in Dublin?
Eden Hazard didn't like the champagne on offer in the Chelsea dressing room
Why Manchester City could turn to Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers if Manuel Pellegrini is dismissed
Arsene Wenger on Francis Coquelin: 'You don't have all the qualities but you have to express what you're good at'
- 1 What happens to your body when you give up sugar?
- 2 Ed Miliband deemed less influential than One Direction's Louis Tomlinson by official Doncaster power list
- 3 Japanese island overrun with cats after population explodes
- 4 Delhi bus rapist blames dead victim for attack because 'girls are responsible for rape'
- 5 Have sex with your iPad thanks to the new sex toy no-one asked for
'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
Durham Free School: 'Creationism taught at' free school facing closure
Ukip would cut billions from Scottish budget to fund English tax cuts
Nearly 100,000 of Britain's poorest children go hungry after parents' benefits are cut
End of the licence fee: BBC to back radical overhaul of how it is funded
Ukraine crisis: Top Chinese diplomat backs Putin and says West should 'abandon zero-sum mentality'
£16000 - £46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...
£9 - £13 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity to join a s...
£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Have you got a proven track rec...
£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...