Originally created 09/09/04

Hit the back yard or the bars, the NFL season has arrived



At 9 tonight a moment of renewal, revenge and revelry will make its long-awaited return.

The National Football League is once again set to kick off, and for those in fantasy football leagues, it means war.

It's time to fire up those intra-office rivalries once again. Time to come together on Sundays, not just at the house for cookouts, but at the bar to cheer your players. It's time for Hank Williams Jr.'s voice to really mean something for the first time this season on Monday nights. Most importantly, it's time to see if all the preparation you did in the preseason will pay off in your league's postseason.

A lot of questions will be answered for you throughout the year.

Was Michael Vick in the first round wise? Will Jamal Lewis avoid jail time? Will Joey Harrington finally have that breakout season now that he has a solid offense around him? And, what will you do if you actually manage to capture your league's title?

Will you be humble and silently gloat to yourself? Or will you revisit a recent ESPN commercial that shows a league winner prancing around his office with a trophy, calling everyone - including his boss - a loser.

Just remember the Golden Rule from week to week, and you should be on your way to the good sportsman award for your league. Forgetting that rule will often get you ridicule and resentment from your opponents.

Nobody likes a poor loser, but it's just the same for an ungracious winner. If you do manage to take home the prize this year, just remember, there's always next year. And it's always harder to back your bravado up time and time again.

But that's all down the line. We're looking at this week's slate, and there are some tough decisions to make as to whom to start and sit.

FOR STARTERS

RB Rudi Johnson, Cincinnati: He has a chance to prove that getting rid of Corey Dillon wasn't a mistake. Look for him to start the season with a bang against the Jets.

WR, Peerless Price, Atlanta: He's been moved to the slot position, where he played in Buffalo. He had his breakout year in the slot, and he should pay off against head coach Jim Mora's old defense.

Philadelphia's defense: The New York Giants' offensive line is, well, just that, offensive. Kurt Warner will have no time to try and pick on the Eagles' young cornerbacks. He'll be lucky to survive to the next week.

SIT DOWN

RB William Green, Cleveland: If he starts in Lee Suggs' place, it'll be a nightmare for him. Ray Lewis and company should be able to feast on Cleveland's running game all day.

RB Stephen Davis, Carolina: The Panthers will hardly resemble the NFC Conference championship team they were last year, not with losing four of five starting offensive linemen. It won't be a banner day for Davis against Green Bay.

RB Clinton Portis, Washington: The Redskins still have serious line issues, and Tampa Bay's defense is still powerful against the run even with losing Warren Sapp and John Lynch.

WHAT A ROOKIE

RB Kevin Jones, Detroit: I'm not sold on Chicago's defense, and Jones will get a heavy dose of playing time. He could establish himself as the lead candidate for NFC Rookie of the Year.

WAKE-UP CALL

QB Joey Harrington, Detroit: The game against Chicago could go back and forth, and if Harrington wants to prove his worth, what better time than to break the team's league-record road losing streak in Chicago?

Reach Raymond Beasock at (706) 823-3221 or raymond.beasock@augustachronicle.com.