In part one of my series on what the network analysts feel are the key story-line in 2013 we will start at CBS.
This season they will offer a early pregame show on CBS Sports Network starting this Sunday at 9 a.m. The show will cover both the NFL as well as college stories and I will do more on the program later in the week.
But I spoke via conference call this week with the gang fron CBS NFL Today. We talked about their thoughts on the key story-lines for week one of the NFL season and as expected they had plenty of things to say.
(On importance of home-field advantage)
AMY TRASK: I’m a huge, huge believer in the value of home-field advantage. I don’t think home-field advantage can be overstated enough. In general, if a team is really, really, really struggling, home-field advantage may not be enough to push it over the edge. But home-field advantage, on the field, it’s of pivotal importance. And I always viewed it as this, home-field advantage matters. Home-field advantage in a night game matters even more. Home-field advantage in a home opener matters even more. And home-field advantage in a rivalry or a revenge-type game matters even more…But I do think it bears mentioning that Baltimore having to go in to Denver this year, as opposed to hosting as it normally would under these circumstances is, in my view, a tremendous, tremendous advantage on-field for the Denver Broncos. If I were in the Baltimore organization, or when I was with Oakland, if we were in a similar situation I would be beside myself over losing that home-field advantage. All of that said, from an economic standpoint it’s going to help you on the margins. And it’s going to help you in the following regard; even a team that is struggling with sellouts is going to be able to sell out a very, very exciting opponent like that sort of a game for home-field. It does help you from a home-field advantage perspective with an exciting game with your suite sales and some merchandise sales. Certainly, even if it’s not the opening game, home-field advantage helps from an economic stand point. And of course, you don’t have all the travel-related costs.
(On Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler)
BILL COWHER: One of the elements of this that cannot be overlooked is the fact that you have a quarterback in Jay Cutler that is going into the final year of his contract…when a head coach or a quarterback goes into the final year of their contract it’s a story line. It was last year with Joe Flacco and we know how that unfolded. We’ve all seen Jay Cutler at times, and his mannerisms, and you just wonder if they (Chicago) don’t get off to a good start, how much of that will play into it. How they deal with it as the season unfolds? And what kind of pressure goes with that element of where he is? This is very much a career defining year for him. How he handles the questions and his performance week-in and week-out will be something to watch.
BOOMER ESIASON: Jay Cutler has been one of the more frustrating players over the last four years. Yet again, another offensive coordinator, a coach who has been fired, another coach hired and of course the GM change over there. There has not been a lot of consistency in his career path there in Chicago. I kind of get some of the struggles he has had. But unfortunately in this league it is a quarterback-driven league right now, so I guess maybe he’s in the top 15. But Chicago is a mid- tier team in the NFC. The NFC is loaded. If things go right for them it means they have go to stay healthy and somehow they have to beat Green Bay and that’s not something they have been able to do with consistency since Jay’s got there. So I still think this is a second-rung team in the NFC. And this is a career defining year for Jay Cutler, as coach said.
(On Indianapolis and a stable quarterback situation)
COWHER: They have stability there (at quarterback). I love where they’re at. I think they have a quarterback that they feel really good about. They are going to challenge the Houston Texans. It’s a two team race in that division. Indianapolis is kind of flying under the radar a little bit. All these quarterbacks we were talking about last year with Kaepernick, Russell Wilson and RGIII, Andrew Luck quietly had one of the better years. You talk about comebacks at the end of the game? This guy led all the quarterbacks. He did it in the fourth quarter. He was as impressive as any young quarterback. I like the Colts.
PHIL SIMMS: When you look at Andrew Luck, what do they have going for them? Great faith in their quarterback. They made the right decisions in the front office. They did everything for Andrew Luck to have success and to be a star. And he is not going to let them down. Nobody (in that lockerroom) walks around talking about their quarterback because they know they have the man. That is a great security blanket for a football team.
(On expectations for Cincinnati)
SIMMS: When you look at the playoffs last year, the one common theme in the playoffs that we saw from all the good teams was that there were big plays on offense. And those big plays weren’t all designed. It wasn’t all about the talented receivers. Most of the time it was about the talent of the arm of the quarterback. The league still comes down to making big-time throws. You have to be able to hit the three-run homer. That’s it…Who did it better than the Baltimore Ravens last year? Every playoff game you saw Joe Flacco firing a pass down the field, multiple times a game. If I had to pick one thing, that’s the big missing ingredient for the Bengals. We’ll see this year if they have it in their offense now.
COWHER: They are playing in the toughest division in football with Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Cleveland, which will be much improved. It’s not fair to say that everything rides on Andy Dalton, but there’s no question to go deep in the playoffs, at some point, that quarterback has to be a guy that can win you a game.
BOOMER: This is a focused and serious team this year on “Hard Knocks.” This is a team that you can see has expectations…Andy Dalton has the mental make-up, the physical tools to get it done…If the Bengals are to be taken seriously, which I think we all feel they are, he definitely has to go to the next level. He has to be a difference-maker if they want to make it to the Super Bowl.
(On Jets starting Geno Smith in Week 1)
BOOMER: They will certainly tailor it (game plan) to Geno’s strengths and that is down-the-field throws. He has a tremendous arm. He’s smooth. But the real question remains is whether he is legitimately ready to handle a West Coast offense. Given his performance against the Giants, I think it is pot luck at this point. And I don’t suspect we’re going to get a huge game out of him.
As you can see they have no problems talking. We will check in at Fox next and find out their preseason thoughts. Stay tuned!