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From the Sidelines: Glancing the upcoming NFL headlines

Sunday’s highly-rated, highly-entertaining Super Bowl put the finishing touches on a wild NFL season that saw everything from Tom Brady’s injury to T.O.’s conspiracy theories to Plaxico’s ignorance of gun safety tips to the Arizona Cardinals making their first appearance in the biggest football game in the world.

The Dolphins, Falcons and Ravens all used rookie head coaches to make playoff runs. Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco raised the bar for rookie quarterbacks. The Detroit Lions showed unparalleled consistency with an 0-16 record. Coaching greats Tony Dungy and Mike Holmgren walked away. The Browns, Jets, Raiders, Rams, Lions, Chiefs, Broncos, 49ers and Buccaneers all decided to fire their head coaches. And so far no fewer than 20 teams have hired new defensive coordinators.

Now NFL fans have a chance to sit back, catch their collective breath, get extremely bored and wonder what is coming next.

But for NFL nerds who can scarcely wait for April’s draft, here is a sneak peek at the stories that 2009 may or may not hold.

— Deja Vu: Lions draft receiver. Every NFL fan with an ounce of sympathy hopes the league’s worst franchise has learned from previous mistakes that led it to spending first-round picks on Mike Williams, Charles Rogers, Roy Williams and Calvin Johnson all in this millennium. Of those, only Megatron remains with the team. While conventional wisdom says the Lions will take UGA quarterback Matt Stafford and practical fans hope they take Alabama’s Andre Smith, don’t be too shocked if Detroit shows unmatched stubbornness and goes for Texas Tech’s Michael Crabtree.

— Burress shoots self…again. Newly observant of New York City gun permit laws, Giants’ wide receiver Plaxico Burress makes headlines again after a nightclub shooting incident in which his crossbow accidentally discharges, sending the polarizing playmaker to the ER again.

— Favre retires…we think. Smart money says that Favre is hanging it up. Then again, smart money says don’t bet on Brett Favre. Fact is that he is far too unpredictable. No. 4 may be back. He may not. He may be a Jet. He may not. Hopefully for the Jets’ sake he will make his decision by draft day, lest the team be stuck with Kellen Clemens under center in 2009.

— Raiders banned from Monday. The NFL vows to never again schedule the Oakland Raiders for Monday Night Football after it is discovered that the team actually sucks.

— Vick returns to football. After serving his time for dogfighting charges, the much-maligned Michael Vick has a brief foray with the Torontao Argonauts before ultimately being reinstated by commissioner Roger Goodell. They took Ricky Williams right?

— Cassel gets paid. Lifetime backup Matt Cassel showed his worth in relief of the injured Tom Brady in 2008. The frugal Patriots may franchise tag the signal-caller as an insurance policy for Brady. But if he hits the open market, expect Cassel to be one of the hottest commodities of the spring.

— Leinart becomes star…of The Bachelor. Look for the USC pretty boy and Arizona mistake to cash in on the buzz of his hot tub photo and cameo appearance in The House Bunny as he follows in the footsteps of former NFL quarterback and ABC reality series star Jesse Palmer. Yeah. That guy was good in college too.

— Vince Young disappears. After Jeff Fisher implored Kerry Collins to return to the Titans in 2009, VY goes off the map again; this time putting far less of a scare into Tennessee fans who now realize the success of their team is wholly contingent upon his absence from the field. This go-round Young is discovered by reporters at a New Mexico airport wearing an orange robe and reciting the Hare Krishna mantra to passersby.