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7. WILL THE THIRD TIME BE THE CHARM FOR PETE CARROLL?
Saying that Carroll, the Seahawks' new coach, failed in his two previous NFL head coaching stints is harsh, considering he had a 33--31 mark in four years with the Jets and the Patriots and twice took New England to the playoffs. But the perception lingers, in part because Carroll's teams failed to improve. The Jets were 6--10 in 1994, his only season with New York, and the Pats fell from 10 wins in '97 to nine the next year and eight in his final season. Why did Carroll make the switch back to the NFL after his championship-laden tenure at USC? Was it to finally prove himself on the pro level, or a calculated move to escape NCAA sanctions? Whatever the motivation, Carroll will soon realize that the cupboard was better stocked at USC than it is in Seattle, where the Seahawks were 9--23 the past two seasons.
8. WILL THE JETS SOAR?
The Jets' personnel moves this off-season were as brash as coach Rex Ryan's boasting. Rather than stand pat after a surprising run to the AFC title game, New York brought in two Hall of Fame--caliber veterans in outside linebacker Jason Taylor and running back LaDainian Tomlinson, a Super Bowl MVP in wideout Santonio Holmes and a former Pro Bowl cornerback in Antonio Cromartie. In April the Jets spent a first-round pick on Boise State's Kyle Wilson, whom some scouts ranked as the No. 1 cornerback in the draft. The moves brought more star power to Broadway, but significant questions as well: Do the aging Taylor and Tomlinson have enough left to be productive? Will Cromartie, a finesse player, hold up in Ryan's attacking defense—let alone against the onslaught of passes he'll see opposite All-Pro corner Darrelle Revis? And can the immensely talented Holmes (right) stay out of trouble? He already is scheduled to miss the first four games while serving a suspension for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy.
The Jets had great chemistry during their playoff run, but locker-room favorites Thomas Jones (the team's leading rusher) and Alan Faneca (a physical, experienced guard) were released, popular multipurpose threat Leon Washington was traded to Seattle, and starting safety Kerry Rhodes was dealt to Arizona. If those aren't distractions, several key starters' unhappiness with their contracts could be. Revis already has the team guessing as to whether he'll report to camp if he doesn't get a new deal. Say this much for the Jets: They won't be boring.
9. WILL THE BELL TOLL FOR THE STEELERS IN BIG BEN'S ABSENCE?
After the sordid story of Ben Roethlisberger's night in Georgia became public, reports surfaced that Pittsburgh was considering trading their two-time Super Bowl--winning QB. In case the Steelers are still wondering what life would be like without Roethlisberger, the answer will come when he sits out the first four to six games while serving a league suspension. The situation isn't completely dire—eighth-year vet Byron Leftwich (left) is a capable replacement, and coach Mike Tomlin had planned to lean more heavily on the run even before Roethlisberger's suspension made that a necessity. Still, the early schedule is daunting, with home games against Atlanta and Baltimore and a trip to Tennessee in the first four weeks. After the Week 5 bye come the Browns, then trips to Miami and New Orleans. The Steelers still have the talent to make a postseason run, but they'll likely be playing catchup in the season's second half.