The most wonderful season of the year has finally arrived, and no, it’s not the election season or Back To School, either.  The NFL opens its season on Thursday, when Brett Favre returns to the scene of his mugging in New Orleans to face the Super Bowl champion Saints.  After a magical season last year in which Favre took the Vikings to the brink of victory in the NFC Championship Game, the Saints blitzed and buried Favre in what most had figured would be his last game in uniform.  Favre returns to Viking purple one more time to see if his arm and his ankle has another season left, and whether he has enough magic to take Minnesota to a Super Bowl for the first time since Gerald Ford was preparing to leave the White House.

Normally, I’d make predictions for the week, but the rest of the league’s games start next weekend.  I’ll predict that Favre gets his revenge in New Orleans on Thursday in another close game, 31-28, but save the rest for next week.  Last year, I finished with a 61-35 record, which means …. exactly nothing for this season.

Instead of picks, let’s look at the top stories in the NFL for the final preseason week:

  • Matt Leinart crowed that he had outplayed his competition for the Arizona Cardinals’ starting QB position, but apparently Ken Whisenhunt disagreed.  The Cardinals released their former #1 draft pick instead, leaving Leinart looking like a fool and leaving him at the mercy of his former college coach.  If Pete Carroll leaves him on the waiver wire rather than picking Leinart up for the Seattle Seahawks, it’s hard to imagine anyone else taking a risk with Leinart.  Moral of the story: don’t issue ultimatums after riding a bench for three seasons.
  • Ben Roethlisberger had his six-game suspension cut down to four games, apparently a reward for good behavior and cooperation with the NFL on its how-not-to-embarrass-the-league seminar.  The Steelers have a QB problem that Leinart could actually solve, assuming Leinart didn’t think that he would move Big Ben to the Big Bench in week 6 after Pittsburgh’s bye week.  The Steelers have an aging but usually effective Charlie Batch on hand to fill Ben’s shoes, but Dennis Dixon could provide more fireworks … for good and ill.  Batch got hardly any reps, too, with Byron Leftwich assumed to be the backup until he got injured.
  • Miami dumps the Wildcat offense, or at least the QB that ran it.  Modern NFL fans cheer; wishbone offense aficionados pout.
  • The St. Louis Rams name their sacrificial Lamb, er, starting QB: Sam Bradford.  Now St. Louis fans (all three of them) have a new name to blame for the year.
  • If the Detroit Lions make final preseason moves in a forest, would anyone notice?  Hey, they did it in Detroit and no one noticed.

The Golden Domers won their first game of the season yesterday at home, dominating the Purdue Boilermakers in everything but the scoreboard in a sloppy effort, 23-12.  The Associated Press and its layers of fact-checkers and editors made sure to report that rookie “Noter Dame” head coach Brian Kelly got the game ball as a “momento.”  They eventually fixed the “Noter” but the “momento” is still live on the site.  Maybe they’ll fix that in uno memento ….