Are the Ravens still Super? Can the 49ers' new hero strike gridiron gold? As the new season begins, we tackle football's biggest burning questions.
Tom Brady, Eli Manning
Four years after the New York Giants stunned the undefeated New England Patriots 17-14 in Super Bowl XLII, both teams have clawed their way back into the Big Game.
It was the $9 billion question: Could NFL owners and players reach an agreement to end the bitter lockout threatening the 2011 season? After a resounding yes on July 25, teams scrambled to get ready. Record-setting TV ratings last year cemented the game's status as America's favorite sport, but what can fans expect on the field in the wake of the time-consuming labor dispute? "Teams that had very little change are going to have a huge advantage once the season starts," says CBS analyst Rich Gannon. "Some teams that have new quarterbacks, new systems, they're going to struggle." As the season kicks off tonight, TV Guide Magazine asked NFL analysts to tackle five burning questions...
New England Patriots' coach Bill Belichick by Jim Rogash/WireImage.com
New England once weathered The Perfect Storm, and now The Perfect Season is on the horizon. If the Patriots defeat the Miami Dolphins Sunday (Dec. 23, 4:15 pm/ET, CBS), they'll be 15-0, an NFL regular-season first. Topple the New York Giants the following week to go 16-0 and New England would join the 1972 Dolphins as the only teams to enter the playoffs undefeated. (The Dolphins won 14 regular-season games, two playoff games and the Super Bowl, to go 17-0.)The Patriots' dominance is even more impressive because of free agency, says Fox announcer Joe Buck, who will call Super Bowl XLII in Phoenix on Feb. 3. "What they've been able to do with roster turnover and a salary cap is extraordinary," Buck says. "What makes them phenomenal is that they've been able to consistently win while other teams go up and down." New England established itself as the first football dynasty of this millennium by winning three Super Bowls from 2002 to 2005, thanks to Bill Belichick, who Buck calls "the b...