It's Friday and more training camps are opening up, getting fans excited for the upcoming season. The Stack is here with that and more heading into the weekend and the Olympics (which The Stack is very excited about by the way), so let's get right to it and see what made "the stack" for today, Friday, July 27:
Carolina Panthers open training camp
The Panthers, or should I say Cam Newton, re-energized the fanbase last year with his dazzling play and getting fans excited about the team's future. Then offensive tackle Ryan Kalil took out a full page ad saying the Panthers would win the Super Bowl this year. Lofty expectations right?
Camp battle to watch: Wide Receiver. Apart from Steve Smith and I guess Brandon Lafell, the Panthers don't have a lot of other receivers that put fear into defenses. If they can get a few more guys to climb into the three and four slots, it will open the door up for Newton even more.
Storyline #1: Kalil's prediction. Kalil has put added pressure onto the Panthers, but then again, it's training camp and everyone thinks they have a chance headed into the season. The Panthers will be an exciting bunch to watch this year, but Kalil has now put a target on their backs bigger than one before.
Storyline #2: Cam Newton. Everyone wants to see just how much better he is this year than last year. He is the Carolina Panthers. And how he plays, how he liimits mistakes will show just how far the Panthers can go this year.
Can't miss fantasy player: Cam Newton. Last year, he put up staggering numbers for a rookie quarterback. In his second year, with he his running and passing ability, expect even better numbers.
Stay away from: Panthers running backs. In large part because Newton is a threat both to run and to pass, he can take away from some of the attempts fo DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. But neither of those running backs have taken a hold of the number starter spot behind Cam. It's whoever has the hot hand. And that is why it is not worth taking them except for a number three running back spot on your team.
Houston Texans open up training camp
Expectations are flying in Houston. Is this team a possible Super Bowl team? Injuries derailed them last year yet they were still able to make it to the divisional round of the playoffs and give the Baltimore Ravens all they could handle. They won their first playoff game in franchise history with a rookie third string quarterback in T.J. Yates. So yes, times are exciting, but will that translate to success in 2012-13?
Camp battle to watch: Kicker. Yes the wide receiver battle is interesting, because outside of Andre Johnson and perhaps Kevin Walters, who is going to be a downfield threat for the Texans. But the real intrigue with the kicking situation is whether or not Ryan Bullock a rookie out of Texas A&M with a strong and pretty accurate leg can take down a veteran in Shayne Graham. Whoever wins is going to have to be able to show the Texans that come crunch time or when the offense stalls, that tye can go out and nail a 45 or 50-yard field goal accuracy. Kicking is a tell-tale sign of just how good a team is.
Storyline #1: How the Texans handle the expectations. There is no ifs ands or buts about it. The Texans are the team to beat in the AFC South. While some considered them to be the favorites last year because of Peyton Manning's injury, some were waiting for Peyton to come back or to see if the Texans could indeed take advantage. The hopes and expectations of not only the city and fanbase, but experts as well makes the Texans big targets in not just the AFC, but the NFL. How will they handle it.
Storyline #2: Health. Andre Johnson, Matt Schaub, Arian Foster. All were injured at some point in the season not to mention many others. If the Texans can stay healthy, they are Super Bowl contenders. If not, they are a team that can maybe win one game in the playoffs.
Can't miss fantasy player: Arian Foster. Running, catching, scoring touchdowns. The dude does it all. He'll go #1 or #2 in most leagues.
Stay away from: Matt Schaub. At least in the first few rounds. He can put up a bunch of points, but with Foster, a lot of his touchdowns could be taken away. Not to mention the possibility of Schaub getting injured and he is not worth taking as a number one quarterback unless you have a great one-two combo at running back and a solid number wide receiver and tight end.
Pittsburgh Steelers begin training camp
The Steelers lost in heartbreaking fashion to the Broncos in the playoffs last year when Tim Tebow connected with Demaryius Thomas for an 80-yard touchdown in overtime. Now the Steelers have to deal with an aging roster and a tougher AFC North. Yet they are the Steelers and they make no excuses as training camp opens up.
Camp battle to watch: Offensive line. The Steelers have had major issues the last few years, mainly due to injury. They must develop some guys who can make the team and step right in to the starting lineup should someone go down with an injury.
Storyline #1: How will the defense look? The Steelers are getting older on that side of the ball with Troy Polamalu and five other starters all with at least ten years in the league. Will they be able to slow down some of the higher paced offenses or will their age slow them down?
Storyline #2: What will Todd Haley do? The new offensive coordinator was initially met with some animosity from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. What will he do differently than former coordinator Bruce Arians? How the offense adapts to Haley's concepts and ideas will give Steelers fans a question on how they do this season.
Can't miss fantasy player: Ben Roethlisberger. He has been putting up some major passing yards in recent years and despite being knicked up every week, never misses a start. New offensive system? No problem. He's going to be just fine.
Stay away from: Heath Miller. The tight end doesn't put up the numbers that he did initially anymore. If you need a backup tight end, then grab him, but he is not worth taking as your starting tight end.
Seattle Seahaws begin training camp
The Seattle Seahawks enter year three of the Pete Carroll era and there is some unknown as to what exactly they are doing. Like who is going to be the starting quarterback? Some moves people are questioning. But the fans like Carroll's energy and his effort to try to get the Seahawks back to the playoffs. Will it happen in 2012-13? That's what the team is hoping for as they begin training camp today.
Camp battle to watch: Quarterback. The Seahawks brought in Matt Flynn and you have to think that they didn't bring him in for all that money to be a backup. But he still has to battle with Tavaris Jackson and rookie Russell Wilson. Who will come out of the trio? That's the big question at Sehawks camp.
Storyline #1: The quarterback situation. It is intriguing to say the least and most Seahawks fans have an opinion on it as do the people that cover the team.
Can't miss fantasy player: Marshawn Lynch. The running back had a sensational year last year and carried the Seahawks offfense. He'll have another big year this year as well, even with the suspension for his DUI, if he gets suspended.
More teams on Saturday.
In other news, the NBA schedule came out. You can find that here. And London gets set to host the Olympics. The opening ceremonies are tonight at NBC starting at 7:30 PM ET. All events will air live over the next seventeen days on the NBC family of networks (NBC, CNBC, MSNBC, USA, NBC Sports Network, NBC Universal). It is going to be exciting and "the stack" will have as much Olympic coverage as we can balanced in with training camps and the other news of the day. So stay tuned each and every day of the Olympics and cheer America on.
Coming up Saturday: More training camp previews and some Olympic news.