On to the post:
This is a post about the things that don't usually make the "keys to the game" lists that people put together but when you watch enough football you know actually makes a difference. So we aren't talking about Brady, whether Henne can play, B Marshall, C. Wake, etc. My questions include what you think may happen in this game to swing it one way or the other that isn't really being talked about. Is there a sleeper pick in this game for the phins? Is there something that we just have no way of predicting how it will go that will affect the game? And why?
Last season, during game 1 against the Pats, the X-factor was clearly special teams blocking and coverage, and the sleeper was Rob Ninkovich. Arguably, if ST play hadn't doomed us, we may even have won.
a) Penalties - One of the hallmarks of the Tony Sparano era has been disciplined, penalty free football. I don't have the link, but I think they were the 2nd least penalized team last season. This has definitely helped keep them closer in games than might otherwise have been. The problem is that this preseason there were plenty of penalties. Some of that may be due to the lockout. Some of it, on offense, may be to a very inexperienced coaching staff. Perhaps I am paying too much attention to pre-season. Anyway, the phins seemed to have a lot of penalties. I am not sure how they did as compared to other teams, but if they continue to play sloppily going into week 1, that is one advantage they will lose
b) Hartline is my sleeper - Bush and Marshall should make plays, and Bess has had some good games against the pats. I think Hartline will be forgotten and Henne likes him as a target. He is a solid (though not great) player. I see him having a really nice big play.
What are your x-factors, sleepers and other things that may make this game?