Colts: Likely starting Peyton Manning. Kerry Collins looked pretty good with the vanilla offense against the second-team Cincinnati D and Painter will push him for the second string. However, Peyton Manning asked the front office to let him decide whether or not he plays. Manning is such a competitor that – unless his career would be endangered by him playing -, he’ll make his 228th consecutive start. He’s off the PUP list and knows this week 1, against AFC South challengers Houston, is a big game in which he – even with limited practice – gives the Colts the best chance to win. Kerry Collins is 2nd only to Peyton Manning among active players in yards in the air. McNabb is 3rd, replacing the former #1 Brett Favre as the starting Viking quarterback.
49ers: Starting Alex Smith, per Jim Harbaugh. He vastly outperformed Colin Kaepernick and Harbaugh feels confident with him and the array of weapons he has: Michael Crabtree, Braylon Edwards, Vernon Davis and Frank Gore out of the backfield. Despite only starting 16 games in a season once – Davis’ rookie season – and having four different offensive coordinators in the last four seasons, Alex Smith has thrown 20 of Vernon Davis’ 29 career TDs.
Panthers: Starting Cam Newton, per Ron Rivera. The underrated storyline is that Derek Anderson has played well enough that they may carry three the full season. Newton has completed the lowest percentage of passes of the first-round QB (42.1% completion) while Derek Anderson and Jimmy Clausen were the 30th and 31st-rated quarterbacks last year.
Redskins: Likely starting Rex Grossman. Shanahan had insinuated both late last season and this preseason that they have seen what they have in Rex and would like to see what they have in John Beck. In this last glimpse, Beck looked like he gives you a lot of what Rex does, sans the deep shots. Certainly, the decision won’t be made empirically on meaningless games behind different O-lines and against first and second-team defenses. That said, I expect an offense fronted by veteran, consummate professionals like Santana Moss, Tim Hightower, and Chris Cooley is not worried about who is under center. They will do their job as Rex gets the start and if John Beck eventually is called on. Mike Shanahan has won three straight season openers as head coach.