It took 15 weeks, an injury to Kyle Orton(notes), and the departure of the coach who drafted him, but Tim Tebow(notes) will get his first start on Sunday when the Denver Broncos take on their hated rivals, the Oakland Raiders. With Josh McDaniels out the door and the Broncos entering the "silly season" phase of 2010, it was clearly time to see what Mr. Sunshine and Rainbows can do on the field.
Two more first-time starting quarterbacks will provide additional intrigue to teams that have seen their seasons run down the drain. That's what this time of year is for bad teams - the chance to get early tryouts for the 2011 season and see who's ready for what.
Is there a diamond in the rough in this class of youngsters? Let's take a look.
Denver's Tim Tebow vs. the Oakland Raiders - A matchup against the Raiders will be very interesting for Tebow, because his running ability could be negated against a Raiders front seven that has improved through the season. Any inside runs near the goal line could also be met by tackle LaMarr Houston(notes), an under-the-radar rookie who could make a real difference for an Oakland defense that might welcome super-cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha(notes) to the field if he has good hops off his ankle injury. All signs point to a tough go for Tebow, as the Raiders are still looking to crack the .500 mark this season and cling to very faint playoff hopes.
Green Bay's Matt Flynn(notes) vs. the New England Patriots - Aaron Rodgers'(notes) concussion put Flynn in the driver's seat against a Patriots pass defense that ranks around the middle of the pack despite the emergence of rookie cornerback Devin McCourty(notes). However, the challenge for Flynn won't be the Patriots' defense; more likely he'll be pressed to make plays he's not capable of as a Patriots offense as efficient as any we've ever seen forces the Packers' offense to play catchup. Flynn was 15 of 26 for 177 yards and a pick against the Lions last week after Rodgers got his bell rung. As the Packers are still trying to find their running game, any chance of an upset against the Pats will rest entirely on the team's defense.
Minnesota's Joe Webb(notes) vs. the Chicago Bears - Webb is an interesting cat; a guy to watch as he takes over for the injured Tarvaris Jackson(notes) (ligament damage in toe) and Brett Favre(notes) (torn Wranglers, itchy tear ducts). At UAB, Webb was the first player in NCAA history to pass for more than 2,000 yards and rush for 1,000 in consecutive seasons; a receiver who was pushed into service behind center because smaller schools running particular offenses are more apt to use their better athletes in non-traditional quarterback positions. Webb was thought to be a possible Wildcat player in the NFL as a draft prospect, and with the outdoor conditions in Minnesota not favoring passing under any circumstances, one wonders what sort of options looks we might see between Webb, Adrian Peterson, and the Vikings' receiver corps.