Look to San Francisco

Sam Farmer

Los Angeles Times

The player with the most to prove is 49ers quarterback Alex Smith, who has a chance to redefine himself with another outstanding season. Smith, the No. 1 overall pick in 2005, finally broke through in 2011 with an impressive touchdown-to-interception ratio of 17-5. If he comes through again, he can hammer home the message that he's more than a one-year wonder.

The 49ers have given him more targets, among them receivers Randy Moss, Mario Manningham, and first-round pick A.J. Jenkins. What's more, the team that fell one game shy of the Super Bowl last season with a dominant defense and pounding running game now wants to show it can consistently move the ball through the air. Smith is the key to that.


Sanchez under the gun

Dan Pompei

Chicago Tribune

The player with the most to prove is Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez. That's because he will be scrutinized more closely than any other player.

The presence of Tim Tebow changes everything for Sanchez. In the past, if Sanchez had some ups and downs, he could survive them. Now, if he isn't consistently excellent, it will start an incredible firestorm.

Tebow aside, Sanchez needs to step up this year. In his third season, he led the Jets to an 8-8 record last year and his passer rating of 78.2 ranked 23rd in the NFL. That won't be close to good enough for him to keep starting this year. Given Sanchez plays in New York and for a coach in Rex Ryan who loves controversy, he will be under as much pressure as any player in the league.


Chad's asking for it

Mike Berardino