It doesn't have to be amazing, star-studded, or even competitive. It might even fail on all three fronts. It won't matter: it's football, and it's back for another season.
Also a matter of tradition is the usual practice of starters not lasting past the first quarter in this game, and viewers should expect nothing different tonight; Cowboys stars Tony Romo, Jason Witten, Marion Barber, and Miles Austin will only guide the offense for a series or two, and Carson Palmer probably won't throw more than a couple passes toward Chad Ochocinco or his new partner in mischief, Terrell Owens. The Bengals have a laundry list of regular players that won't even suit up at all. By the fourth quarter, only a scant few of the players on the field will even make the Cowboys' and Bengals' final rosters.
But all the same, so what, because nobody's under the impression that there's any consequence to this game; it's the ceremonial return of televised football, and we're going to have over another month of exhibitions like this before the real games begin. And that's fine. It's been a long offseason, and we're all thirsty for just about anything NFL-related. Well, aside from Brett Favre. He's not invited tonight.