This week we welcome back the world’s greatest event in the modern era – hating Tom Brady. I am so excited we finally can welcome NFL football back into our homes and honestly, we deserve this. We waited patiently and trusted the system that is a construct of time that the NFL would be back and damnit, it’s back in full force. Patrick Mahomes stupid voice is back. DeAndre Hopkins hilarious one liners are back. Bruce Arians amazing Kangol based outfits are back. Russell Wilson being Tim Tebow but actually good at Football is back. Everything is back guys. And we made it. Here are ten storylines I am just so excited to see this season.
10. Super Bowl Hangover?
In what is probably the most deflating headline in NFL history, Tom Brady has arguably his best shot at a Super Bowl ever this year despite the fact that it would be his 11th SB appearance. The Tamp Bay Bucs surprised everyone last year turning it on late in the season to take down the Kansas City Chiefs for Brady’s 7th, a feat that was only matched by the fact that their players started to take pay cuts in order to keep the whole team together. The other side of this entire discussion is that for the first time in their existence, the Bucs are the favorite to win their division with the retiring of Drew Brees and the Atlanta Falcons being…well, the Falcons. It almost seems inevitable at this point, right? Their air attack is top tier with two of the best receivers in the league, they have a tremendous defense and last years rookies were almost all massive hits. I’m not betting on the Bucs to win the Super Bowl this year with the addition of a functional line in KC, but the Bucs will most likely enter the season as the NFC favorites.
9. Stars Return from Injury
If you play Fantasy Football, you were pretty screwed last year if you took three of the top five backs in the league let alone a top tier QB. Christian McCaffrey, the number one fantasy option for myself and the Carolina Panthers was out for the season after only playing 3 games with a combination of injuries. Saquon Barkley, a top five pick in almost every league for fantasy went down in week two with a season-ending ACL tear. Joe Burrows, the former number one overall pick and Dak Prescott, a top 5 QB in almost any format both were knocked out for the season with leg injuries. I think the most important note in all of this is how these athletes come back this season, and if the reports are correct we should be in for a treat.
8. 17 Game Season
I’m all for as much football as humanly possible, but even I’m a bit skeptical about adding another game to the NFL season. For one, this takes away a week of pre-season football. I understand that I may be the only person upset about this but the final week of the preseason used to be the fight for your spot game, a timeless tradition where players scrap their entire existence for a spot on the 53 man roster. There’s also the aspects of fantasy football playoffs and player injuries, two topics that probably shouldn’t go hand in handout they absolutely do. I don’t foresee the 17 game season being anything spectacular past more football, but we can lay to rest the Jeff Fisher 8-8 record.
7. VAX vrs. UNVAXXED
This is in no way to discuss the vaccination with you, but to bring to light that this will have some pretty intense ramifications on this season. If a vaccinated player tests positive for COVID-19, that player must isolate immediately but is eligible to rejoin the team if he remains symptom free AND has two negative tests 24 hours apart. If an unvaccinated player tests positive for COVID-19, the player must isolate for 10 days minimum, even if asymptomatic. You can see the massive difference in timelines for the two different scenarios. It’s interesting to me that the NFLPA hasn’t come out with a formal statement (at least to my knowledge) about this seeing as it is a players right issue, but the league has made it quite clear that if you are vaccinated, you can play more quickly than unvaxed. We saw this with the Titans and Ravens last year with a significant amount of games rescheduled, so it will absolutely impact this season as well.
6. New Coaches, New Teams
I’m a massive fan of biting knee caps so there was a zero percent chance I was leaving my man Dan Campbell off of this list. I love the addition of NFL coaches in the preseason. There’s a feeling of hope and a slimmer of “this will be different” that franchises like the Jaguars and Lions deserve each and every year. Urban Meyer may be the most intriguing coach in the league this year, especially considering the Tim Tebow era has come and gone before the season even started. Brandon Staley walks into arguable the best situation in the NFL as the Chargers new head coach, a position that I’m fairly certain even I could get to a winning record. A star QB, a star WR, an elite defense and a wonderful color scheme leaves Staley not really needing anything else in life. I also think that Robert Sales is set up for a few years of breathing room making him a must watch in that division. The coach with the most to overcome though? David Culley, the poor sap who walked into the NFL’s biggest shit show in Houston.
5. Big Names Still FA’s
I want to start this paragraph off with a simple, yet important asterisk. What we consider big name FA’s and what the NFL considers big name FA’s are very, very different. That being said, there are some names out there I can’t believe aren’t signed to a team currently just based off of the situations alone. The Baltimore Ravens brought in Devonta Freeman and Le’Veon Bell for workouts yesterday, meaning that this article has the chance to change come publishing time.(Bell is signed to the Ravens practice squad, but there’s no way I’m changing this now. Stick to your guns) I think Bell still has gas in the tank despite his terrible performances since leaving Pittsburgh, especially on a team like the Ravens. There are some pretty suspicious RB rooms heading into the season, especially with injuries to names like Travis Etienne, J.K. Dobbins and Cam Akers. Although he may not be the young receive he once was, Golden Tate still would help a receiving room as desperate as the Texans (or at least I would assume). I can’t say I’m surprised Cam Newton was cut, but the timing sure was weird. I think the QB could find a spot on a roster into the season depending on injuries, so keep an eye on him being picked up by a SB contender. Richard Sherman is another name currently in free agency that has some people scratching their heads. As a Yinzer, I would love Sherman to take a pay cut for the black and gold, but he will most likely wait til mid season. With Josh Norman signing with the 49ers, it’s looking bleak for the former LOB member to find a payday landing spot.
4. The End is Nead for NFL Greats
I understand that we may never actually see Tom Brady retire, but I think his age makes us take a number of NFL athletes for granted. First off, we may have actually seen the last snap of Larry Fitzgerald’s HOF career last season with the GOAT candidate heading into the season as a free agent. Larry Fitzgerald is arguably the best wide receiver I have ever seen play right next to Megatron and as a Pittsburgh native, it’s been just an absolute pleasure. This offseason was a wild one with a majority of football fans believing that Aaron Rodgers may actually retire instead of returning to the Packers. Rodgers is back however, but the door for his future is wide open as the QB has stated this is absolutely his last year in Green Bay. Despite being an absolutely stud, Ryan Fitzpatrick is 38 now and could retire whenever the magic wears off. Has there been a better journeyman in the league’s career? Speaking of guys who have been on multiple teams, what about Frank Gore? The man is hanging on out there and has one of the most impactful NFL careers we’ve seen with HOF numbers due to his longevity in the league. Pair all this with my crippling depression about the Steelers not having a true exit strategy for Big Ben retiring and watch Deke panic in real time. As great as the young talent the league has is, these names made the game for me and it will be tough to let them walk.
3. Rodgers & Adams
Speaking of the Jeopardy host, this season is going to be EPIC for anyone who likes the Green Bay Packers. Rodgers deserves to have an input in his teams roster and Adams deserves to be paid as the best receiver in the league, there I said it. It actually blows my mind the resilience this team has had to keep Rodgers out of the decision room. Hear me out – the team doesn’t legally owe Rodgers that leverage and that’s clear, but the fact that they didn’t even give him a heads up about the Love draft pick still blows my mind. This man isn’t just a Packer legend already, but arguably the most talented arm in NFL history. Pair that with the fact that the Packers have had literally zero receivers outside of Adams since Jordy Nelson, it really makes me scratch my head how idiotic this organization is. If they win a Super Bowl this year, prepare yourself for the storm that is Aaron Rodgers to take over, and I’m here for it.
2. Rookie Quarterbacks
I love first year quarterbacks for a number of reasons, the biggest being that it breathes new life into a number of NFL franchises. Mac Jones walks into the starting gig in New England, giving Boston sports fans the first true reason to cheer since Tom Brady left two years ago. A rumor has been swirling around that Mac Jones was actually helping Cam Newton learn the playbook (From Rob Ninkovich on TikTok to be fair), but I can say with certainty that Mac Jones is going to be a decisive part of this offense. Justin Fields looks to be a world beater in Chicago sitting just behind Andy Dalton for the starting role. I think Fields sits for a majority of the season, but the future is bright finally. Trey Lance has had some flashes of brilliance but I think he has the lowest barrier of entry for this group of QB’s just because of his young age. I think the kid can be a winner in the 49ers offense easily, but may sit the longest out of the batch. Zach Wilson looks electric and the worst thing that happens is we walk away with Sam Darnold 2.0, and we can all agree that the long flow of T-Law is going to be successful…it just depends if it’s MVP success or David Carr success.
1.We Can Smile Again
Smile, right now because football is finally back. We’re a day away from an ACTUAL NFL game with ACTUAL ramifications! We did it together, and we now have something to discuss about at work until February, a sentence I have waited way too long to right. You can set your fantasy lineup, watch your team scramble in the two minute drill and thank your lucky stars that Tom Brady got sacked.