Five Burning Questions for the 2013 NFL Season
By: The Football Girl | Posted: July 30, 2013
Less than a week into training camp and devastating, season-ending injuries have dominated the headlines, which is exactly not the way anyone wants to start the new seaosn, particularly those now lost until 2014. Hopefully the injury bug can hibernate and a shinier path toward the new season can be set as “real” action begins this weekend. With that spirit in mind, let’s look at some of the most fascinating questions heading into 2013, at least the ones circulating in my brain space. Please feel free to add your own.
1) Will Sean Payton’s return catapult the Saints back to the postseason?
After New Orleans went 0-4 out of the gate last season, I wondered if Payton could be a contender for the hypothetical Most Valuable Coach award, despite his Bountygate season long suspension. The Saints finished second in total offense, but was clear how much Payton was missed – for his sophistication in play calling, his proper use of Darren Sproles (whose carries were cut in half), and his overall motivating presence.
(On a somewhat related note, how unfair is it that Payton was out of football as long as Gregg Williams?)
2) Can Dallas’ defense finally get it done under Monte Kiffin?
Former defensive coordinator Rob Ryan’s philosophy was, to put it nicely, haphazard. Dallas finished 19th in total defense last season, a disappointment considered the talent level across the unit. Jerry Jones brought in one of the few NFL figures older than him, the 73-year old Monte Kiffin, to try a new strategy: the 4-3. Kiffin’s defense is much more of the fluid, system-based variety. But the key to success will likely be determined by how well DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer transition from linebackers to defensive ends.
3) Will the NFC really be that much better than the AFC?
Despite current Super Bowl odds which stack up in this order - Denver, San Francisco, New England, Green Bay, Seattle, Houston, New Orleans, Atlanta, New York (Giants), Pittsburgh, Baltimore and so on – it’s easy to envision the NFC being the dominant conference. Much of this is due to depth in the AFC and simply by default. In the NFC there are multiple teams not even mentioned above, like Chicago and Tampa Bay, that could easily find themselves playing in January. But the AFC is stacked with too many bottomfeeders – namely, Jacksonville, Buffalo and the New York Jets – that the middle of the pack surprise contender candidates start to run thin. Also, perennial AFC contenders like New England and Baltimore enter the season with severe issues, whether it be a mass exodus of players or trying to clear affiliation with a possible serial killer. You know, the usual probelms.
4) Will Marc Trestman’s new age tactics work?
I once had a boyfriend with proper parents who mixed their dinner guests to ensure that everyone was familiar with each other. By rearranging the Bears locker room so that an offensive player is next to a defensive player, Trestman sure is following that route. It worked in facy social situations, but I'm not sure how it translates to an NFL locker room. Former head coach Lovie Smith was a player’s coach through and through, and early days of the Trestman Era suggest a major shift. How players, especially the defense, respond to the new practice times, the new locker room and the new way of being addressed will be fascinating. Is it too late for “Hard Knocks” to cancel on the Bengals?
5) Will either Sam Bradford or Matt Stafford finally take the next step?
Both Stafford and Bradford are former no. 1 overall picks, Stafford in ’09 and Bradford in ‘10. Both, especially Stafford, have been given endless amounts of rope. And other than the Lions wild card loss in 2011, both have been at helm of losing season after losing season. Yes, there are the usual excuses. Injuries and poor offensive line play for Stafford. Not enough weapons for Bradford. But the fact is these two quarterbacks are on the verge of being left in the dust by Wilson, Luck, Newton, RGIII and Kaepernick. Talking about the potential of Bradford and Stafford has rung hollow. And yes, I realize Stafford has had more success than Bradford, but like Bradford he should have progressed further by now.