The NFL’s Most Intriguing Storylines
The regular season is finally here. Each new season brings new characters, new narratives, and new craziness we could never have predicted. But for now, before the unpredictable rears its delightful head, here are the storylines we find most intriguing as we ready for kickoff.
The Fab Five
Simply put, this year’s rookie quarterback class is one of the most talented we’ve seen since RG3 and Andrew Luck took the league by storm, but even deeper. Trevor Lawrence has already shown flashes of being that unicorn that lives up to the “generational talent” label though he’ll have to muddle through some losing in Jacksonville first. Zach Wilson has impressed teammates. The Jets star is hoping to upset the Week 1 odds, as +6 point spread underdogs against The Panthers. Mac Jones, who could be his own category, looked like Mr. Accurate in the preseason. And Trey Lance and Justin Fields are dynamic playmakers waiting in the wings, probably not for long in Fields’ case. Collectively, this class has the makings of something very special to watch.
Can Tampa Bay repeat?
Tom Brady ages backwards and the Bucs did a masterful job retaining its key talent from last year’s Super Bowl. But repeating is nearly impossible. Of course the last team to do it was Brady’s Pats in 2004-2005. It also took Brady about half of last season to get acclimated to Byron Leftwich’s offense. Now with a mastery of the playbook, a few of his own touches to be sure, and a normal offseason to further coalesce, the Bucs may actually just be getting started.
Aaron Rodgers’ swan song in Green Bay?
We are coming off one of the most explosive offseasons in recent memory thanks to Rodgers’ very public dissatisfaction with Packers’ brass. Rodgers was open and honest about not being consulted when it came to Mike McCarthy’s replacement and other major organizational decisions. He also felt disrespected when the Packers drafted Jordan Love in the 2020 draft. There was a lot of speculation that Rodgers might retire or just sit out the year but eventually the two sides came together. Rodgers was gifted a restructured deal that allows him to leave Green Bay after this season, and the team gave him other concessions including signing security blanket Randall Cobb. But the drama continues to simmer in Green Bay and Rodgers usually plays lights out when there is drama.
NFC Wild West
This division is going to be so much fun. A strong case wrapped in positivity for any of these teams winning the division can be made, which is why it’s the NFL’s best division. Second place is not particularly close. The 49ers are healthy and have so much depth. The Rams got a major boost at quarterback. Reigning champ Seattle has an a top flight receiving corps and Russell Wilson, and the Cards are dynamic on both sides of the ball. The NFC West also has the gift of playing both the AFC South and NFC North. Don’t be surprised to see two wildcard teams emerge from this division.
Covid is still rearing its dangerous head and the NFL has stepped up to create a tiered system between the vaccinated and unvaccinated. Unlike last season when they rescheduled 18 games due to Covid outbreaks, Roger Goodell has said the league will not reschedule and teams will have to forfeit. Many clubs are close to full vaccination (the Bucs are at 100%) but too many have key players unwilling to be vaxxed. And even the vaccinated are susceptible to breakthrough infections. We’ve already seen an outbreak among the Titans this preseason, and the Cowboys will likely be without Pro Bowl guard Zack Martin in the season opener. Covid will have an impact this season, and as Tom Brady is predicting, it may be much more severe than last season.
Drama in Minnesota
Continuing with the lovely subject of Covid, Vikes head coach Mike Zimmer has absolutely had it with known anti-vaxxer Kirk Cousins and his “oh, I’ll just chill behind plexiglass and be fine” nonsense. Cousins has alienated his head coach and a large chunk of his teammates, most of whom are vaxxed. Cousins will play this season, and quite possibly very well, but is almost certainly a goner in the offseason.
The 17th game has arrived
When the 17th game rolls around for the first, it could seem like business as usual. Or it could riddled with a litany of injuries. Or it could be mostly meaningless because most divisions will have been clinched. Or it could be filled with final week drama that will feel even more intense because an extra game equates to a deeper narrative to get there. The uncertainty is circling with intrigue.