[Are you ready for some football? East Coast Editor Ezra Troy brings you a final set of questions before kickoff. Ezra is, once again, exploring all of the right topics before the whistle sounds.]
1. Aaron Rodgers: Extension and Receivers
Aaron Rodgers has been one of the greatest quarterbacks in recent memory. He has engineered last minute drive after last minute drive and wowed NFL fans across the world. A few weeks ago he made a splash by signing an $134 million dollar extension that keeps him a packer until he is 40 year old. He also made news a few weeks before that by calling out his receivers for playing poorly. Will Rodgers be worth the money? Will he be able to play nice with his receivers?
2. Can the Giants Turn It Around?
The New York Giants were a trendy preseason pick a year ago to win the division. Instead, they were hit by both the injury and regression bug and dropped to 3-13 a season after going 11-5 and earning a wildcard berth. The Giants hope to bounce back this year following the drafting of a much needed running back in Saquon Barkley with the second overall pick and the additions of Nate Solder and Alec Ogletree through free agency and trades to fill two major needs. Can the Giants bounce back and make the playoffs for the second time in three years? Or will they flop behind a 37 year old Eli Manning and regret passing on Sam Darnold in this year’s draft?
3. The Cleveland Browns
The Browns revamped their entire roster this offseason, drafting Baker Mayfield and Denzel Ward with the first and fourth picks respectively and trading for Tyrod Taylor and Jarvis Landry. Will there new players earn the Browns a new record or will they continue their losing ways of the past two years, where they went 1-31?
4. Andrew Luck
When Andrew Luck was drafted number one overall in 2012, he was hailed as the next Peyton Manning who would continue the Colts run of dominance. For his first three years, it looked like this would be true, as Luck lead the Colts to two division titles and three playoff appearances, including a conference championship game in 2014 in the infamous deflategate game. The past three years haven’t gone as well. He hasn’t made the playoffs and was injured all of last year. Can Luck come back as the All-Pro he was for the first three years of his career? Or will he play poorly like he has the past three years?
5. Will This Year Be the Chargers’ year?
The trendiest pick for improvement every year is the Chargers. And every year the same thing happens. They get unlucky. Whether it is star receiver Keenan Allen tearing his ACL or losing their first four games due to kickers missing field goals before going on a tear and winning six of their last seven games and missing out on a playoff spot due to tiebreaker, they always seem to just miss out on the playoffs. The Chargers already have two injured starters in their secondary, but will this be the year they finally live up to expectations?
6. Jimmy GQ
Last year before the trade deadline the New England Patriots traded backup QB Jimmy Garoppolo to the 49ers for a second round pick. Jimmy G was originally benched, but after the ‘Niners continued to lose and QB C.J. Beathard continued his poor and uneven play, the ‘Niners newest and hottest acquisition was given the reins. San Fran won five straight to close the season, with Jimmy G shining at the helm. Can he continue to win and build on the 49ers’ end-of-season success from last year or will he regress and come back down to earth (and finally lose a game)?
7. Rams: New, Improved Shiny Defense
Last season the Rams surprised many and went 11-5, becoming one of the hottest teams in the league and a fan favorite in Southern California (Sorry, Chargers). Head Coach Sean McVay continued to build on his staunch defense from last year by giving All-Pro DT Aaron Donald a MONSTER extension and acquiring via trade and free agency Pro Bowlers Marcus Peters, Aqib Talib and Ndamukong Suh. Will these new acquisitions help boost the Los Angeles D to the top and help the Rams capture their first Super Bowl in 19 years, or will the explosive personalities newly brought in to the locker room cause the team to implode?
8. The End of the Legion of Boom and Shaquem Griffin
The “Legion of Boom” has been the most feared defensive unit in the NFL since 2013, leading the Seahawks to four consecutive playoff appearances and a Super Bowl XLVIII victory. But that has all fallen apart this offseason. Kam Chancellor retired due to injury, Michael Bennet was traded to Philadelphia, Richard Sherman left to the rival 49ers in free agency and Earl Thomas wants out of Seattle (even is he is still there at the moment). Can Bobby Wagner and Shaquem Griffin, the one handed rookie linebacker, lead a new generation of dominant Seattle defenders or will the Hawks go back to their losing ways of 2017?
9. NFL’s New Anthem Policy
On September 1st, 2016, Colin Kaepernick kneeled at the singing of the national anthem before the San Francisco 49ers final preseason game. Since then, over the past two seasons, the NFL and its owners have been embroiled in a battle with the players over whether kneeling is ok or not. This summer, the NFL came out with a policy about kneeling, but almost immediately took it back. What is going to happen this year with the players kneeling? Will the NFL and its owners punish the players or leave them alone?
[Editor’s Note: One can’t help but wonder why there wasn’t a tenth (10.) question? Perhaps the key question in this early NFL season surrounds the Chiefs and whether they can prevail against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The answer is simple: yes. We would love to hear your comments as the day unfolds and over the course of the week. Thank you for reading.]