Finally, we have some football. After a fantastic first week of college football, the professionals are gearing up to start their seasons. The New England Patriots, Green Bay Packers, Carolina Panthers, and Arizona Cardinals eye a Super Bowl title, while teams like the Baltimore Ravens, Denver Broncos, and Indianapolis Colts desperately try to stay relevant. There is a plethora of storylines before Week 1, so lets get right into it.
Can Baltimore Have A Bounce-Back Year?
There is no question about it: last year injuries plagued the Baltimore Ravens. Joe Flacco, Justin Forsett, Terrell Suggs and Steve Smith, Sr. all missed serious time last season, which led them to a 5-11 record, the worst in the John Harbaugh era. Furthermore, the injuries have not stopped, as tight end Ben Watson tore his ACL this preseason and will be lost for the 2016 campaign. However, the Ravens were able to acquire veteran safety Eric Weddle, who should presumably help them on defense. Nonetheless, with the Steelers and Bengals stacked on both sides of the football, expect the Ravens to struggle to break .500.
Will Andy Dalton Finally Lead The Bengals To A Super Bowl?
Last season, the Bengals were able to tie the franchise's best record at 12-4. However, in typical Bengals fashion, they went one-and-done after Andy Dalton got hurt with a hand injury. While the offensive line will be the same, there will be significant changes in the receiving corps, with Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu departing in free agency. Cincinnati was able to draft Tyler Boyd and free-agent signee Brandon LaFell, but I think there is a significant drop off. With so much turnover, I expect the Bengals to take a step back this season. They will make the playoffs and win ~10 games, but I do not see them possessing the receivers or key pieces on defense to threaten for the AFC title.
Will RG3 Be Able To Revitalize His Career With The Lowly Browns?
After a 3-13 season in 2015, the Browns decided to hire a new head coach in Hue Jackson, as well as sign Robert Griffin III to a two-year deal. RG3 will get the opportunity to revitalize his career in Cleveland after flaming out in Washington, and he will have some offensive weapons to throw to. Newly reinstated WR Josh Gordon will suit up at some point this season and QB-turned-WR Terrelle Pryor has created some chatter with his exceptional play. With all of these optimistic views, it is time to come back to reality; the Browns are the worst team in the NFL. They have a couple decent players, but they will struggle to win a couple games this season. If you are a Browns fan (God bless your soul), then one game to keep an eye on is October 9 against the New England Patriots. This will be Tom Brady's first game back from his four-game suspension, so expect him to make the Browns question if they still want to be a NFL franchise by the third quarter.
Can The Steelers Threaten The Patriots For The Top Spot In The AFC?
In my opinion, this is the biggest threat to the New England Patriots in the AFC. Ben Roethlisberger will lead one of the best offenses in the NFL for his 13th NFL season, but he will be without running back Le’Veon Bell for the first three games and wide receiver Martavis Bryant for the entire 2016 season because THEY CAN'T STAY OFF THE WEED. Furthermore, the Steelers, who featured the 21st ranked defense in the NFL last season, haven't gotten all that better on that side of the football. The Steelers selected cornerback Artie Burns in the first round of the NFL draft last season, but it remains to be seen how a rookie will fair being thrusted into that type of position. Ultimately, I think the Steelers will win 10-12 games, but will not be able to beat a time like the Patriots in the playoffs.