The NFL Season Finally Kicks Off

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Noah Mauriello, Contributing Writer

As the NFL season begins, there are many storylines to watch, but what the fans are most eager to see is how new quarterbacks perform.  With almost half the league changing the most important position, the way many teams perform will shift.  While there are nine quarterbacks that switched teams this offseason, rookies like Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields, and others are the most exciting.

“Justin Fields’ athleticism and explosiveness will help him have the best career out of the rookies,” said junior Sean Agin.

The 2021 NFL Draft saw five quarterbacks selected in round one, and it is likely that all five will be starting by the second half of the season.  For the other quarterbacks starting anew, the story is quite similar.  Apart from Matthew Stafford, who has cemented himself as a top twelve quarterback, those who switched teams have lacked consistent production. 

 Although the quarterback shake ups will have a huge impact on the league, the best player switching teams this offseason was Julio Jones.  Injuries have plagued him in recent years, but he is arguably the best wide receiver of the last decade.  Adding another weapon to go along with Derrick Henry and A.J. Brown will frighten opposing defenses.  

The team that made the most changes to its roster were the Patriots.  They signed several offensive weapons, added a versatile defensive back in Jalen Mills, and found their potential franchise quarterback in Mac Jones.  None of these players are by any means all-pro caliber, but Bill Belichick has a knack for unleashing the best versions of his players. 

The Patriots are promising for the future but are still far from ready to compete for a Super Bowl.  The favorites this year are the same two teams that made it last year.  The Chiefs still have the best offensive player in football, and the Buccaneers maintained all 22 starters from last season.  Those two may be easy to predict as champions, but two teams from last year that failed to make it past the divisional round have the potential to take them down.  

In the AFC, the Cleveland Browns are seeking revenge for their early playoff exit handed to them by Chad Henne and the Chiefs.  They have yet to reach the Super Bowl in the team’s 75-year history, but this year is their best chance yet.  Baker Mayfield is emerging as the star he was expected to be under coach Kevin Stefanski, and a defense with the third-most forced fumbles last year added a sneakily good safety in John Johnson III.  

In the NFC, Matthew Stafford and the Rams are a popular pick to take home the Lombardi.  Having the two best defenders in Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey, along with a quarterback upgrade from Goff to Stafford, the team can go toe to toe with anyone.  They almost won the Super Bowl with Goff just three years ago, and Stafford could be the piece that pushes them to the top.

“The Rams have no weaknesses, so their new QB will lead them to a Super Bowl win,” said junior Owen Schindler.

On the other side of the spectrum are teams who will struggle this year.  The easiest to point out are the Houston Texans.  Last year, they went 4-12 with Deshaun Watson on the roster, and now they have a first year head coach and quarterback options of Tyrod Taylor and Davis Mills.  The Jets seem to be the bottom feeders of the league once again.  Their offensive line is atrocious, they have a bottom-tier secondary, and their rookie quarterback struggled against difficult competition at BYU. 

Although the season has only just kicked off, there have been many memorable moments so far.  The LSU connection of Joe Burrow and Jamar Chase saw its first NFL touchdown together, Chandler Jones had five sacks (three in the first quarter), and Jameis Winston outperformed the reigning MVP, Aaron Rodgers. 

For the rest of the season, there are three storylines that may continue to develop.  

First, are the Rams safe in the NFC West?  They are clearly talented enough to win the Super Bowl, but if the Seahawks, Cardinals, or 49ers get hot, the Rams could be entering the playoffs as a Wild Card. 

Second, who will come out on top in the NFC East?  This division has been terrible for a few years, and it is possible none of these teams will deserve a playoff spot come January.  The Washington Football Team won the division last year with a losing record, and a similar situation could unfold this year.  

Finally, while the Chiefs are favored to win the AFC, but will their lack of skill position depth hurt them later in the year?  They have a three headed monster in Mahomes, Kelce, and Hill, but it plummets immediately after.  Their first round pick in 2020, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, has yet to live up to his first round expectations.  The receiving core is filled with Tyreek Hill clones, and players like Mecole Hardman simply cannot get the job done.

“The Chiefs are going to need some more help to stay on top,” said junior Gabe Pietrucki. “There is a lot of football ahead, and it will be amazing to see how it all unfolds.”