There’s a slight breeze in the air, and leaves are starting to fall. Starbucks is serving Pumpkin Spice Lattes while children are scurrying into classrooms for their first day of school. What am I describing? The fall season, sure, but when I see these things I start to think about the return of NFL football. The most popular sport in America made its inaugural debut on September 9th when the defending champions, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, took on the Dallas Cowboys. The opening game was as exciting as ever. Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski turned back the clock (once again), as Brady threw for 379 yards and 4 touchdowns with Gronkowski catching two of them en route to a 31-29 victory. The Cowboys did fine themselves, especially Dak Prescott, who threw for 403 yards and three scores.
However, this season, you may want to look out for how the rookie quarterbacks perform. One of the best collegiate players in history, Trevor Lawrence, finally made his NFL debut on Sep. 12th in a 37-21 loss against the Houston Texans. Although it was a disappointing performance, there’s no doubt that Lawrence will bounce back. Zach Wilson of the New York Jets, Mac Jones of the New England Patriots, and Justin Fields of the Chicago Bears fill out the rest of the notable quarterbacks in the class. All except Fields are the clear-cut number one options on their teams, leaving fans wondering what could be next for these rising stars. As of writing this, Trey Lance, the third overall pick, has yet to start a game for the San Francisco 49ers, but I predict that day will come sooner rather than later.
This year’s contenders seem largely the same from last year. The AFC boasts the perennially contending Kansas City Chiefs, the dynamic Buffalo Bills, and the old-school Baltimore Ravens as the cream of the crop. The Tennessee Titans and Cleveland Browns are honorable mentions. The NFC is a little bit deeper, aside from the obvious Buccaneers. The Seattle Seahawks, Green Bay Packers, and Los Angeles Rams are definitely the most notable.
I must say, though, the most intriguing of the contenders in the NFL is the Titans. An offensive juggernaut, the Titans still have Derrick Henry, a wrecking ball when he’s bulldozing down the field, unparalleled in recent memory. In addition, they have rising star receiver A.J. Brown and generational talent Julio Jones in their titan blue and silver. Although he’s not the same player he used to be, Jones is still one of the best in the business at wrecking opposing secondaries. Losing Jonnu Smith to the Patriots hurts, but they will still be an interesting team to tune into.
Titans fans may feel like the aforementioned Henry is a Titan for life and rightfully so, but Packers fans likely felt the same way about Aaron Rodgers until this past offseason. Rodgers seemingly wanted to force his way out of Green Bay this summer and was nearly successful in doing so. He recently spoke with the press for the first time about the issue: “If you can’t commit to me past 2021, and I’m not a part of recruiting process in free agency, if I’m not a part of the future, instead of letting me be a lame-duck quarterback, if you want to make a chance and move forward, then go ahead and do it,” he said. Eventually, both sides agreed to rework his contract, giving them more options if he were to leave whilst completely voiding his contract for the 2023 season. Green Bay will also have to deal with retaining superstar receiver Davante Adams this offseason. Perhaps it’s more soothing for them to focus on their actual play for now…
As the season progresses, more storylines will pop up. As of writing this, each team has played two games, so time will tell how everything unfolds. Regardless of how one’s team performs, it’s undeniable that this year will be just as exciting as any to be an NFL fan.