USA Today Images

D.A.'s Known, Unknown And Surprises For The 2019 NFL Season

Damon Amendolara Previews NFL Season

Damon Amendolara
September 04, 2019 - 2:36 pm
Categories: 

The NFL is a bit like looking into a funhouse mirror. It's a wildly distorted and comical image, but you can make out the person in the reflection. The league has characters and unknowns, bizarre outcomes and moments, but overall you know what you're getting yourself into. It's that element of familiarity (the Patriots will be good) combined with last-to-first bouncebacks (like the Texans and Bears last year) that make it irresistible to the American public. So let's look at the known, the unknown, and the potential for surprise as we head into opening weekend. 

Things we know: 

The Patriots will win the AFC East. Death, taxes, and New England cruising to double-digit wins is the surest thing in sports. Don't believe the hype that the Jets might be a dark horse in the division. The Pats once again benefit from the hottest dumpster fire in league history. No other division has been this bad for this long. Twenty years and the Bills, Jets and Dolphins still can't put a true Super Bowl contender together, let alone topple the Pats for the division. 

The Chiefs offense will be filthy. It's not just that Patrick Mahomes is a different kind of creature. It's not just that Kansas City has plenty of weapons yet still added Shady McCoy over the weekend. It's that for all of Andy Reid's postseason foibles his offense is annually a force. The Chiefs might not win 14 games and run away with the 1-seed in the AFC, but the team will put up points. That's a guarantee. 

Kirk Cousins still is not the guy. As I like to say on my show, "Those poor people in Minnesota." The Vikings have the defense to win in January. They just don't have the quarterback. Maybe some of the pressure will lighten in Year 2 for Cousins in the Twin Cities, but he'll never be great enough to beat great teams. The questions always circled him in Washington and they were hammered home last year. Vikes fans have long deserved a Super Bowl winner. Not gonna happen this year. 

Things we don't know: 

Which last-place team will flip the script. As mentioned earlier, Houston and Chicago both went worst-to-first. It happens almost every year. In eight of the previous nine season we've seen it. The best odds are the Jaguars. Jacksonville wasn't supposed to be as bad as they were last year and fixed the QB position with Nick Foles. How about Detroit? The Lions aren't as talented as the other three teams in the division, but there remains a possibility of disaster for Green Bay (coach-quarterback dysfunction), Chicago (kicking mess), and Minnesota (quarterback mediocrity). Maybe the Silver Stretch can take advantage of the carnage. 

Will the Steelers soar without internal discord? Almost every team that deals with strife from within falters because of it. But Pittsburgh made a habit of thriving within it. In fact, they might have thrived because of it. Tomlin vs. Big Ben. Big Ben vs. AB. Lev Bell vs. the front office. The O-line vs. Bell. There was always something, yet they were always contenders. If they all get along, could it actually be... worse? It won't be easy this weekend, the Steekers are 6-point underdogs as they open in Foxboro. 

Will Cam Newton be able to throw? A healthy Cam is crucial to the Panthers success obviously, and with him 100% they're contenders. But with a limited Cam because of his throwing shoulder surgery (or his banged-up foot), it's possible this season gets flushed. But there's no way to tell yet which Cam we'll get. 

Potential for surprise: 

Eli's farewell goes haywire. The organization wanted this to be a proper send-off for a Giants icon, but Daniel Jones' solid preseason changed plans. If Manning struggles and looks old, it'll be nearly impossible for the team to keep Jones shelved. If they bring in the kid, the Giants could suddenly be watching their next cornerstone blossom earlier than expected and become a tricky opponent down the stretch. 

Jameis Winston looks the part. His first four seasons have been one big tease. There's been two 4,000 yard seasons. There's been a whopping 58 interceptions and 37 fumbles. There's something about Bruce Arians that quarterbacks love, and Winston may tap into that same fountain of knowledge and have a big season. Or he may throw 5 picks in a game and get booed out of Raymond James. 

Rodgers and LaFleur works. So many people are already crushing the new Packers head coach for being too sensitive, but Rodgers loves any added motivation. He probably salivates over shoving it in Mike McCarthy's face with a big season, so the future HOFer could make sweet music in Wisconsin this year. 

The carousel continues to turn for the NFL, Storylines are whipped round and round as fans fall over dizzy from the news cycle. The league that wears unpredictability as a badge of honor has plenty of it working again this season.