The NFL season is here, and after an offseason full of guessing, expectations, and guessing, it’s go time. To close out the offseason, we wanted to put together what we view as the “script” for this upcoming season, showcasing some of the biggest storylines we anticipate coming to fruition this season.

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  • The Embarrassment: Arizona Cardinals

Does anyone have any faith in the Arizona Cardinals? Please do yourself a favor and search for new head coach Jonathan Gannon and his motivational speech in the locker room. You’ll be running to the sportsbook to place an under wager on the Cardinals’ win total. There is no natural talent on this Cardinals team. Kyler Murray is hurt, and there is no estimated time for his return, and the team cut the presumed Week 1 starter, Colt McCoy. Joshua Dobbs is now expected to be the Week 1 starter, and there is no reason he should be an NFL starting quarterback. On the defensive side of the ball, besides Budda Baker, talent is few and far between. It will be a long season in the desert, and don’t be surprised if they flirt with 0-17.

  • They’re Actually Good: Atlanta Falcons

The NFC South was abysmal in 2022, but now there are some things to be excited about in the division. Bryce Young was drafted first overall in Carolina, and the Saints landed Derek Carr, but the Atlanta Falcons, who’ve been building up for years, will stand out. Desmond Ridder is the new man under center in Atlanta, and reports from the Falcons’ camp have been sky-high for the second-year quarterback. Around him, a solid offensive line will make life easier. Still, a skill position trio of Drake London, Kyle Pitts, and Offensive Rookie of the Year frontrunner Bijan Robinson create a potentially dangerous offense. Defensively, they added multiple starters this offseason to solidify the unit, and it’s worth noting they have one of the easiest schedules in football. I’d be shocked if the Falcons weren’t an 11-win team. Watch out.

  • Time to Blow it Up: Minnesota Vikings

Most of the NFC North is in a promising transition period. The Bears have a roster to get excited about led by Justin Fields, Jordan Love is ushering in a new era in Green Bay, and the Lions have become the darling of the NFC. That leaves the Minnesota Vikings to see their season blow up in their face. Here is the thing: Kirk Cousins is a fine quarterback, but it’s like trying to fit a square block into a round hole. It’s time to cut bait. Last season, the Vikings went a staggering 11-0 in one-score games, a feat nearly impossible to replicate. They play a first-place schedule in an improved division with an abysmal defense. Things will spiral out of control in Minnesota as the season progresses, potentially leaving Justin Jefferson searching for a new home if a very hefty contract extension isn’t worked out.

  • We’re Still Here: New England Patriots

The AFC South has been the talk of the NFL offseason. New York landed Aaron Rodgers, Buffalo is still fighting to get over the hump, and Miami made numerous upgrades throughout their roster. That leaves the New England Patriots, the class of the AFC East for roughly 20 seasons, as the forgotten team in the division, but don’t be too quick to count them out. The anchor of their team has to be the defense, which fits the mold of a top-five unit in football. Offensively, Mac Jones is coming off a discouraging season. Still, he has an offensive-minded offensive coordinator who will do wonders for his development in Bill O’Brien, alongside a dynamic ground attack. The Patriots may not be exciting, but they’ll play tough all season and be a thorn in the side of contenders as they fight their way into the wild card.

  • Biggest Bounce Back: Denver Broncos

A breath of fresh air has entered the Denver Broncos organization. Sean Payton was brought in to fix the utter disaster in the Mile High City. Luckily, things can’t get worse, but watch out; this team could find themselves in the postseason. Given the circumstances around Russell Wilson’s arrival in Denver, he might have had the most pathetic opening season I’ve ever seen from an individual player. Payton proved able to win with aging quarterbacks like Drew Brees, so I expect him to put Russ in the best position to succeed. If Russ improves, as reports out of Broncos training camp let on, this is a talented team that could surprise many people by playing into January. 

  • Pump the Breaks: San Francisco 49ers

The San Francisco 49ers are talented, but let’s take it easy. Their calling card is their defense, but they lost DeMeco Ryans to the Houston Texans’ head coaching job, and it’s being glossed over entirely. I understand that talent ultimately wins out in the NFL. Still, if the Ryans’s absence causes the Niners’ defense to fall from a top-three defense to a borderline top-ten unit, that’s enough of a drop-off to cost them multiple games potentially. Looking at the offense, we need to stop anointing Brock Purdy as the next great quarterback. Let’s see it over a 17-game span when defensive coordinators have an entire offseason to prepare to face him. San Francisco likely will still end up in the postseason, but they can’t be a lock to have a home playoff game.

  • Biggest Playoff Sleeper: Los Angeles Chargers

The Los Angeles Chargers are stuck in the AFC West, which may limit their exposure, but this team is for real. It starts with their offense, and they’ve surrounded Justin Herbert with arguably the best group of skill positions in the game with Austin Ekeler, Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Quentin Johnston, and Joshua Palmer. New offensive coordinator Kellen Moore is expected to maximize Herbert and this offensive talent, and it is in the realm of possibility that this could be the No. 1 offense in football. It’s a team that nobody in the AFC would want to play come January. I worry about the Kansas City Chiefs receiving depth with questions surrounding Travis Kelce’s health, which could cost the Chiefs a game or two. The Chargers will be waiting in the wings to swipe the division and make a deep postseason run.

  • The Champion: Philadelphia Eagles

What don’t the Philadelphia Eagles have? Jalen Hurts is a top-three quarterback, the offensive line is the best in the game, the backfield is dynamic with D’Andre Swift, AJ Brown and DeVonta Smith are arguably the best wide receiver duo in football, and Dallas Goedert is a top-five tight end. Defensively, the secondary boasts two All-Pro caliber cornerbacks who helped the Eagles allow the fewest passing yards per game last season. There are questions at linebacker, but the defensive line is forceful, deep, and fresh off setting the all-time sack record with 70. It may be cliche, but this team is hungry and driven to return to the Super Bowl. In a weak NFC, essentially, this is their Super Bowl to lose.

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Thumbnail photo via Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

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