Burning Questions Entering the 2013 NFL Regular Season
The 2013 NFL regular season begins in less than a week. Just like with the start of any season, there are plenty of questions rolling around in our minds.
These questions and more are the burning questions that we'll take an in-depth look at as we enter the 2013 NFL regular season.
Will Any Rookie Quarterback Make an Impact?
After the 2012 class of rookie quarterbacks set the NFL on fire, the 2013 draft class has high expectations to live up to. Unfortunately, there isn't a rookie quarterback like Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson or Andrew Luck this year.
The only rookies who are likely to see playing time this year are Geno Smith of the New York Jets and EJ Manuel and Jeff Tuel of the Buffalo Bills. Tuel is basically a wash because he'll be replaced once Manuel is healthy enough to regain the starting position.
So, that leaves Manuel and Smith to lead the 2013 quarterback class to glory. Sorry, but it isn't going to happen. The Bills will feature running back C.J. Spiller heavily, and the Jets are...well, the Jets.
Both Smith and Manuel have plenty of potential, as do other rookie quarterbacks like Ryan Nassib and Mike Glennon, but the 2013 season won't see much impact from first-year signal-callers.
What Does RG3 Have in Store for Us After His Injury?
Few could have predicted how huge of an impact quarterback Robert Griffin III had on the Washington Redskins during his rookie season. However, he led the Redskins to the playoffs and appeared poised for a deep run until an ACL and LCL injury knocked him out of the game.
Griffin is healthy and ready to start Week 1, and we can't wait to see what he has in store for us in year two. The biggest question surrounding RG3 is whether or not he'll be the explosive, dual-threat quarterback that kept us on the edge of our seats last year.
You can be sure that Griffin will be one of the most closely watched players throughout the season as everyone will be waiting to see exactly what he has in store for us.
Who Will Be Able to Stop the Read-Option?
The read-option took the NFL by storm last year. Quarterbacks like Colin Kaepernick, Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson became nearly unstoppable as they left defenses in the dust.
Now with a full offseason to study the read-option, you can be sure that defenses will be much better prepared. However, former NFL player and Bleacher Report NFL lead writer Matt Bowen doesn't believe the league will have any easier time stopping this offensive attack.
It'll be exciting to see just how successful defenses can be at stopping the Kaepernicks of this world. However, what could be even more exciting is seeing what teams who run the read-option will do if they become unsuccessful on a consistent basis.
There is no doubt that how successful the read-option will be during the 2013 season is one of the biggest questions this year.
How Explosive Will Chip Kelly's Offense Be?
There is no doubt that Chip Kelly ran one of the most explosive offenses in the country while he was the head coach at the University of Oregon.
However, this is the big leagues, and there are definitely questions about how successful Kelly and the Philadelphia Eagles will be in his first year as head coach. Some believe that Kelly will have no trouble putting points on the board, while others believe that Kelly will struggle running his up-pace offense against NFL defenses.
Few coaches have proven to be as adaptive throughout their careers as Kelly, so you can be sure that even if he doesn't succeed early, he'll figure out another way to beat defenses. Betting on Kelly and the Eagles to lead the NFL in points and offensive plays run this year is as good of a bet as you'll find.
Is Another 2,000-Yard Season Possible for Adrian Peterson?
Adrian Peterson proved two things last year when he ran for the second-most yards in NFL history.
First, he proved that he is the best running back in the game, and it isn't even close. Secondly, he proved that he simply can't be from the planet Earth.
Peterson was less than a year removed from an ACL injury when he rushed for over 2,000 yards during the 2012 season. Now the only question is what type of encore performance can we expect from the league's best running back in 2013?
If Peterson succeeds at rushing for another 2,000 yards, he'll have to be considered one of the greatest running backs to ever play the game.
Can Larry Fitzgerald Regain His Dominance?
There was a time when Larry Fitzgerald was considered the most elite wide receiver in the NFL. However, he's lost that label in recent years due to the fact that he hasn't had a talented quarterback throwing him the football.
Well, that should all change in the 2013 season due to the Arizona Cardinals' acquisition of quarterback Carson Palmer in the offseason. With Palmer and new head coach Bruce Arians, Fitzgerald has a chance to have one of the most productive seasons of his career.
Look for Fitzgerald to get back to instilling fear into opposing defenses with his dominating play early in the season.
Will the Packers Offensive Line Keep Aaron Rodgers Alive?
Last year, quarterback Aaron Rodgers was sacked a league-leading 51 sacks. With the loss of Bryan Bulaga and the fact that the Green Bay Packers will likely be starting rookie David Bakhtiari at left tackle, it's possible that we could see many more sacks than 51 this year.
There is no doubt that the Packers boast the best quarterback in the league and one of the most explosive offenses. However, if Rodgers is always finding himself on his back, Green Bay could have some difficulty getting things going on a consistent basis.
Of course, if Bakhtiari and the rest of the offensive line can become a solid unit, the Packers have a legitimate chance of representing the NFC in the Super Bowl.
What Will the Defense Look Like in Baltimore?
It's not every day that a team loses two future Hall of Fame players and a handful of other starters and still has the potential of being just as good. In fact, the Baltimore Ravens might field an even better defense this year than they did last year.
Both Ray Lewis and Ed Reed saw their play decline last year, so the only thing that will be missed about them is their leadership. The Ravens also reloaded by adding players like linebacker Elvis Dumervil and safety Matt Elam.
It may take some time for this new unit to put everything together, but once it does it should continue being the dominant defense that we've come to expect in Baltimore.
Did the Saints Do Enough on Defense?
The New Orleans Saints had the worst defense in the NFL last season. They were graded as the worst defense in pass coverage and the second-worst defense in pass rush, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
However, the Saints also made just as many improvements this offseason as any defense in the league. For starters, they brought in defensive coordinator Rob Ryan and installed a 3-4 defense. On top of that, they spent their first-round draft pick on a versatile safety and playmaker in Kenny Vaccaro.
The big question is whether or not all these changes are enough to keep the Saints defense out of the statistical cellar this season. There is no doubting the offensive talent on this team, but in order for the Saints to be successful, they need their defense to hold up.
If the Saints have improved enough on that side of the ball, then they should be one of the toughest teams to beat this season.
Is It Possible for J.J. Watt to Be Better in 2013?
The season that J.J. Watt put together in 2012 was simply ridiculous. Not only did he bring home the Defensive Player of the Year Award, but he dominated opposing offenses like few players before him.
Watt thrived in every aspect of the game last season, finishing with a 101.6 grade from Pro Football Focus (subscription required). Just to put that grade in perspective; the next-closest 3-4 defensive end had a grade of only 49.1 (Muhammad Wilkerson).
It'll certainly be difficult for Watt to continue to play at such a high level, but considering the fact he's only entering his third year in the league, it's definitely a possibility. Just how well Watt plays for the Houston Texans will be one of the most burning questions this season.
Can Tyrann Mathieu Win Defensive Rookie of the Year?
Few rookies have been as pleasant of a surprise as Arizona Cardinals cornerback/safety Tyrann Mathieu.
We all knew about the off-field issues, but Mathieu has done a fantastic job at letting his on-field play do the talking. Mathieu has been making plays all over the field, lining up in numerous positions for the Cardinals and looking fantastic doing so.
What makes Mathieu such a potentially dominating player is his versatility and his ability to make plays. Those aspects combined with the fact that Mathieu could see some time in the return game gives him quite the opportunity to end the year as the Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Is Ed Reed Finished?
When the Houston Texans signed safety Ed Reed in the offseason, there were definitely some mixed reviews. Some viewed the transaction as a move that would improve the Texans on defense, while others felt like Reed was nearing the end of his career, and it was a poor overall signing.
As of right now, it seems like the latter appears to be more true. Reed has yet to see the field for the Texans while recovering from hip surgery. While Reed has finally come off the PUP list, according to Tania Ganguli of ESPN, it's still unknown whether he'll be able to play in Week 1.
The Texans have to be wondering just how much Reed has left in the tank, just like the rest of us. If Reed misses significant time this season or struggles like he did last year, it could be the last time we see the future Hall of Famer on the field.