16 NFL things to look for in 2016
1. PEYTON’S PLACE NO MORE. With the retirement of Peyton Manning, who walked off into his NFL sunset with a Super Bowl ring, it’s now up to Trevor Siemian to try and defend the title. Denver couldn’t re-sign Brock Osweiler, so now it’s a seventh-rounder from 2015 who runs the show. Good luck with that.
2. BYE BYE BRADY. Tom Brady takes a seat for a month to serve his four-game Deflategate suspension, putting the Patriots’ offense in the untested hands of Jimmy Garoppolo, who hasn’t started an NFL game.
3. ONE-AND-DONE FOR FITZ? Ryan Fitzpatrick is betting on himself by taking a one-year deal, so it’s boom-or-bust for the 33-year-old Jets passer. Then again, given how green Christian Hackenberg looked in the preseason, maybe Fitz sticks around a couple more years.
4. CAN YOU BUY A DEFENSE? The Giants are about to find out, because GM Jerry Reese spent a cool $200 million in the first hours of free agency signing Olivier Vernon, Damon Harrison and Janoris Jenkins, and re-signing Jason Pierre-Paul.
5. ONE MORE SUPER BOWL FOR ELI? The Giants’ quarterback is coming off two strong seasons with Ben McAdoo as his offensive coordinator, and the continuity with McAdoo as head coach bodes well for the two-time champion. Still, it’s a long way from here to Houston.
6. JETS NO. 1? Todd Bowles has himself a terrific defense, especially after the Jets re-signed Mo Wilkerson. On paper, this looks every bit as good as any team.
7. BRADFORD TO THE RESCUE. The Vikings’ season appeared to go up in smoke when Teddy Bridgewater went down with a devastating knee injury, but GM Rick Spielman gambled a first-round pick to get Sam Bradford for a team in a win-now mode. Will be fascinating to watch.
8. CHIP KELLY REDUX. The Chip Kelly experiment in Philly bombed, so now he gets another crack at it with the 49ers. Don’t expect miracles, though. San Francisco’s roster is a mess.
9. CAN CAM DO IT AGAIN? There’s nothing like watching Cam Newton go to work on a defense, especially when his performance is dab-worthy. Let’s see if he can will his Panthers back to the big show and buck the trend of Super Bowl losers flaming out the next year.
10. REX ON THE HOT SEAT? It’s only Year 2 for Rex Ryan in Buffalo, but Bills fans don’t have much patience for a guy who talks big but doesn’t back it up with wins. Time to make a playoff run, Rex.
11. ON THE RISE. The NFL is the place where you can be awful one year and great the next. A few candidates for turnaround seasons: Raiders, Jaguars, Ravens, Buccaneers.
12. A BENGALS PLAYOFF WIN? Cincy has been a model of consistency in getting to the playoffs, but Marvin Lewis now has six one-and-done postseason exits on his resume.
13. BROCK TO THE RESCUE. Or so the Texans hope. They paid Brock Osweiler $18M a year to be the man in Houston, so the former Broncos understudy has plenty to prove for a team that may be a quarterback away from Super Bowl contention.
14. DAK TO THE RESCUE! Or so the Cowboys hope. With Tony Romo out for as long as 10 weeks, it’s rookie Dak Prescott who gets the call. And if he can’t play like he did in the preseason, Mark Sanchez may get the call.
15. BREAKOUT SEASON FOR JAMEIS WINSTON? The Buccaneers quarterback showed some flashes last season, but with plenty of players making a big jump from Year 1 to Year 2, this could what the Bucs have been hoping for.
16. AARON PACKS A PUNCH: Aaron Rodgers is still at the tippy top of his game, which means the Packers can have their way in the NFC North. And maybe then some. Rodgers is thinking Super Bowl big this year, and we like his chances.