The NFL returned on Sept. 9 with an expanded 17-game schedule
With Week 1 of the 2021-22 NFL schedule already under wraps, here are some of my thoughts about the season and what it has in store for fans.
How will this year’s 17-game season be remembered?
On one end, more football means fans get to bathe in America’s sport for an extra week. More games will also mean less variance in the standings.
But the NFL already struggles with annual injuries, and the addition of a highly-competitive game to the schedule certainly won’t help that cause.
An additional game will leave plenty of room for records pertaining to totals to be broken: things like team wins/losses and individual statistics will inflate this year for better or worse. This is just something to keep in mind when Week 18 rolls around and the term “historic” is being thrown around sports media circles left and right.
Who will be the overachievers/underachievers?
As a disclaimer, I’m looking at teams that aren’t getting enough attention that can potentially make the leap from good to great, or bad to unfathomable.
The Cleveland Browns have been getting hyped up for years, but have failed to produce meaningful results in the postseason. Last year, they took their first baby steps in advancing to the divisional round and giving the AFC’s Super Bowl representatives, the Kansas City Chiefs, a real run for their money.
If the Browns were stacked from a personnel standpoint in 2020, now they’re a full-course meal. Injuries and quarterback Baker Mayfield’s ability to get his skill guys the ball reliably are the only concerns for this team in their second year under head coach Kevin Stefanski.
If the Browns have known nothing but mediocrity for over a decade, the Pittsburgh Steelers are their polar opposite: under head coach Mike Tomlin since 2007, the team has never posted a losing record in the regular season.
That can all change this year with aging franchise quarterback Ben Roethlisberger entering the twilight of the twilight of his career and into a young and unproven offensive line. On the other hand, this team should still boast a strong defensive game, and drafted a promising running back this year in Najee Harris.
There’s potential upside here, but I would bet against it.
Wait, Tom Brady is 44 years-old? This is it, right?
Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers retained nearly every significant player from their championship run in February, a notion that seemed impossible six months ago. This team won a Super Bowl in Brady’s first year with the team (and made it look easy), so another offseason under their belt as a group should instill fear league-wide.
Until proven otherwise, this is Brady’s world and we’re all just living in it.