The Sizzle in NFL 2018

Article by Phil Hanrahan

What’s your top story as we kick off the 2018 football season?

Is it Jon “Chucky” Gruden, back coaching Oakland again after nine years in the broadcast booth? Or maybe you’re wondering how the Eagles will finesse the Nick Foles/Carson Wentz situation. Foles shone like a quasar after replacing the injured MVP-track Wentz in early December. The veteran led Philadelphia to their first-ever Super Bowl victory. But when Wentz’s knee is fully mended, Foles is expected to benchwarm.

Meanwhile, Minnesota rode the arm and seasoning of Case Keenum all the way to the conference championship game. Keenum’s reward? Team brass signed his replacement, Kirk “YOU LIKE THAT!” Cousins, to a three-year contract with $84 million guaranteed.

Expect Vikings fans to watch closely. Will the former Redskins QB have the same field chemistry with burner Adam Thiel? Or playoff hero Stefon Diggs?

Quarterback angles abound. In Kansas City there’s a changing of the guard, with five-year-starter Alex Smith, following his first 4,000-yard season, headed to D.C. and unproven Patrick Mahomes, picked tenth in 2017, slated to take over.

Packers QB Aaron Rodgers is back after collarbone surgery. Colts QB Andrew Luck is back after shoulder surgery. Sam Bradford might be back after knee surgery — we’ll see when Arizona hands him the ball. Tom Brady is reportedly miffed at Coach Bill Belichick for this and that. Speaking of Brady, will his former understudy Jimmy Garoppolo pick up where he left off last season, having powered San Francisco to five straight closing wins?

The QB-starved Cleveland Browns drafted Baker Mayfield, not Sam Darnold. The Giants shocked Eli-haters by skipping QBs Darnold, Josh Allen, and Josh Rosen, grabbing running back Sarquon Barkley with the second pick. Up in Seattle, Russell Wilson led the league in tossing 34 touchdowns, accounting for more than 80 percent of the team’s offense. Given their thinning roster, he might have to aim for 90 percent this year.

If Foles and Darnold (drafted third by the Jets) start game one, that will mean 14 different QBs trot out for a team’s first hike as opposed to last year. Seven squads have new head coaches. The off-season coordinator carousel nearly spun off its axis.