1. Is this the start of Russell Wilson’s MVP campaign?
The Seahawks’ quarterback is getting national love as an early candidate for league most valuable player. He’s 27, entering what’s supposed to be the prime of what’s already been a sterling, electrifying, winning career. His coach says he’s mastered the position, knowing not only Seattle’s offense but most opposing defenses, too. But Wilson himself knows he has one more aspect of his game he wants to master for this season. "I want to be a master of protection," he said. With new starters in four positions on his five-man offensive line, he needs to be that this season.
2. Will the Patriots be the Patriots without Tom Brady?
Deflategate has cost New England its iconic QB, who is suspended for the first four games of the season. The first one is tonight at Arizona, which with Seattle and Green Bay appear to be the NFC’s best teams. It’s Jimmy Garoppollo’s offense for the next month. We are about to find out if the Patriots are as great a team as they’ve always seemed lately – or if they are Brady’s team.
3. How long will Colin Kaepernick be on San Francisco’s bench?
All the attention Kaepernick commanded and demanded with his national-anthem sitting and kneeling has obscured the fact he isn’t even the 49ers’ starting quarterback anymore. Blaine Gabbert is making his first start in a season opener in three years on Monday night when the Niners host the Rams. San Francisco’s new coach Chip Kelly has always loved mobile QBs that can run and throw and test defenses in many ways. It’s amazing how far Kaepernick has fallen so quickly; we forget he took the 49ers to the Super Bowl in the 2012 season and came within his tipped pass in the end zone by Richard Sherman in the NFC title game from going to the Super Bowl in the ’13 season, too.
4. Remember RGIII?
He’s back. Robert Griffin III, rudely sent out of Washington like a disgraced senator, starts Sunday for Cleveland in its opener against Philadelphia. The Browns’ latest new era with about their 143rd starting quarterback in the last five seasons starts against the man the Eagles drafted in May when Philadelphia traded half its future away to the Browns for the second-overall pick. Carson Wentz, the 2016 No. 2 pick, vs. RGIII, the 2012 No. 2 pick and NFL offensive rookie of the year. Here’s rooting for Griffin to resurrect his career – with a team that could use a resurrection or three.
5. How productive are these pregame demonstrations?
What Kaepernick started with his anthem sit-in last month has become a national controversy among people who may not even know what a football looks like. The Seahawks are doing a "demonstration of unity," Doug Baldwin says, before their opener at CenturyLink Field. You say this discussion has no place in your football? Well, your sport is a part of real, bigger life. We blasted athletes for decades back to Michael Jordan for not using their platforms to push social issues and make a difference, then when they try we blast them for how they do it. Still, Sunday – September 11th -- is a special day. It requires respect of our national symbols, including our flag and anthem. These sits, kneels and unity demonstrations can’t alone do what the message demands: change our society and better its treatment of all people, everywhere. Even Baldwin acknowledges that is likely true. Yet the debate and discussions that have resulted can potentially shake a national establishment and its leaders to truly take action towards change and progress. Potentially. It’s better than the status quo – maybe or maybe not the status quo where and how you live, but for many, many others.