American Football Expert & Columnist
Pick Six: Andrew Luck's absence, Cleveland's awakening, and more 2019 NFL story lines to watch
Last Updated: 10/09/19 12:18pm
The NFL's 100th season kicks off on Thursday, September 5 as the Chicago Bears host the Green Bay Packers.
The 2019 campaign promises to be wide open and exciting, with as many as a dozen teams harbouring genuine Super Bowl ambitions.
NFL Week One and more
Ahead of the start of the NFL's 100th season, we run you through all the Sky Sports coverage this season.
Here are six major talking points and things to look out for in the upcoming season...
Will the Patriots defend their crown?
Everyone keeps waiting for the downturn from a New England Patriots team that has reached the last three Super Bowls. There has been plenty of change during the offseason, most notably the retirement of superstar tight end Rob Gronkowski.
But as long as 42-year-old quarterback Tom Brady continues to hold Father Time at bay and head coach Bill Belichick is in charge, the Patriots always have a chance to win it all. That pairing has produced six Super Bowl victories and this team knows what it takes to win.The loss of center David Andrews for the season to blood clots will really hurt, but the chances are New England will be in the mix once again in 2019.
How will the Colts cope without star quarterback Andrew Luck?
Four-time Pro Bowl all-star Andrew Luck shocked the football world - and his own team - by retiring just two weeks before the first Sunday of the new campaign.
Luck was a genuine superstar who offered Super Bowl hope to the Indianapolis Colts. But he was worn down by a plague of injuries in recent seasons and walked away from a team that made the playoffs last year.
Brissett signs two-year Colts extension
The Indianapolis Colts have agreed to a two-year $30m (£24.8m) contract extension with new starting quarterback Jacoby Brissett.
The Colts now turn to Jacoby Brissett, who is 5-12 as an NFL starter. Head coach Frank Reich insists the Colts are "in good hands" with Brissett at the helm and general manager Chris Ballard hailed him as a "rare, rare human being." Only time will tell if Brissett can maintain enough good quarterback play to support what has become a very strong roster.
The awakening of the Browns
The Cleveland Browns have long been the punchline of many an NFL joke with their stadium being dubbed 'The Factory of Sadness.' The Browns have not enjoyed a winning season since 2007 and have not made the playoffs since 2002. But after going winless in 2017, the long-downtrodden Browns showed signs of life by winning seven games under rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield in 2018.
The offseason addition of superstar receiver Odell Beckham Jr has Cleveland's passionate fans dreaming of Super Bowl glory. Succeed or fail, the Browns are going to be one of the biggest stories of the 2019 season. On paper, they have the talent to go deep into the playoffs but the handling of expectations is going to be key this term.
Famous faces in new places
Every NFL offseason sees prominent players move teams but 2019 proved to be off the charts in terms of big-name transactions.
The Pittsburgh Steelers parted company with disgruntled superstars in receiver Antonio Brown, who joined the Oakland Raiders, and running back Le'Veon Bell, who inked a deal with the New York Jets. How will those stars fare in new surroundings and can the Steelers survive without them?
Super Bowl-winning quarterback Nick Foles has moved from the Philadelphia Eagles to the Jacksonville Jaguars, while the aforementioned Odell Beckham Jr. was traded from the New York Giants to the Cleveland Browns in a stunning offseason.
There were even moves being made late in the preseason as offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil moved from Miami to Houston, while the Texans shipped star defender Jadeveon Clowney to Seattle.
Mahomes ready for a repeat act?
The most exciting player in the NFL today remains Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes. The 2018 NFL Most Valuable Player will be keen to show the world his first full season as a starter was no fluke. Mahomes threw for 5,097 yards and 50 touchdowns last term and now we await the repeat performance.
Mahomes is truly special and can do it all. Guided by the excellent play-calling of head coach Andy Reid, Mahomes and the explosive Chiefs will look to go one step further in 2019 after falling at the Super Bowl semi-final stage a year ago.
Whether the team makes it all the way to the Super Bowl remains to be seen, but it is a safe bet to assume Mahomes is going to be box office each and every weekend.
Will anyone pull a Le'Veon Bell-style, season-long holdout?
I have left this one until last because events move quickly in the NFL and star running backs Ezekiel Elliott and Melvin Gordon may have ended their holdouts by the time you read this article. For now though, both rushers seem dug in and far from close to long-term deals with the Dallas Cowboys and Los Angeles Chargers respectively.
Elliott has a case to become the highest-paid running back in the NFL given that he has averaged 101.2 rushing yards per game since entering the league in 2016. But Dallas saw the Los Angeles Rams throw big money at Todd Gurley recently only to see him develop a worrying knee injury. So they are being cautious.
The Chargers have told Gordon no contract extension will happen between now and the end of the season. The player - who is a star but not in Elliott's league - wants a trade. He could follow Bell's example from 2018 and sit out the entire year to force a better long-term deal. Watch this space.
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