The season opens on Thursday September 5 with the Bears vs Packers, for the 199th meeting all-time. It’s one of the oldest rivalries in football and the league felt this was a great way to kick off their 100th season celebration, as opposed to the usual tradition of having the defending Super Bowl champs kick off the season.
To celebrate 50 days till kick off, here are 50 reasons to be excited for the start of the 2019 NFL season.
1. For starters, the world is a better place during football season. Fans can sit at home or sit in a bar for 8 hours on Sundays and track their fantasy teams, bets, and favorite teams. Football is awesome.
Vulnerable teams at the top?
2. Could the Patriots run finally end? No, obviously it will not, but it’s fun to pretend like there is a chance. TE Rob Gronkowski retired and DE Trey Flowers and LT Trent Brown left via free agency, so maybe their respective replacements will struggle and provide hope for another AFC team. Or most likely, this team won’t miss a beat in their pursuit for #7. But there is certainly excitement in watching teams try.
3. Is a Super Bowl hangover possible for the Rams? They are young and hungry enough to get back after their disappointing loss to the Patriots. But past Super Bowl losers have looked the same way as the Rams and failed. There are major question marks about Todd Gurley and his knee and after the wear and tear this team went through a year ago, are they up to it again?
Runner ups are back for more
4. Patrick Mahomes is only 24 years old. In his second NFL season, and first as a full-time starter, Mahomes threw 50 touchdown passes and won MVP. He won’t have Kareem Hunt and may be without Tyreek Hill for part of the season, but the Chiefs have surrounded Mahomes with enough offensive talent and done enough tinkering to their defense to help Mahomes avoid a sophomore slump and help get the Chiefs to the Super Bowl for the first time since 1969.
5. The Saints might just score 100 points a game in their 2019 revenge tour, to prove a point after the controversial loss in the NFC Championship game. Even at nearly 40 years old, Drew Brees is at the top of his game (much more on him below), with WR Michael Thomas and RB Alvin Kamara among the best at their respective positions. As long as the defense keeps pace, they will be in a position to make another deep playoff run.
New head coaches
6. Bengals have the longest playoff win drought in the NFL – it’s been 28 years! Marvin Lewis coached in Cincinnati for 16 years, going 0-7 in playoff games. Following the 2018 season, the team finally moved on, replacing him with Rams Offensive Coordinator, Zac Taylor. Taylor should bring an exciting offense with him and help rejuvenate the franchise and fan-base.
7. Kliff Kingsbury brings his air raid offense from college to the pros, replacing Steve Wilks in Arizona after Wilks coached the Cardinals for just one season. Kingsbury decided to shake up the team immediately by replacing 2018 first round pick Josh Rosen, with 2019 #1 overall pick Kyler Murray. Watching these two go to work, with a healthy David Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, and a young group of WRs, will be must see Red Zone TV action.
8. Bruce Arians is back! That’s good news for fans of offensive football (not the type of offensive football the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have played the last couple of years). Arians offensive system should do wonders for Jameis Winston and Mike Evans. And who knows, maybe they’ll even try running the ball in 2019.
9. No Hue Jackson in Cleveland is good news for Browns fans and players, but probably bad news for anyone who likes to mock the Browns. Seriously though, Freddie Kitchens steps in as the new head coach, after going 5-3 as the interim in 2018. Browns made strong hires at both coordinator positions too, bringing on Todd Monken to run offense and Steve Wilks on defense. Browns made a lot of key moves this off-season and for the first time in decades have real expectations entering the season.
10. How will Aaron Rodgers get along with new coach Matt LaFleur? There were many stories that came out last winter about Rodgers and his relationship with former coach Mike McCarthy. LaFleur is 39 years old, only a couple years older than the Packers franchise QB and has only been an NFL assistant coach since 2015. It will be fun to see what innovative principles he brings to an offense with Rodgers, Davante Adams, Aaron Jones and a handful of other young, hungry weapons.
11. Adam Gase takes over Jets after being fired by Dolphins, who replaced him with Patriots Defensive Coordinator Brian Flores. Gase went 23-26 in three seasons with the Dolphins and will look to turnaround a Jets team that has not made the playoffs since 2010. Dolphins potentially have a bottom five roster in the NFL, so year one for Flores could be challenging.
12. The Vance Joseph era in Denver was a huge disaster. Broncos are moving forward with an older, veteran coach Vic Fangio, a longtime Defensive Coordinator. Fangio’s experience and leadership will help but this team will only go as far as the offense lets it go.
13. In the NFL, careers end in the blink of an eye and some end as expected. These players might play their final game in 2019 – Eli Manning, Adrian Peterson, Larry Fitzgerald, Greg Olsen, Sean Lee, Jason Witten, Antonio Gates, Jason Peters, Andrew Whitworth, Frank Gore, Terrell Suggs, Adam Vinatieri. And maybe Tom Brady??
14. How about swan songs for coaches? Could this be the last season for Jason Garrett, Mike Tomlin, Doug Marrone, Bill O’Brien, Pat Shurmur, Jay Gruden, Matt Patricia, Ron Rivera, Kyle Shanahan?
15. The Raiders will officially move to Las Vegas in time for the 2020 season. 2019 will be the last chance for Oakland fans to dress up and support their team at the Coliseum.
Return from injury
16. It will be great to see these guys back on the field, fully healthy after missing parts (or all) of the 2018 season – Cam Newton, Carson Wentz, Odell Beckham Jr, Aaron Rodger, Richard Sherman, Jimmy Garappolo, Earl Thomas, Cooper Kupp, Demaryius Thomas, Travis Frederick, Delanie Walker.
17. Jason Witten is back! This is good news for all football fans. For Cowboys fans, Witten is a legend who will provide veteran leadership in the locker room and on the field and can become a reliable red zone target for a team that was terrible in 2018 in that part of the field. But more importantly, being in the locker room and on the field means he won’t be in ESPN’s booth, announcing Monday Night Football games. Everyone wins.
18. LeVeon Bell returns after sitting out the 2018 season in a contract holdout. Bell signed a massive free agent deal with the Jets.
19. Bell will get his shot at revenge when the Jets face Bell’s former team the Steelers in Week 16. This game might just have Wild Card implications for one or both teams.
20. In Week 5, Bears’ Khalil Mack gets to line up against the Raiders, the team that traded him for draft picks last August. Mack had 12.5 sacks for the Bears last season.
21. In Week 7, new Ravens safety Earl Thomas faces his former Seahawks teammates – the same Seahawks team that he flipped the middle finger to in 2018 while being carted off the field with a season ending knee injury.
22. After six years in Washington, 2012 4th round pick, Kirk Cousins left the Redskins to sign with the Vikings in 2018. In Week 8, Cousins gets to face his former team for the first time since signing that contract.
23. In 2019, there are 6 games on the schedule that feature rematches from recent Super Bowls (since 2003) – Giants vs Patriots, Eagles vs Patriots, Ravens vs 49ers, Steelers vs Cardinals, Steelers vs Seahawks, and Saints vs Colts
24. The last three QBs to win the Heisman Trophy will all have a chance to shine. The 2018 and 2019 #1 overall picks (both Oklahoma Sooners) enter 2019 as the unquestioned starting QBs – Baker Mayfield for the Browns and Kyler Murray for the Cardinals, as does 2018 #32 pick Lamar Jackson.
25. Speaking of Heisman Trophy winning quarterbacks, the pressure is on Bucs’ Jameis Winston and Titans’ Marcus Mariota to perform at a high level. Both players have one year remaining on their current contracts and were not drafted by their current coaching staffs. If they don’t perform at a high level, the Bucs and Titans, respectively, may enter the 2020 QB market.
26. Super Bowl 52 MVP Nick Foles finally gets his shot as a full-time starting QB. Following a disastrous 2018 season, Jacksonville Jaguars finally moved on from former first round pick Blake Bortles and signed Nick Foles to a big contract. We’ll see how Foles performs outside of Philly.
27. The Dolphins also moved on from a former first round pick, Ryan Tannehill, and are holding a competition between Ryan FitzMagic and Josh “Chosen” Rosen. They are one of just two teams (Redskins) to hold a true competition entering training camp. Regardless of who wins this QB battle, Dolphins will likely be in the mix to draft a QB in 2020.
28. Andrew Luck and DeShaun Watson both missed all or most of the 2017 season due to injuries and returned in 2018 with authority, each starting 16 games and guiding the Colts and Texans, respectively, into the playoffs. The AFC South division battle between these two teams and these QBs will be exciting.
29. The 2016 Draft class of QBs continues to improve and all three are in line for huge 2019 seasons. Carson Wentz, fresh off a new contract, should be back healthy and ready to get back to his 2017 MVP form. Jared Goff is looking to bounce back after a disastrous performance in the Super Bowl. And Dak Prescott enters a contract year, having won his first playoff game in 2018 and has led the Cowboys to the NFC East title in two of his three years.
30. Rookie QBs are waiting in the wings. Among the 2019 QB class, only Kyler Murray is guaranteed to start Week 1. But Daniel Jones (Giants), Drew Lock (Broncos), Dwayne Haskins (Redskins) could all get their shot at some point throughout 2019.
31. QBs seeking their first playoff win – Matthew Stafford is 0-3, Andy Dalton is 0-4, and four others are 0-1 including Kirk Cousins, Lamar Jackson, Mitchell Trubisky, and Deshaun Watson.
New faces in new places – offensive edition
32. WR Antonio Brown has 6 consecutive seasons with 100+ catches, 1,200+ yards, and 8+ TDs each season. In 2019, he will take his talents to Oakland, catching passes from Derek Carr for John Gruden and the Raiders. Can Brown maintain his previous dominance? Whatever happens just please keep the man off twitter.
33. The NY Giants made the semi-controversial decision to move on from star WR Odell Beckham Jr, trading him to the Browns. Injuries and QB play have plagued Beckham the last couple of seasons but he re-unites with former LSU teammate WR Jarvis Landry and upstart QB Baker Mayfield.
34. With a boat load of salary cap space, the Jets signed RB LeVeon Bell and LB CJ Mosley. They later fired the GM who signed those players.
35. The plan for the Ravens was always to build a run-oriented offense around Lamar Jackson. That will be even more true now that they have added former Saint Mark Ingram to their backfield. Ingram should be a big upgrade over guys like Alex Collins and Gus Edwards.
36. Chiefs lost Dee Ford to the 49ers and Justin Houston to the Colts, but traded their 2019 first round pick to Seattle to acquire Frank Clark, who finished 6th in the league in 2018 wit 14 sacks.
37. 49ers bolstered their defense by adding the aforementioned Dee Ford and signing LB Kwon Alexander along with drafting DL Nick Bosa.
38. The 2019 off-season saw a big safety shuffle – Landon Collins left the Giants to sign with their division rival Redskins, Tyrann Matheiu left the Texans and signed with the Chiefs, replacing long time legend Eric Berry (who is still a free agent). Earl Thomas replaced Eric Weddle in Baltimore and Weddle signed with the LA Rams. Lamarcus Joyner, who was replaced by Weddle in LA, signed with the Raiders. Adrian Amos left the Bears for the Packers and the Bears replaced him with former Packer Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.
39. AFC East added an exciting trio of potentially impactful rookies at Defensive Tackle during the draft – Jets selected Quinnen Williams #3, Bills took Ed Oliver #9, and Dolphins took Christian Wilkins #13.
40. Several 2017 playoff teams look to bounce back after missing the playoffs in 2018 – Steelers, Titans, Falcons, Panthers, plus the Packers
41. There are currently 12 teams have never won the Super Bowl. A new season, brings new optimism. Will 2019 be the year for one of these teams – Vikings, Chargers, Bills, Bengals, Cardinals, Titans, Panthers, Falcons, Texans, Jaguars, Lions, Browns. Those last four have never even made it to the big game.
42. Saints QB Drew Brees has 520 career touchdown passes, 19 behind Peyton Manning’s all-time record of 539.
43. If Brees throws 30 TDs and Patriots QB Tom Brady throws 33, those men would join the 550 passing touchdowns club, where they would be the only two members.
44. One more note on Drew Brees. He needs 387 pass attempts to break Brett Favre’s all-time record of 10,169 passes. For context, in 13 seasons with the Saints, he has thrown over 400 completions 9 times and 2018 was the last time he threw less than 500 passes (489).
45. Ageless wonder Frank Gore, now with the Bills and entering the season a young 36 years of age, needs 521 yards rushing to pass Barry Sanders for third on the all-time rushing yards list (Sanders has 15,269 yards to Gore’s 14,748). Gore would be one of only four players to ever rush for 15k yards.
46. Redskins RB Adrian Peterson needs 4 rushing touchdowns to tie and 5 to pass Walter Payton to move up to #4 on the all-time rushing TDs list (Peterson currently has 106)
47. Only five players have ever caught 120 touchdowns or more (Jerry Rice, Randy Moss, Terrell Owens, Cris Carter, Marvin Harrison). Larry Fitzgerald and Antonio Gates are both 4 touchdowns away from joining the club.
48. Only six players in NFL history have recorded 140 sacks (or more). New Cardinals pass rusher Terrell Suggs needs 7.5 sacks to join a group that includes Bruce Smith, Reggie White, Kevin Greene, Julius Peppers, Chris Doleman, and Michael Strahan.
49. Adam Vinatieri, entering his 24th season, needs 20 field goal attempts to break Morten Anderson’s all-time record of 709 FG attempts.
50. The 2019 season may not be favorable to every team, but for those that struggle, optimism could be around the corner as teams have three options to add a franchise QB in the 2020 Draft. Teams may #tankforTua (Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa), #suckfortheDuck (Oregon QB Justin Herbert), or #failforFromm (Georgia QB Jake Fromm)
The key takeaway is that football is ALMOST back!! There are so many other reasons to be excited, especially about specific teams and players – Cowboys young offensive trio, Bears defense, James Connor, Chargers overall roster, Seahawks rebuilt offense, Adam Thielen/Stefon Diggs duo, Saquon Barkley and so much more.
50 more days until kickoff!!