NFL records that could be broken in 2021 as Russell Wilson, Patrick Mahomes chase significant milestones

Sports

CBS Sports 07 September, 2021 - 09:48am 7 views

The NFL is set to embark on the most exciting season in its 101-year history. With the advent of the 17-game schedule and coming off a year which had the most combined points scored in league history, passing records were shattered. The single-season marks for passer rating (93.6), touchdown passes (871), completion percentage (65.2%) and completions (11,756) all ranked as the most in a single season in NFL history -- setting the stage for offenses to reach new heights in 2021. 

There are several milestones that could be reached with the 17-game season in effect and individual feats that are in danger of being matched during the 2021 campaign. History will be made throughout the year as these players are on the verge of etching their names in the league's record books.

Here are 15 players who can reach historic milestones around the league: 

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NFL picks, predictions against spread Week 1: Bucs flex on Cowboys; Chiefs control Browns; 49ers, Packers roll

Sporting News 07 September, 2021 - 11:01pm

That offers a lot more action and chances to get things right. But it also means there are more tough betting lines and odds through which to navigate.

Without overthinking out of the gate, here are Sporting News' initial set of spread and over/under calls for an exciting opening slate:

When these teams last met, it was in the 2020 AFC divisional playoffs. The Chiefs built a 19-3 halftime lead but after losing Patrick Mahomes to a concussion, had to hold on for a 22-19 escape on their way to Super Bowl 55. The Browns are still thinking about what could have been and after a wild-card win, are looking for much more with greater expectations for this season. Cleveland can keep it close again with more explosive offense with Baker Mayfield and more disruptive defense with Myles Garrett. Kansas City stays in control to take the rematch, closing it out with an improved running game.

Pick: Chiefs win 27-23 but fail to cover the spread.

The Buccaneers will be amped to celebrate their Super Bowl 55 ring to start the season. Tom Brady returns to a powerhouse that didn't lose any key players from last season and will go to work against an overhauled Cowboys defense, led by former Falcons coach Dan Quinn. Dallas has another big question mark right away regarding the health of Dak Prescott with mystery about his shoulder injury. The visitors have plenty of firepower, too, but Tampa Bay will turn them away in key spots, flexing again on all three defensive levels.

Pick: Buccaneers win 34-24 and cover the spread.

The 49ers are set to stick with Jimmy Garoppolo as their starting QB at first over rookie Trey Lance, but it doesn't matter who's under center for the opener. The Lions' rebuilding defense cannot handle either San Francisco's dynamic running game or dangerous passing game with mismatches Brandon Aiyuk, Deebo Samuel and George Kittle. The Niners will be eager to start fast after last year's injury-riddled mess and are road warriors under Kyle Shanahan. Dan Campbell's return to coaching is rough, indicating a long season, while former Rams QB Jared Goff relives nightmares against a familiar defense.

Pick: 49ers win 34-13 and cover the spread.

The Vikings are overrated going into the season. The Bengals are underrated. Joe Burrow should be back to lift Cincinnati in the home opener, also helping former LSU teammate Ja'Marr Chase shaky off some preseason issues. Both defenses have some talent, but there also are transitional aspects and lingering weaknesses. The Vikings will try to run often and win with Dalvin Cook, but this will turn into a sneaky shootout with Burrow spreading the field well and out-dueling Kirk Cousins.

Pick: Bengals win 27-24.

The Jaguars have all the buzz with their rookie Clemson QB, Trevor Lawrence. The Texans have all the bad vibes with uncertainty over their veteran Clemson QB, Deshaun Watson. Urban Meyer is a much more accomplished coach making his debut than David Culley. Jacksonville will able to run well and set up favorable passing for Lawrence against a shell of a Houston defense. The line moved up from 2.5 and every half-point matters here. 

Pick: Jaguars win 27-24

The Chargers should feel confident about rookie coach Brandon Staley leading their new defense and second-year QB Justin Herbert being comfortable in the new offense. Home vs. away doesn't mean much for them considering their L.A. play. Washington has a similar profile with Ron Rivera and bridge QB Ryan Fitzpatrick distributing to dynamic weapons. This is a classic toss-up, but the Chargers will have a little more juice and energy in a slugfest as Joey Bosa gets more support than Chase Young.

Pick: Chargers win 20-17.

The Seahawks are another strong road team from the West Coast and there's no time adjustment issues in Week 1. The Colts feel good about both Carson Wentz and Quenton Nelson being available to anchor their offense in the opener. But it's still Russell Wilson in a new-look offense under Shane Waldron on the other side and he should be the more trustworthy QB with established elite weapons. Wilson can help Seattle support the running game better than a rusty Wentz will do for Indianapolis, with Jamal Adams cleaning up late to live up to his contract.

Pick: Seahawks win 23-17 and cover the spread.

Zach Wilson is an upgrade at quarterback over Sam Darnold. But the Jets' rookie QB has more unknown quantities around him offensively in a new scheme. That will make things challenging in a road debut against a rising young Panthers defense. Darnold will have an easier day at the office against his former team, thanks to Christian McCaffrey returning healthy to carry the complementary offense.

Pick: Panthers win 24-17 and cover the spread.

The Cardinals and Titans had various run defense issues last season. Some of those will be cleaned up, but this game will live up to the high-scoring hype with Kyler Murray and Derrick Henry as the centerpieces. Arizona has more impact players to contain Ryan Tannehill and Tennessee's play-action based passing game, while Tennessee will struggle on the back end vs. DeAndre Hopkins, a rejuvenated A.J. Green and others. J.J. Watt ensures his new team doesn't lose against a familiar AFC South foe.

Pick: Cardinals win 31-27.

The Bills handled the Steelers well last season, winning 26-15 after pulling away in Buffalo. Josh Allen won't have easy pickings passing downfield against T.J. Watt and Minkah Fitzpatrick, but Ben Roethlisberger will have a more difficult time against a bolstered Bills' defense with its strength in the middle of the field. The Bills will do enough to contain the running of rookie Najee Harris, while Allen finds enough matchups to exploit.

Pick: Bills win 27-19 and cover the spread.

The Eagles have new offensive-minded coach Nick Sirianni calling their plays. The Falcons have new offensive-minded coach Arthur Smith calling their plays. Atlanta has a little more stability around Matt Ryan with wide receiver Calvin Ridley and prized rookie tight end Kyle Pitts helping an improved running game featuring Mike Davis. Philadelphia has more volatility running and passing with Jalen Hurts at the helm. Smith sparks and inspires the Falcons a little more at home in his rookie debut.

Pick: Falcons win 27-24 but fail to cover the spread.

The Packers know they will have Aaron Rodgers starting another season. The Saints know that Drew Brees has played his last season for them. Green Bay's offense is the more reliable machine here with the blocking and skill principals Davante Adams and Aaron Jones. New Orleans is a wild card between starting Jameis Winston and no Michael Thomas in the lineup and will be too Alvin Kamara-dependent in a home away from home. Brees and the dome was often automatic, but Rodgers and the road is the better bet here.

Pick: Packers win 30-24 and cover the spread.

The Broncos have a big QB concern and went with the safer route in Teddy Bridgewater. The Giants are facing boom or bust with third-year man Daniel Jones. Denver will be even more reliant on the run for defensive-minded Vic Fangio with rookie Javonte Williams in the backfield. Joe Judge should see his offense open up more for Jones with a healthy Saquon Barkley and a big-play Kenny Golladay. Denver has buzz for defense, but New York has sneaky improvement there.

Pick: Giants win 23-17.

The Dolphins are rebooting their offense in the first full year of Tua Tagovailoa starting. The Patriots, with Mac Jones, will be focused on a complementary passing game to build off their deep and strong running game, knowing how good their defense still is. Brian Flores has a pretty good defense, built in the image of mentor Bill Belichick's scheme. This feels like a messy low-scoring game decided by a few offensive mistakes. Miami will make those while New England is fine being a bit conservative in a battle of attrition.

Pick: Patriots win 17-13 and cover the spread.

The Bears are going with Andy Dalton over first-rounder Justin Fields knowing this matchup is a tough first assignment for the rookie. It's not breezy for Dalton, either, knowing his shaky offensive line with see a lot of Aaron Donald and go-to wide receiver Allen Robinson will see plenty of fellow former Jaguar Jalen Ramsey. It's also his least favorite game time, in prime time. Matthew Stafford will get to make his Rams debut against a familiar NFC North foe, taking advantage of strong support and savvy play-calling from Sean McVay.

Pick: Rams win 27-17 and cover the spread.

The Ravens aren't the best visitors to have when Las Vegas is trying to treat its first home fans in attendance to prime-time victory. Lamar Jackson will do whatever he wants running and passing against the Raiders' defense, with boosts from Gus Edwards and a revamped receiving corps. Derek Carr will feel the heat with the Ravens stopping the run and containing their former feel-good story, Darren Waller.

Pick: Ravens win 33-20 and cover the spread.

NFL Power Rankings: No. 1 until they’re not

Sporting News 07 September, 2021 - 04:33pm

Rank.Team (record) | Prev. | Comment

1.Tampa Bay Buccaneers (11-5) | No. 1 until they're not

2.Kansas City Chiefs (14-2) | No. 2 until they're not

3.Buffalo Bills (13-3) | Don't assume they can't beat the Chiefs

4.Green Bay Packers (13-3) | Because he's Aaron Rodgers

5.Seattle Seahawks (12-4) | As Russell Wilson goes …

6.Baltimore Ravens (11-5) | They can outrun anyone, but will that beat KC and Buffalo?

7.Los Angeles Rams (10-6) | It's win now – or at least really soon – for these guys

8.Cleveland Browns (11-5) | Higher expectations here than there has been in decades

9.Tennessee Titans (11-5) | They know how they play and play to their strengths

10.Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4) | A serious contender as long as Big Ben is playing

11.Miami Dolphins (10-6) | Tua's development key to immediate future

12.New Orleans Saints (12-4) | Life after Brees begins

13.Indianapolis Colts (11-5) | Wentz isn't the only story here, but he's the most important one

14.New England Patriots (7-9) | Can big offseason spending get Belichick back to postseason?

15.Arizona Cardinals (8-8) | Pressure is on here for a playoff berth

16.Los Angeles Chargers (7-9) | Huge expectations Justin Herbert's second season

17.Las Vegas Raiders (8-8) | Four consecutive seasons without a postseason appearance

18.Washington Football Team (7-9) | Elite defense, but questions remain offensively

19.Minnesota Vikings (7-9) | Have made the postseason in the last three odd-numbered seasons

20.San Francisco 49ers (6-10) | Feels like a bounce-back year by the bay

21.Dallas Cowboys (6-10) | Zak's back, but will that be enough?

22.Chicago Bears (8-8) | Difficult schedule will make it tough to improve enough for the postseason

23.Atlanta Falcons (4-12) | Matt Ryan remains the guy; is there enough around him?

24.New York Giants (6-10) | Huge focus on QB Daniel Jones in third NFL season

25.Carolina Panthers (5-11) | Year 2 of the Rhule Rebuild begins

26.Denver Broncos (5-11) | The Teddy Bridgewater Era begins

27.Philadelphia Eagles (4-11-1) | Rebuild, reload … whatever, this was an offseason of major change

28.Cincinnati Bengals (4-11-1) | Must navigate one of NFL's best divisions as they rebuild

29.Detroit Lions (5-11) | The Long Rebuild in the Motor City begins

30.Jacksonville Jaguars (1-15) | Start 'em here and see where they go

31.New York Jets (2-14) | New QB, new Head Coach, new Era

32.Houston Texans (4-12) | Jaguars travel to Houston in Week 1

Preseason Power Rankings: Chiefs No. 1, Packers Over Bucs

Sports Illustrated 07 September, 2021 - 06:00am

Last season we conducted our staff-wide poll at a few key checkpoints throughout the year, but our writers spent most of the season taking turns doing the rankings individually. That’s our plan again for 2021, and we broke out the poll for our preseason edition.

This week’s MMQB Power Rankings Poll voters:

The Chiefs start in the top spot despite losing last year’s Super Bowl. But they have been to the big game two years in a row and are the betting favorites to win it again. They will probably be the preseason No. 1 many more times in the Patrick Mahomes era.

The Packers dipped to No. 6 in our last poll, which came right after the news of Aaron Rodgers’s unhappiness broke on the first day of the draft. With their MVP now officially back in the fold for 2021, Green Bay has climbed to its rightful place. (For this year at least.)

The defending champs got only one first-place vote in our poll, but they’ll get the first chance to change our minds with the season-opening game Thursday night. If they pick up where they left off, we could see them back on top soon.

The Rams won a lot of games with Jared Goff, but should be no slight to him just how excited everyone is to see Matthew Stafford piloting this offense. Expectations are very high in L.A.

Josh Allen took a major leap last season, and now expectations in Buffalo are higher than they’ve been since fans wore Starter jackets to the games. This team is good enough to beat anyone its path.

We have been guilty of hyping up the Browns too much in the preseason (who hasn’t?), but this year feels different. After demolishing the Steelers for a wild-card win, the Browns have a major monkey off their backs.

The Ravens’ late-season charge to the playoffs in 2020 reminded us just how good this team can be. There’s always so much focus on Lamar Jackson, but don’t forget how good this defense is.

The 49ers would like to just pretend 2020 never happened. Just getting back to full strength would help this team bounce back in a major way. But if Trey Lance makes them more dynamic on offense, they could soon be much higher on this list.

The Titans have star power and are coming off two straight trips to the playoffs, but right now our voters have them below the top-tier teams.

The Seahawks are our third NFC West team in the top 10, which speaks to both the talent they have and the difficult road they’ll face this season.

The Patriots have opted to go with rookie QB Mac Jones from Day One, even letting Cam Newton walk instead of keeping him as an insurance policy. Our voters are pretty high on New England, either because of or despite that decision.

Everyone’s favorite sleeper team every September now has a young franchise QB and a new coach in place.

The Colts have had one of the NFL’s most complete rosters for a few years now, and now Carson Wentz is their latest attempt to fill the hole left by Andrew Luck’s retirement.

Is this Ben Roethlisberger’s last ride? He has a defense in place for him to go on one last run, but the offensive line will have to keep him upright.

The Saints are going with Jameis Winston to fill Drew Brees’s shoes, and now we’ll learn more about what a QB whisperer Sean Payton is.

Dak is back, and if Prescott plays like he did before his injury last season that could be all it takes to push the Cowboys back to the top of the NFC East.

Washington won the division at 7–9 and then hung in a playoff game with Taylor Heinicke last season. Nobody will take this team lightly, given what we’ve seen from that defense.

The Broncos’ roster is loaded in several spots, but how far can Teddy Bridgewater take them in a tough AFC West?

The rumors have swirled, but Tua Tagovailoa will get his chance to lead this team into the season. The Dolphins made a jump last season behind their defense, but our voters once again have them just outside the playoff picture.

The Vikings have alternated seasons in and out of the playoffs since Mike Zimmer got there, and the pattern says this year they’d be in. But our poll has them out, which is how it often goes after a down season.

It’s tough to find consensus on anything these days, but it seems everyone in the country has at some point this offseason uttered the sentence, “It’s an important year for Daniel Jones.”

The Cardinals have a lot of talent but are stuck in the toughest division in football. But it’s now Year 3 for Kliff Kingsbury and Kyler Murray, so the expectations are higher.

By sticking steadfastly to the Andy Dalton plan, the Bears have become one of the more interesting teams in the league. When will Justin Fields start? Everyone will just keep asking until it happens.

The Falcons could have opted for the full teardown, but instead brought back Matt Ryan while they try to patch up some of the issues they’ve had the last few years.

The Panthers were a fun little surprise early last year, until the bottom really fell out. We’ll see if Matt Rhule’s squad can recapture that mojo with Sam Darnold and hopefully a healthy CMC leading the offense.

It’s Year 4 of Vegas and Year 2 of Jon Gruden. Will this be the year the Raiders climb over .500?

The Eagles are just one year removed from three straight trips to the playoffs, but what a turbulent year it was. The team still has some talent as it reboots for the Nick Sirianni era, but it’s a long climb from here.

There is optimism at the start of the Urban Meyer and Trevor Lawrence era, but just remember that these things often take time.

How Joe Burrow looks coming off last season’s injury will be more important than wins and losses this year.

The Jets are starting over with yet another first-round quarterback. Will things be different this time? Most people seem to believe so.

The Lions are in what should be a multiyear rebuilding project, but it will be interesting to see how Dan Campbell’s schtick plays if and when the losses start to pile up.

On paper, the Texans have the league’s worst roster. This season has the potential to be an all-time trainwreck.

Preseason Power Rankings: Chiefs No. 1, Packers Over Bucs

fantasycruncher.com 07 September, 2021 - 06:00am

Last season we conducted our staff-wide poll at a few key checkpoints throughout the year, but our writers spent most of the season taking turns doing the rankings individually. That’s our plan again for 2021, and we broke out the poll for our preseason edition.

This week’s MMQB Power Rankings Poll voters:

The Chiefs start in the top spot despite losing last year’s Super Bowl. But they have been to the big game two years in a row and are the betting favorites to win it again. They will probably be the preseason No. 1 many more times in the Patrick Mahomes era.

The Packers dipped to No. 6 in our last poll, which came right after the news of Aaron Rodgers’s unhappiness broke on the first day of the draft. With their MVP now officially back in the fold for 2021, Green Bay has climbed to its rightful place. (For this year at least.)

The defending champs got only one first-place vote in our poll, but they’ll get the first chance to change our minds with the season-opening game Thursday night. If they pick up where they left off, we could see them back on top soon.

The Rams won a lot of games with Jared Goff, but should be no slight to him just how excited everyone is to see Matthew Stafford piloting this offense. Expectations are very high in L.A.

Josh Allen took a major leap last season, and now expectations in Buffalo are higher than they’ve been since fans wore Starter jackets to the games. This team is good enough to beat anyone its path.

We have been guilty of hyping up the Browns too much in the preseason (who hasn’t?), but this year feels different. After demolishing the Steelers for a wild-card win, the Browns have a major monkey off their backs.

The Ravens’ late-season charge to the playoffs in 2020 reminded us just how good this team can be. There’s always so much focus on Lamar Jackson, but don’t forget how good this defense is.

The 49ers would like to just pretend 2020 never happened. Just getting back to full strength would help this team bounce back in a major way. But if Trey Lance makes them more dynamic on offense, they could soon be much higher on this list.

The Titans have star power and are coming off two straight trips to the playoffs, but right now our voters have them below the top-tier teams.

The Seahawks are our third NFC West team in the top 10, which speaks to both the talent they have and the difficult road they’ll face this season.

The Patriots have opted to go with rookie QB Mac Jones from Day One, even letting Cam Newton walk instead of keeping him as an insurance policy. Our voters are pretty high on New England, either because of or despite that decision.

Everyone’s favorite sleeper team every September now has a young franchise QB and a new coach in place.

The Colts have had one of the NFL’s most complete rosters for a few years now, and now Carson Wentz is their latest attempt to fill the hole left by Andrew Luck’s retirement.

Is this Ben Roethlisberger’s last ride? He has a defense in place for him to go on one last run, but the offensive line will have to keep him upright.

The Saints are going with Jameis Winston to fill Drew Brees’s shoes, and now we’ll learn more about what a QB whisperer Sean Payton is.

Dak is back, and if Prescott plays like he did before his injury last season that could be all it takes to push the Cowboys back to the top of the NFC East.

Washington won the division at 7–9 and then hung in a playoff game with Taylor Heinicke last season. Nobody will take this team lightly, given what we’ve seen from that defense.

The Broncos’ roster is loaded in several spots, but how far can Teddy Bridgewater take them in a tough AFC West?

The rumors have swirled, but Tua Tagovailoa will get his chance to lead this team into the season. The Dolphins made a jump last season behind their defense, but our voters once again have them just outside the playoff picture.

The Vikings have alternated seasons in and out of the playoffs since Mike Zimmer got there, and the pattern says this year they’d be in. But our poll has them out, which is how it often goes after a down season.

It’s tough to find consensus on anything these days, but it seems everyone in the country has at some point this offseason uttered the sentence, “It’s an important year for Daniel Jones.”

The Cardinals have a lot of talent but are stuck in the toughest division in football. But it’s now Year 3 for Kliff Kingsbury and Kyler Murray, so the expectations are higher.

By sticking steadfastly to the Andy Dalton plan, the Bears have become one of the more interesting teams in the league. When will Justin Fields start? Everyone will just keep asking until it happens.

The Falcons could have opted for the full teardown, but instead brought back Matt Ryan while they try to patch up some of the issues they’ve had the last few years.

The Panthers were a fun little surprise early last year, until the bottom really fell out. We’ll see if Matt Rhule’s squad can recapture that mojo with Sam Darnold and hopefully a healthy CMC leading the offense.

It’s Year 4 of Vegas and Year 2 of Jon Gruden. Will this be the year the Raiders climb over .500?

The Eagles are just one year removed from three straight trips to the playoffs, but what a turbulent year it was. The team still has some talent as it reboots for the Nick Sirianni era, but it’s a long climb from here.

There is optimism at the start of the Urban Meyer and Trevor Lawrence era, but just remember that these things often take time.

How Joe Burrow looks coming off last season’s injury will be more important than wins and losses this year.

The Jets are starting over with yet another first-round quarterback. Will things be different this time? Most people seem to believe so.

The Lions are in what should be a multiyear rebuilding project, but it will be interesting to see how Dan Campbell’s schtick plays if and when the losses start to pile up.

On paper, the Texans have the league’s worst roster. This season has the potential to be an all-time trainwreck.

Preseason Power Rankings: Chiefs No. 1, Packers Over Bucs

CBS Sports HQ 07 September, 2021 - 06:00am

Last season we conducted our staff-wide poll at a few key checkpoints throughout the year, but our writers spent most of the season taking turns doing the rankings individually. That’s our plan again for 2021, and we broke out the poll for our preseason edition.

This week’s MMQB Power Rankings Poll voters:

The Chiefs start in the top spot despite losing last year’s Super Bowl. But they have been to the big game two years in a row and are the betting favorites to win it again. They will probably be the preseason No. 1 many more times in the Patrick Mahomes era.

The Packers dipped to No. 6 in our last poll, which came right after the news of Aaron Rodgers’s unhappiness broke on the first day of the draft. With their MVP now officially back in the fold for 2021, Green Bay has climbed to its rightful place. (For this year at least.)

The defending champs got only one first-place vote in our poll, but they’ll get the first chance to change our minds with the season-opening game Thursday night. If they pick up where they left off, we could see them back on top soon.

The Rams won a lot of games with Jared Goff, but should be no slight to him just how excited everyone is to see Matthew Stafford piloting this offense. Expectations are very high in L.A.

Josh Allen took a major leap last season, and now expectations in Buffalo are higher than they’ve been since fans wore Starter jackets to the games. This team is good enough to beat anyone its path.

We have been guilty of hyping up the Browns too much in the preseason (who hasn’t?), but this year feels different. After demolishing the Steelers for a wild-card win, the Browns have a major monkey off their backs.

The Ravens’ late-season charge to the playoffs in 2020 reminded us just how good this team can be. There’s always so much focus on Lamar Jackson, but don’t forget how good this defense is.

The 49ers would like to just pretend 2020 never happened. Just getting back to full strength would help this team bounce back in a major way. But if Trey Lance makes them more dynamic on offense, they could soon be much higher on this list.

The Titans have star power and are coming off two straight trips to the playoffs, but right now our voters have them below the top-tier teams.

The Seahawks are our third NFC West team in the top 10, which speaks to both the talent they have and the difficult road they’ll face this season.

The Patriots have opted to go with rookie QB Mac Jones from Day One, even letting Cam Newton walk instead of keeping him as an insurance policy. Our voters are pretty high on New England, either because of or despite that decision.

Everyone’s favorite sleeper team every September now has a young franchise QB and a new coach in place.

The Colts have had one of the NFL’s most complete rosters for a few years now, and now Carson Wentz is their latest attempt to fill the hole left by Andrew Luck’s retirement.

Is this Ben Roethlisberger’s last ride? He has a defense in place for him to go on one last run, but the offensive line will have to keep him upright.

The Saints are going with Jameis Winston to fill Drew Brees’s shoes, and now we’ll learn more about what a QB whisperer Sean Payton is.

Dak is back, and if Prescott plays like he did before his injury last season that could be all it takes to push the Cowboys back to the top of the NFC East.

Washington won the division at 7–9 and then hung in a playoff game with Taylor Heinicke last season. Nobody will take this team lightly, given what we’ve seen from that defense.

The Broncos’ roster is loaded in several spots, but how far can Teddy Bridgewater take them in a tough AFC West?

The rumors have swirled, but Tua Tagovailoa will get his chance to lead this team into the season. The Dolphins made a jump last season behind their defense, but our voters once again have them just outside the playoff picture.

The Vikings have alternated seasons in and out of the playoffs since Mike Zimmer got there, and the pattern says this year they’d be in. But our poll has them out, which is how it often goes after a down season.

It’s tough to find consensus on anything these days, but it seems everyone in the country has at some point this offseason uttered the sentence, “It’s an important year for Daniel Jones.”

The Cardinals have a lot of talent but are stuck in the toughest division in football. But it’s now Year 3 for Kliff Kingsbury and Kyler Murray, so the expectations are higher.

By sticking steadfastly to the Andy Dalton plan, the Bears have become one of the more interesting teams in the league. When will Justin Fields start? Everyone will just keep asking until it happens.

The Falcons could have opted for the full teardown, but instead brought back Matt Ryan while they try to patch up some of the issues they’ve had the last few years.

The Panthers were a fun little surprise early last year, until the bottom really fell out. We’ll see if Matt Rhule’s squad can recapture that mojo with Sam Darnold and hopefully a healthy CMC leading the offense.

It’s Year 4 of Vegas and Year 2 of Jon Gruden. Will this be the year the Raiders climb over .500?

The Eagles are just one year removed from three straight trips to the playoffs, but what a turbulent year it was. The team still has some talent as it reboots for the Nick Sirianni era, but it’s a long climb from here.

There is optimism at the start of the Urban Meyer and Trevor Lawrence era, but just remember that these things often take time.

How Joe Burrow looks coming off last season’s injury will be more important than wins and losses this year.

The Jets are starting over with yet another first-round quarterback. Will things be different this time? Most people seem to believe so.

The Lions are in what should be a multiyear rebuilding project, but it will be interesting to see how Dan Campbell’s schtick plays if and when the losses start to pile up.

On paper, the Texans have the league’s worst roster. This season has the potential to be an all-time trainwreck.

Preseason Power Rankings: Chiefs No. 1, Packers Over Bucs

CBS Sports 07 September, 2021 - 06:00am

Last season we conducted our staff-wide poll at a few key checkpoints throughout the year, but our writers spent most of the season taking turns doing the rankings individually. That’s our plan again for 2021, and we broke out the poll for our preseason edition.

This week’s MMQB Power Rankings Poll voters:

The Chiefs start in the top spot despite losing last year’s Super Bowl. But they have been to the big game two years in a row and are the betting favorites to win it again. They will probably be the preseason No. 1 many more times in the Patrick Mahomes era.

The Packers dipped to No. 6 in our last poll, which came right after the news of Aaron Rodgers’s unhappiness broke on the first day of the draft. With their MVP now officially back in the fold for 2021, Green Bay has climbed to its rightful place. (For this year at least.)

The defending champs got only one first-place vote in our poll, but they’ll get the first chance to change our minds with the season-opening game Thursday night. If they pick up where they left off, we could see them back on top soon.

The Rams won a lot of games with Jared Goff, but should be no slight to him just how excited everyone is to see Matthew Stafford piloting this offense. Expectations are very high in L.A.

Josh Allen took a major leap last season, and now expectations in Buffalo are higher than they’ve been since fans wore Starter jackets to the games. This team is good enough to beat anyone its path.

We have been guilty of hyping up the Browns too much in the preseason (who hasn’t?), but this year feels different. After demolishing the Steelers for a wild-card win, the Browns have a major monkey off their backs.

The Ravens’ late-season charge to the playoffs in 2020 reminded us just how good this team can be. There’s always so much focus on Lamar Jackson, but don’t forget how good this defense is.

The 49ers would like to just pretend 2020 never happened. Just getting back to full strength would help this team bounce back in a major way. But if Trey Lance makes them more dynamic on offense, they could soon be much higher on this list.

The Titans have star power and are coming off two straight trips to the playoffs, but right now our voters have them below the top-tier teams.

The Seahawks are our third NFC West team in the top 10, which speaks to both the talent they have and the difficult road they’ll face this season.

The Patriots have opted to go with rookie QB Mac Jones from Day One, even letting Cam Newton walk instead of keeping him as an insurance policy. Our voters are pretty high on New England, either because of or despite that decision.

Everyone’s favorite sleeper team every September now has a young franchise QB and a new coach in place.

The Colts have had one of the NFL’s most complete rosters for a few years now, and now Carson Wentz is their latest attempt to fill the hole left by Andrew Luck’s retirement.

Is this Ben Roethlisberger’s last ride? He has a defense in place for him to go on one last run, but the offensive line will have to keep him upright.

The Saints are going with Jameis Winston to fill Drew Brees’s shoes, and now we’ll learn more about what a QB whisperer Sean Payton is.

Dak is back, and if Prescott plays like he did before his injury last season that could be all it takes to push the Cowboys back to the top of the NFC East.

Washington won the division at 7–9 and then hung in a playoff game with Taylor Heinicke last season. Nobody will take this team lightly, given what we’ve seen from that defense.

The Broncos’ roster is loaded in several spots, but how far can Teddy Bridgewater take them in a tough AFC West?

The rumors have swirled, but Tua Tagovailoa will get his chance to lead this team into the season. The Dolphins made a jump last season behind their defense, but our voters once again have them just outside the playoff picture.

The Vikings have alternated seasons in and out of the playoffs since Mike Zimmer got there, and the pattern says this year they’d be in. But our poll has them out, which is how it often goes after a down season.

It’s tough to find consensus on anything these days, but it seems everyone in the country has at some point this offseason uttered the sentence, “It’s an important year for Daniel Jones.”

The Cardinals have a lot of talent but are stuck in the toughest division in football. But it’s now Year 3 for Kliff Kingsbury and Kyler Murray, so the expectations are higher.

By sticking steadfastly to the Andy Dalton plan, the Bears have become one of the more interesting teams in the league. When will Justin Fields start? Everyone will just keep asking until it happens.

The Falcons could have opted for the full teardown, but instead brought back Matt Ryan while they try to patch up some of the issues they’ve had the last few years.

The Panthers were a fun little surprise early last year, until the bottom really fell out. We’ll see if Matt Rhule’s squad can recapture that mojo with Sam Darnold and hopefully a healthy CMC leading the offense.

It’s Year 4 of Vegas and Year 2 of Jon Gruden. Will this be the year the Raiders climb over .500?

The Eagles are just one year removed from three straight trips to the playoffs, but what a turbulent year it was. The team still has some talent as it reboots for the Nick Sirianni era, but it’s a long climb from here.

There is optimism at the start of the Urban Meyer and Trevor Lawrence era, but just remember that these things often take time.

How Joe Burrow looks coming off last season’s injury will be more important than wins and losses this year.

The Jets are starting over with yet another first-round quarterback. Will things be different this time? Most people seem to believe so.

The Lions are in what should be a multiyear rebuilding project, but it will be interesting to see how Dan Campbell’s schtick plays if and when the losses start to pile up.

On paper, the Texans have the league’s worst roster. This season has the potential to be an all-time trainwreck.

Quarterbacks Are the N.F.L.’s Biggest Investment. Why Won’t It Listen to Them?

The New York Times 06 September, 2021 - 11:01pm

From Aaron Rodgers to Tom Brady to Patrick Mahomes, quarterbacks are trying to push football’s status quo. The results have lagged behind stars’ achievements in other sports.

Aaron Rodgers had a lot to get off his mind.

After two years of mounting whispers over his frustration with his team, Rodgers finally laid out his grievances when he reported to Green Bay Packers training camp in July. In sweeping depth and granular detail, the franchise quarterback expounded on all the topics team executives had not asked his opinion about, from the drafting of his potential successor to the team’s letting go of one of his favorite receiver targets.

“I just want to be involved in conversations that affect my ability to do my job, and it’s not all personnel, but I think I have a unique perspective being in the locker room and having been the starting quarterback here for 13 years and being here for 16 years,” Rodgers said during his July news conference.

Packers management, he said, had tried sweetening his contract, but money was not his primary concern.

He wanted his voice heard. The reigning M.V.P.’s standoff with the Packers represented one of the most drastic examples of a quarterback bucking the status quo, but he was not alone among players at his position who pushed for their voices to be acknowledged and for autonomy over their careers.

“For every athlete, they have to calculate for themselves the value of winning and then the value of their own personal business,” said Don Yee, the agent who represents quarterbacks Tom Brady and Jimmy Garoppolo. “And the latter part of that equation, at least in my personal view, has become more and more important with each successive generation.”

In a league like the N.B.A., star players routinely discuss potentially significant organizational moves with team owners and general managers. Quarterbacks operate the most crucial and iconic position in America’s most popular sport, but in the N.F.L., the team is prioritized over any one player — face of the franchise or not.

In Houston, after signing Deshaun Watson to a $160 million contract extension in 2020, the Texans ostracized their quarterback through moves that included trading the All-Pro wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins and not consulting Watson on a replacement for the fired head coach and general manager Bill O’Brien. Watson requested a trade from the franchise before 22 sexual misconduct lawsuits were levied against him in March. (He has denied the allegations.)

And in Seattle, Russell Wilson complained that he wanted more say over team personnel after absorbing the most hits of any N.F.L. quarterback through his first nine seasons.

In the last few years, as rallies of athlete empowerment swept up leagues like the N.B.A. and W.N.B.A. and individual sports like tennis, the N.F.L. seemingly lagged, and players are starting to take notice.

“You saw a lot of those guys get involved in the social justice thing that was going on over the last year, ever since George Floyd,” said Warren Moon, a Hall of Fame quarterback who spent the bulk of his N.F.L. career in Houston. Now, he said, if N.F.L. stars don’t get the support they expect from their teams, “they’re going to voice their opinions.”

Patrick Mahomes and Brady, the quarterbacks who have won the last three Super Bowls, have utilized their voices in different capacities.

Mahomes, the budding face of the league as Kansas City’s do-everything quarterback, participated with a number of N.F.L. stars in a June 2020 video naming Floyd and other Black victims of violence and demanding that the league condemn racism and systemic oppression.

Mahomes told Fox Sports’ “Undisputed” that he had spoken with Roger Goodell, the league’s commissioner, about recognizing Black Lives Matter. Goodell responded with a video of his own, saying the league had been wrong for not listening to players earlier — he did not mention Colin Kaepernick by name — and encouraging peaceful protest.

“I do think that’s a sign of more autonomy and lack of fear,” said Leigh Steinberg, the agent who negotiated Mahomes’s $503 million contract extension in 2020 with Kansas City. “So, what forestalled players of yesteryear from expressing their opinion was a fear that somehow they might go under controversy and might run afoul of the team, right? And now they’re trying to influence the team and the league.”

In 2019, Brady asked for a provision in his contract extension that would prevent the New England Patriots from placing a franchise or transition tag on him, allowing him to become a free agent if he and the team did not agree on his future. Brady ended his 20-year tenure in New England to sign with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers the following year.

Since winning his seventh Super Bowl in February, Brady criticized the league’s policies on voluntary off-season workouts and in August wrote in an Instagram post that N.F.L. players were “ignorant” about the league’s financial disparities. “The salary cap dropped by 20% and the new media deals were announced the day AFTER 2021 salary cap was set,” he wrote, referring to the league’s March negotiation of over $100 billion in media contracts.

“I see him inspiring people to have some confidence in their own thoughts and ideas,” Yee said. “It may sound a bit trite, but in the football world, that’s actually quite innovative.”

To Brady’s point, players today have climbed their way back to a 48.5 percent share of the league’s revenue, less than the 50 percent take reportedly in place as part of the 2006 collective bargaining agreement.

Boomer Esiason, who was a player representative during the 1987 strike, said he had tried informing players of the increasing disparity between how much team owners received versus the players.

“Finally, somebody by the name of Tom Brady alluded to that fact about three weeks ago, how ignorant N.F.L. players are to the amount of money that is available or should be available to them,” Esiason said. “Especially in light that the contracts are not 100 percent guaranteed. I think there is a changing landscape and Tom Brady may have changed it without even realizing that he changed it.”

Quarterbacks have benefited the most from the increased salaries that are the result of the league’s soaring revenues. For a while, Esiason led the N.F.L. with the highest annual salary of $1.2 million. This off-season, Dak Prescott signed a contract extension with the Dallas Cowboys worth $160 million over four years, with $126 million guaranteed, after a season-ending ankle injury. In Buffalo, Josh Allen inked a six-year, $258 million extension.

“You probably feel maybe less pressure to do whatever you’re told to do, and you get more courage to speak up for what you believe in and what you believe is best for the football team,” said Sage Rosenfels, a former N.F.L. journeyman quarterback.

But even with the most leverage among their N.F.L. peers, quarterbacks operate within a constrained system. They rarely arrive at free agency because of the franchise and transition tags that are standard practice, and young quarterbacks are often eager to reach lucrative contract extensions, with guaranteed payouts, rather than press for the freedom to test the open market if they’re unhappy with their teams.

Those gargantuan contracts further wed a quarterback to his franchise: Teams risk taking a huge salary cap hit letting go of a disgruntled passer, and front offices often can’t add free agents if the quarterback won’t agree to restructure his deal in later years.

“We’re getting to a point where the investment in that position is getting closer and closer and, in some respects, exceeds the dollar investments made into athletes from other sports,” Yee said, adding that teams want to see a return on their investment.

Steinberg previously represented quarterbacks like Steve Young and Troy Aikman and said those quarterbacks worked in a symbiotic fashion with their teams’ management.

“What’s become enhanced is that that position is so critical that teams will search in the draft or through free agency forever and still not be able to solve their problem,” Steinberg said. “So a team that has an incumbent quarterback, over time he almost morphs into another member of the coaching staff. A player that’s been there for years and years, teams want that input. They don’t have to take all his advice, but to not listen to him, they do at their peril.”

All the off-season’s smoke from quarterbacks resulted in little fire. Rodgers, Wilson and Watson are still with the franchises they had voiced frustrations about, seemingly changing little about how teams respond to players’ calls for more say-so.

“I just go back to the owners,” said Dan Fouts, a Hall of Fame quarterback. “They take care of each other and they’d all like to have a great quarterback, like an Aaron Rodgers, but they’re not going to change the way they do business.”

The significant quarterback deals that did occur this off-season involved behind-the-scenes maneuvering that didn’t draw headlines. Detroit dealt Matthew Stafford to the Los Angeles Rams for a package that included the Rams’ incumbent quarterback, Jared Goff. Philadelphia traded Carson Wentz to the Indianapolis Colts for a couple of draft picks.

“Everyone is different for their reason for wanting to get traded, released or whatever it may be,” Stafford said. “I just tried to make sure that whenever I got to the new place, I did what I could to make it successful.”

Les Snead, Los Angeles’s general manager, said he navigates cases as they come, but it’s natural for players to want their voices acknowledged.

“You always have to mix it together and see what’s best for the organization and the player,” Snead said. “Sometimes the organization may think that the player is better for us here, but if he really doesn’t want to be here, then what? We’ve all been a part of somewhere where you’ve worked with someone who really didn’t want to be there. It’s kind of like a toothache. You kind of wish that energy wasn’t there.”

In the age of athlete empowerment around sports, players at the N.F.L.’s most crucial position haven’t been able to advance their cause very far.

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