10 burning questions that will define 2019 NFL season

Tom Brady holds the Lombardi Trophy
Feb 5, 2019; Boston, MA, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) holds up the Vince Lombardi Trophy during the Super Bowl LIII championship parade through downtown Boston. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

The 2019 NFL season brings with it many compelling storylines. Every team is glowing with optimism after free agency and the draft.

As we look ahead toward the 2019 campaign, certain questions stand out like beacons in the night. The answers to these questions will ultimately determine how the coming season will unfold on a league-wide level.

Will Kyler and Kliff usher in a new era?

The Arizona Cardinals made a couple of gargantuan gambles this offseason. Hiring Kliff Kingsbury — a coach who struggled to win at the collegiate level — was the first. Selecting Kyler Murray No. 1 overall, then ditching last year’s No. 10 overall pick Josh Rosen, was the second. Will Kingsbury’s offensive approach end up as a colossal failure, a la Chip Kelly? Or will he and the dynamic Murray usher in a new era of innovation to the NFL? There is a lot riding on these questions.

Are the Browns ready to ascend?

It’s impossible to look at what John Dorsey has done as general manager the past year-plus and not marvel. He has completely transformed Cleveland’s roster. A team that lived in the NFL’s basement for decades, the Browns now appear to be legitimate contenders. Baker Mayfield has to continue developing for that to happen. Yet after acquiring Odell Beckham Jr., among other moves, the Browns clearly have the talent to make it happen. The bar of expectations has shifted in a major way, and many are talking Super Bowl.

Can Carson Wentz stay healthy?

It looks like winning the NFC East is a two-team race given the way New York and Washington are going these days. The Philadelphia Eagles will be counting on Carson Wentz to stay with Dallas atop the division this coming season. The big issue here is that Wentz has struggled to stay healthy the past two seasons, missing significant time with season-ending injuries in both 2017 and 2018. The former No. 3 overall pick is stellar when healthy and insists he isn’t injury prone. Yet it’s impossible not to wonder if the Eagles will ultimately regret letting Nick Foles walk.

Can Tom Brady stave off Father Time?

The annual question that hovers over the AFC East: Will Tom Brady finally act his age? Entering his age-42 season, the New England Patriots star has yet to succumb to Father Time. In fact, he was downright stellar once again last year passing for 4,355 yards with 29 touchdowns en route to his sixth Super Bowl title. New England has won the AFC East 10 straight seasons. If Brady can stay healthy and continue to play at a high level, then it stands to reason the Pats will make it 11 straight in 2019.

Will Matt LaFleur and Aaron Rodgers mesh?

The NFC North is one of the toughest divisions in the NFL right now. Detroit is the worst team in the division but is still a tough out every week. Meanwhile, Minnesota, Chicago and Green Bay are all playoff contenders. The big X-factor within the division this coming season is whether rookie head coach Matt LaFleur and star quarterback Aaron Rodgers can make magic sweet music together. If the former Sean McVay pupil proves worthy of the position, then Green Bay might just be the most dangerous team in the league.

Which Nick Foles will the Jags get?

The Jacksonville Jaguars paid Nick Foles like a top starter in this league. It remains to be seen if he will make them look smart. Jacksonville entered last season as a trendy Super Bowl pick. If Foles can play like he did for the Eagles in 2017-18, then the Jags could live up to those expectations. If he struggles outside of Doug Pederson’s system and looks like the journeyman who struggled between 2014-16, however, then Tom Coughlin and Co. will have wasted yet another season with a championship-caliber roster.

Can Jared Goff take that next step?

It’s incredibly difficult to lose a Super Bowl and then come back even stronger the next season. That’s the task Jared Goff and Co. have in front of them heading into the 2019 NFL season. Overall, the Los Angeles Rams still feature a championship-caliber roster. The big question is whether Goff can shrug off his abysmal Super Bowl performance and continue ascending among the league’s elite. If he does, then the Rams could be back for a second crack at the Lombardi Trophy next February.

Will Patrick Mahomes regress?

The Kansas City Chiefs nearly made it to Super Bowl LIII, despite significant liabilities on the defensive side of the ball. Of course, the reason they experienced so much success is that Patrick Mahomes put together one of the all-time great seasons by an NFL quarterback on his way to winning the MVP award. However, going back to 2008, only one quarterback did not regress after leading the league in touchdown rate (as he did in 2018) the previous year. It’s hard to imagine Mahomes will be able to improve on the crazy numbers he put up last year. That could be a problem for the Chiefs.

Will the Seahawks unleash Russell Wilson?

Seattle made Russell Wilson the richest player in NFL history recently. Over the course of his seven-year career, the former third-round pick has certainly proved himself as a top passer in the league. The puzzling aspect of his massive deal is that the Seahawks haven’t run their offense through Wilson in the past. Now that they’ve paid him, will they finally make him the true focal point of the offense? Given the talent around him, Wilson could finally be ready to put together an MVP season.

Can Gruden coax career year out of Derek Carr?

The Oakland Raiders boldly reshaped their roster the past two offseasons and enter the 2019 NFL season with quite a diverse group of talented skill-position players. Adding Antonio Brown, Tyrell Williams and rookie Josh Jacobs were key moves that should greatly benefit quarterback Derek Carr. However, it’s impossible not to reflect on Carr’s struggles in Jon Gruden’s system last year without wondering if he is the right man for the job long term. If they can mesh in 2019, however, then a career year for Carr isn’t out of the question. If not, then Gruden will be looking at the 2020 NFL Draft with greedy eyes.