NFL season preview: Stories to follow

Tom Brady plays catch with Head Coach Jim Harbaugh  before Michigan's 45-28 victory over Colorado on September 17, 2016. (James Coller/Maize and Blue Nation)
Tom Brady plays catch with Head Coach Jim Harbaugh before Michigan's 45-28 victory over Colorado on September 17, 2016. (James Coller/Maize and Blue Nation)

For the first time in league history, the NFL is expanding to a 17-game season. But that’s not the only reason to get excited about football this fall. Fans are back in stadiums, ageless veteran players are returning for more and a bright rookie draft class is looking to make a strong first impression. With Week 1 of the inaugural season starting tomorrow, here are some things to keep an eye on.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are certainly in the running for a chance to repeat as champions. Tom Brady is still somehow one of the best quarterbacks in the league at age 44, and the core group of veterans around him, such as Rob Gronkowski and Antonio Brown, remained in Tampa during the offseason. 

The obvious challenger to Tampa’s glory, however, is the Kansas City Chiefs, led by quarterback Patrick Mahomes. The young superstar threw for 4,740 yards last year and racked up 38 touchdowns with only six interceptions. A major part of Mahomes’ success: 31-year-old Travis Kelce, arguably the best tight end in the league. If you add to that duo the speed of Tyreek Hill and the coaching wisdom of Andy Reid, then the Chiefs might just be the team to beat.

The offseason saw some big trades and free agent signings that will likely shake things up. The Jared Goff-Matthew Stafford trade got a lot of attention during the offseason. Keep an eye out for a highly anticipated Lions-Rams matchup on October 24.

Don’t sleep on some of the most promising rookies either. All eyes are on the number one overall pick, Trevor Lawrence, who is coming off of a record-breaking season at Clemson University. Out west, Trey Lance and Justin Fields also have much to prove after being given the starting spots. Only time will tell which slinger makes the best first impression this year.

The wide receiver class is equally exciting. Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith will likely provide the Eagles with a deep field threat, even if their quarterback situation remains unclear. Other rookies like Jaylen Waddle, Rashod Bateman and Elijah Moore will battle to see who emerges from the talented batch of wide receivers to enter the league.

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