FIVE STORYLINES FOR THE 2017 SEASON
1. ANTHEM PROTESTS
When Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during the national anthem last season to protest racial injustice in the US, it was met with both support and criticism.
One season later, Kaepernick is out of the NFL though his presence remains strong as a growing number of players are following in his footsteps to protest during the anthem.
From groups of players kneeling together, to putting arms around teammates in a show of unity, the anthem has become a platform for demonstration that continues to push its way into the league’s conversation.
2. LUCK’S HEALTH
Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck will not be ready for the regular season opener after off-season surgery on his right throwing shoulder as the injuries and uncertainty are beginning to pile up for the face of the Colts franchise.
The Colts signed Luck to a six-year contract extension worth US$140 million prior to last season, despite the quarterback playing in just seven games in 2015, and now he’s again on the mend with no clear date for when he will play although the Colts did return him to the active roster last Saturday.
3. ROOKIE RUNNING BACKS
As the NFL has evolved into an aerial show, running backs have seemingly lost value but a class of first-year runners appear poised f or big i mpact this season.
The Jacksonville Jaguars used the fourth pick of the draft to take bruiser
Leonard Fournette who will be given the keys to their rushing attack.
Cincinnati’s Joe Mixon and Minnesota’s Dalvin
Cook have each drawn rave reviews and are expected to play heavy roles, while Kansas City’s
Kareem Hunt has ascended to the top of the depth chart after Chiefs starter Spencer Ware went down with a knee injury during preseason.
Carolina’s Christian McCaffrey could also play a key role for the Panthers as a runner and pass catcher.
4. BATTLE FOR LA
The Chargers became the second team in as many years to relocate to Los Angeles, leaving behind San Diego to follow the Rams who departed St Louis in 2016.
Both teams will vie for fans in a city packed with competing sports and entertainment options.
The Rams have added a new head coach and a talented pass catcher in Sammy Watkins to join second-year quarterback Jared Goff, while the Chargers have a new coach and veteran leaders looking for rejuvenation in a new location.
5. RODGERS’ HUNT
Aaron Rodgers has long been considered by many as the NFL’s best quarterback, but while he has racked up highlights and statistics, others have laid claim to Super Bowl titles.
After winning the Super Bowl for the 2010 season, the two-time most valuable player will turn 34 in December and may be running out of time to capture his second title.
If the Packers once again fail to get over the hump with their core of head coach Mike McCarthy, linebacker Clay Matthews and wide receiver Jordy Nelson, it may be time for a shake-up.
Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette. Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers.