With the 2013 NFL season just a short screen pass away, there are a lot of of questions. Here's five of them, and we've included answers, too. See if your favorite team has the goods to make this season a memorable one.
Can the Baltimore Ravens defend their Super Bowl title?
Without Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Anquan Boldin, Dannell Ellerbe and Paul Kruger, as well as the injured Dennis Pitta, the Baltimore Ravens will be a very different team in 2013. The signing of Elvis Dumervil helps the pass rush and former Raiders safety/cornerback Michael Huff adds depth in the secondary, but without Boldin, the Ravens lack a clear-cut number one receiver. Unless Jacoby Jones and recently acquired Brandon Stokley and Dallas Clark can contribute and one of their rookies can chip in, the pass attack, despite QB Joe Flacco's $120.6 million contract, looks mediocre. At this point, it appears the Ravens can make the playoffs on their defense, but they will need Flacco to prove his worth once again if they are to defend their Super Bowl title.
How will Sean Payton's return affect the New Orleans Saints?
Without Payton, the Saints staggered to a 7-9 record in 2012, in spite of an insane 5,177-yard, 42-touchdown season from quarterback Drew Brees. Away from Brees, injuries to Darren Sproles and Jimmy Graham and the ineffectiveness of Mark Ingram hurt the multifaceted offense at times. A spotty defense, thanks to Tracy Porter's off-season signing with the Denver Broncos and Jonathan Vilma's suspension was what really hurt the team, however. Payton's return to the team, calling the plays and providing leadership, will prove a drastic change. Expect the team to run the ball far less than they did last year and utilize Graham (who's in a contract year) and Sproles far more. While the defense will continue to be suspect, a more efficient Payton-directed offense should be enough to get the team into the playoffs.
Can the Patriots offense thrive without Wes Welker and Aaron Hernandez?
Without Wes Welker and Aaron Hernandez, the Patriots once mighty pass attack doesn’t look nearly as formidable. If Tom Brady can’t get the most out of recently acquired Danny Amendola and Welker-clone Julian Edelman, New England is going to spend more time on the ground than they’d like.
Can Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson avoid a dreaded sophomore slump?
All three looked poised as they led their respective teams to playoff appearances in their rookie seasons. With a bevy of maturity and an abundance of talent, the trio will have the eyes of the NFL world on them as they embark on season two of their pro careers.
Will J.J. Watt dominate again?
It’s pretty hard to top 20.5 sacks, but when you consider the 6’5”, 295-pound Watt’s raw athletic ability, not ot mention a 37” vertical leap and youth (he's just 24), it’s easy to say that barring any serious injury, Watt will continue to be the most dominant player in the NFL.