Predicting the story of the season for all 32 NFL teams

ByNFL Nation ESPN logo
Monday, May 27, 2019

After an offseason of trades, free-agent signings and draft picks, each team has plenty of storylines. But let's face it: There are stories, and then there are stories.

We're addressing the latter, as we've enlisted our NFL Nation writers to pick out the top story for each team in 2019. Can theCleveland Browns' "dream team" reverse a history full of nightmares? Can the quarterbacks from the Class of 2004 adjust to their late-career realities? There are only 101 days until the start of the season, so dive in and familiarize yourself with what's going on throughout the league.


AFC East: BUF | MIA | NE | NYJ

AFC North: BAL | CIN | CLE | PIT

AFC South: HOU | IND | JAX | TEN

AFC West: DEN | KC | LAC | OAK


NFC North: CHI | DET| GB | MIN

NFC South: ATL | CAR| NO | TB



Buffalo Bills

Can quarterback Josh Allen take the next step in his development?

Last season, as a rookie, Allen showed flashes of becoming the long-term answer the franchise has been waiting for since Jim Kelly retired after the 1996 season. Though Allen's talent is evident, he'll need to improve his accuracy and consistency, and help bring the best out of a supporting cast that lacks star power. -- Mike Rodak

Miami Dolphins

Is Josh Rosen the long-term answer at QB?

The Dolphins are searching for the franchise quarterback to lead their rebuild after seven seasons of mediocrity under Ryan Tannehill. They weren't in love with the options in the draft, but Dolphins general manager Chris Grier pulled off a great deal getting Rosen at a discount value. The 2019 season will be like a tryout for Rosen, who will have to beat out Ryan Fitzpatrick and convince the Dolphins that they don't need to pick a QB in next year's draft. Miami has spent the past 20 years looking for the next Dan Marino, and Rosen is as talented as any option they've brought in to fill the QB role. -- Cameron Wolfe

New England Patriots

Can the Patriots become the first team to repeat as Super Bowl champions since they pulled the trick in 2004?

Tom Brady turns 42 in August, Bill Belichick shows no signs of slowing down at 67, and the Patriots are still viewed as a perennial contender. But there's no Gronk, there's significant turnover on the coaching staff, and history isn't on the team's side, as it's proved to be especially difficult to win back-to-back titles. That mix adds a layer of intrigue as the Brady-Belichick pairing enters its 20th season together. -- Mike Reiss

New York Jets

Can coach Adam Gase overcome his rocky start?

Gase wasn't a popular hire among fans and was later portrayed as the bad guy in a power struggle that resulted in GM Mike Maccagnan's ousting. Gase also might have to repair his relationship with running backLe'Veon Bell, whom Gase reportedly didn't want to sign. His challenge: Fix the dysfunction, turn Sam Darnold into an elite QB and make the Jets a contender. So much for a honeymoon. -- Rich Cimini


Baltimore Ravens

The development of Lamar Jackson

He led the Ravens to a 6-1 record and their first AFC North title in six years, but Jackson needs to make strides in his second season -- especially as a passer -- for Baltimore to return to the postseason. The Ravens have done a lot of work this offseason to help Jackson, giving him a new offensive coordinator (Greg Roman), drafting two wide receivers in the first three rounds (Marquise Brown and Miles Boykin) and signing a proven runner and leader (Mark Ingram II). How much Jackson progresses is the key to the Ravens' season.-- Jamison Hensley

Cincinnati Bengals

Did the Bengals make the right choice in hiring Zac Taylor?

A lot has been made about Taylor's age (35) and relative lack of experience after he was hired away from the Rams (he was the quarterbacks coach in L.A.). It's clear Taylor has a vision in mind, which included the controversial hire of offensive line coach Jim Turner, who was involved in the Dolphins' bullying scandal. But it remains to be seen if that vision will lead to success. The Bengals have a new head coach for the first time since Marvin Lewis was hired in 2003, so this certainly will be a year of scrutiny. -- Katherine Terrell

Cleveland Browns

Can the new Dream Team exorcise its playoff demon?

The Browns' offseason acquisitions are reminiscent of those made by the 2011 Eagles, and the buzz is palpable inside the team facility. The Browns haven't experienced a playoff game since 2002 and believe it's time. Linebacker and tight end might be the only perceived weaknesses on the roster -- on paper. The pieces have to jell, and Baker Mayfield and Odell Beckham Jr. have yet to connect on a practice pass. It's on Mayfield to make sure the team responds to adversity if it hits early in the season.-- Jeremy Fowler

Pittsburgh Steelers

Can Big Ben produce big things for the Steelers as the last Killer B?

The franchise is all-in on Ben Roethlisberger to lead it to one more Super Bowl, and he must do so without 3,500 combined yards of yearly production from Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown. Roethlisberger is doing his part, calling his leadership role in 2019 a "refocus" effort to better understand his teammates on and off the field. The Steelers will need one of his best years, but not just statistically -- he'll be charged with getting the offense in the right place and maximizing the run game with pre-snap decision-making. -- Jeremy Fowler


Houston Texans

Can Deshaun Watson take the next step to being an elite quarterback?

On paper, the Texans should have one of the best offenses in the NFL, led by Watson, All-Pro receiver DeAndre Hopkins and receiver Will Fuller. But though the offense has shown promise and glimpses of how good it can be in Watson's first two seasons, the Texans could be one of the best teams in the AFC if he becomes more consistent. -- Sarah Barshop

Indianapolis Colts

Can the Colts become a top-five rushing team?

That's coach Frank Reich's goal. Huh? With Andrew Luck as their starting quarterback? It's actually possible when you consider that the Colts return all five starters from one of the league's best offensive lines, the passing game will force defenses to be honest, and there are a number of running backs who present different challenges for the defense. The Rams (third in rushing in 2018), Patriots (fifth) and Saints (sixth) all have very talented passing quarterbacks, so the Colts could achieve that type of success this season. -- Mike Wells

Jacksonville Jaguars

The signing of QB Nick Foles to fix an anemic offense

The Jaguars have one of the NFL's top defenses, but that wasn't enough to overcome the offense's terrible play last season. The defense had no margin for error, and giving up more than 10 points meant the team had little chance of winning. The Jaguars believe that adding Foles changes that. His consistency and accuracy -- the two major issues with former starterBlake Bortles -- means the offense should be able to produce points again, especially if it can run the ball the way it did in 2017. -- Mike DiRocco

Tennessee Titans

Can Marcus Mariota establish himself as the cornerstone of the Titans' offense?

Mariota is surrounded by perhaps the best supporting cast he's had. The Titans bolstered the offensive line, added playmaking wide receivers, and tight end Delanie Walker is returning from injury. If Mariota doesn't prove he can stay healthy and be productive, the Titans might find themselves moving on to a different option under center. -- Turron Davenport


Denver Broncos

Can the Broncos' offense be the best it's been since Peyton Manning retired?

This question breaks off into some smaller ones. Does quarterback Joe Flacco have plenty left in the tank? Can they protect him? Can they fit the plan to the personnel? Rich Scangarello is the third offensive coordinator in the past three seasons and will try to find a rhythm that's been mostly absent since Manning was the QB. Since winning Super Bowl 50, Denver has had a mishmash of inconsistent line play, hesitant quarterbacks and conservative philosophy. That has to change, or the team will miss the playoffs for a fourth straight season. -- Jeff Legwold

Kansas City Chiefs

Can the defense carry its fair share of the load?

The Chiefs overhauled their defense by changing the coaching staff, installing a 4-3 base system and acquiring as many as seven new starters, including safety Tyrann Mathieu and defensive end Frank Clark. Will this be enough to get the Chiefs to their first Super Bowl in 50 years?-- Adam Teicher

Los Angeles Chargers

Can the Philip Rivers-led Chargers reach the Super Bowl?

The Bolts finished 12-4 last season and fell two games short of the big game. After adding defensive tackleJerry Tillery and safetyNasir Adderley through the draft and linebackerThomas Davis in free agency, the Chargers believe this year's team has the pieces to compete for a Super Bowl crown. The most durable quarterback in the league, Rivers has yet to reach the Super Bowl and still seeks that signature moment to cement his status as a future Hall of Famer.-- Eric D. Williams

Oakland Raiders

How will Antonio Brown vibe with Derek Carr?

Sure, the final season (we think) in Oakland is an overarching theme, as is Carr's perceived vulnerable status as franchise QB, with many analysts thinking the Raiders were ready to move on this offseason. But the polarizing Brown, and how he connects with Carr, will be the main on-field issue. Nothing but positive reviews have surfaced thus far, and the two famously hit it off at the Pro Bowl a few years back. But what happens if the Raiders get off to a slow start and Brown is not getting targeted as often as he'd like? From Oakland's perspective, it's better to wonder how lethal they'll be if everybody's happy. Stay tuned.-- Paul Gutierrez


Dallas Cowboys

Can the Cowboys take the next step?

Only the Lions and Redskins have longer NFC Championship Game droughts than Dallas, which hasn't been to the game since its Super Bowl-winning season of 1995. The Cowboys believe their roster is the deepest it has been in a decade. They rebounded from a 3-5 start to make the playoffs last season and carry that confidence with them. History suggests things will be different this season. The Cowboys haven't made the postseason in back-to-back years since 2006-2007, and there hasn't been a repeat NFC East champ since the 2003-2004 Eagles. If the Cowboys don't progress, then coach Jason Garrett, who is in his contract year, likely will have to find another job in 2020.-- Todd Archer

New York Giants

When will we see Daniel Jones?

The Giants invested their future in the quarterback from Duke. The Eli Manning era is about to end. It's inevitable at this point. But when? Midseason? Late in the year? Maybe next offseason or beyond? And, perhaps most important, will Jones be any good?-- Jordan Raanan

Philadelphia Eagles

Can Carson Wentz stay healthy?

The Eagles let Nick Foles walk this offseason and are committed to Wentz for the long term. He has ditched his knee brace and looks as healthy as we've seen him since 2017. If he can shake the injury bug and return to MVP-caliber form, Philly has a real chance of being the best team in the NFL.-- Tim McManus

Washington Redskins

Can Jay Gruden save his job while starting a rookie quarterback?

The Redskins drafted quarterbackDwayne Haskins at No. 15 overall, and it's just a matter of when, not if, he starts. Of course, if Case Keenum starts strong and the Redskins are winning, they won't need Haskins, but it's hard to imagine him not playing. The pre-draft view was that Haskins had terrific upside but would require patience. So the question becomes: Will owner Dan Snyder have patience with a coach trying to develop a rookie quarterback? Washington has missed three straight postseasons, and doing so again would be bad for Jay Gruden's job security. It would be interesting to see what happens if Haskins develops but the Redskins miss the playoffs.-- John Keim


Chicago Bears

Is Mitchell Trubisky a franchise quarterback?

The Bears appear loaded for a repeat run in the NFC North, but questions about Trubisky persist. The 24-year-old quarterback had a good season in 2018 (95.4 passer rating) but needs to take another step for Chicago to move from playoff qualifier to Super Bowl contender. The Bears assembled a formidable cast of characters around Trubisky, who enters Year 2 in head coach Matt Nagy's innovative offensive scheme.-- Jeff Dickerson

Detroit Lions

Will the Lions buy in to Matt Patricia?

That was a major question last season, and for Detroit to have success, Patricia will need the players to believe in his approach, which is a marked change from that of the past. Almost every move the Lions made this offseason, from free agents signed to players drafted, was done with building the team in his and Bob Quinn's image. Many of those players understand what Patricia is trying to do because of their history in New England. Whether it works likely will define if the 2019 season will lead the Lions in a positive direction -- or doom Patricia to the fate that has come to previous Lions coaches. -- Michael Rothstein

Green Bay Packers

Will Aaron Rodgers and Matt LaFleur clash or thrive?

It wasn't hard to see that something was off with Rodgerslast season -- and it wasn't just his banged-up left knee/leg from the season opener. Rodgers no longer seemed to believe in what the Packers were doing, and it cost Mike McCarthy his job after 12-plus seasons as head coach. Enter LaFleur, a 39-year-old first-time head coach with his own ideas about how to run an NFL offense. As Packers president Mark Murphy told ESPN early in the offseason, Rodgers "has to embrace it." How that works out will determine what kind of season the Packers have in 2019. -- Rob Demovsky

Minnesota Vikings

Can Kirk Cousins take himself and the team to new heights in Year 2?

The Vikings have done everything imaginable to support their quarterback this offseason, putting together a staff to create a scheme best suited to his strengths, placing an emphasis on fixing the O-line and finding new weapons in the draft. Now it's Cousins' responsibility to improve in areas where he struggled in 2018 and lead this team back to the playoffs. What we'll learn in Cousins' second year in Minnesota is if he can push his ceiling higher. How this season goes will help determine how much longer he'll be the quarterback of the Vikings, given that his deal goes through 2020. -- Courtney Cronin


Atlanta Falcons

Can the Falcons remain healthy and become contenders again?

Linebacker De'Vondre Campbell tweeted, "I guess people seem to have forgotten how good we are when we're healthy lol. I can't wait till the season starts." The injury bug hit the Falcons hard last season, with Devonta Freeman, Keanu Neal, Ricardo Allen, Andy Levitre and Brandon Fusco lost to season-ending injuries and star middle linebacker Deion Jones missing significant time. Freeman's return should positively impact an already-potent offense now coordinated by Dirk Koetter, while coach Dan Quinn will be thankful to have Neal and Allen back as he takes over the defensive playcalling. -- Vaughn McClure

Carolina Panthers

Is Cam Newton ready to go?

Will he be ready, as he's indicated he will be, for the start of the season after a second shoulder surgery in three offseasons? Can he return to the form he was at a year ago in leading a 6-2 start and continue to evolve as an efficient quarterback? Or will the 2015 MVP have another setback and force the Panthers to turn to third-round draft pick Will Grier or one of their other young quarterbacks? The future of coach Ron Rivera and general manager Marty Hurney could depend on these answers after two losing seasons in the past three years. -- David Newton

New Orleans Saints

Can the Saints finally avoid a miracle?

We know the Saints are talented enough to reach a Super Bowl with the ageless Drew Brees and a deep cast of young stars around him. But they're going to have to show a ton of resilience to climb all the way back up that mountain after getting knocked out of the playoffs by the "No-call" and the "Minneapolis Miracle" the past two years. They bounced back in impressive fashion last season by earning the NFC's No. 1 seed, but they also were fortunate with injuries. Doing that again won't be easy. -- Mike Triplett

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Can'Quarterback Whisperer'Bruce Arians work his magic with Jameis Winston?

Can Arians turn around a franchise that has the second-longest playoff drought in the league (11 seasons) while galvanizing a fan base that has seen the Bucs compile the NFL's third-worst record and seven double-digit loss seasons the past decade? "That 'it' factor that you really can't explain ... anybody that's around Bruce knows that Bruce has 'it,'" general manager Jason Licht said the day Arians' hiring became official. "I've never been around a guy that has such magnetism about him that players and coaches just instantly want to follow him when he comes." -- Jenna Laine


Arizona Cardinals

All things Kyler Murray

The focus of every offensive play of every Cardinals game will be on Murray, the first overall pick out of Oklahoma. How he's throwing? Is he running? Did he get hit? There'll be a trillion questions about his progress, development, accuracy, health -- everything. There might not be a brighter spotlight and a more intense magnifying glass on a player this season than those on Murray. He's a football enigma. A subplot will be how Kliff Kingsbury's offense will adapt to the NFL, but, again, that'll come back to Murray. Everything about the Cardinals this season will be Murray, Murray, Murray. -- Josh Weinfuss

Los Angeles Rams

Can the Rams return to the Super Bowl?

The Rams must regroup as they go into the 2019 season and put their disappointing 13-3 Super Bowl loss to the Patriots behind them. Their roster had some turnover at key positions, including two spots on the offensive line, but quarterback Jared Goff is more comfortable going into Year 3 of coach Sean McVay's scheme. They also return two-time Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald and star running back Todd Gurley -- although the extent of Gurley's knee issues remains unknown. -- Lindsey Thiry

San Francisco 49ers

Is Jimmy Garoppolo the franchise quarterback the Niners believe he is?

Coming off a torn ACL that limited him to three games in 2018, Garoppolo is still something of an unknown commodity with just 10 NFL starts. The 49ers are paying Garoppolo like the franchise centerpiece but still don't know if he's the guy who can elevate the team back to playoff contention -- and now he's bouncing back from a serious knee injury. The Niners have plenty of question marks on the roster, but how Garoppolo fares in his first full season as a starter is of paramount importance -- now and for the future. -- Nick Wagoner

Seattle Seahawks

The Seahawks must be better than the sum of their parts again

It's hard to make a credible argument that they're better on paper this offseason after losing Earl Thomas, Frank Clark and Doug Baldwin. Then again, the same thing seemed true last year, when they parted ways with a handful of the best players in franchise history but improved from 9-7 to 10-6 and earned a wild-card berth. A big reason for that was quarterbackRussell Wilson turning in the most efficient -- and perhaps the best -- season of his career. With a defense that has lost serious firepower, the Seahawks might need to put more on Wilson in 2019 to stay in games. -- Brady Henderson

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