For those of you who are ready to dream big, let’s begin.
#1: Tom Brady’s Suspension is Dropped
Why I want it to happen: Beside my own biases of growing up a brisk, if not mildly ambitious walk to Gillette Stadium, I truly believe having Tom Brady for the full season is in the best interest of the league. No matter if you hate, love, know, don’t know, cherish, or revile the Patriots they add a great amount of competition and intrigue in the league. Sure, if you don’t like them you just love to get all riled up against them and talk about how all they do is cheat because they beat the crap out of your team, but if they suck (I’m not bullish on Garoppolo quite yet) then there’s no fun to be had hating on them. If you’re a fan like myself, you know there’s no fun rooting for a bad team (sorry Jaguars).
Why it will happen: Let’s look at the most recent team fines handed down on some NFL teams:
- Falcons “Sound Gate” (Piping in sound over the speaker, clear advantage): $350,000, loss of 5th round draft pick
- Saints “Bounty Gate” (Players targeting players to injure, clearly dangerous) $500,000, loss of two 2nd round picks, various coach and player suspensions.
- “Deflategate” (Game balls were deflated, questionable benefit to players) $1,000,000, loss of a 1st round pick and a 4th round pick; Brady suspension (four games). Looking at just the infractions and their consequences, Deflategate seems a bit harshly treated. Now, obviously this punishment is for Patriots’ “questionable tactics” over the past years, still, accounting for everything they “did” this ruling appears draconian.
#2: Cleveland Makes A Playoff Run
Why I want it to happen: Yeah I know you probably don’t like LeBron or Manziel and you probably think this is a stupid thing to have on the list, but unless you’re a Cubs fan (still isn’t the year), I guarantee you don’t know the type of championshiplessness this city has had to endure. If there’s one thing that America loves, it’s a good underdog story; well, if you want one you can hop on the bandwagon now. Imagine watching a team that hasn’t gone over .500 in a season since ‘07 nor won a playoff game in 21 years (!) going on a tear and making the Super Bowl. If that doesn’t inspire the nation, I’m not sure if anything ever will.
Why it will happen: Last year the Browns went 7-9, their best record since ‘07. Four games were decided by one score or less: two game-winning field goals (Pittsburgh, Baltimore), a touchdown in the last minute (Indianapolis), and a fourth quarter comeback touchdown (Carolina). Had these games been Cleveland victories ,the Browns would’ve been 11-5, also. By virtue of the head-to-head tiebreaker, they would’ve beat the Steelers for the top spot in the AFC North. This all done while lacking WR Josh Gordon for most of the season. In the offseason the Browns improved their defense with the additions of CB Tramon Williams, CB Justin Gilbert, DT Randy Starks, and DT Danny Shelton. Despite losing TE Jordan Cameron and WR Josh Gordon (for ridiculous reasons, if you ever read into his story), the Browns still improved their offense by adding QB Josh McCown and the WR duo of Dwayne Bowe and Brian Hartline. With a little luck, improved offense, and a decent run defense the Browns are in a very good position to make a playoff push in an unusually underwhelming AFC North.
#3: Rookie QB Turns Around A Franchise
Why I want it to happen: The past two years haven’t been the best for rookie QBs with no playoff wins and no immediate standouts. The QB class of 2012 has already brought comparisons to those of 1983 and 2004, with great reason for doing so. What about 2015? We have two QBs, Mariota and Winston, looking to take the reins of their respective teams. Success from either of these two would be another underdog story as both teams projected to start a rookie QB (Buccaneers and Titans) both went 2-14 last season. Turnarounds aren’t that uncommon in sports: Red Sox ‘12-’13, Rams ‘98-’99, Celtics ‘07-’08; but, there’s just something special about a rookie coming in and making the difference. When a rookie succeeds, there’s this aura of excitement that surrounds not only the individual player, but the team as a whole. Something like that is needed in the NFL to reinvigorate the fan base that has been yearning for a new story.
Why it will happen: Both QBs projected to start (Winston and Mariota) do not have fantastic supporting casts; yet, they both have serviceable receiving cores. They exhibit great mobility with Mariota obviously the superior runner, both are accurate and exhibit decent to great arm strength, and most importantly, they both have big play ability. Granted neither has “once in a lifetime ability,” they do have a great skillset that with some luck could translate to great professional achievement.
Will any of these things actually happen? Hell if I know, I’m just a teenage kid with internet access and 7 ESPN channels. You might disagree with the benefits of each of these events but hey, this sport is subjective, you like who you like and you hate who you hate. Even if none of these become reality, I’m sure the NFL will provide plenty of storylines to keep myself and all of its fans happy.
Image via ESPN