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Top 25 NFL Storylines To Follow This Season

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Top 25 NFL Storylines To Follow This Season

Top 25 NFL Storylines To Follow This Season
Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL season is finally here. It’s been a long summer of waiting, but as the NFL year starts, we're reminded that professional football is the greatest reality TV show on earth. There’s plenty of storylines to follow every year, and this season is no different.

There are more teams than ever in the championship mix. The Baltimore Ravens, the champion from last year, lost top players and team leaders. Oh yeah, and so did their AFC championship game foe, the New England Patriots.

The NFC has basically all of the good teams in the league. Top to bottom, the race for the NFC Championship is going to be as competitive as we've ever seen. They have three, maybe even four of the best divisions in football -- not to mention the New Orleans Saints, who bring back head coach Sean Payton and are looking to rebound from a lost year due to the Bounty Gate scandal.

2012 was the year of the breakout quarterback. We saw several young signal callers make their stamp on the league. This year, we get to see which ones have staying power and which ones will go down as just a flash in the pan. Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick all will be creating headlines this fall.

From which teams will make the playoffs, to which players will have breakout years to how the rookies will do, the NFL has all the excitement we’re looking for. It’s those storylines that make being an NFL fan so much fun.

These are the top 25 storylines to follow this season.

Ben Sullivan is an NFL writer for Follow him on Twitter @bensullivan52, “Like” him on Facebook and add him to your network on Google.

Related Links:

5 Reasons Washington Redskins Should Play Robert Griffin III Week 1 San Francisco 49ers' Colin Kaepernick Not A Franchise Quarterback Denver Broncos: Will 2013 Be Peyton Manning's Best Year Ever?

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25. Adrian Peterson's Assault On The Record Books

Adrian Peterson
Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Adrian Peterson had one of the most impressive years in recent memory in 2012. The bruising back ran for 2,097 yards less than a year removed from a devastating ACL injury. This year, Peterson has Eric Dickerson and his all-time single-season rushing record of 2,105 yards in his sights.

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24. How Long Before Rex Ryan Gets Fired?

Rex Ryan
Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

Whether you love him or hate him, Rex Ryan is always interesting. Usually, the headlines around him are about something outrageous that he said in a press conference. This year, if the losses start to mount, they will be about whether or not he keeps his job.

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23. Can Andy Reid Turn The Kansas City Chiefs Around?

Andy Reid
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY

Last year, the Kansas City Chiefs may have been the most talented team ever to lose their way to the No. 1 overall pick in the draft. This year, they bring in new head coach Andy Reid to turn things around. Reid has always been a winner. He may not be what you need to get a good team to a championship, but he’s a great option to get a decent team to the playoffs.

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22. Jay Cutler And The Chicago Bears' New Offense

Jay Cutler
Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Jay Cutler is always disappointing the Chicago Bears faithful. Despite all his talent, he has never quite lived up to expectations. He finally has a coach that’s vowed to work the offense around him and his strong arm, but this might be his last chance to avoid his fate as this generation’s Jeff George.

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21. Is J.J. Watt The Best Defender Of This Era?

J.J. Watt
Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports

J.J. Watt had one of the best statistical seasons ever for a defensive player in 2012. With 20.5 sacks and 81 tackles, Watt was unstoppable. He won’t sneak up on anyone this year, so can he do it again?

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20. Does Darrelle Revis Still Have His Own Island?

Darrelle Revis
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Once upon a time, Darrelle Revis was the last true shutdown corner in the NFL. He was so good that we all agreed he had his own island, appropriately named “Revis Island”. Now, he’s an older player coming off a major injury on a new team. Will he still be a shutdown corner for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers?

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19. Will A Team Lure Brian Urlacher Out Of Retirement?

Brian Urlacher
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Brian Urlacher retired this year. He may have retired because he didn’t feel like he could still play at a high level, or he could have retired because all the other teams in the league felt like he couldn’t still play at a high level. All I do know is that injuries open opportunities for proven players during the season. So, will a team that needs a veteran linebacker give Urlacher a call this year?

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18. Is Terrelle Pryor The Quarterback Of The Future For the Oakland Raiders?

Terrelle Pryor
Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

It’s starting to look like we’ll find out all about Terrelle Pryor at some point this year. After a big showing in the third preseason week, he was a disappointment in the final preseason action for the Oakland Raiders. No matter who starts Week 1 for the Raiders, it’s unlikely that Pryor won’t get the chance to show us what he has.

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17. The Race For The Number 1 Overall Pick In Next Year's Draft

Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

It’s always one of the best things to watch in the NFL. Every year, you have a few teams that just can’t seem to catch a break, and by the middle of the season, you wonder if they’re going to get any wins at all. This year, you have a few contenders for the prize, including the New York Jets, Oakland Raiders and Jacksonville Jaguars.

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16. Where Will Tim Tebow End Up?

Tim Tebow
Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Despite his performance in the preseason, Tim Tebow’s name will eventually be brought up as a solution every time a team struggles at quarterback this season. He may not look pretty, but at least he’s proven he can win in the NFL.

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15. Can The Baltimore Ravens Avoid A Post-Championship Letdown?

Baltimore Ravens
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Baltimore Ravens made an improbable run through the playoffs last year and finished the job with a Super Bowl championship. This year, they lose their two defensive leaders in Ray Lewis and Ed Reed. For the first time in years, it’s not a sure thing that the defending champion will even make the playoffs.

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14. Who Will Be The Rookie Of The Year?

Rookie Of The Year
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Watching the young guys make their mark on the league is always one of the best parts of the NFL season. This year, you have several skill position rookies who could make a splash, plus a couple of dark horse candidates at quarterback.

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13. Is Sam Bradford Really A Franchise Quarterback?

Sam Bradford
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

When you’re the No. 1 overall pick, big things are expected out of you. So far, the results for Sam Bradford have been mixed. He’s not a bust, but he hasn’t shown the ability to lead his team to the playoffs yet. This is the year he needs to show the world whether he’s just another in the long list of average quarterbacks, or a true franchise one.

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12. What's The Best Division In Football?

Best Division
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

There are so many good teams in the NFL this year. Usually the talent is spread out and you get a few good teams in each division. This year, you have a clear separation between the good divisions and the bad ones. The NFC West, NFC South and the NFC North will all have four quality teams.

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11. The Dallas Cowboys Transition Back To A 4-3 Defense

Dallas Cowboys
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Just a few years ago, it looked like every team in the league would eventually switch to a 3-4 defense. But, the league has adjusted like it always does, and now teams are going back to the 4-3 system. The Dallas Cowboys are the latest team to make the switch. If the defense can match the offense this year, they’ll be in contention for a playoff berth this season.

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10. Sean Payton's Return To The Sidelines

Sean Payton
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Payton lost all of last year to the Bounty Gate scandal. This year, he’s back and ready to remind the league that he’s one of the best offensive minds we have today. To make things even scarier for the rest of the NFL, he’s had a whole year to watch, learn and orchestrate new tricks to unleash on the league.

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9. Can Andrew Luck Make The Leap To An Elite Quarterback?

Andrew Luck
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Last year was the year of the rookie quarterback. We saw four of them have breakout seasons, led by the No. 1 overall pick Andrew Luck. Luck took the Indianapolis Colts from last place to the playoffs in just his first year as a pro. Will he continue to develop and force his name in the conversation of the elite NFL quarterbacks this year?

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8. How Good Is The Seattle Seahawks Defense?

Seattle Seahawks Defense
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Defense used to win championships in the NFL. Today, however, offense wins championships. What you need is a defense that’s just good enough not to lose you any games. The Seattle Seahawks would like to prove that statement wrong this year. They want to prove that you can still go all the way with a team led by a dominant defense.

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7. Is The Read-Option For Real?

Read Option
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Depending on who you ask, the read-option is either the future of the league or the latest fad. Last year, it took the league by storm and was a dominant force. This season, defensive coordinators have had a whole offseason to prepare for it. We’ll find out for sure if the read-option is here to stay this year.

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6. Are Defenders Still Allowed To Make Big Hits?

Big Hits
Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Head injuries and the NFL are a sordid storyline that will go far beyond this season. Any way you look at it, it’s the biggest challenge the league has ever faced. This year, they face the challenge of continuing to phase out the big hits while still keeping the fan base happy. Many would like to see the big hits stay in the game, but the simple fact is the league can’t continue to allow them.

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5. What Will Colin Kaepernick Do For An Encore?

Colin Kaepernick
Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

The Colin Kaepernick breakout was one of the best stories of the year in 2012. Kaepernick won the starting quarterback job for the San Francisco 49ers and led them all the way to the Super Bowl. Last year; he snuck up on the league; this year, the expectations for him are through the roof.

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4. Can This Be Peyton Manning's Best Year Ever?

Peyton Manning
Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

Just a year ago, after he sat out the entire 2011 season due to multiple neck surgeries, the questions around Peyton Manning were whether or not he could still be an effective NFL quarterback. Well, the future Hall of Fame signal caller answered those questions emphatically. This year, Manning has possibly the best collection of talent than at any other time in his career. This could be his best season ever.

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3. Chip Kelly And His Innovative Offense

Chip Kelly
Phil Sears-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL has been an innovative league for as long as it’s been around. Sometimes that innovation can come in slow drips, and sometimes it comes in downpours, but the league is always evolving. One of the ways that it evolves is by having truly advanced football minds enter the league. Chip Kelly may be the latest in the long line of evolutionary catalysts in the NFL.

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2. Are The New England Patriots Still A Title Contender?

New England Patriots
Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

The Patriots have been the most consistent Super Bowl contender in the league for over a decade now. Every year, they’re at the top of the list of teams that have the talent and experience to go all the way — but not this year. This year, they have a new crop of receivers and a defense that has yet to prove it can carry its weight. But, they still have Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. All we know for sure is that it’ll be an interesting year in New England.

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1. RG3 And His Knee

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Robert Griffin III and the recovery from his injured knee has dominated the headlines this summer, and that’s going to continue as the year goes on. RG3 broke out in a huge way last season and took the Washington Redskins to the playoffs. If his knee holds up, this year could be even bigger for him.