NFL players can only give everything they’ve got once per week, or they’d all break. This is a bummer for football junkies, though it does turn each Thursday, Sunday and Monday from September to February into a celebration.
And thanks to the advent of NFL Red Zone, it’s now possible to celebrate every game at once…because they’re all worth watching, and every team has something to give. Here’s some solid reasoning to watch every team in the league no matter how good, how bad, or how Jaguars.
Arizona Cardinals: Because they’re close to doing something that hasn’t been done since “Rhinestone Cowboy” was a #1 hit. The Cards won 10 games last season, but they haven’t won 11 since 1975, when they were in St. Louis.
Player to watch: Tyrann Mathieu aims to badger all of the honey.
Atlanta Falcons: Because Julio Jones is back. When the Falcons lost Jones they were 1-4, but all of the losses were close. Without him, it was like The Walking Dead but twice as boring as usual. Also, Hard Knocks!
Player to watch: Levine Toilolo, only has to replace the best tight end of all-time.
Baltimore Ravens: Because the 52 other players had a quiet summer. All eyes will be on Ray Rice when he returns in Week 3, but the truth is that when football is happening, people typically just pay attention to football. Think of how revered Michael Vick was when he was playing out of his mind for the Eagles.
Player to watch: Steve Smith, out for vengeance after parting ways with the Panthers.
Buffalo Bills: Because head coach Doug Marrone helped build the Saints offense. And with rookie Sammy Watkins added to the mix, along with Tampa Bay castoff Mike Williams, the Bills passing game might be interesting for the first time since Jim Kelly retired.
Player to watch: Watkins is probably not going to take very long to be among the best receivers in the league.
Carolina Panthers: Because they’ll be in a lot of close games. They’ve got a top-five defense, an offense that might struggle and play in a tough division. Like playing Monopoly for five hours and realizing that a low-action game can have really high stakes.
Player to watch: Rookie Kelvin Benjamin becomes a de facto number one receiver much earlier than most expected.
Chicago Bears: Because the Bears finished 2nd in points scored and 30th in points allowed last season. The Bears are like someone just handing you a bazooka for the first time and saying, “FIRE THIS!”
Player to watch: Willie Young was a less-heralded signing than Jared Allen, but he could end up making a bigger impact.
Cincinnati Bengals: Because the last time they won a playoff game, Dances with Wolves hadn’t won Best Picture yet. However, that could change this year. Cincy’s plus-125 point differential last season was tied for the best in franchise history and the AFC is ripe for the taking.
Player to watch: A.J. Green. It’s always A.J. Green.
Cleveland Browns: Because…Oh do I really have to spell it out for you? The league suspended Cleveland’s best player because he may have found himself in the wrong place at the wrong Willie Nelson song. Still: Johnny Football.
Player to watch: Manziel, who may not start in Week 1, but after the Browns fall out of contention, all of his games will be on full blast.
Dallas Cowboys: Because it’s either going to go really wrong or really right. And if it goes really wrong, they might finally blow this team up and try again. There’s nothing quite like “Jerry Jones Theater.”
Player to watch: DeMarco Murray is the key to a successful season.
Denver Broncos: Because it’s now or never, Peyton ain’t gonna live forever. Manning makes them a Super Bowl contender once again, but they’re hoping DeMarcus Ware and a few new secondary players make them good enough to not lose it by 35 points this time.
Player to watch: Receiver Emmanuel Sanders could become a household name after taking the place of Eric Decker, who decided to stop being a household name when he signed with the Jets.
Detroit Lions: Because they can’t possibly continue to be this bad with this much talent, right? They’re a contender to lead the league in scoring, but haven’t won a playoff game since 1991 or made a championship game appearance since 1957. To put that in perspective, Madonna was born in 1958.
Player to watch: Linebacker DeAndre Levy was the most surprising name on the NFL’s Top 100 list. Was it a clerical error or is he the real deal?
Green Bay Packers: Because last season was a fluke. The defense isn’t spectacular but a few years ago they went 15-1 with an unspectacular defense. This is almost like watching a Super Bowl-contender on deep discount.
Player to watch: Randall Cobb is back and he’s beautiful.
Houston Texans: Because a 2-14 team has the best defensive end combo in the league. J.J. Watt is the best defensive player, period, but the addition of Jadeveon Clowney makes the Texans a team worth checking out every week. The idea that Ryan Fitzpatrick could get sacked just as often on the other side makes it twice as nice.
Player to watch: Clowney, who could set a rookie record for sacks.
Indianapolis Colts: Because this is supposed to be the year that Andrew Luck becomes elite. He’s been really good so far, but there are still a few levels up he has yet to traverse. Living up to Manning is like Candy Crush level 181. Impossible.
Player to watch: Trent Richardson went two picks after Luck, but has been really awful so far. Can he break through this season?
Jacksonville Jaguars: Because the Seahawks were once terrible to watch until they weren’t. Gus Bradley helped turn the Seattle defense into one of the best ever and now he’s trying to do the same in Jacksonville…by signing all of his old players. This time around it was defensive ends Chris Clemons and Red Bryant. Could the Jags contend for a playoff spot this year?
Player to watch: Cornerback Alan Ball could be Bradley’s next Brandon Browner, an underrated player who has been misused throughout his career until now.
Kansas City Chiefs: Because they are still going to get a ton of sacks. And who doesn’t like sacks (quarterbacks aside)? The Chiefs sure did last year with Justin Houston and Tamba Hali, and the rock keeps rolling with the addition of rookie Dee Ford.
Player to watch: When you only have one player on offense that’s worth watching, he must be really worth watching. That’s Jamaal Charles.
Miami Dolphins: Because sometimes bad movies are really fun to watch. The Dolphins might be picking first overall next year, which could keep Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston in-state. And that’s kind of fun to think about while you’re watching Ryan Tannehill get sacked again.
Player to watch: Miami traded up in the 2013 draft for Dion Jordan and it’s not yet apparent why.
Minnesota Vikings: Because sometimes the absence of a QB is as good as the presence of one. If there is any chance of seeing Adrian Peterson play without Christian Ponder, I like those odds. It’s not apparent when Teddy Bridgewater could get his first start (Matt Cassel’s in the mix, too) but eventually he could be the steal of the draft.
Player to watch: Cordarrelle Patterson will definitely be involved early, and he’s very exciting to watch.
New England Patriots: Because the boys are back in town. If Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola are healthy (why are you laughing?), then Tom Brady could still prove to be the best quarterback in this league. He’s a fine bet to make his sixth career Super Bowl and possibly his fourth career championship.
Player to watch: Brandon LaFell might finally click with a QB and have the breakthrough we’ve been waiting for.
New Orleans Saints: Because the defense might actually be better than the offense. The Saints finished fourth in points and yards allowed last season, then added Jairus Byrd, possibly the best defensive player on the market.
Player to watch: Giving Drew Brees another receiver like rookie Brandin Cooks is like giving a pitbull a second mouth. Excessive.
New York Giants: Because Eli Manning is liable to do an “Eli Manning thing” at any second. Eli hits David Tyree in the Super Bowl? Good. Eli throws his fourth interception with the game on the line? Even better.
Player to watch: Remember when Peyton Hillis was on the Madden cover? Fans can’t be trusted in voting situations.
New York Jets: Because GM John Idzik has loaded this team with young talent. The Jets made 12 picks in this year’s draft to add to a group of young stars like Sheldon Richardson and Muhammad Wilkerson. They might be “green,” but young players are almost always interesting.
Player to watch: Six-straight seasons of over 1,000 yards rushing was not enough to keep Chris Johnson from getting cut in Tennessee and landing with the Jets.
Oakland Raiders: Because they actually might not be terrible. It’s old hat to call the Raiders terrible because, well, they have been worthy of that tag for over 10 years, but things could be different this season. There are a lot of new faces on offense and defense, and many of them have enjoyed success in other cities.
Player to watch: Khalil Mack looks like a star in the making, and could be an impact player from day one.
Philadelphia Eagles: Because Chip Kelly’s offense is not the wildcat. Not only did the Eagles feature the league’s top running back last season, but Nick Foles also posted the highest passer rating in the league at 119.2.
Player to watch: Linebacker Mychal Kendricks was one of only three players last season to record at least 80 tackles, four sacks, and three interceptions.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Because they were the one AFC team that nobody else wanted to see make the playoffs last year. The Steelers went 8-4 after an 0-4 start and just barely missed the postseason. They may have been up to the task of beating the Broncos, but they’ll get another shot this year and probably won’t miss.
Player to watch: Le’Veon Bell was the missing component at the beginning of the year, and he’s ready to take over now.
San Diego Chargers: Because Philip Rivers is going to have a career year. The Chargers won’t win the Super Bowl because they still like their defense like I like my Fast and Furious plot lines: Full of holes. But Rivers is going to put up obscene numbers with a full arsenal under second-year coach Mike McCoy.
Player to watch: Tight end Ladarius Green may outgain Antonio Gates.
San Francisco 49ers: Because even old defenses win championships. Though NaVorro Bowman will miss some time while recovering from a broken leg, the 49ers still have Justin Smith, Patrick Willis, Ahmad Brooks and Aldon Smith (eventually). If Colin Kaepernick can play well against the Seahawks this time, they might take the division back.
Player to watch: The release of Kendall Hunter means that Marcus Lattimore is moving up the depth chart. If healthy, he could become a future star in the Bay.
Seattle Seahawks: Because this is only the beginning. Nearly every star on Seattle is under 30, and many are locked down for at least four more years. Great defensive play is very fun to watch when you lead the league in turnovers, as they did last season.
Player to watch: I would describe Percy Harvin’s talent as “unnecessary.” He’s so good, that it’s unnecessary to be as good as he is. When healthy, of course.
St. Louis Rams: Because playing in the NFC West is like being in The Expendables 3. Sure, the Rams might be Wesley Snipes in this scenario, but if it weren’t for the fact that it’s an Expendables movie, he’d definitely be first or second billed otherwise. That’s Blade, man. Blade!
Player to watch: If he gets set free, Tavon Austin is as explosive as anyone in a league full of explosive human beings.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Because they’re better off without Darrelle Revis. They lost Revis, but the cap room allowed them to add Alterraun Verner and Michael Johnson, making the Bucs a better overall team.
Player to watch: The return of Doug Martin might spell the return of Tampa to the playoffs. Without him, the offense was like a garbage island, but messy.
Tennessee Titans: Because what if Jake Locker didn’t get hurt? I know, he always gets hurt, but when healthy, he’s 6-3 over his last nine full games. It’s just unfortunate that he seems to be getting medical care from a back-alley mob doctor who won’t go to the cops if you pay him enough. Stitch him up!
Player to watch: Running backs can be impact players from day one, and rookie Bishop Sankey has nobody standing in front of him. That is unless Locker can stay on his feet this year.
Washington Redskins: Because Robert Griffin III is worth rising ticket prices. I’d take my family of four to see RGIII play and buy everyone hot dogs and soda pop, because he’s just that special. We may never see another one like him, let’s just hope that the Redskins will do enough to make sure we haven’t seen the last of him. Their team name, on the other hand …
Player to watch: Other than RGIII, new addition DeSean Jackson could be a gift from the heavens. If only it wasn’t Jackson’s locker room behavior that allowed him to be re-gifted in the first place.