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As football nears, 50 future headlines from the 2017 NFL season

*The return of football action continues to inch tantalizingly closer, with just 50 days to go before the 2017 NFL season finally kicks off. To help the time pass faster, here are 50 predicted headlines to mull over, laying out the various highs and lows that will mark the season as it unfolds, from September to February. *


1) John Elway -- er, Vance Joseph -- pegs Paxton Lynch to start in Week 1

Trevor Siemian has a year under his belt as Denver's starter and was more consistent throughout summer, but in a QB competition this close, tie goes to the runner/first-round-pick-hand-selected-by-the-franchise's-Hall-of-Fame-QB. Meanwhile, Swag Kelly starts under center on the scout team. Relevance will have to wait.

2) Adrian Peterson quiet in return to Minnesota, but Saints march on

New Orleans' trio of tailbacks share 38 carries in their first go-around, with Mark Ingram shouldering the load in Week 1. Peterson is held under 50 yards against his former team and is on the sideline when his quarterback, Drew Brees, throws a game-winning, goal-line score to finish off the Vikings.

3) Pryor offense: 'Skins airing it out as Kirk Cousins eyes next payday

What contract concerns? Cousins throws for 350-plus yards in each of Washington's first three games, including a three-score showing against the Rams and his old coordinator, Sean McVay, in the L.A. Coliseum. With the run game stuck in preseason mode, Washington's Terrelle Pryor and Jamison Crowder become one of the league's top receiving duos right out of the gate.

4) Passing the Buc: Jameis Winston, Mike Evans sprint out of the gate at historic pace

The Buccaneers put up 119 points in their first three tests -- tied for fourth-best in that span since merger -- thanks to Winston's deft dispersal of targets. With Doug Martin suspended, Cameron Brate and O.J. Howard anchor the middle of the field, but Evans remains Tampa's most terrifying threat, hauling in six TDs in that span, including three against Chicago in Week 2. The preseason hype is real. For now ...

5) Jaguars fans clamor for Tom Coughlin takeover after 0-3 start

T.C.'s inevitable coup in Duval is near after the Jags drop two divisional games in the firsttwo weeks, along with a home test to Baltimore. Jacksonvillians, led by one particular resident with a beach house a couple minutes from the beach, flood sports-talk radio with calls in favor of Coughlin returning to his rightful place on the sidelines.

6) Are the 49ers for real? S.F. rolling behind Brian Hoyer's steady hand

San Francisco's Six-Year Plan gets off to a rollicking start, thanks in part to a much improved defense. Under Kyle Shanahan's tutelage, Brian Hoyer recaptures his Browns form, which is just enough to keep the Niners over .500 heading into October.

7) Buffalo wingin' it: OC Rick Dennison has Tyrod Taylor, LeSean McCoy on the move

With the Orchard Park suits finally supporting Taylor, the Bills quarterback starts the season on fire, finding accuracy outside the pocket and involving Sammy Watkins more. Shady is slippery in September, as usual, and is nose-to-nose with David Johnson for the most scrimmage yards through one month.


8) Von Miller, Khalil Mack combine for seven sacks in Mile High mauling

Denver's Miller and Oakland's Mack set the pace in what will surely by a wild year in the AFC West. The league's top pass-rushers' stunning septet of QB takedowns in their respective teams' Week 4 showdown overshadows Oakland's come-from-behind victory, punctuated by Beast Mode's first rushing touchdown with the Raiders since his unretirement.

9) Eddie Lacy regains weight, form in Emerald City

An offseason of pseudo-supportive weight-watching out of Lacy's camp is discarded once the season starts as the 'Hawks back balloons. No matter -- the thunderous combo of Lacy and Thomas Rawls compensates for Seattle's O-line woes and has the Seahawks off to an unseasonably hot start.

10) Bolts make big first impression in small stadium

Through their undefeated opening homestand at StubHub Center, the Chargers ignite a silent majority of Angelenos looking for a team to believe in. The electric sold-out atmosphere has people scratching their heads, wondering if stadium-builders in the 21st century have gone about their business all wrong.

11) Arizona David Johnsons on pace for 2,500 yards from scrimmage

Forget Carson and Larry, Pat P and Honey Badger. The Cardinals are DJ2K's team now. Living up to his preseason goal, Johnson barrels through and runs around defensive lines through the season's opening quarter and is within reach of former teammate Chris Johnson's single-season yards-from-scrimmage mark (2,509).

12) Falcons can't avenge Super Bowl loss, surrender another Pats comeback

Atlanta has seen this story before. Up double-digits at halftime of the Week 7 rematch of Super Bowl LI, the Falcons are completely unaware of the "28-3" memes whistling through the interwebs, while cynics wait on their downfall. As sure as a Devonta Freemanmissed assignment, New England seizes the lead within seven minutes of the second half and never looks back.

13) C-H-I-L-L O-U-T: Aaron Rodgers again reminds Packers fans to trust him

Green Bay's annual midseason apocalypse has 'Sconnies uptight and restless. "Fire McCarthy!" tweets @CheeseheadDaryl. "Why is Dom Capers still employed?" shouts Babs from accounting. "We want Olivia Munn back," blogs an empty soul. The statewide uproar forces Rodgers to spell out -- one more time -- why the Packers are A-OK.

14) Mike Glennon, Mitchell Trubisky split series in Bears loss; fans call for Mark Sanchez

Six sub-standard starts from Mike Glennon pave the way for Trubisky's Week 7 debut against Carolina, in which the rookie commits four turnovers and is then pulled for Glennon. With the Cubs out of contention, hapless Bears fans turn to the only man left on the bench who hasn't yet scarred them emotionally: The Sanchize.

15) Ameer Abdullah the next Tyreek Hill? Lions tailback on fire

After missing nearly all of 2016 with injuries, Abdullah has been one of this season's breakout stars, working magic on the ground, on passes out of the backfield and in the return game. Barry Sanders re-endorses the third-year talent, sending the Motor City into Ameer Mania.

16) Pick your poison: J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney wreaking havoc on O-lines

Houston's healthy front seven is as good as advertised. Under constant pressure from the law firm of Watt, Clowney & Mercilus, Texans opponents are held to a league-low 12.7 points per game through the campaign's first half. Now, if only D.J. Reader could play quarterback ...

17) Darrelle Revis is overpaid to join struggling Cowboys' secondary midseason

Revis wasn't going to emerge from his hiatus unless it was for the right price. For a desperate Jerry Jones, whose Cowboys never really filled the holes left in their secondary by free-agency departures and have since sunk to the NFC East cellar, $6.2 million for half a season's work is chump change.

18) Kizer, Chief: Browns to start rookie quarterback after bye

In an already lost season, Hue Jackson decides to throw first-year franchise savior DeShone Kizer into the fire, but he keeps the door open for Cody Kessler and Brock Osweiler to start down the stretch.


19) Running back renaissance? Shortage of bona fide passers reignites rushing game

Time is a flat circle. Why should football be any different? With legitimate quarterbacks in short supply around the league, coaches have reverted to the ground for assistance. More backs have rushed for over 800 yards through nine games than in any of the past 15 seasons.

20) Joe Flacco 'elite?' Quote from obscure Ravens practice-squad player reignites age-old debate

Baltimore's franchise quarterback is finally connecting with big-time wideouts Breshad Perriman and Jeremy Maclin and has the Ravens tied atop the AFC North with Pittsburgh. A rookie scout-teamer throws out the E-word, Reddit boards explode and "Undisputed" embarks on a three-hour prime-time special debating Lord Flacco's eliteness.

21) AFC East up for grabs? Dolphins make waves heading into bye, with perfect Pats awaiting

The Adam Gase Experiment is working wonders in South Beach, with Miami's offense, paced by league-leading rusher Jay Ajayi and breakout wideout DeVante Parker, rolling into its Week 11 bye. If the Dolphins knock off New England in New England in Week 12, can Miami unseat the champs?

22) Titanic shift in AFC South as Tennessee runs away with division

Marcus Mariota is in the MVP conversation, DeMarco Murray is on pace for 1,500 yards and the South is Tennessee's to lose for the first time since 2008. The Titans' Week 12 overtime win in Indy cements them as the class of the division, and victory catfish are flying off the shelves.

23) Three dog night: Eli's coming for East crown with historic WR trio

With the Cowboys stumbling and Philly and D.C. in neutral, the Giants are in control of the NFC East, thanks to their star-studded receiving corps. OBJ, Sterling Shepard and Brandon Marshall have gotten along and gotten downfield. New York's tailbacks are still M.I.A., but rookie tight end Evan Engram's versatility makes up for the lack of a ground game.

24) Tony Romo, Jay Cutler tiptoe around return to football after __'s season-ending injury

The retired signal-callers have been calling games for CBS and FOX this season, but that hasn't stopped [insert unfortunate team here] from testing the waters on a late-season return. After [insert doomed quarterback here] went down with a season-ending [Achilles and/or ACL] injury, [insert desperate GM here] rang both Romo and Cutler, to no avail.

25) Turkey Day! Philip Rivers, Dak Prescott both throw for over 300 yards in Thanksgiving shootout

Jerryworld plays host to yet another Thanksgiving afternoon classic. The Chargers bolt out to a lightning-quick start, but Dak and Co. claw back into it by the fourth quarter. Hunter Henry's third TD catch is the difference in L.A.'s marquee victory.

26) Texans make DeAndre Hopkins highest-paid wide receiver with four-year, $70 million deal

Nuk finally gets his extension. More than a year after a brief holdout, Hopkins gets the contract he so deserves. The wideout thanks God, Bob McNair and Deshaun Watson in his presser: "All I needed was a quarterback, man."

27) 'Why even show up?': Teams decry perfect Patriots' super team

That's the sentiment from players all around the league, as New England marches, with nary a speed bump, toward a second 16-0 season. 67,000 fans petition the White House to #BreakUpThePats. Following a recent demolition of 7-3 Miami, reporters find Ndamukong Suh wailing at his locker, "It's not fair! It's not fair!" The football world has gone mad in its hopeless attempt at a coup.


28) Patrick Mahomes to the rescue! Rookie replaces Alex Smith, ignites sluggish Chiefs offense

An afterthought in the AFC West, the Chiefs hand the reins to Mahomes to spark the offense, with Oakland in town for a Week 14 clash. The first-year QB's debut is typical of a gunslinging freshman, one wrought with picks, overthrown curl routes and unfathomable late-game magic.

29) Christian McCaffrey vs. Dalvin Cook: Who will take the lead in the OROY race?

A Week 14 showdown between two wild-card hopefuls pits the two leading rookie rushers, the Panthers' McCaffrey and the Vikings' Cook, both of whom enter in the top 10 league-wide, against one another. Look away, Jags fans.

30) Forget the sun -- Jared Goff, Rams rising in the NFC West

Sean McVay finally has Goff looking like a top-five pick. Weeks of growing pains had Rams fans frustrated, but the sophomore's four-touchdown outing against Carson Wentz's Eaglesin Week 14 is making believers out of the Cali skeptics.

31) Raiders stave off elimination in home finale against Cowboys

In the midst of a four-game skid and fading out of the playoff picture, the Raiders play host to Dallas in their final home tilt of 2017 in front of a Black Hole half-filled with Cowboys fans. With next to no home-field advantage, the Raiders blow by the 'Boys, keeping elimination at bay for at least one more week.

32) Out of Luck: Colts falter down the stretch despite QB's stellar play

Despite the hiring of a new general manager, it's the same old story in Indianapolis, where Chris Ballard's retooled defense needs to spend one more season in the lab. Andrew Luck throws for 4,000-plus once again, but he will be asking his GM for a new tailback in the offseason.

33) 16-and-no?: Bill Belichick sits Tom Brady and Jimmy Garoppolo ahead of date with destiny

The football world's freaking out over New England's second pursuit of perfection, but Belichick is staying level-headed. The Hoodie benches his starter and his backup ahead of the Pats' Week 17 tilt against the Jets in Foxborough. New England loses, but bigger things await.

34) David Johnson misses out on 2.5K after surrendering final touches to Fitz

History will have to wait another summer for the Cardinals running back. D.J. comes up thisshort in his attempt to eclipse 2,500 total yards. Instead, Arizona's final three touches go from Carson Palmer to Larry Fitzgerald, both of whom are expected to retire the following week.

35) Bucs reach playoffs for first time since '07 in flexed win over Saints

Winner goes home in this NFC South shootout, which is moved to Sunday night. Defense is optional as Jameis Winston and Drew Brees combine for over 770 yards through the air. An A.D. goal-line fumble is the deciding factor in Tampa's triumph.


36) With no quarterbacks left to mentor, Josh McCown calls it quits

I will remember youuuuuu. McCown winds up starting just three games for the Jets, who end up with the No. 2 overall selection. The mentor extraordinaire rides off into the sunset.

37) Eight teams inquire about Nick Saban's availability after Alabama's fifth title of the era

Less than 24 hours after Saban's Rolling Tide trounces Clemson for the second time in three years, he receives contract offers from every team that tossed its coach on Black Monday. Saban contemplates retirement but elects to stay in Tuscaloosa.

38) Zimmer's choice: With Teddy Bridgewater healthy, Vikings face QB conundrum

Sam Bradford has been the most accurate quarterback in football the past two seasons, but with Teddy finally healthy, the issue needs to be addressed: Should Minnesota move on from its former first-round pick or the safe veteran presence?

39) Chargers' home playoff game moved to Coliseum as demand for tickets skyrockets

Carson, California is a Bolts town -- and Los Angeles wants in. Tickets for the Chargers' wild-card test against Miami are in such high demand that Roger Goodell and the owners OK the one-game, high-profile move to the Rams' temporary stadium.

40) Raiders upset Titans; Marcus Mariota vs. Derek Carr provides showdown for ages, future

The future is now in Nashville. Mariota and Carr combine for over 750 passing yards in a wild-card shootout. Carr's game-winning goal-line toss goes to Michael Crabtree with just 13 seconds left in the fourth. After the game, Marshawn Lynch has no comment on the goal-line call.

41) Giants-Cowboys wild-card clash surpasses ratings records

Advertisers get their wish with a Saturday prime-time bout between America's largest media market and "America's Team." The Giants' defense shuts down Dak and Zeke, who remain winless in the postseason.

42) Error-prone Jameis Winston picked off thrice by Legion of Boom in wild-card loss

Maybe next year for Dem Bucs. Jameis jaws with Richard Sherman, then throws him two interceptions.

43) With no extensions in sight, Alshon Jeffery, Terrelle Pryor set to return to free agency

The NFC East receivers go one-and-done with their respective clubs (the Eagles for Jeffery and the Redskins for Pryor) despite recording 1,000-yard seasons -- leaving the players salivating over top-of-market deals.

44) Tom Brady completes all 37 passes in AFC title game romp over Steelers

Because why not? Ben Roethlisberger drops to 3-8 all-time against the big-brother Patriots. After a 12-4 season by the Steelers, Mike Tomlin's job security is suddenly in jeopardy. Tommy Boy'll do that to you.

45) Julio Jones v. Odell Beckham results in 268 combined yards, three scores, one Giant victory

Big Blue is back in the big game after the Falcons-Giants NFC title clash of wideouts lives up to the hype -- and Beckham's boys, namely Evan Engram, get the last word.


46) Anthony Lynn first rookie coach to win Coach of the Year since 2011

Lynn took one of the league's most promising rosters and, in one season at the helm for the Chargers, unleashed its potential on the world in front of a Texas high school-sized crowd every week.

47) Christian McCaffrey, Jamal Adams win Offensive, Defensive Rookies of the Year at NFL Honors

The Panthers running back kept the heat off Cam Newton and went over 1,000 yards from scrimmage in his first year. Handed the keys to the, well, jet, Adams took over a rebuilt secondary and established himself as a team tone-setter and future All-Pro.

48) Joey Bosa's stellar sophomore season rewarded with DPOY award

The Chargers pass-rusher beats out J.J. Watt and Landon Collins for the honor. Bosa's 18 sacks led Los Angeles to its first AFC West title since 2009 and gave him 28.5 in his first two seasons, fifth-most all-time behind Aldon Smith, Reggie White, Von Miller and Derrick Thomas.

49) Surprise, surprise: Tom Brady wins MVP, OPOY

All that's left for the five-time Super Bowl champion is to add one for the other thumb on Sunday night, whereupon the quarterback can safely say he's the greatest football player of all-time. Unless ...

50) After third Super Bowl loss to Eli's Giants, is Tom Brady really the G.O.A.T.?

The trilogy reaches its fateful conclusion. Surrounded by his most prolific offense and another stalwart defense, Eli Manning out-duels Brady, who's sacked six times in a 23-20 defeat. The postgame hysteria proclaims Eli a surefire Hall of Famer, and Brady, well ... Let's just say Joe Montana never lost a Super Bowl.

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