Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, "Shallow men believe in luck. Strong men believe in cause and effect."
Which, you know, whatever, Waldo. In the world of sports -- like life -- talent and hard work only get a strong man (or woman) so far. Everyone needs a little good fortune along the way. We all agree? Yes, we do.
So now that we've decided that Ralph Waldo Emerson -- a man who never even saw Kawhi Leonard's shot against the Sixers -- is dead wrong, let's turn our attention to the NFL and discuss some folks who could really use some good luck in the upcoming season.
The Cardinals' braintrust needs ...Kyler Murray to establish himself as The Man -- quickly. Arizona's decision to boot coach Steve Wilks and QB Josh Rosen after just one season was akin to a gamer lunging toward the reset button when a "Madden" contest goes awry. Is it a good look? No, not particularly, but sometimes the desire to wipe the slate clean is irresistible. The Cardinals rebooted and ate the (well-earned) criticism that went along with that decision, but ultimately, they have what they wanted: Murray and Kliff Kingsbury as the faces of the franchise. If the Cards' offense looks dynamic this September, everybody wins. But if Murray struggles? If Kingsbury's Air Raid offense doesn't click? The Cardinals' front office could be the next part of the organization to undergo a dramatic face lift.
The Panthers need ...Cam Newton's body to get right and stay right. Now five months removed from his second shoulder surgery, Newton told reporters last week that his rehabilitation process has been going "unbelievable." That's great news for Newton and the Panthers, especially when you recall speculation before the surgery that Newton could lose the entire 2019 season. You can argue no one player is more important to a team than Cam is to the Panthers. Look at last season: The Panthers -- 6-2 at the halfway point -- lost seven straight games as the condition of Newton's shoulder deteriorated. The team has an intriguing new insurance policy in third-round pick Will Grier, but this is still Cam's team -- as long as his body allows it.
The Bears need ... a kicking solution to present itself. Perhaps Ralph Waldo Emerson would change his mind about luck if he saw The Double Doink. Cody Parkey's crushing miss in January's playoffs is still living with the Bears. Strangely, Matt Nagy helped to ensure that at rookie camp when he had all the kickers in attendance line up from 43 yards out, the same distance from which Parkey yakked against the Eagles in their Wild Card Game. Naturally, only two of the eight kickers converted from that distance. (Talk about your all-time backfires.) They might have to pay a relative premium, but it makes too much sense for GM Ryan Pace to call Niners GM John Lynch about Robbie Gould.
Of course, The Internet never forgets. Expect this image -- whether it is actually Rodgers or not -- to show up whenever Rodgers and the Packers struggle in 2019. We may have to retire the GIF in the same way Carson Daly used to have to retire *NSYNC videos on "Total Request Live." I don't imagine Rodgers ever thought of this while preparing for his big "Game of Thrones" cameo.
Joe Flacco needs ...Drew Lock to have a quiet summer. Sure, there are millions of humans who deserve your sympathy ahead of multimillionaire Super Bowl-winning quarterback Joe Flacco, but I imagine he's pretty annoyed that the second half of his career is turning into a "Groundhog Day" sequel. Last year around this time, when he was quarterback for the Baltimore Ravens, Flacco had to answer a never-ending line of questions about a hotshot rookie who was expected to push him for his starting job. Different city, same s--- for Joe. Now, Flacco's in Denver, and second-round pick Lock is in Lamar Jackson's role from last season. If Lock earns raves in training camp and combines that with a strong preseason (he figures to get the majority of live-action reps), Flacco will be under immense pressure to get off to a hot start with the Broncos.
Daniel Jones needs ... New York to give him a chance. In almost any other situation in the modern NFL, a quarterback who goes sixth overall in the draft will be starting for his team in September of his rookie year, perhaps as soon as Week 1. But it's not a normal situation with the Giants, who seem to be all over the place in their plan for Eli Manning and what comes next behind center. The decision to select Jones at No. 6 -- a move seen by many in the Football Cognoscenti as a clear reach -- has been the subject of much criticism, and one can only imagine how Jones (a 21-year-old kid, remember) is handling the waves of negative energy coming his way. Fair or not (it's not), Jones represents for Giants fans how far this proud organization has wandered off course. It's up to Jones to change that perception. The question is, when will that opportunity come?
The Patriots need ... a playmaker to materialize on offense. Don't get this long-suffering Jets fan going on the Patriots and the subject of luck. They've gotten more than their fair share during their incredible decades-long run. But the Pats could use some more fortuity if they hope to score points with regularity in the post-Gronk era. Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels acknowledged this week that New England's offensive game plan is very much under construction at the moment. The team used a first-round pick on wide receiver N'Keal Harry, but there remains much to sort out here. How can Austin Seferian-Jenkins and newly unretired Ben Watson step into the instrumental role Rob Gronkowski had on this offense? Will Josh Gordon be a contributor Bill Belichick can count on? Oh, and Tom Brady will turn 42 in August. If the Pats finish with a top 10 offense in 2019, McDaniels can write his own ticket.
The Raiders need ... Jon Gruden and Antonio Brown to like each other. This one is pretty self-explanatory, no? Brown has become an increasingly erratic personality who was cast out of his previous locker room in Pittsburgh. If he were a recording artist, he'd be Kanye during the Yeezus tour. Gruden is a headstrong maniac in the process of rebuilding the Raiders in his image. Brown has so much to offer the Raiders as a player, but what if he can't tone down the theatrics that turned the end of his Steelers career into a sideshow? This has the feel of a shotgun wedding at a Vegas chapel. Fittingly, both men will call Sin City home next year ... if Brown makes it that long.