2017 NFL Season Preview
It’s finally football season, everybody! If you’re a sports fan, like myself, you have probably been waiting for this time since the Super Bowl in February. But even if you are not a football fan, this season could mean more to you than previous seasons. There have been numerous off-season stories that have excited us for the start of the season and brought us together as Americans. We have even seen some players shift their attention from football to other more important topics, like social injustice.
During the off-season, there was a lot of controversy and debate centered around former San Francisco 49ers Quarterback, Colin Kaepernick. Since last season, headlines have been focused on news concerning Kaepernick for raising attention about social injustice in America concerning black people and police brutality. He showed his beliefs and political view by kneeling for the national anthem before every game and speaking out about various issues. Consequently, he was ridiculed, received death threats, and was eventually cut by the 49ers at the end of last season. During free agency last March, Kaepernick was expected to be signed by a team desperate for a starting quarterback. However, because of his political actions, he was not. In early August, the Miami Dolphins signed QB Jay Cutler, a player most view as worse than Kaepernick. Cutler has made the playoffs once, whereas Kaepernick already has Super Bowl experience. Consistently, Kaepernick has better statistics than Cutler, too. Last season, Kaepernick has the 7th highest Touchdown-Interception ratio in the NFL, which was better than Cutler. Kaepernick is younger, more athletic, and less prone to injury than Cutler. Kaepernick may not be what most people consider an “elite” quarterback, but many agree he is worth a starting position on some teams. The season has started, and Kaepernick is still unemployed. His actions and opinions have affected others around the league and have caused players to voice their own opinions and raise awareness of social injustice in America. This is just one example of how politics and professional athletics are linked and how a player’s political beliefs can impact their job and life.
Another player who has been making headlines recently is Seattle Seahawks Defensive End, Michael Bennett. On Saturday August 26, Bennett was attending the McGregor vs. Mayweather fight in Las Vegas. While heading back to his hotel late that night after the fight, Bennett and many others heard what sounded like gunshots. Bennett tried running away, looking for safety, but was singled out by police officers and found himself held at gunpoint. The officers used excessive and brutal force on Bennett, mistaking him for the violent shooter. Bennett, frightened, tried explaining the misunderstanding to the officers. The policemen ignored his rights and instead applied more force and even threatened to kill him. Eventually, officers realized they had convicted the wrong guy and had mistaken one of the league’s best defensive backs for a shooter, forever putting a stigma on his career. Bennett spoke out about his horrific experience on social media and brought attention to racism and social injustice to blacks in America. Bennett now chooses not to stand for the national anthem before every game. This incident has impacted many players in the league and caused more players and citizens to speak out, just like Kaepernick’s situation. Bennett is expected to file lawsuit soon and will continue to participate this season.
The final news story concerns Houston Texans Defensive End, JJ Watt. With all the disaster and catastrophe that occurred in Houston from Hurricane Harvey, Watt created a donation bank to help fund for relief. Through social media and other platforms, Watt helped raise $30 million for hurricane relief. Not only did he help raise the money, but he distributed supplies such as food, water, clothing, and others to victims in Houston. Watt’s inspiring story has encouraged athletes all over the world to donate and become more active in their communities. The entire football community has come together to support Watt and the Houston Texans this season because of traumatic circumstances.
In terms of the game, this season should be very exciting to watch and see which teams will contend for the Super Bowl in February. Defending Super Bowl Champions, the New England Patriots could be even better than last season with WR Brandin Cooks added and TE Rob Gronkowski finally healthy. Other teams in the AFC will look to challenge the Pats, such as the Oakland Raiders, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Kansas City Chiefs. In the NFC, teams like the Atlanta Falcons, Green Bay Packers, New York Giants, and Dallas Cowboys will look to clash for a spot at the super bowl. Talented rookies will look to step in and immediately impact their teams, like RB Leonard Fournette (Jaguars), DE Myles Garrett (Browns), RB Christian McCaffrey (Panthers), and QB Deshaun Watson (Texans). This season holds a lot of potential mystery, such as which sleeper team will emerge as playoff contenders like the Dallas Cowboys were last season. It is also unclear who the breakout player will be this season, like QB Dak Prescott was last season. There are many talented players who make football the most popular American sport to watch, like QB Aaron Rodgers, RB Le’Veon Bell, WR Antonio Brown, WR Odell Beckham Jr, RB Ezekiel Elliott, and QB Tom Brady. This NFL season should be as exciting and memorable as ever.