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THE MOJ: 10 burning questions answered as NFL season finally upon us

Everything you need to know about what’s about to unfold on the gridiron south of the border
Defensive back Brian Branch of the Detroit Lions runs back an interception for a touchdown against the Kansas City Chiefs in Kansas City. The Lions beat the Chiefs 21-20 in the NFL season-opener on Thursday night. Photo courtesy Jeff Nguyen / Detroit Lions.

With the NFL season starting up, we’ve decided to answer ‘Ten Burning Questions’ surrounding 2023.

10. How bad are the Cardinals going to be?

Vegas has the over-under win total at 4 ½ with one book going as low as 3 ½ wins. Quarterback Kyler Murray is coming off an ACL surgery and won’t be activated until at least the fifth game as he is on the PUP list. The man who was supposed to replace him and took most of the pre-season reps – Colt McCoy – was released. In a move that would make Sonny Weaver proud, they traded their 2020 first round pick (Isaiah Simmons) for a seventh-round pick. Talk about a mess. At least they can look forward to drafting USC phenom Caleb Williams with the first overall pick in 2024.

9. Can the Bengals keep Joe Burrow upright and healthy?

Burrow comes into the season with a new $275 million dollar contract but the bigger issue is that he’s trying to recover from a calf injury that derailed his pre-season. The Bengals are hoping he’ll be 100 percent sooner rather than later. The offensive line, which has always been under scrutiny in Cincinnati, should be fine with the addition of Orlando Brown Jr but if Burrows’ calf injury persists throughout the year, the Bengals are in trouble.

8. Are people sleeping on Seattle?

The Vegas books have the Seahawks win total at 8 ½. The Hawks run defense is a concern but there are talented players in the secondary such as Jamal Adams, Tariq Woolen and Quandre Diggs. Linebacker Bobby Wagner returns to anchor the defense but will that be enough to improve the run D? Offensively, the Hawks will put up points with Geno Smith at quarterback and with weapons such as receivers Tyler Lockett and D.K. Metcalf as well as running back Kenneth Walker III. The NFC doesn’t exactly have a dominant team, so the Seahawks could make some noise. A big plus is a soft schedule that includes four games against the Cardinals and Rams.

7. Can Sean Payton turn things around in Denver?

It starts with the offense, where the Broncos finished dead last with 287 points scored in 2022. The big question is can Payton revive quarterback Russell Wilson’s career? Wilson isn’t the athlete he was during his halcyon days in Seattle but he still can be an effective quarterback. Payton has challenged Wilson to focus on football and it appears that Wilson, who came into camp 15 pounds lighter, has answered that challenge. A bigger question is can an offensive line that gave up a league-high 63 sacks be good enough to let Russ cook?

6. Will the Vikings take a step back?

Last year the Vikings finished 13-4 but actually gave up more points (427) than they scored (424) which probably caused those individuals who love Pythagorean won-loss scenarios to have a meltdown. The hope is that bringing in Brian Flores as the new defensive coordinator will help improve the defense. Flores loves to blitz but does he have the secondary that can man up? The Vikings were 11-0 in one score games in 2022. They won’t be as fortunate again this year.

5. Can Brock Purdy lead the 49ers to a Super Bowl?

The 49ers have some of the best personnel in the NFL. The final piece to the puzzle is having a quarterback who can lead them to a championship. Both Jimmy Garappolo and Trey Lance weren’t the answer at quarterback and now it’s Purdy’s turn to be the man. With some film on him now, Purdy won’t be an unknown this year and sneak up on teams. The 49ers traded Lance to Dallas, so that appears to be a sign that they believe that Purdy will improve on last year’s performance rather than going through a sophomore slump.

4. What will it take for Buffalo to win it all?

Bills Mafia is still looking for that elusive Super Bowl championship and are pinning their hopes on quarterback Josh Allen. The Bills defense is good but not great and the offense needs more playmakers in the mold of Allen and receiver Stefon Diggs. The Bills weren’t players in free agency which leads you to ask yourself how did this team improve in the off-season? They did draft tight end Dalton Kincaid but he his snaps will be curtailed by the presence of Dawson Knox. Throw in the fact that the Jets and Dolphins are improved and it could be a tough season for the Bills.

3.Which team will take it to the next level this year?

A lot of people are jumping on the Detroit Lions bandwagon and even more so after their 21-20 victory in the season opener in Kansas City. The Steelers are getting some love as well but I’ll pick the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jags won seven of their last nine last year, and with quarterback Trevor Lawrence just getting better, so will the Jags. An offense that was good last year could be great with the addition of receiver Calvin Ridley. If the defense can get improve, the Jags will be a force. A weak division and a weak schedule (their non-conference matchup includes the NFC South) should help.

2.Do the Chiefs repeat as Super Bowl champs?

If you watched the loss to the Lions, the answer would be no. Yes, Travis Kelce will help the offense when he returns but the Chiefs do need someone to step up at wide receiver. There’s an old expression that if you have two quarterbacks, you have none. The Chiefs dressed seven receivers against the Lions with Mahomes telling the media a couple of days ago that they all do different things. They may have seven, but they need ONE as the eight drops against the Lions will attest to. The other concern is that the contract impasse with defensive tackle Chris Jones needs to be resolved ASAP. He’s a difference-maker in the middle. Don’t bet on the Chiefs repeating.

1. Are the Jets Super Bowl contenders?

The Jets defense is loaded with talent such as Sauce Gardner and D.J. Reed at the cornerback position but can quarterback Aaron Rodgers rebound to give the Jets enough offense? Simply put, Rodgers was not good last year but how much of that was related to his thumb injury and the talent around him? By all reports, Rodgers sounds rejuvenated in the Big Apple and it could be special year for Jets fans but they play in a tough division and a tough conference. They have a murderers’ row schedule in their first six games, so we will find out early if the Jets are for real.

Veteran B.C. sports personality Bob “the Moj” Marjanovich writes twice weekly for Black Press Media. And check out his weekly podcast every Monday at Today in B.C. or your local Black Press Media website.

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