It's NFL training camp time, which means every player, coach and fan thinks their team is going to the Super Bowl.
We know better.
And so do most of them if they are being realistic.
There is no way any Cleveland Browns player could be thinking that, right? Right?
As we ready for camp, it's time to take a look at a burning question for each team as it opens its push to get to the Super Bowl. All 32 teams have issues, some more than others. But I picked out the biggest issue facing each team as it prepares to open camp. For many, it's the quarterback position, which is always the focus at this time of the year -- and always for that matter.
Here's a look:
Will Chandler Jones and Robert Nkemdiche amp up the pass rush?
The Cardinals had 36 sacks last season, tying Jacksonville for 20th in the league, and the leader was Dwight Freeney with eight. He is no longer with the team. That's why they traded to get Jones, who had 12 sacks for the Patriots last season.
Nkemdiche was a top-10 talent in the draft, but off-field concerns dropped him down. If the Cardinals can keep him in line, these two should amp up a pass rush that was a problem area in 2015. With second-year edge rusher Markus Golden also improved, those three should help get the Cardinals closer to 45 sacks.
Can Matt Ryan fit into Kyle Shanahan's system and bounce back?
Judging by the media chatter, Ryan was dreadful last season. He wasn't. He just didn't seem to be a good fit in Shanahan's offense, which features much more of Ryan on the move than he should be. Ryan needs to play more from the pocket, and he struggled at times to make Shanahan's offense work. He still threw for the fifth-most yards in the league with 4,591, but he threw 16 picks to go with 21 touchdowns. That's not good enough. Maybe Shanahan will wise up and use Ryan more conventionally. For the first time last year, Ryan had to tape his ankle in practice because he moved so much. That's just stupidity for a player of his talents.
How will quarterback Joe Flacco play coming off a torn ACL?
That's hard to gauge. Flacco tore his ACL and MCL in his left knee in a game against St. Louis, but he was back running in April and has said continually that he expects to be ready for the start of the regular season. That is possible and we've seen quarterbacks like Carson Palmer come back from ACL surgery and play well, but it's still an unknown until we see it. Flacco works hard and I would expect he's back playing at the same level early in the season.
Can Rex Ryan turn around a defense that took a major step back last season?
Ryan is a self-anointed defensive guru. And he has been the leader of some good defenses. But he has had four defenses ranked lower than 25th in points as a coordinator or head coach, the same as he has had in the top 10.
The Bills went from fourth in scoring defense in 2014 to 13th last season in Ryan's first as coach of the team. They had some players gripe about the scheme and Mario Williams loafed because of it. Ryan has to get the defense back closer to the top five if the Bills are going to be a playoff team.
Will there be a Super Bowl hangover?
That's one of the toughest questions to answer for any team, but the reality is that most Super Bowl losers are good teams the next year. Of the 49 losers, 35 went back to the playoffs. But the last Super Bowl loser to get back to the big game was the Buffalo Bills in the early 1990s. The Panthers say they went back to fundamentals some to avoid a possible hangover, and they have a talented, young roster that will help make sure it doesn't happen. They are still the favorites in the NFC South, but getting back will be tough.
Can John Fox and Vic Fangio continue to improve the defense?
The Bears were terrible in 2014, giving up 442 points. But in the first year for Fox and Fangio, they improved a bit with 397 points against. They played a lot of young players, so growth is expected. The key will be getting more pressure since they had just 35 sacks in front of a relatively young secondary. That's not good enough in Fangio's system. The addition for first-round pick Leonard Floyd should help the edge rush ability for the Bears.
Can this talented team ever win a playoff game?
The good news is coach Marvin Lewis has taken his team to the playoffs each of the past five seasons, but the bad news is he's 0-5. The Bengals had perhaps their best team of any of those five last season, but when quarterback Andy Dalton went down with a thumb injury in December they had problems. Even so, they blew their playoff game with the Steelers without Dalton because of bonehead, undisciplined plays. That has to stop if they are to ever reach their potential. They have a ton of talent, so now is the time.
Will Hue Jackson be able to re-invent Robert Griffin III?
That's going to take a lot of work. RG3 excelled early when the Redskins used him in the read-option offense. But he never developed as a passer from the pocket. Jackson is a bright quarterback mind, but getting RG3 to excel from the pocket is a real challenge. Observers of the offseason work said he was wild with his throws, which isn't a good start in Cleveland. This is a big task for Jackson.
How much does Tony Romo have left?
Ripping Romo has become a sport of sorts over the course of his career, but I've always contended he was underrated. The critics found that out last year when he went 3-1 in the games he played and the Cowboys were 1-11 in the games he missed. That's value. Romo is back from the injury, but he's also 36 years old. There is no doubt he is coming to the end, but I still think he can roll up big numbers if he's on the field. It's all about health.
Is Mark Sanchez the answer at quarterback?
There was no real committment to Sanchez by the staff this offseason, but word is starting to get out that he will be the guy. There was some talk that Trevor Siemian would be in the mix, but it looks like Sanchez will go into the season as the starter for the Super Bowl champs. But his position sure isn't firm. Paxton Lynch is the long-term answer, but there is talk that Siemian might be the guy at some point this season. It's a job for Sanchez to lose.
With Megatron retired, who picks up the slack?
The Lions wanted to be able to run it more last season, but they finished last in the league and averaged 3.8 yards per rush. They changed coordinators during the season and will go back to throwing it around more -- which has been their identity with Matt Stafford at quarterback. But with Calvin Johnson retired, do they still play that way? Golden Tate has been a top-10 receiver in catches the past two seasons, so he now becomes the No. 1 receiver. They signed Marvin Jones away from Cincinnati, and he will fill the No. 2 role he played with the Bengals. Neither is in Johnson's class, but they both can be effective starters. The Lions also added Jeremy Kerley from the Jets and reportedly just picked up veteran Anquan Boldin. They will be fine -- if they don't become too run heavy.
What can the Packers expect from Jordy Nelson?
It's unheard of to think the Packers with Aaron Rodgers weren't dynamic on offense, but that was the case last season. The Packers were 15th in the league in scoring and clearly struggled without Nelson, who tore up a knee in the preseason. Nelson will be back, but will the knee impact his game? If so, can some of the other receivers who didn't step up last year -- guys like Davante Adams -- get it going in 2016? Rodgers was off some last season as well, but he remains the game's best quarterback. The Packers need to get more creative on offense too. The simple isolation routes don't work like they used to for the Packers.
Will Brock Osweiler finally be the long-term answer at QB?
That's the $72 million question, which is what his contract is worth now that he left Denver as a free agent. It's really a two-year deal that the Texans could get out of after the second season. But they think Osweiler can be their guy for the long haul. Osweiler did some good things for the Broncos when he played last season, but he's far from a sure thing. He threw 10 touchdown passes and six picks, but the sample size is small. He has thrown only 305 passes in four seasons and this will be the first where teams game plan for him as the full-time starter. That matters. There's a book on him now.
Can they get more pressure and sacks?
Andrew Luck will help make the offense good again, but it's the defense that has been a worry for most of his tenure with the team. The Colts had 35 sacks last season, which tied them with the Bears for 22nd in the league. Their sack leaders were defensive end Kendall Langford and edge rusher Robert Mathis, each with seven. That has to be better. Mathis is another year removed from his torn Achilles tendon, but he's also 35. They need to get more from guys like Trent Cole and Erik Walden. It's not a good situation, no matter what.
Can Dante Fowler become the elite pass rusher they so need?
After missing his entire rookie season when he tore his ACL in rookie camp last May, Fowler had an impressive offseason this year. Coaches and team personnel, as well as players, were raving about him and his speed off the edge. But now comes the tough part, which is showing he can do it when the pads go on. He won't officially be a rookie, but counting on him to get double-digit sacks, which the Jags are, is asking a lot. Even so, team officials haven't backed away from the belief that the third overall pick in 2015 can do that. He might be special, based on that speed and power and he just might get 10 sacks in 2016.
How do they compensate for the loss of Justin Houston?
Can they? Houston is one of the better edge rushers in the NFL when healthy, but he had surgery for a torn ACL in February. He actually tried to play through that late last season, but he was a shell of himself in the playoffs against the Patriots when he was on the field. The Chiefs will look to former first-round pick Dee Ford to start. He had three sacks in a game last year, but he has to be more consistent. They also have Tamba Hali back, but he's on the decline. Houston is expected back at some point during the season, but when? He will be missed.
How long before Jared Goff becomes the starter?
Why wait? I've always been a big believer in playing the kid. Why delay his starting? It's not like Kurt Warner is on the roster. Deciding between playing Case Keenum or Nick Foles and throwing Goff in as the starter should be an easy one. The Rams aren't a playoff team with any of their QBs, so why not get on with it for the future? Don't delay the inevitable. I would expect Goff to take over maybe in early October.
Will Adam Gase turn Ryan Tannehill into a franchise passer?
Tannehill has done some really good things in his four seasons with the Dolphins, but there are still questions. I think a change in offensive systems -- his third in four seasons -- will help him grow as a passer. Gase did really good things with Jay Cutler last year, and I think he will help Tannehill as a pocket passer in a more conventional offense. The deep ball, a bit of problem area for Tannehill, has to improve. I think it will.
Can Teddy Bridgewater take the next step?
There were big things expected of Bridgewater last year, especially after his impressive rookie season. He also had Adrian Peterson back on the field, which was expected to help the passing game. But it didn't. Bridgewater didn't play poorly, but his 14 touchdown passes was the same number he threw as a rookie in three fewer games. His passing yards per game fell from 224.5 to 201.9. That number has to come back up. He didn't have great receivers, and the addition of Laquon Treadwell from this year's draft will help.
New England Patriots
Can Jimmy Garoppolo go .500 in his four starts?
I think he can, but even if he goes 1-3 the Patriots will win the AFC East. They are too good and the rest of the division isn't in their class. Tom Brady will miss the first four games because of his Deflategate suspension, which puts Garoppolo in the spotlight. He hasn't been great in the preseason, but it can be tough to get into a groove in those short-work situations. The Patriots open at Arizona, then play home against Miami, Houston and Buffalo. Even with Garoppolo, they should win the three home games. And then it's off to another division title.
Will the defense ever improve?
The Saints gave up a league-worst 476 points last season, leading to the firing of Rob Ryan in November. Dennis Allen is now the man in charge, so expect a more sound style of defense. Ryan loved to attack, but he didn't have the players to do so. The talent is still thin, but there is hope. The Saints used a first-round pick on defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins, who should help push the pocket. He is an Aaron Donald-style of player. The secondary and the rush off the edge remain major questions, so Allen faces a major challenge. But the Saints have nowhere to go but up.
Can Steve Spagnuolo turn all the big-ticket signings into a dominant unit?
The Giants spent on defense in free agency like they were printing money. They added pass rusher Olivier Vernon, corner Janoris Jenkins and tackle Damon Harrison as big-ticket additions. They also re-signed Jason Pierre-Paul and used their first-round pick this year on corner Eli Apple. That's a lot of help for a defense that needed it. They were 31st in the league in points given up last season, and it cost coach Tom Coughlin his job. Now Spagnuolo, a holdover as coordinator, has more pieces to try and fix the troubles. They will be better, but how much better is the big question.
New York Jets
Who plays quarterback?
Will the Ryan Fitzpatrick contract situation work its way out before camp begins? The two sides are way apart and Fitzpatrick, who had a good season in 2015, hasn't been a part of any offseason work. I eventually think he signs, but if he doesn't it will be Geno Smith going to camp as the starter with rookie second-round pick Christian Hackenberg also in the mix. Fitzpatrick is a smart man. He will realize the Jets' offer is a lot better than sitting around getting nothing. I bet he's their Week 1 starter.
How does this young team handle the expectations?
The Raiders are a chic, trendy pick to be a playoff team and possibly win the AFC West. They went 7-9 in coach Jack Del Rio's first season, and they have a nice, young base of talent in quarterback Derek Carr, pass rusher Khalil Mack and receiver Amari Cooper. They also spent big in free agency to get linebacker Bruce Irvin, corner Sean Smith and guard Kelechi Osemele. They are building to something, but are they ready for it in 2016? Or are they still a year away? Being young and sneaking up on teams is one thing, but that's not the case with the Raiders this time around.
It sounds like the Eagles are ready to keep Wentz as their third passer for the season. So they say. I am not sure I believe it. Bradford will go into camp as the starter, but will first-year coach Doug Pederson stick with him? What happens if Bradford struggles? If he does, do they go to Chase Daniel? Like with Jared Goff, the longer they wait to play the rookie the longer they are delaying the inevitable, unless, of course, the Eagles consider themselves a playoff team. Do you? I don't think so.
Who are the corners?
Isn't this always a major question for the Steelers? In years past, their pass rush could cover up for not having great corners. But that hasn't been the case lately and their corners have been exposed in recent years. The Steelers allowed the third-most passing yards in the league and quarterbacks completed 64.3 percent of their passes against them. Veteran William Gay will be in the mix, but expect first-round pick Artie Burns and last year's second-round pick (Senquez Golden) and fourth-round pick (Doran Grant) to also be in the mix. Ross Cockrell is another player who will get a shot. The Steelers should hope the youngsters can play right away -- or they could have issues.
Can they fix the offensive line?
Injuries crippled the line in 2015, with the projected starting group barely on the field together the entire season. Guard Orlando Franklin, who the Chargers paid big money to as a free agent, disappointed last season. He has to be better. Left tackle King Dunlap played in seven games and they had a rotating mess at center. They expect to have five holdovers start this season, with the only possible new starter being third-round rookie center Max Tuerk, but he's coming off an ACL injury last year at Southern California. Philip Rivers better hope like heck this unit can stay healthy.
Can Colin Kaepernick turn his career around under Chip Kelly?
All indications are that it's Blaine Gabbert's job coming out of offseason work. That's in large part because Kaepernick had to deal with injuries and was limited. He is coming off surgeries on his right thumb, his left knee and on his left shoulder to repair a torn labrum. Gabbert took over last year and played better than at any point in his time with the Jaguars, his first team. But Kelly takes over and that could mean a chance for Kaepernick to get back to playing like he did when he took the 49ers to the Super Bowl. I would expect Gabbert to start the season, but I expect we will see Kaepernick start games as well.
Who runs the football with Marshawn Lynch now retired?
It will probably be back by committee. Thomas Rawls, who took over when Lynch got hurt last year, is coming off an impressive season, but one that was cut short by a major ankle injury. He hopes to be ready at some point in camp, but that's to be determined. If healthy, he will be the top guy. After that, it's youth. They have three rookies -- C.J. Prosise, Alex Collins and Zac Brooks -- who have a chance to play right away. Prosise has the look of a third-down back who can play right away. They also brought back veteran Christine Michael last year and he's in the mix as well. I would expect this to be a season-long competition.
Can Mike Smith fix the defense with the players on the roster?
The Bucs gave up the seventh-most points in the league last season, which isn't good. They weren't bad from a yardage standpoint, but they gave up 417 points, which is way too many. They need to get that about 100 points lower. Former Falcons head coach Mike Smith faces a big challenge. The Bucs were built in the Tampa 2 scheme, which means Smith inherits a smallish unit that was predicated on speed. The Bucs have to get bigger. One major issue: Where's the pass rush? They have to hope rookie Noah Spence can be the big-time edge rusher they need. The secondary is shaky at best.
How will the move to a run-first attack impact Marcus Mariota?
Titans head coach Mike Mularkey is a run-first coach, and the team's moves this offseason suggest that will be the focus of the offense. They traded to get DeMarco Murray from the Eagles and then drafted Derrick Henry in the second round. They also signed center Ben Jones as a free agent and drafted tackle Jack Conklin. That's all well and good if they want to help Mariota, but this has to be his team. It's a team that has to be built around him, not the running game. That could stunt his growth. He appeared to be far more than a game manager last year as a rookie. Why not let him continue to grow?
Can Kirk Cousins make the Redskins regret not giving him a long-term deal?
Cousins is playing on a franchise tag of $20 million, but even that would have seemed ludicrous at this time last season. But when Robert Griffin III struggled, Cousins took over and had an impressive season, throwing 29 touchdown passes with a passer rating of 101.6. Now comes the tough part, which is doing it again. He has a nice group of pass catchers, so there are no excuses. If he plays well again, the Redskins could be ready to give him the long-term deal they passed on this year. This is a show-me year for Cousins.