Cam Newton, quarterback, Panthers (22): Newton always will be a lightning rod, but even more eyes will be on him — and hot takes written about his every move — after a disastrous Super Bowl in which he played terribly, refused to chase his own fumble with the game still in doubt and then sulked like a baby during the postgame press conference.
Why were Marshawn Lynch, Doug Baldwin, Brown and most recently Vikings running back Jerick McKinnon not immediately ejected, then suspended after end-zone demonstrations of crotch-grabbing and mimes of defecation and copulation?
Why is such shamelessly low behavior — likely rehearsed, no less — indulged with a quiet fine rather than with Roger Goodell’s loud, firm declaration that if you do such abhorrent, indecent dirt to our game and viewers, you’re going to suffer a punishment that actually works, actually deters?
And why, after CBS first caught Tom Brady on the sideline shouting “F—!,” was it replayed four times and in slow motion?
What is Goodell afraid of, the scorn of “freedom of expression” fools, the condemnation of the go-low TV and radio who would complain that the elimination of obscene conduct is more proof of the NFL as the No Fun League?
By the way, think this might be a good time for Gary Bettman to encourage the Nashville Predators to change their nickname?
Manuel missed five weeks of his rookie season with a knee injury and was benched after four starts in 2014 in favor of Kyle Orton, who led the Bills to their first winning season since 2004. Manuel never got the starting job back. Tyrod Taylor took over in 2015 and ’16, and Manuel left town complaining that he never got a fair shot — just 17 starts in four seasons. He signed a one-year deal with the Raiders to back up Derek Carr.
Jones was a two-time All-American at Georgia and winner of the Jack Lambert Trophy. But he turned into arguably the worst draft bust of Mike Tomlin’s tenure. Jones had just six sacks in four seasons and lost his job to James Harrison, who’s 11 years older. The Steelers let Jones go after 2016, and he signed a one-year deal with the Cardinals.
Gronkowski is coming off a huge game against the Bills, against whom he had nine catches and 147 yards (both season highs). New England’s No. 2 tight end is Dwayne Allen, who’s a strong blocker but hasn’t been used a lot in the passing game (five catches for 40 yards this season). This is good news for the Dolphins’ defense, which has been terrible covering opposing tight ends.