Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 7/19/13

The only down side of being such a fan of football is that the offseason can seem to last forever.  The good news is that we are now in the middle of July which means that training camp is approaching.  Here is a list of 10 hot topics that will surely be discussed throughout the football world heading into the upcoming season.The New England PatriotsWes Welker is now a Denver Bronco, Rob Gronkowski's health is uncertain and Aaron Hernandez looks to be "out of the picture" for a long time.   Can Danny Amendola put up anywhere near the production that Welker achieved?  Can Chandler Jones improve and be a force getting to the quarterback in year 2?  There are question marks everywhere with this team, but combine the fact that they still have Tom Brady and Bill Belichick with a division that is not very strong and you will most likely see the Patriots in the postseason again.Sophomore Slumps?Andrew Luck, RG III, Russell Wilson and Ryan Tannehill all played very well in their rookie seasons.  Now that Defensive Coordinators have had an entire offseason to game plan against them, will these phenoms be able to improve upon their 2012 seasons or will they be victims of the dreaded sophomore slump?Defending the Read/OptionIn addition to RG III and Russell Wilson, players such as Cam Newton and Colin Kaepernick also thrived in the read/option in 2012.  Will NFL defenses catch up this year?  If so, how will these quarterbacks respond?Robert Griffin's KneeAll indications are that RG III's torn ACL has recovered nicely and that he will be ready for opening day.  Assuming that is true, will Offensive Coordinator Kyle Shanahan change his play calling to protect RG III from risk of further injury?  No doubt RG III can sling it but his running ability really puts defenses on its toes so dialing back on the running plays will obviously help the opposing defense out.  Tough call for Shanahan. The Baltimore RavensRay Lewis has retired and Ed Reed is in Houston.  That is a huge leadership void for the Ravens.  Anquan Boldin is also in San Francisco.   But Joe Flacco is getting better each year, Ray Rice is a dual threat and Ozzie Newsome always seems to find good players to fit in the Ravens' system.  It's always extremely hard to repeat but in a relatively weak AFC, the Ravens will be in the mix come January.Is this "Next Year" for the Dallas Cowboys?Every year for the past several years, we hear about how talented the Cowboys are and how some insiders are picking them to reach the Super Bowl.   By the end of the year, those insiders are disappointed and then come July we're back to the same old discussion again.  After giving Tony Romo a six year extension this offseason, it appears that the Cowboys are in it for the long-haul with Romo.  Eventually, he is going to have come through when the season is on the line, otherwise, it will be the same old song and dance. The NFC WestIn 2010, the Seattle Seahawks won the NFC West with a 7-9 record.  As a result, the NFC West became a national punchline.  Three years later and the NFC West just might be the best division in football.  The Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers both made the postseason last year and expectations are high.  Coach Jeff Fisher is entering year 2 with the St Louis Rams so you know they will be tough.  Even the Cardinals improved by getting Carson Palmer to play quarterback.  In 2010, 7-9 won the division; this year it may take 13-3.Are the Indianapolis Colts for Real?After going 2-14 in 2011, #1 pick Andrew Luck lead the Colts to an 11-5 record in 2012 which was a tremendous accomplishment.  Can they improve on that in 2013?  It will be difficult to win the division with the Houston Texans to contend with, but as we have seen in recent years, just getting into the playoffs is all it takes to get to the Super Bowl.The Denver BroncosMany wondered how Peyton Manning would handle being in a new environment after over a decade with the Indianapolis Colts and missing the entire 2012 season due to injury.  Well, he nearly had an MVP season (if it hadn't been for Adrian Peterson) and the Broncos finished with a 13-3 record.  But even after such a great season, the year ended in disappointing fashion with their overtime loss to the Baltimore Ravens in the divisional round of the playoffs.  Can the Broncos bounce back?  Getting Wes Welker in free agency will help the offense, but how will the defense stack up with Elvis Dumervil now in Baltimore?The Return of Sean PaytonThe New Orleans Saints made the playoffs in 2009, 2010 and 2011.  Then the Bounty-gate scandal hit and head coach Sean Payton was suspended for the entire 2012 season.  At the time that the suspension was announced, conventional wisdom was that the Saints would be just fine without Payton.  After all, they still had Drew Brees, Jimmy Graham, Marques Colston and Darren Sproles.  But as the season unfolded, it was clear that something was missing withouy Payton there.  I am looking forward to see how the Saints come out of the gate this season with their leader back.

GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Ezekiel Elliott: ‘Evil NEVER prevails’

Orioles, Padres reportedly talking trades of Melvin Upton, Cashner

Le’Veon Bell reportedly missed ‘several’ drug tests

Report: Islanders looking at locations to build new arena

Top five takeaways from this year's NBA Summer League

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

NCAA rules that hanging out with hip-hop star Drake is violation

WATCH: Justin Bieber arm wrestle Sixers center Joel Embiid

RUMOR: Celtics sign Green, Zeller and two others to contract deals

Kevin Durant Thunder jerseys going for less than 50 cents in OKC

Why are Saints holding out on contract talks with Drew Brees?

Jay Gruden gives out primo parking spots to hard-working players

Facebook doesn’t know the difference between Liverpool and Arsenal

Report: Teams asked about Wade Davis, asking price very high

Aussie Rules Football player accidentally kicks, breaks own leg

Former Arkansas football assistant trolls Bobby Petrino on social media

Could Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw's injury hinder trade talks?

Spurs strike a new deal with NBA stalwart Manu Ginobli

George makes return to Team USA following leg injury

Why the Clippers shouldn't break up their big three

White Sox pay homage to Bo Jackson’s bat-breaking skills with bobblehead

Orioles affiliate pay tribute to David Bowie on their jerseys

Report: Rangers pushing trade efforts for Sale

Russell Martin day-to-day after sauna-related mishap

NFL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Effect of ban on Russia could span beyond the Olympic Games

One Gotta Go: NBA players hate Facebook too

QUIZ: Name every city to host the NBA All-Star Game

One Gotta Go: NBA players settle the fast food beef

One Gotta Go: NBA players make tough choices on their favorite rappers

One Gotta Go: NBA Summer League is not about that Game of Thrones life

The top NHL free agents available as offseason winds down

WATCH: NBA jersey sponsors that need to happen

Expansion draft playing heavy hand in the current NHL offseason

WATCH: Pop & Timmy have a guys' night out

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker