THE FRONT ROW with MARK NELKE: Screening the hopes of NFL fans

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Ah, that first Sunday morning of the NFL season brings that anxious anticipation.

You stagger out of bed, still half-asleep. You plop yourself down in the recliner, boot up the big-screen TV, dial up the desired channel and ...

... hope DirecTV hasn’t taken it down due to some silly squabble.

The current down-for-the-count list includes the local NBC affiliate and the local FOX affiliate, which only account for two of the five channels that show NFL games.

Other than that?

What next? Taking away our DOGTV?

Anymore, to get all the games you want, you need about eight streaming services, two satellite providers and a little brother you can force to climb onto the roof to adjust the antenna.

And then it all might change next week.

ALL THAT aside, each fan base has its own hopes and concerns.

If you’re a Packers fan (and there are many around here), can Aaron Rodgers lead you back to the Super Bowl after a few lost seasons under the old coach?

If you’re a Steelers fan (ditto), can Big Ben keep you relevant, even with two of the best players at their positions no longer there?

If you’re a Rams fan, can your high-powered offense keep humming, all the way back to another Super Bowl — where hopefully you don’t have to face the Patriots again?

If you’re a Raiders fan, your team has finally decided that, given the choice, it would rather have Antonio the Miniature Horse than Antonio the Star But Troubled Wide Receiver.

If you’re a Seahawks fan, will In Pete We Trust finally lead you past the first or second round of the playoffs again?

And if you’re a 49ers fan, you just hope all your games mean something for a change.

“IF THEY stay healthy.”

Seldom has such a caveat been such a big “if,” but such is the case in San Francisco — or more accurately, Santa Clara.

The savior quarterback is oft-injured. Both pass rushers have injury issues. So do some of their receivers and linebackers who have been brought in to improve those areas.

The coach and the GM, it seems, are the only 49ers beginning the season at full strength.

That’s why any collision — or even a simple cut — can change the course of the 49ers season. Unfortunately, the game is loaded with collisions and cuts.

If they stay healthy, the 49ers could give their waning fan base some hope. There’s enough talent — new and old — to move the football, and to slow down the opposing team from doing the same.

Simple improvement on the field would be a victory this year, though a lot of things would have to go the 49ers’ way for them to make the playoffs.

If they don’t stay healthy, they’ll just play another season of “exhibition” games, like they did last year.

BY THE time you read this, I thought we’d be watching Antonio Brown getting ready to take the field in Seattle, with the Seahawks shipping the Raiders a couple of fish from Pike Place Market as a thank-you gift. But alas, it was the Patriots.

After all, Seattle gleefully took Jadeveon Clowney off the hands of the Houston Texans, who didn’t seem to want him around anyway.

But the Seahawks’ Clown(ey) move will probably pay off, as the inmates tend to run the asylum in Seattle anyway.

In any event, as long as The Great Russell Wilson is around, the Seahawks will always be in the playoff hunt. He’s 32 but still has relatively low miles on him, so he’ll probably stick around until he’s 50, just because he can.

Pete kinda wasted the last few seasons of the Legion of Boom, after the dominating Super Bowl season following by the idiotic forward pass play call the next season. But when the LOB was young and hungry, the Seahawks were nearly unbeatable.

They seem to be young and hungry again, and along with the few remaining (and very talented) vets, that should be good enough for another trip to the playoffs.

Hopefully you’ll be able to watch it on TV.

Mark Nelke is sports editor of The Press. He can be reached at 664-8176, Ext. 2019, or via email at mnelke@cdapress.com. Follow him on Twitter@CdAPressSports.

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