NFL Season Preview – Part 1 by Hamish Girvan
With the first week of preseason games in the books there is unfortunately still a hangover from last season’s Superbowl. 200 days ago the New England Patriots won it all after an interception on the goal line in the final minutes cost Seattle their second straight championship. In the week leading up to the final it was revealed that the Patriots had used under inflated balls in the AFC Championship against the Indianapolis Colts. The investigation found Patriots Quarterback Tom Brady, was at fault and he was subsequently banned for the first four games of this season. Lawsuits and appeals are ongoing overshadowing the start the season.
On the field nothing really can be read into the preseason however one thing is evident. The no. 1 and 2 draft picks – Quarterbacks Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota both struggled in their debuts and both were sacked and intercepted in their initial drives. Both are definitely projects who will learn to follow the process.
A prediction – the NFC is currently stronger then the AFC and their divisions are more competitive. It would not be at all surprising for a NFC team to win this seasons Superbowl number 50.
The New York Jets hit the headlines last week with their quarterback out for the first 6-8 weeks of the season after fracturing his jaw from a punch by a team mate, in the dressing room post practice. Geno Smith apparently owed IK Enemkpali $600, a fight ensued ending with a punch and Enemkpali being kicked off the team. Another day in the Jets dysfunctional franchise where chances of success seemed limited anyway.
Part of the NFL Coaching carousel led to last year’s Jets coach Rex Ryan moving upstate to divisional rivals the Buffalo Bills. Rex also enlisted Enemkpali onto his team once the Jets dropped him. The Bills will have a defence that is tough this season – in terms of offence things could be limited though.
The New England Patriots chances depend on Brady’s appeal to have his ban reduced. His back up Jimmy Garoppolo is no slouch however expecting him to get four wins could be a challenge too hard to mount. Never say never though. No Brady and the Patriots maybe vulnerable.
The dark horse in the AFC this season is the Miami Dolphin’s. Rebuilt over the past two seasons they provided the odd upset last season. A Harvard study this year based on statistics have predicted that the Dolphins will win it all. NFL Football is different to Baseball in terms of a moneyball comparison however funnier things have happened. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill will be the key to how far they get.
The Denver Broncos have become the favourite again based on both Peyton Manning and other acquisitions however with a new head coach in Gary Kubiak and the loss of Tight End Julius Thomas it will be no easy thing.
The Kansas City Chiefs have one of the best defences in the NFL and with new wide receiver Jeremy Maclin they finally might get their offence going. Last year’s record of not one touchdown any wide receiver is nothing to crow about.
The San Diego chargers signed their quarterback Philip Rivers for the next four years meaning he will be a Charger for life. The team has issues though with players either left, not adequately replaced or on bans for substance abuse e.g. Tight End Antonio Gates.
The most dysfunctional team in the NFL – the Oakland Raiders are paying 150/1 to win Superbowl. Enough said
Second in dysfunction is the Cleveland Browns. If only they could make some good decisions in the front office their team may follow suit. Whether it’s their star player being banned for substance abuse for the season (again) or a Quarterback whose headlines are not football related, they really need to sort their lives out. Quarterback Johnny Manziel will never lift a Superbowl – there – it’s been said.
On the other side of the division are one of the NFL’s more storied teams and a model of consistency. The Pittsburgh Steelers have only ever had three coaches in their history and have six Superbowl’s to show for it. Always a threat.
The Baltimore Ravens also have a consistent environment. With no real superstars on the team they possess a menacing defence with a reasonable anaemic offense, however again they are always a playoff contender. Coach John Harbaugh is one of those understated people and one of the smartest in the league.
The Cincinnati Bengals have a coach in Marvin Lewis who must be one of the luckiest. Making the playoffs but always falling at the first hurdle it shows the Bengals are loyal at least. Their Quarterback Andy Dalton has a make or break season ahead otherwise he may well find himself without a job there at the end of the season.
One of the weakest in the NFL it’s basically the Indianapolis Colts – then the rest. The rest are are all in some sort of rebuilding phase with new quarterbacks and new coaches.
The Colts possess the league’s best quarterback in Andrew Luck – he will win a Superbowl at some stage. They have made some moves in shoring up their defence and should easily make the playoffs.
The Tennessee Titans have Marcus Mariota as their rookie quarterback. Coming out of an Oregon college system he has both a running and passing game however the step up to the big leagues is huge.
In a similar position are the Jacksonville Jaguars. They drafted Blake Bortles the season before however his rookie season was anonymous at best. Ownership the issue there for any strategy of going forward.
The Houston Texans are in the second year under head coach Bill O’Brien. Coming out of the Patriots coaching tree he is trying to bring that model and philosophy to the Texans. The team are this season’s fly on the wall pre-season series of NFL’s “Hard Knocks”
Next week the NFC Divisions will be analysed
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