It’s all about Brady
Tom Brady is back! Sorry, that should really say, American Football is back. But the way things have gone this summer, you could be forgiven for thinking that the NFL is Tom Brady.
Deflategate rumbled on the entire off-season, even taking prominence at the funfair that is the NFL draft. With all the talk about who is going to make moves to secure Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota, Brady was never far from conversation, with the tired cliché of Brady being a 199 pick getting plenty of air time.
So it is perhaps fitting that the season starts with the man who finished the last one on top. But before we get into the Pittsburgh Steelers versus New England Patriots clash, I wanted to consider who is value for money for a play off spot this season.
We start in the NFC East where, unsurprisingly, Quarterbacks are the main story.
NFC East – go with the Eagles to soar
I’ve gone for the Philadelphia Eagles in this division because I like an underdog story. This promises to be a tight group with the form of three QBs likely to decide who comes out on top.
The Philadelphia Eagles have taken a gamble on a man who hasn’t played a competitive game since 2013. Sam Bradford is one of the games’ unfortunate stories – great potential ruined by injury. However, his pre-season form has been so good (and injury free) that he isn’t even negotiating an extension to the one year he signed when putting pen to paper for the Eagles this summer. Maybe he has got his mojo back, which will be great news for the Eagles – in the short term. But it could be the rushing game that ensures the Eagles prevail.
The New York Giants are in a very different situation when it comes to the QB. Eli Manning looks untouchable at the moment, figuratively speaking, getting better and better. If he continues such imperious form then the Giants will have a good year.
The Dallas Cowboys, another airborne offensive unit, led by Tony Romo, and the Washington Redskins might struggle to keep up should the two aforementioned QBs stay fit and perform. I worry for the Redskins after it was rumoured Robert Griffin III has been benched with Kirk Cousins deputising.
NFC South – back Jameis Winston to lift Buccaneers
Much is made of Heisman winner, Winston, and Tampa Bay rightly ignored all trade advances on Draft Day to secure this QB. They need to rebuild the franchise (they were nothing short of shocking last year) and he could be the man to do it. His interceptions remain the worry, evidenced in pre-season, but if he gets enough protection to play a bit then we will witness some great moments.
Truth is, this is a poor division with the Carolina Panthers emerging victorious last year despite only seven regular season wins. They will be solid again this time around, especially with Cam Newton still pulling the strings.
As for the New Orleans Saints, what is going on there? Very quiet in free agency and they’ve lost some big players, without replacing them. A lot of pressure sits on the shoulders of Drew Brees, as ever, who must feel like he is carrying this side. How long will he stick around?
Finally, the Falcons are under a new manager and some say about time too. But this year might be one of rebuilding rather than challenging. But if there is any division they can challenge in, it is this one.
NFC North – Green Bay again? Rodgers that!
It is hard to see past a team who have made the play-offs for the past six seasons and are incredibly dominant in this division.
However, one team that might be worth watching and whom might upset a few things are the Minnesota Vikings. They might be struggling in the QB area but I expect them to build on last season’s promise. With Adrian Peterson back, expect them to be amongst the NFL’s leading rushing yards come the end of the campaign.
But, after losing in the semis the way that Green Bay did last season, I’d expect them to come out fighting and start strongly (unlike last year).
NFC West – defence will be the best form of attack for the Seahawks again
When a team has contested the last two Superbowls you can’t ignore them and they are the clear pick here. The Arizona Cardinals could make it interesting though.
Now that Carson Palmer is injury-free (for the time being) they represent the best of the rest. The rest though is a San Francisco 49ers franchise under new management and doing everything to go in the opposite direction that tipped them to be Superbowl contenders last year and the St Louis Rams; who could quite easily overtake the 49ers based on a solid
Seahawks 2/7 with bet365
AFC East – back Brady to do it again, and again, and again…
Before we talk about the Patriots and Brady – again – we need to consider the rising influence that the Miami Dolphins will have on this division. They have a rising QB in Ryan Tannehill (ranked in the top 10 QBs last year) and they have an impressive batch of receivers for him to pick out.
But it will take a lot to topple the Patriots – having dominated this division since 2000! The analogy of a wounded beast springs to mind and expect Bill Belichick to instil a siege mentality into a squad that is already tight. It should be a winning start too!
On a side note, you’ve got to feel for the New York Jets – a vastly improving franchise who are quite simply, in the wrong division!
AFC South – it’s not Luck if you keep on winning
Some say that the Indianapolis Colts have it lucky and I guess they do. They have Andrew Luck pulling the strings and establishing himself as one of the contemporary great QBs. But when their divisional challengers are the Houston Texans, Tennessee Titans and Jacksonville Jaguars, you’d expect them to be winning.
I don’t want that to come across as derogatory about the rest but they just aren’t up to the standards of the Colts.
The Titans have J. J. Watt, considered the game’s best defensive player and popular draft pick Marcus Mariota (expect him to get plenty of protection) at QB and the other two are franchises doing a lot of things right. This year it should be a walk in the park for the Colts though, but it might be closer in coming years.
AFC North – Pittsburgh to steel it…just!
This is a tough division to call. The Pittsburgh Steelers, Cincinnati Bengals and Baltimore Ravens are all improving franchises. But it is the powerful offense of the Steelers that might just seem them over the line.
The Bengals are standard play-off fodder even if they always lose when they get there in recent years but they will be hoping to reverse that trend this year as will QB, Andy Dalton. Additionally, the Ravens aren’t a team of superstars but they are solid and that brings them into contention too. However, despite a losing start (spoiler) the Steelers will be strong this year.
AFC West – could the Chiefs be top dog?
It is too easy to say the Denver Broncos will run away with this division so I’m going for Kansas City Chiefs to pip them. It’s a bold call because everything is in place for the Broncos to have another good season – Peyton Manning and all.
But there is something good going on at Kansas and, with both the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders improving too, it is going to be a tight division.
They have built a team on defence and it is solid. But some pre-season offensive promise has also got people excited in Kansas. Whether the pre-season promise materialises into regular season form, remains to be seen. There are a lot of ifs and buts but if they click, they could be a serious side to watch out for this season.
So there we have it; maybe I’m being a bit ambitious with my predictions in some divisions but I’m backing the Eagles, Buccaneers, Packers, Seahawks, Steelers, Patriots, Colts and Chiefs to win their respective divisions.
Please don’t ask me for a Superbowl prediction just yet, though.
As for tonight, well I started with Brady and I’ll finish with Brady, how could I not? Patriots to win by 7-12 points. Or Patriots with a -6.5 handicap.