As the new season approaches we’ve got an NFL preview covering what has happened during the off season as well as a couple of choice tips for you.
It seems like forever ago when Patrick Mahomes uttered the seven words that changed Superbowl LIV – ‘Do we have time to run wasp?’.
They did and the Kansas City Chiefs never looked back as they completed yet another comeback in last seasons playoff run, winning their second Superbowl crown 50 years after their first.
That victory over San Francisco was an apt ending to the NFL’s 100th-year celebrations. One of the founding members to play in the very first Superbowl capped off a mesmerising couple of years.
However, this off season has been dominated by Tampa Bay, as the Buccaneers recruited heavily. Most noticeably, they picked up Tom Brady from New England, in the most talked-about move in NFL history.
But as kickoff in the new season draws ever closer, we’re here to give you our NFL preview.
The Defending Champs
Kansas City to win the Superbowl
The defending champions rarely pull off the double, but few are as well equipped as the Kansas City Chiefs. In a year where there has been a vast amount of change around the league, the Chiefs have kept the vast majority of their players, whilst adding a few missing pieces along the way.
Patrick Mahomes has set the league alight since his debut. And, with a regular-season MVP as well as a Superbowl MVP he truly has become the standard-bearer at QB.
The Chiefs also boast possibly the best tight end in the league in Travis Kelce who always seems to be able to make a move when needed, causing nightmares for opposing sides.
Add in the Legion of Zoom in Tyreek Hill and Sammy Watkins and you’ve got one of the best deep threats that the league has ever seen. It was this speed which helped turn the tide in the Superbowl as Kansas moved down the field in just a few plays to set up the winning touchdown.
They are a scary proposition and, whilst the challenge is remaining at the top dogs, it is up to the others to reach the new standard.
Welcome to Tom-pa Bay
Tampa Bay Buccaneers to win the NFC
Last year Jameis Winston lead the league in passing yards. However, he was costly as he set a league-high 30 interceptions too.
They massively upgraded as they brought in the GOAT in Tom Brady. Six Superbowl victories speak for themselves. He saw the Buccs odds slashed dramatically for a Superbowl victory in what could be the first-ever home win in the showpiece.
But the additions did not stop there. Considered the most dominant tight end in the history of the game, Rob Gronkowski has also reunited with Brady in Tampa adding to an already stacked receiving core. They were the only side last season to boast two receivers who racked up over 100 receiving yards in the form of Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. Gronk’s arrival will help cause confusion in opposition minds. Tampa now have game-changers in every position.
The recent addition of Leonard Fournette at running back adds another dimension to the offense. A bullish player who can make the most of any gaps created due to the threat out wide will keep people guessing as to what type of play Brady and co will run.
This might just be the most explosive offense in 2020/21 given the sheer volume of pro-bowl level options
Who Can Topple the King?
Christian McCaffrey to be rushing leader
Last year Derrick Henry almost ran the Tennessee Titans to the Superbowl as he caught fire in the last third of the season. He ended on 1,540 yards for the season but almost half of those came in the last six games of the season.
However, as a new season begins, the contenders for the crown are emerging and as with Henry, they each hold their team’s chances this season on their shoulders.
Whilst many may look to Saquon Barkley of the New York Giants or Ezekiel Elliott of the Dallas Cowboys as the stereotypical powerhouse backs with proven track records of vying for the rushing title, our pick goes elsewhere.
Among the favourites to land the Most Valuable Player title is Carolina Panthers’ Christian McCaffrey who is coming off of the back of an incredible year. Becoming just the third player in NFL history to rush for 1,000 yards and have 1,000 receiving yards has thrust him into the limelight once again.
With a new QB joining the Panthers ranks in Teddy Bridgewater, new avenues could open up for CMC as he may no longer be the focal point of the offense. Whilst this may seem like a step back, it could open up channels for him to use his skill set to find gaps and run right through them.
The Vi-Kings of the North
Minnesota to win the NFC North
Only a few years ago, Minnesota were one game away from the Superbowl, losing to eventual champions Philidelphia. Since then, they have upgraded at quarterback with the acquisition of Kirk Cousins. However, he does have a track record of shrinking in the biggest games. He looks to have shaken that ghost though as he lead the Vikings to a playoff win away at New Orleans.
Star wide receiver Stefon Diggs has left for pastures new but shrewd selections in the draft mean that the depth of the roster remains relatively unchanged.
Questions were asked after a number of high profile departures on the defensive side but the addition of Yannick Ngokue now means that the Vikes have two star players in the three main defensive lines. Mike Zimmer is a renowned defense focused coach and he would have had a plan in place before letting pro-bowl caliber players like Everson Griffin leave the team.
The division was won by Green Bay last year who would eventually make it to the NFC Championship game. However, many questioned their quality as they were blown away by the 49ers in that game. During the off-season there has been some questions asked of the team following their activity during the draft. They moved up in the draft to acquire quarterback Jordan Love causing some to question the long term future of established number one Aaron Rodgers.
The lack of addition in the required skill positions brings doubt to whether the Packers can replicate last year’s division title. A strong trio of attacking options in Rodgers, wide receiver Devante Adams and running back Aaron Jones means they can hurt teams. But they do lack depth.
Chicago seem to be in a state of disarray at the moment. Whilst they had a fear-inducing defensive line up which helped guide them to the divisional title two years ago in coach Matt Nagy’s first season it is the offensive firepower which is lacking. Superbowl winning QB Nick Foles has been brought in to provide Mitch Trubisky with competition for the starting role. His time since his Philly Special heroics has been less than spectacular.
As for the Lions, they are a team in need of a rebuild, with the wheels already in motion for this. Two losing seasons on the bounce for Matt Patricia means he will be heavily under the spotlight. They will have Matt Stafford back from a back injury which kept him on the sidelines for most of last season. However, they lack the quality to really challenge in this division over a full season. They are capable of springing a few surprises along the way, but the squad depth is far behind their rivals.
The Surprise Package
Arizona Cardinals To Make The Playoffs
Whilst all of the media attention has been focussed on Tom Brady and the ensuing hype in Tampa, the biggest and most shocking move of the offseason was made by Arizona.
The acquisition of star wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins from Houston in a blockbuster trade deal caused many pundits to scratch their heads. Hopkins is considered by many to be the best in his position and he can certainly argue his case with his stats.
Whilst the capture of Hopkins caught the eye, this should not distract from the already talented roster. The ever-reliable Larry Fitzgerald returns for his 17th season and is fast closing in on Hall of Famer Jerry Rice’s record for receptions in the NFL. His safe hands helped last year’s number one draft pick Kyler Murray settle into the league and be named as offensive rookie of the year.
They say that it is defence that wins championships but for Arizona, it is an underrated strength. They boast last seasons sack leader Chandler Jones, brother of UFC star Jon Jones, who has already targeted breaking the single-season sack record this year.
The existing squad coupled with the additions make it a promising looking season ahead for the Cardinals and many will still be underestimating their capabilities, making them a very tempting proposition.