Football’s back! Forget Deflategate and all that legal stuff. Come Thursday night it’s all about the game we love.
It’s about stories that are made on the field. It’s back to championship-winning plays by unknowns like Malcolm Butler. It’s about the drama created by catches, tackles, runs, sacks, fumbles and scrambles. It’s about football.
The offseason hasn’t been without incident. ACLs, suspensions and retirements have dented the hopes of teams as we enter Week 1.
So who’s going to be squaring up in Santa Clara on February 7? Everyone has their idea of who will get there, but the fact of the matter is no actually knows.
Here’s one way the AFC and NFC could pan out between now and 2016:
1) Indianapolis Colts
They play in a weak division and Andrew Luck has a plethora of weapons on offense. The defense is a weak spot, but expect Luck and co to score more than they concede.
2) New England Patriots
The fact they have Brady back is a massive bonus for this team. Their defense has weakened, especially in the secondary. But let’s not write off the brilliant football mind of Bill Belichick. The AFC East is getting stronger but Brady is going to be angry and an angry Tom tends to get wins.
3) Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers have one of the best offenses in the game. Unfortunately for them some of their weapons have been hit with suspensions. The defense is going through a transitional period and that’s why they’re picked as Number 3 seed.
4) Denver Broncos
People argue that Peyton Manning is on the decline. That looks to be the case, but he’s got enough in the tank to punish teams. The Broncos have a strong running game, although their O-line needs improving. They also have a strong defense which has the potential to dominate teams in their division.
5) Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens are packed with studs. Their defense is strong, they’ve got a powerful backfield and a QB that seems to click up the gears as the season progresses. They’re in a strong division and have to play the NFC West this season. But they have plenty of talent to claim a wildcard spot.
6) Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs have a solid defense. Although they’re not the most impressive team on offense they have a QB who knows have to grind out wins. Alex Smith has some new weapons this year, most notably Jeremy Maclin. Travis Kelce is also a key target and they’ve got two studs in the backfield. They also play at Arrowhead which is a tough place for any side to visit.
1) Seattle Seahawks
Pete Carroll is a winner. He’s made of similar stuff, dare we say, to the legendary Bill Walsh and players want to play for him. The Seahawks are dominant on defense and their division is getting weaker. They have enough in them to get 13 wins and the Number 1 seed.
2) Green Bay Packers
They might have lost Jordy Nelson, but let’s not forget they still have Aaron Rodgers! Nelson will be a loss, but Randall Cobb is more than capable of carrying the load. They also have a running back in Eddie Lacy that they can ground and pound the ball with.
3) Dallas Cowboys
Jerry Jones has worked hard on getting the best pieces into the right places. They’ve lost DeMarco Murray but their O-line is so powerful it can create holes for anyone. They’ll pound the ball again to give Tony Romo the best possible chance to fire them into postseason. Expect Dez Bryant to make an impact with his new franchise tag as well.
4) Atlanta Falcons
The NFC South is a poor division and the Falcons have the best team. That will be enough for them to make it into January.
5) Detroit Lions
The Lions have one of the best looking offenses in the league. They’re ready to click and will challenge the Packers all the way. Matt Stafford will have a fully fit Megatron, and Eric Ebron will be stronger at tight end in his second year. They also have a group of powerful runners in the backfield.
6) Philadelphia Eagles
Chip Kelly has been given the freedom to build the side he wants. If preseason is anything to go by then this team will be one of the most fun teams to watch this year. They have pace on offense and have the ability to outscore most teams. Their defense is strong as well, although there are concerns over the QB’s two knees.
So with all that it looks like the road to Super Bowl 50 will be going through Indianapolis and Seattle, but will it be a Colts vs Seahawks showpiece?
The Steelers vs The Cowboys will give us the fairtytale showpiece that will decide once and for all who is the greatest franchise in in the history of the league in this its golden anniversary.