The return of the National Football League is cause for excitement up and down the United States of America, but beyond that, fans around the world are also interested to see what happens this season as the sport’s global appeal continues to grow with each and every passing year. The supporters of all 32 teams, as well as the neutrals, will be eagerly anticipating the kick-off, and despite there still being a series of preseason games to get through it feels like all signs are now pointing towards the start of the regular season. With that, of course, comes a great deal of analysis, which is what we’re here to provide you with today.
We start off in the AFC North where there seems to be more and more uncertainty with these teams as the days go by. The Pittsburgh Steelers continue to shine as the strongest team in the division by a country mile, but with an ageing squad to contend with as well as the pressure of getting Big Ben another ring, it’ll be interesting to see how they handle this season. The Ravens have a quarterback dilemma to deal with, the Bengals are attempting to prove that they’re still a playoff team, and the Browns’ overhaul has many wondering whether or not they can make significant improvements this season.
In the South, we’ve got a series of teams who are one or two steps away from reaching that next level, which could make this the division to watch in the coming months. The Houston Texans have suffered from crucial injuries in recent years, but should still be viewed as playoff contenders based on their young QB and strong defensive options alone. The Colts will need to rely on Andrew Luck to carry them in the same way that Peyton Manning did for so many years, whereas the Titans will do well to repeat their heroics of last season - which, let’s be honest, were all down to momentum in the post-season. Then you’ve got the Jacksonville Jaguars, and quite simply put, this is a Super Bowl-worthy team if they can stay healthy and piece everything together.
We arrive at the AFC East, also known as the home of the New England Patriots - and the smart money suggests that’s going to be the case once again this year. Nobody should ever think twice about getting behind Tom Brady, even in his elder years. He’s got great options around him and when you take a look at his opposition, it isn’t all too pretty. The Bills are a shadow of the team that made the playoffs last year, the Jets haven’t made enough significant changes, and the Dolphins continue to resemble a team that is destined for another 8-8 finish.
We round off this conference with the AFC West, and this is the definition of a division in the rebuilding phase. The Denver Broncos are still waiting to see everything click into place from an attacking perspective, meanwhile, the Chiefs are attempting to keep theirs together after a few years of failing to live up to their potential. The Los Angeles Chargers are more than capable of making a run deep into the post-season but they need to iron out their silly mistakes, which leaves us with the Oakland Raiders. They aren’t pretty at times and they’re certainly unconventional, but we can see them surprising a few people.
In the NFC South, you can just tell that at least one team is going to be left feeling incredibly disappointed, and it will be interesting to see how that plays out. Atlanta have been haunted by their loss to the Patriots for well over a year now, and their main objective will be to win a Super Bowl in front of their hometown fans - and we wouldn’t put it past them given their strength in depth. Then you have the Panthers who are always a big unknown, but with Cam Newton leading the line, anything is possible. The New Orleans Saints are destined to put in another top season as Drew Brees reaches the end of the road, which leaves us with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers who will do well to rack up five wins this year.
We start the NFC North with the Chicago Bears and while they aren’t going to be seen as contenders by any stretch of the imagination, they’re a young team who are starting to build something, and that’s exciting. The Lions just need to put all of the pieces together because they’ve got the talent in their ranks, but it doesn’t feel like they’re ever capable of reaching that next level. The Packers and the Vikings, on the other hand, are a different story altogether. Both teams have similar strengths in some areas and weaknesses in others, but for the most part, the rivals are going to be Super Bowl contenders and that’s just a fact. So keep your eye on this battle, because it’s going to be a good one.
In the NFC East, it’s not exactly shocking to suggest that the Dallas Cowboys just aren’t consistent enough to make a real push for the playoffs, at least not yet. The Giants are a more interesting case with Eli Manning preparing for what could prove to be his final season, with Odell Beckham Jr setting out to make a statement as he tries to prove he’s worth the $95 million that he’s set to be paid. The Washington Redskins have had more incomings and outgoings than most teams so it’ll be intriguing to see how their season pans out, and then you’ve got the Philadelphia Eagles. The reigning Super Bowl champions will need to rely on Carson Wentz to get the job done, and if he can play to his potential, another Super Bowl berth isn’t out of the question.
Our division previews end with the NFC West, and we start with a look at the Arizona Cardinals. The majority of pundits given the strength of their squad has dramatically underrated the Cards, and we honestly believe they’re capable of sneaking into a wild card spot if they can go on a good run late in the season. The Seahawks could be in a somewhat unfamiliar position by taking the ‘rebuilding’ role in the West, despite the best efforts of Russell Wilson. The 49ers will be interesting to watch with Jimmy Garoppolo at the helm, but above all else, this division is the Los Angeles Rams’ for the taking - because they truly are a terrifying team when they’re at their best.
If we had to put our money down on a team to go all the way this season, we truly do believe that this could be the year that the Green Bay Packers finally return to the mountaintop in the NFL. Aaron Rodgers is still capable of putting up monster numbers and he’s had too many setbacks not to come back with one hell of a year. They’ve been so close on so many occasions that it feels wrong to write them off again, and given the experience that they’ve got in their ranks, we’re going to say that the Packers will be your 2019 Super Bowl champions.
Either way, the most important thing is that competitive football is almost back in our lives - and we can’t wait.