This yr’s version of the league will mark its 100th yr in existence and to commemorate it, alongside a brand change and badges added to gamers uniforms, the centenary yr will kick off with a sport between two of the league’s oldest sides, the Chicago Bears and the Inexperienced Bay Packers.
With new faces arriving within the league through the draft, gamers switching groups and new guidelines coming in, it has been all change for the reason that New England Patriots’ 13-Three victory over the Los Angeles Rams in Tremendous Bowl LIII in Atlanta.
So forward of the beginning of the brand new season and with the assistance of nine-year NFL participant Coy Wire, let’s take a look at what you need to be retaining a watch out for.
In contrast to in different sports activities, the groups contending to hoist the Lombardi Trophy usually change on a year-by-year foundation.
However regardless of the rotating door of contenders, one factor stays fixed over latest years — the New England Patriots.
Since 1996, they’ve appeared in ten Tremendous Bowls, successful six of them and with the seemingly ageless Tom Brady at quarterback and the grizzled, skilled Invoice Belichick on the helm, the Patriots look set to make a run for the Tremendous Bowl once more.
In a top-heavy AFC, Patriots look to be vying for a spot within the Tremendous Bowl with the always-competitive Pittsburgh Steelers and the Kansas Metropolis Chiefs — quarterbacked by reigning MVP Patrick Mahomes.
“The favorites to make the Tremendous Bowl from the AFC are the Patriots … but once more,” Wire mentioned. “Has there ever been a extra dominant dynasty in NFL historical past?
“There are eight-year-old children who’ve by no means seen an AFC championship sport with out the Patriots enjoying in it. That is proper — eight straight. Having confronted Tom Brady and Invoice Belichick twice a yr, yearly, throughout my six seasons with the Buffalo Payments, I can guarantee you that their reign is about a lot greater than bodily expertise.
“The truth is, they by no means have probably the most gifted roster on paper. They win as a result of they’ve conquerers’ mindsets, and have created a blueprint for a successful tradition that has but to be replicated within the league. Their largest problem will come from Kansas Metropolis. The league’s reigning MVP Patrick Mahomes is again after a 50 TD, 5,000-yard season passing.
“The darkish horse within the AFC might be Jacksonville with their feisty protection returning, and the addition of Tremendous Bowl successful QB, Nick Foles, on offense.”
It’s the reverse within the NFC nevertheless, which appears rather more wide-open, as 4 of the highest seven favorites are battling it out for a spot within the Tremendous Bowl.
The Packers, Rams, Saints and Philadelphia Eagles will possible be juking it out within the playoffs, whereas up-and-coming groups such because the Bears, below second-year coach Matt Nagy, might be hoping to spring a shock.
“Within the NFC, the Saints might be proper again there knocking on the door of the Tremendous Bowl,” Wire outlines. “Their 40-year-old QB Drew Brees continues to be slinging the soccer higher than virtually anybody has ever finished it.
“Are you able to think about the hype surrounding a rematch between New Orleans and the Rams within the NFC title sport after final season’s controversial cross interference no-call that despatched the Saints packing? It is a possible chance.
“A darkish horse contender within the NFC is my former group, the Atlanta Falcons. Vegas odds have them barely cracking a .500 document, however after spending time with the group this offseason, I say with confidence that they are higher than they had been than once they went to the Tremendous Bowl in 2016.
“Their offense is again (and higher) after QB Matt Ryan put up numbers on par together with his MVP season, and their protection is wholesome once more after being obliterated by accidents final season.”
On the transfer
Relating to explosive offseasons, the NFL sometimes has lagged behind the NBA.
However when free company opened on March 13, the NFL determined to take a leaf out of the NBA’s ebook, with blockbuster trades and free agent signings aplenty.
On the opening day of free company, celebrity broad receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Antonio Brown had been traded to the Cleveland Browns and Oakland Raiders respectively.
2018 Tremendous Bowl successful quarterback Nick Foles signed a four-year $88 million contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars whereas operating again Le’Veon Bell — who determined not play in the course of the 2018 season for the Steelers resulting from pay disputes — signed a four-year $52.5 million contract with the New York Jets.
“Antonio Brown going to Oakland together with his frost bitten ft and banned helmet has been a dramatic offseason transfer, however probably the most surprising, thrilling, perplexing, and intriguing transfer is former Giants star Odell Beckham Jr. going to the Browns,” Wire mentioned.
“Cleveland now has extra hype surrounding them than any group in league historical past that had a dropping document the season earlier than. Their rising star, and flamboyant QB, Baker Mayfield, led them to wins in 5 of their final eight video games in 2018, and with a brand new head coach, and OBJ becoming a member of his former faculty teammate, Jarvis Landry, the Browns ought to actually discover themselves within the playoffs come January.”
The draft system of American sports activities is the pure approach of addressing any imbalances within the league.
The worst groups within the earlier season have the chance to choose the perfect, younger gamers popping out of school within the subsequent season’s draft.
After ending with a league-worst document of Three-13 final yr and appointing a brand new head coach, the Arizona Cardinals picked Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray with the primary general choose and can hope that he’ll quarterback them to success.
Elsewhere, two-time Tremendous Bowl winner Eli Manning’s run with the New York Giants appears to be coming to an in depth after they drafted Duke’s Daniel Jones with the sixth choose, whereas the Washington Redskins drafted Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins 15th general.
“Listed at 5’10 and simply 207 kilos, Kyler Murray is probably the most thrilling choose from this yr’s draft,” Wire defined.
“The #1 general choose by the Cardinals might be one of many smallest, but most athletic, beginning quarterbacks the NFL has ever seen.
“He has the chance to proceed to revolutionize the game’s most coveted place, following intently on the (small) heels of Baker Mayfield, Russell Wilson, and Drew Brees.”
After each NFL season involves an in depth, the NFL group house owners perform a radical evaluate into whether or not or not new guidelines must be applied or outdated guidelines must be altered.
In consequence, in the course of the off season, they determined to evaluate the cross interference rule following the missed name within the NFC Championship sport final season which seemingly value the New Orleans Saints the chance to play within the Tremendous Bowl.
And after analyzing the rule, the NFL house owners agreed to offer the pinnacle coaches of the NFL groups the flexibility to problem cross interference performs, whether or not they’re referred to as or not.
The purpose of that is to chop down on the opportunity of a sport being determined by an incorrect refereeing choice.
However as a result of a perceived lack of consistency with the reviewing choices and size of time it takes, this alteration to the rule hasn’t gone down nicely with everyone.
“The cross interference rule change actually goes in opposition to the league’s push to scale back the size of video games” Wire mentioned.
“One might actually name it a knee jerk response to the notorious Saints-Rams play that possible value New Orleans a visit to the Tremendous Bowl.
“If something, this new rule will carry to the eye of followers simply how usually cross interference COULD be referred to as in a sport (it occurs ALL the time). My intestine tells me that this rule will go away after this season, and followers might be grateful that it did.”