It’s that time of year again. Watch as the USA goes nuts, with the arrival of the eagerly awaited hard-hitting razzle-dazzle of the NFL, writes Kevin Beirne
The NFL is the most unpredictable league in sports. There isn’t another in which a team could make the jump from going winless one year, to being a playoff side the next, as was seen from the 2007/08 Dolphins.
This season sees some of the usual suspects, as well as the emergence of some new contenders, kick-off their season with high hopes of hoisting the Lombardi trophy in February.
The New Orleans Saints will look to repeat last year’s success and the early signs are good. Drew Brees has passed for over 4,000 yards in each of his four seasons under centre with coach Sean Payton and the Saints. He is expected to continue the trend this year. If he does, the Saints have no reason to miss the playoffs, having finally addressed the defensive problems that haunted Payton’s first three years as head coach.
But Brees is not the only gunslinger in the NFC with high hopes. Aaron Rodgers and the Packers have more than enough talent to go all the way, although the season-ending injury suffered by Ryan Grant on the opening weekend might hinder their chances.
Green Bay is, however, a pass-first team. With a career passer rating of 98.5 as a starter, Rodgers has shown the poise and leadership that Mike McCarthy hoped he would have when he traded Brett Favre to the Jets in 2008. The Packers defence is in its second year in the 3-4 system and is a lot better than last year’s 51-45 Wildcard play-off game loss to the Arizona Cardinals suggests.
Favre is now with the Packers’ NFC-North rivals, the Minnesota Vikings, and hopes that he can continue to evade Father Time and lead the Vikings to a Superbowl. They are a team with plenty of weapons on defence, but with a big question mark at quarterback and wide-reciever.
Should Favre go down, which is highly likely considering he will be turning 41 next month, they would have to rely on Tavaris Jackson. Adrian Peterson and the defence would have to carry the team – much like the 2000 Ravens did with Trent Dilfer at quarterback. However, it would be difficult to see the Vikings pull off a defence heavy campaign to the Super Bowl as they simply do not have enough talent.
Much like their 2000 Super Bowl winning team, the Baltimore Ravens boast a solid defence and have greatly improved their offense. They have made some great moves in the off-season and retained key players.
Star linebacker, Ray Lewis, has recaptured his form – despite entering the autumn of his career – and will hope to lead his team all the way once again. Joe Flacco had an impressive rookie season and he can only get better with wide-recievers Anquan Boldin and T.J. Houshmandzadeh being added to the roster.
The 2010 season has already kicked off, but we have a long way to go before we know who will be in Dallas on 6th February. The first uncapped season in years promises to throw up some surprises. So get ready for a season of screaming at your TV and second-guessing coaches, because the NFL is finally back.