The dust from February has settled, the uniforms have been washed and renovated. The hot dogs, popcorn, pretzels and oversized drinks have restocked. The cheerleaders have been trained in the art of cheering. John Madden has been defrosted. And the refs have been replaced. Tim Tebow has probably just brushed his teeth and everyone knows about it. All of this means one thing…
The 93rd season of the NFL kicks off as the reigning champions the New York Giants host the Dallas Cowboys this evening, meaning that for the next 6 months the world will be learning their downs, false starts, interferences, holding, and anything else that involves the players moving without anything happening. So, whilst those who don’t know much about how the game works, I am here to provide you all with some insightful tipping for each team, as well as an overall winner or two in order to keep the fantastic world of notmuchkicking Football interesting for everyone. So let’s start with a quick rundown, and recap, of what to expect from the 32 teams involved. (Stay with me on this one, I’ll try to make it enjoyable!)
AMERICAN FOOTBALL LEAGUE (AFL) (Don’t worry about the different conferences, these AFL guys just interrupted the original NFL sometime in the 70s, and the NFL decided that they needed to split the teams into different groups)
Last Season: 6-10-0 (4th AFC East)
Strengths: DEFENCE – The Bills were pretty weak last season and they have gone about trying to rectify their situation by signing Defensive End Mario Williams from Texas who once hailed a $100m price tag.
Verdict: A good season could potentially lie ahead for the Bills, but a lot will depend on how their defensive line holds up.
Selection: Over 36 QB Sacks @ 4/9
Last Season: 6-10-0 (3rd AFC East)
Strengths: DEFENCE – Defensive End Cameron Wake is probably the best player in their line-up, twice voted the Most Outstanding Defensive Player during his time at the Giants, he is going to need to be at his best once more to give them any hope of avoiding disaster.
Verdict: A lot of their weight is going to rely on rookie Quarter Back Ryan Tannehill, who could be a decent acquisition if he lives up to the hype that surrounds him. They don’t have much expectations around him but they should live up to those
Selection: Under 7.5 Regular Season Wins @ 2/7
New England Patriots
Last Season: 13-3-0 (AFC East Winners – NFL Super Bowl Runners Up)
Strengths: PASSING – As much as I’m not meant to like the guy as a Jets fan, Tom Brady is arguably the best Quarter Back around, a lot will depend on whether or not he can be as consistent as he has been for the past few seasons
Verdict: The Pats are always a side to be reckoned with and another year of them easing into the Play-offs should be expected, Brady has it in his arm to push them to the Super Bowl once more
Selection: Tom Brady Over 4900.5 Season Passing Yards @ 10/11
New York Jets
Last Season: 8-8-0 (2nd AFC East)
Strengths: DEFENCE – Darelle Revis is the ever reliable Cornerback who will be hoping to prove to be a rock for the Jets once more, what his role entails is trying to prevent and intercept passes from the opposition quarterback. Last season Revis defended 21 passes and intercepted 4 times, gaining 184 yards and scoring a touchdown in the process.
Verdict: Tim Tebow time has hit Meadowlands and it could be enough to put pressure on Mark Sanchez to perform better. Apart from that the Jets could be hit or miss
Selection: Over 384 Regular Season Points @ 9/5
Last Season: 12-4-0 (AFC North Winners – AFC Conference Runners Up)
Strengths: RUNNING – Vonta Leech (Fullback) and Ray Rice (Running Back) make up one hell of an offensive tag team for the Ravens. Leech’s role as Fullback is to aid Rice by pulling opposition cornerbacks away from the action to leave the Running back open to receive passes.
Last season Rice received the ball and ran for a total of 704 yards picking up 12 Touchdowns.
DEFENCE – Ravens Linebacker Terrell Suggs was voted the NFL’s defensive player of the year, and their fans will once more be hopeful that he can be just as solid this season.
If these two areas of their gameplay work wonders again this season then the Ravens could go close once more.
Verdict: With strength both in offense and defense it could be a good year for the Ravens, they should be strong enough to at least make the play-offs once more
Selection: Over 10 Regular Season Wins @ 7/4
Last Season: 9-7-0 (3rd AFC North – AFC Wild Card Play-off Losers)
Strengths: DEFENSE – In a side where the offense was pretty poor last season, the only strength in their decent record can be put down to their defense.
Verdict: The Bengals are once again going to have to rely on Quarterback Andy Dalton finding decent link-up play with his Wide Receivers, they have brought in Running Back Ben Green-Ellis from the Patriots and he is all set to be their starter, but they could struggle to get the points on the board as they have concentrated too hard on trying to improve their already decent defensive line-up
Selection: Season Points Under 316 @ 2/1
Last Season: 4-12-0 (4th AFC North)
Strengths: YOUTH – The Browns boast a whole host of youthful & hungry players, over half of their squad have been in the NFL for less than two years, and their Quarter Back, Wide Receiver & Running Back are all Rookies.
Verdict: With such a vibrant squad comes a lot of risk, and it’s hard to believe that a team with such vast amounts of inexperience could sustain a successful campaign, don’t expect to see them winning many games
Selection: Under 5.5 Regular Season Wins @ 10/19
Last Season: 12-4-0 (2nd AFC North – AFC Wild Card Play-off Losers)
Strengths: DEFENCE – A vastly experienced defence that was extremely efficient last season, they allowed fewer points than any other NFL team (227)
Verdict: Troy Polamalu will once again be expected to produce the fine rearguard defence that he managed as safety guard last season (typically last line of defence) , what they lack in offence at times they more than make up for at the back, could see a fair few low scoring games this season
Selection: Under 336pts Scored in Regular Season @ 9/5
Last Season: 2-14-0 (4th AFC South)
Strengths: QUARTERBACK – Yes, the only strength I can see in this side is in Rookie Quarterback Andrew Luck, he looks pretty mature and could perform wonders
Verdict: The downside with the above strength is that the rest of the offensive line would need to be on the same wavelength, there could be points scored, but also a lot of interceptions as well.
Selection: Over 284pts Regular Season Points @ 7/5
Last Season: 5-11-0 (3rd AFC South)
Strengths: RUSHING – Running Back Maurice Jones-Drew rushed for a total of 1600 yards last season, and was pretty instrumental in the sides minor successes which they had over the season. They need Quarterback Blaine Gabbart to have a much better season this time around if they are to improve on their 5 wins from last season.
Verdict: The fact that Jones-Drew wracked up 47% of the team’s total yardage gain last season just goes to show how little faith there is in their Quarterback to do a decent job. This season Gabbart gets the pleasure of two new Wide Receivers to throw to, which could help the Jaguars out, but that remains to be seen.
Selection: Regular Season Wins Over 5.5 @ 4/5
Last Season: 9-7-0 (2nd AFC South)
Strengths: RUSHING – Jake Locker has a tough season ahead of him as first choice Quarterback, but he does have the pleasure of having proven Guard Steve Hutchinson to protect him from the onslaught of opposition defenses, Running Back Chris Johnson spent the first three seasons of his NFL career as a fixture in the Pro Bowl team, and another decent season could give him his berth back after missing out last year.
Verdict: The Titans have the basis for a strong offensive side, and won’t be giving away too many sacks, what remains to be seen is whether or not the defense can hold up against some pretty strong looking new Rookie offensive players
Selection: Total Sacks Under 30.5 @ 10/11
Last Season: 10-6-0 (AFC South Winners – AFC Divisional Play-off Losers)
Strengths: OFFENSE – The Texans have the pleasure of a decent Quarterback in Matt Schaus, and also Running Back Arian Foster, both of which provide the Texans with a real mystery about their offensive playbook
Verdict: The Texans look pretty strong in every department and it will be interesting to see how merciless Whitney Mercilus is on defense after the departure of Mario Williams to the Bills. They are going to score points with the many options they have on their offensive line.
Selection: Over 10.5 Regular season wins @ 5/6
Last Season: 8-8-0 (AFC West Winners – AFC Divisional Play-off Losers)
Strengths: RUSHING – The Broncos offence rushed more yards last season than any other team (2,632) with a large part of them earned by running back Wills McGahee.
DEFENCE – Two words, Von Miller, the linebacker was immense for the Broncos last season, and was voted NFL Rookie Defender of the Season for 2011, he lived up to the hype surrounding him after being the second draft pick in the first round, and he will need to be at his best again this season.
VERDICT: The Broncos have a tough season ahead of them, Tim Tebow who is relatively overhyped due to his social following has departed for the Jets, but they have replaced him with a decent enough Quarterback in Peyton Manning from the Colts, he spent most of last season undergoing shoulder surgery however and whether he will ever throw as well as he did remains to be seen, and if he does suffer a setback, Kyle Orton isn’t reliable enough to get the job done for them.
SELECTION: Peyton Manning Total Passing Yards Under 4450.5 @ 5/6
Kansas City Chiefs
Last Season: 7-9-0 (4th AFC West)
Strengths: RUSHING – Jamaal Charles and Peyton Hills are two strong Running Backs who provide the Chiefs with a lot of thought about how often they will be willing to run plays rather than pass them.
Verdict: It’s going to be interesting to see how much faith is invested in the arm of Matt Cassel this season, given the impressive look of their rushing offense, they ended the season being a pretty low scoring side, so the expectations of some inspiring performances does look quite bleak
Selection: Total Season Points Under 280 @ 17/10
Last Season: 8-8-0 (3rd AFC West)
Strengths: RUSHING – The Raiders had a decent looking season going last year before Running Back Darren McFadden got injured, if he can remain fit for the majority of 2012 then he could prove pivotal in their season’s performance
Verdict: Oakland were terrible at giving away free yardage last season, they were the most penalised team in last season’s NFL. Yet the Raiders have a decent enough offense to string a decent number of results together, they have attempted to strengthen their defense with the signings of Corner Backs Shawntae Spencer from the Giants and Ron Bartell from the Rams. If they can stop the passes, and the side can stay injury free, then they could at least match their performance of last season
Selection: Regular Season Wins Over 6.5 @ 4/7
San Diego Chargers
Last Season: 8-8-0 (2nd AFC West)
Strengths: DEFENSE – A lot will rest on the shoulders of Free Safety Eric Weddle, last season he notched up a total of 88 tackles and 7 interceptions, they will need him at his best to prevent opponents from scoring freely
Verdict: The Chargers are expected to qualify for the play-offs, but the loss of Wide Receiver Vincent Jackson is going to be a tough blow to take. First choice Running Back Ryan Mathews has also been plagued with injuries over the summer and as a result their offense doesn’t look as strong as it was this time last year
Selection: Chargers Not To Make The Playoffs @ 8/11
National Football Conference (NFC)(The original badboys of the NFL, minus three teams who got shunted when the merger took place)
Last Season: 8-8-0 (3rd NFC East)
Strengths: DEFENSE – DeMarcus Ware was instrumental for the Cowboys last season, he made a total of 19.5 sacks on opposition Quarterbacks to help his side push towards a positive win percentage.
Verdict: Despite having a player who can take down the Quarterback, they have struggled to find players to cut out the passes that they do get away, they have tried to strengthen in this area over the summer, drafting Brandon Carr who was released by the Chiefs, and picking rookie Morris Claiborne as their Cornerbacks has shown their intent to boost their defensive line
Selection: Over 8.5 Regular Season Wins @ 4/5
New York Giants
Last Season: 9-7-0 (NFC East Winners – NFL Super Bowl Winners)
Strengths: PASSING – I hate to admit it once more, but Eli Manning is a fantastic thrower of the Football, a lot rests on the hands of their Wide Receivers this year, but if Victor Cruz catches as well as last year then most of their plays are going to be from the arm of Manning
Verdict: A lot more emphasis will be towards Cruz this year, Jason Pierre-Paul was a star in their defensive line and following an off-season of mainly strengthening their defense, it could be difficult to score against the Giants this season
Selection: Victor Cruz Total Receptions Over 77 @ 31/20
Last Season: 8-8-0 (2nd NFC East)
Strengths: ALL AROUND – That’s right, I think the Eagles are an all around powerhouse, they have a lot of strength in the squad in all positions, and bringing in Linebacker DeMeco Ryans from the Texans has signalled their intent to be even stronger.
Verdict: Now here’s a pretty strong claim, the Eagles could win their division if they manage to keep Michael Vick away from the treatment room, they have the complete side to dominate many of the big sides in their Conference, a couple of which are in their division.
Selection: Eagles To Win NFC East @ 29/20
Last Season: 5-11-0 (3rd NFC East)
Strengths: PASSING – The combination of Rookie Quarterback Robert Griffin and Wide Receiver Pierre Garcon from the Colts has the potential to work magic for the Redskins
Verdict: Another tough season in a division where they are relying on inexperience with the arm to work for them, but with the other sides in the division making key improvements in their defensive lines, it’s going to be hard for them to wrack up the yardage in their games, and will need to rely on their other 10 fixtures in order to pick up anything.
Selection: Redskins To Finish Bottom of NFC East @ 4/6
Last Season: 8-8-0 (3rd NFC North)
Strengths: RUSHING – Matt Forte was excellent in rushing for the Bears last season, nearly breaking the 1000 yard barrier, and ending up as the 3rd best rusher in the NFL. Losing him to injury was the downfall of their season last year
Verdict: The Bears could go well if Forte stays fit, they are excellent in gaining yardage from punt returns and Robbie Gould knows how to take his Field Goal opportunites when he gets them, scoring 100 points with his boot last season. A lot will depend on how well they manage to guard Quarterback Jay Cutler this season
Selection: Jay Cutler Total Passing Yards Over 3950.50 @ 5/6
Last Season: 10-6-0 (2nd NFC North – NFC Wild Card Play-off Losers)
Strengths: PASSING – A lot of their success can be put down to the arm of Matthew Stafford who became only the 5th individual to surpass the 5,000 yard passing milestone in a season, mainly due to the impressive nature of Wide Receiver Calvin Johnson
Verdict: The Lions do have a decent squad both in offense and in defense, many opponents are going to know what to expect from their offense, but whether they can handle it will be a different matter. Two Cornerbacks have been brought in to help bolster their defense which is bossed by the 6ft4 frame of Ndamukong Suh.
Selection: Matthew Stafford Total Passing Yards Under 4650.50 @ 10/11
Green Bay Packers
Last Season: 15-1-0 (NFC North Winners – NFC Divisional Play-off Losers)
Strengths: PASSING – Aaron Rogers was voted the Most Valuable Player in the NFL last season, throwing for a total of 4,643 yards, it was an instrumental part to their success over the regular season, but he will need to be on form again, and the side will need to stick together if they are going to win the Super Bowl and not bottle the big games
Verdict: There’s no question about the ability of Aaron Rogers, and the side haven’t changed much since last year, their schedule has been quite generous, but whether they can do as well as last season remains to be seen
Selection: Packers To Have The Best Regular Season Record @ 3/1
Last Season: 3-13-0 (4th NFC North)
Strengths: DEFENSE – It seems quite bizarre to claim that the strength of a side that lost 16 times is their defense, but the record 22 sacks made by Defensive End Jarred Allen prevent their record from being even worse than it actually was.
Verdict: Although they have a decent player to hold the back line for them, their offensive prowess has hampered by their poor passing game since the retirement of Brett Favre, which the Jaguars shown last year gets you nowhere even with a decent running back. Sadly the Vikings can’t really hype the ability of Running Back Adrian Peterson either, so they really do look like being the whipping boys for the season ahead.
Selection: Vikings To Have The Worst Regular Season Record @ 10/1
Last Season: 10-6-0 (2nd NFC South – NFC Wild Card Play-off Losers)
Strengths: PASSING – Quarterback Matt Ryan and Wide Receiver Julio Jones could be a dream team this year if the Falcons concentrate on this area more
Verdict: The Falcons have strengthened at the back over the off-season, most notably with Cornerback Asante Samuel joining their ranks from the Eagles, they should be more focused on their passing game if they are hoping for another play-off year.
Selection: Michael Turner Total Rushing Yards Under 1255.50 @ 5/6
Last Season: 6-10-0 (3rd NFC South)
Strengths: PASSING – Cam Newton was the pick of the bunch during last season’s draft, and lived up to his first draft pick title. He also set the record for the most passing yards completed by a Rookie Player (4,051)
Verdict: It looks like the Panthers side may actually be set for a decent season if Newton can reproduce this year, their main focus over the summer was to strengthen their defensive line-up by bringing in Mike Tolbert and Drafting Rookie Linebacker Luke Kuechly, if their improvements click then they could even have claims for the play-offs.
Selection: Panthers To Make Play-Offs @7/2
New Orleans Saints
Last Season: 13-3-0 (NFC South Winners – NFC Divisional Play-off Losers)
Strengths: PASSING – Drew Brees set the record for the most passing yards during last season’s campaign (5,476) another year with his radar in could spell another successful year for the Saints
Verdict: Never a team to rule out, the Saints will be hoping to bounce back from their off field worries, but if they let their problems trickle on to the pitch then their form could be hampered as a result.
Selection: Over 9.5 Regular Season Wins @ 5/6
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Last Season: 4-12-0 (4th NFC South)
Strengths: PASSING – Quarterback Josh Freeman has the impressive hands of Vincent Jackson to throw to after the Wide Receiver joined the team from the Chargers in the off season
Verdict: The main focus has been trying to improve their offensive qualities, their new QB/WR partnership could work well for them as well as putting their trust in Rookie Running Back Doug Martin as their first choice, but it probably wont get them away from the bottom of the division.
Selection: Tampa Bay To Finish Bottom of NFC South @ 5/6
Last Season: 8-8-0 (2nd NFC West)
Strengths: SPECIAL – Patrick Peterson won them a few games last year with his impressive return of the football from punts, he managed to score 4 punt return touchdowns during the 2011 season.
Verdict: The Cardinals are hampered in what they can do due to them forking out a large contract to now back-up Quarterback Kevin Kolb. They have a few decent players in their squad, but it will be difficult for them to perform at a higher standard until they can free up some funds with the departure of Kolb.
Selection: Under 6.5 Regular Season Wins @ 10/11
St Louis Rams
Last Season: 2-14-0 (4th NFC West)
Strengths: TREATMENT TABLE – The hapless Rams haven’t really got much to boast about in their squad, their defense was poor last season, and their offense even worse, and it’s hard to find any form of saving grace for the team, but their treatment room had to be adequate to deal with the mounting lay-offs last season.
Verdict: Last season the Rams scored fewer points than any other team in the NFL (193), they do have the slight advantage of knowing that this year could be better barring injuries, and Sam Bradford could perform better if he had a fully fit squad playing around him
Selection: Total Points Scored Over 274 @ 11/8
San Francisco 49ers
Last Season: 13-3-0 (NFC West Winners – NFC Conference Runners-Up)
Strengths: KICKING – Last season, David Akers broke the record for the most field goals in a regular season (44) another season of his impressive kicking is sure to be a game changer, Andy Lee was also impressive as a punter for the Giants. He wracked up his average punt distance to 44yrds, taking precious yardage of the opposition’s offence.
DEFENCE – The 49ers only turned over 10 times last season, a joint best NFL record, the same again will mean them not giving away too many freebies to their opponents, tie this with their impressive kickers and they should have the arsenal to go strong once again, this could be their year
Verdict: The 49ers are workmanlike at what they do, Wide Receiver Mario Manningham and Running Back Brandon Jacobs from the Giants will only make their offensive line stronger, and another good season should lie ahead
Selection: Frank Gore Regular Season Rushing Yards Under 1130.50 @ 5/6
Last Season: 7-9-0 (3rd NFC West)
Strengths: PASSING – The Seahawks have a decent Quarterback pairing in Russell Wilson and new signing Matt Flynn from the Packers, there’s no doubt that competition for the starting berth is going to be rife, and if starter Wilson fails to impress then they have adequate backup for the season
Verdict: The Seahawks have a challenge in trying to compete with the 49ers, but they should have enough strength to see them through to the play-off picture
Selection: Seahawks To Make The Play-offs @ 3/1
So, now that I have picked out a selection for each of the teams in the division, it’s time for the important pick. The Super Bowl winner, and if you haven’t guessed already, I am siding with the Eagles to come out on top due to their all around strength.
The winning side from the AFC is another matter, but The Texans are a side that tick all the right boxes and they should go close this time around
Philadelphia Eagles To Win The Superbowl @ 14/1
Houston Texans To Win The Superbowl @ 10/1
Eagles v Texans Final @ 25/1