Pigskin fanatics rejoice, football season is upon us again. As the season draws near and anticipation grows, the perpetual question that is at the forefront of everyone’s mind is: who will be the best? It is a question that cannot truly be answered until next February, but football fans from all over the world love to predict the potential champion. Who will represent each conference in the big game? Football is an unpredictable sport, as many fans have learned throughout the years.
The AFC will take on a new look in the 2016-2017 season. Traditionally dominant teams will not be representing their conference in the Super Bowl this season. The winning days for the Broncos and Patriots are over, at least for now. With no Peyton Manning for Denver, and an aging Tom Brady under center for New England, their chances of being deep threats in the post -season are low. Instead, the lead contenders this year out of the AFC are the Indianapolis Colts. That’s right, our hometown heroes are stacked this year. Andrew Luck is back and better than ever, and he is ready to lead a potent Colts offense. In his last full season, 2014, Luck threw for a whopping 4,761 yards and 40 touchdowns. Look for the Colts to replicate that spark again this season.
Another heavyweight in the AFC to watch out for this season will be the Oakland Raiders. Yes, you read that right. The dismal Oakland Raiders have a chance to make the Super Bowl. Their years of disappointing seasons (2002 was their last winning season with a record of 11-5) have landed them a monopoly of high draft picks. Initially, they stifled their draft picks on busts, the worst of them being the infamously terrible JaMarcus Russell. However, in recent years they have drafted franchise cornerstones Khalil Mack, Derek Carr, and Amari Cooper. Their wise draft choices and other offseason acquisitions have turned them into a dark horse for the 2016-2017 season. They have a relatively easy ride through the regular season. Outside of their talented division, the Raider’s only foreseeable impediments to a perfect season come in week 12 against Carolina and week 16 against the Colts.
Switching to the NFC, there is quite a power differential. The NFC is stacked with strong contenders this year. It is easier to name the teams with no chance to reach the Super Bowl than to predict those destined for greatness.
The obvious favorite this year is Carolina. The Panthers have the most dynamic quarterback in the league currently in Cam Newton. Their defense is nothing to scoff at either. The balance of a potent offense and dominant defense gave the Panthers a gaudy points-per-game differential of 12. Their dominance is showing no signs of stopping, with most of the core team members from last season returning. Josh Norman, their lockdown cornerback, jumped ship for Washington. In the dismal NFC south, the Panthers should win their conference handily, setting the stage for a Super Bowl run we are all expecting. A return to the big game would be a chance for revenge, as the Denver Broncos bested them by a score of 24-10. In the inaugural game of the regular season, September 8th, the Broncos again defeated the Panthers with their airtight defense. This should only fuel the fire more for a team with something to prove.
With Tony Romo’s injury, the Cowboys are finally ready to be great. Romo had the stats to make a team successful, but did not have the gut or clutch factor to win the big games. The success of the Cowboys will hinge highly on two rookies. Dak Prescott has gone from quarterback of an unranked college to leading America’s team. His Mississippi State team was at one point ranked number one in the nation, and his name was high in the heisman race. Ezekiel Elliott will also have a heavy load on his shoulders. The Ohio State grad is used to being relied on, scoring 23 touchdowns for the Buckeyes in his final campaign with them. He is having off-the-field issues currently. Hopefully he doesn’t turn out like certain quarterback from Texas A&M who couldn’t control himself.
The offensive line of the Cowboys will be imperative in the success of the young stars. The offensive line has been built up successfully through years of drafting. The brick wall in front will keep opposing defenses off the youngsters and help build their confidence. Defensively, Dallas is looking strong again. Sean Lee has returned from injury, ready to lead. Their secondary is also looking to be dominant, with the deadly combination of Orlando Scandrick and Brandon Carr at the cornerback positions.
Again, this upcoming NFL season is sure to be filled with shock and excitement. Many teams are primed for a deep run in the playoffs. The most intriguing aspect of football is the unpredictability of it. Any team could catch fire and dominate the 2016-2017 season. It will be exhilarating to watch the drama unfold in the coming months of much anticipated NFL football.