With the NFL season fast approaching, football fans across the world are starting to get excited for the upcoming campaign. The first round of pre-season matches starts on Saturday 16th August and, although pre-season fixtures usually say very little about the teams, supporters cannot help but get excited to see their favourite stars in action. The majority of fans will be looking forward to the return of Adrian Peterson, arguably the number one running back in the NFL, after he missed the majority of last season due to off-field issues. Meanwhile, Seattle Seahawks supporters will be excited to see Jimmy Graham in their uniform and San Francisco 49ers fans will be intrigued to see how their season pans out after numerous changes in the offseason.
However, as exciting as pre-season may be for the fans, the players will be raring to go and will want the regular season to start as soon as possible. Those teams who were successful last season will be looking to replicate their performance throughout this campaign, while those who fared worse – like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers – will be hoping that their enhanced draft slots can help them to improve. Number one draft pick Jameis Winston will be looking to lead Tampa Bay as they bid to climb up the NFC South division and compete with the New Orleans Saints for that coveted playoff position.
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At the other end of the spectrum, there are a number of teams who will fancy their chances of lifting the Super Bowl this season. The Indianapolis Colts and Green Bay Packers will be looking to go one better and reach the showpiece event this season, while Seattle Seahawks – who lost in agonising fashion to New England Patriots earlier this year – will fancy their chances of claiming a second Super Bowl success in the last three campaigns. We have assessed all of their chances and given our brief thoughts on which franchise could come out on top this season.
Indianapolis Colts will be incredibly excited about the upcoming season and will fancy their chances of going one better and reaching their first Super Bowl since the 31-17 defeat to New Orleans Saints back in 2010. With Andrew Luck as their signal caller, the Colts have one of the best quarterbacks in the entire NFL. Luck is a dominant force and has a unique ability to change games and spark brilliant comebacks. Indianapolis’s number 12 will throw the occasional interception but his upside is much greater than his negatives. Last season, Luck passed for more yards than any other quarterback and threw more touchdown passes than any other quarterback in the entire NFL.
Meanwhile, they have an incredibly strong offense – one of the best groups in the league. At running back, they have added San Francisco legend Frank Gore, who will most likely start the season as Indy’s number one back. However, Dan ‘Boom’ Herron is an exceptionally talented star and he is likely to see snaps, particularly on third down plays. With these two running backs, Indianapolis have the ability to power through the middle but can also utilise their running backs in the passing game out of the backfield.
At wide receiver, Indianapolis boast talent in abundance and are more than capable of outscoring opponents by large numbers. T.Y Hilton has been the focal receiver on their roster for the past few seasons but the Colts invested heavily in Andre Johnson during free agency to provide Hilton with an excellent number two on the opposite side. Johnson, who was so longer the thorn in Indy’s side while playing for AFC South rivals Houston Texans, is an experienced veteran and is the kind of personality that can help a franchise to win the Super Bowl. Colts supporters are expecting big things from Johnson this year and are excited at the prospect of seeing Johnson, Hilton, Donte Moncrief and rookie Phillip Dorsett lining up in a four receiver formation.
Defensively, the Colts were a little suspect last season but moved to provide more security on the defensive front – particularly against the run. Last season, Jonas Gray rushed for 199 yards and four touchdowns for the New England Patriots as they defeated Indianapolis 42-20 in their week 11 clash. Trent Cole and Kendall Langford will both play vital roles in Indy’s defense this term and could be the key differences as the Colts push for another Super Bowl title. Cornerback Vontae Davis is one of the best secondary players in the sport and the Colts crucially convinced Mike Adams to sign on for another season. Although Indianapolis’ roster has gotten older, they also stand a much better chance of going all the way this term and could be the team to watch.
Green Bay Packers
Led by the best quarterback in the NFL, the Green Bay Packers are one of the strongest, most consistent units in the league. The Packers were incredibly unlucky to lose to Seattle in the NFC Championship match back in January, and will be fancied by many to go on and lift the Super Bowl this time around. Aaron Rodgers is widely regarded as the best signal caller in the league and is an extremely intelligent player. He isn’t a massive risk taker, which is crucial for success in the sport, and has a knack of getting the job done. Throughout the 2014 season, Green Bay were unbeaten at their home ground, Lambeau Field, and Rodgers didn’t throw a single interception throughout their eight matches – an immense statistic. If Rodgers can avoid an injury problem, Green Bay will be in amongst it once again. At the time of writing, Green Bay are 6/1 with betfair to win the Super Bowl this season. Their supporters, at the very least, are certainly confident of their chances.
2015 season prediction; Aaron Rodgers
45 TDs 5 Ints, 13-3 record, Reach playoffs advances all the way to win Super Bowl ?????????? #GoPackGo
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Eddie Lacy is Green Bay’s number one running back and he is up there with the best power backs in the NFL. Lacy, who is a product of the University of Alabama, has become a potent threat in both the running and passing games. If Rodgers cannot find a pass downfield, Lacy is usually exceptionally good at finding space and exploiting the coverage to scramble for a first down and move the chains. The Packers have one of the best offenses in the league and Lacy is one of the key reasons for their success with the ball. His ability to distract defenses allows Rodgers that extra half a second he needs to fire the perfect pass to the wide receivers.
At wide receiver, it’s difficult to look past Jordy Nelson but Randall Cobb isn’t far behind on the depth chart. Nelson is Rodgers’ go-to guy and the two have developed an incredible understanding throughout their time at Green Bay. Nelson was ranked as one of the best wide receivers in the sport last season and will be looking to follow up this year with similar numbers. Meanwhile, Cobb – who was out of contract in the offseason – elected to stay with the Packers and signed a new deal. Cobb is the best ‘number 2’ wide receiver in the league and would easily rank as a number one in most NFL offenses. With these two, and second year star Devante Adams, the Packers could be in for another exciting season on offense.
Defensively, the Packers have improved significantly throughout the past two seasons and, although they are far from the ‘Legion of Boom’, have a solid defensive unit. Clay Matthews has shown his versatility and can now play at either inside or outside linebacker, allowing the Packers to line-up in a number of formations that can confuse the opposing offense. This hybrid formation has seen Matthews raise his game and become one of the top linebackers in the NFL and he is the key member of their defensive unit. However, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, who was drafted by the Packers in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft, is a talented prospect and is capable of making outstanding plays in the secondary. In his rookie season, the free safety made three interceptions and will be looking to improve his numbers this season.
Seattle came within one yard of back-to-back Super Bowl titles last season before New England Patriots rookie Malcolm Butler made the perfect play to intercept the ball with just seconds remaining and seal a fourth Super Bowl success for Bill Belichick’s men. Quarterback Russell Wilson has been immense for Seattle since he was drafted back in 2012. Wilson’s ability to rush out of the pocket and scamper for third downs gives the Seahawks an extra threat and, although they don’t utilise this often, he is more than capable of rushing for first downs on a regular basis. Wilson has led Seattle to a Super Bowl championship in 2013 before heartache in this year’s event. It wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see the Seahawks reach the showpiece event for the third consecutive season.
At running back, Marshawn Lynch is an imposing figure and can shrug off the toughest defenders once he gets going. Almost impossible to stop, Lynch is the perfect mixture of speed and power and has been the focal point of Seattle’s offense since 2010. For the past two years, Seattle’s number 24 has finished as the NFL’s rushing touchdowns leader and has been selected for the Pro Bowl for the last four seasons. Although he is ageing, Lynch remains one of the key members of Seattle’s offense and, without their number one running back, the Seahawks would struggle to dominate opposing sides as they do with Lynch in the starting unit.
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At wide receiver, Seattle haven’t been blessed with quality. They have seen the likes of Percy Harvin come and go, while Jermaine Kearse, Ricardo Lockette and Doug Baldwin have failed to step up and produce performances worthy of the number one receiver slot. However, Chris Matthews showed that he has talent in abundance as he dominated the Patriots secondary in the Super Bowl to score two touchdowns and perhaps show a glimpse of the future. The Seahawks have always relied heavily on their running game but they have an absolute monster in Matthews and his physicality will help them at times.
Furthermore, they have got an absolute weapon in Jimmy Graham. The tight-end, who was traded by New Orleans Saints in the offseason, can line-up as a wideout and is lethal on third down, particularly near the goal-line. Whilst they have often relied on Lynch to get the job done, Graham offers the Seahawks a new dimension and he will be a huge danger this term. Although Graham didn’t have the greatest of seasons in 2014, the tight-end will be raring to impress for his new side in the upcoming campaign.
Without a doubt, Seattle have the best defense in the NFL. They have match winners all over the field but their defensive players are outstanding. At safety, Kam Chancellor is one of the toughest players in the league and isn’t afraid to take on the biggest and best tight-ends and wide receivers around. Richard Sherman is widely regarded as the best cornerback in the game and even Aaron Rodgers refused to throw towards his side of the field in their regular season match last season. On the defensive front, Michael Bennett, Cliff Arvil and Bruce Irvin are all powerful and love to tackle quarterbacks. Their mean frontline is incredibly fast at pressurising opposing signal callers and forcing interceptions.
All three of these teams will fancy their chances and rightly so. The Colts have improved considerably and have invested in experienced heads to try and get the job done. However, they may struggle to win on the road against the likes of New England and Baltimore, although they did beat the Broncos in Denver last season. The Packers will still feel hard done by after the NFC Championship match and will be out to prove a point. They are more than capable of winning the Super Bowl providing that Aaron Rodgers stays healthy and the likes of Clinton-Dix continue to improve. However, the main reason that the Packers will struggle is Seattle. The two sides clash in the regular season again and if the Seahawks win, it will be difficult for Green Bay to secure home-field advantage in the postseason. Jimmy Graham is likely to have a huge impact for Seattle this season and he could well be the key difference in their bid to win the Super Bowl this term.