Renew that Sunday Ticket, set those Fantasy lineups and enjoy the ride. The NFL regular season returns in a little over a month with 32 franchises poise to take a shot at the Lombardi Trophy in Nevada come February. With the draft finalised, training camps are well underway, attracting thousands of eager fans keen to catch a glimpse of their team’s roster ahead of the year.
Last season paved the way for a changing of the guard in the league as seven teams reached the post-season that had previously failed the year before. Ultimately, however, it was a familiar outfit that claimed glory with Patrick Mahomes leading his Kansas City Chiefs to the Super Bowl, the second time the quarterback has lifted the trophy. This article will delve into the flashpoints to look out for throughout the season as the chasing pack aim to halt the Chiefs from asserting their dominance as the league’s unstoppable force.Embed from Getty Images
One Last Ride for Saquon Barkley?
The New York Giants enjoyed a season of contrasting form in comparison to their campaigns under the new leadership of coach Brian Daboll. The seven-time champions reached the Playoffs for the first time since 2016 and even battled their way to the NFC Divisional round, a feat they had not achieved since their Super Bowl victory of 2011. Former second-overall draft pick Saquon Barkley, fresh from a below-par 2021 season, played an instrumental role in the team’s 2022 success.
Often whispered among NFL fans is the theory that no player can return to their previous heights off the back of an ACL injury, regardless of their natural ability. Barkley did an excellent job of proving the doubters wrong, notching up 1312 rushing yards for 10 touchdowns to rank fourth overall in the running back category. Although the explosive plays of his earlier seasons were few and far between, Barkley was arguably more productive with his touches as he appeared to save his most crucial plays for when it mattered most in the fourth quarter. He would frequently deliver to turn the often tight score lines in the favour of the Giants.Embed from Getty Images
However, despite a return to form, general manager Joe Schoenberg has seen attempts to tie Saquon down on a long-term deal prove unsuccessful. Both parties were ultimately unable to reach an agreement which lead to Barkley being placed under the franchise tag. As a result, 2023 has the potential to be the last time we see the star weapon suit up for Big Blue. Where in some cases, such a situation threatens to impact the form of a player, it is unlikely to be the case in this scenario. As a New York native, it is evident that the franchise means a great deal to Saquon – this is often evident in the passion he displays throughout his performances. Despite unsatisfactory contract negotiations, it is unlikely that he would look to ‘down tools’ for the season as the Giants look to secure back-to-back play-off births for the first time in 15 seasons.
Furthermore, Barkley will be keen to build on his stellar form from the last campaign with his production for the upcoming season likely to be under a microscope as teams look to snatch him up if the opportunity arises this time next year. keep a close eye on how this situation unfolds throughout 2023, as the former Penn State athlete still has the potential to strengthen his Giants legacy.
A new challenge for aaron rodgers
Staying with New York, the off-season saw the Jets pull off one of the more seismic free-agency pickups in recent seasons. Veteran Quarterback Aaron Rodgers called time on his career in Wisconsin after 18 seasons following a challenging final year with the Green Bay Packers. The 39-year-old has etched his name into NFL history with the franchise by delivering a Super Bowl in 2010 following a memorable MVP performance in Dallas. It is an iconic partnership that has since promised a repeat but has ultimately failed to reach those heights again, paving the way for a fresh start.Embed from Getty Images
Before the season has even gotten underway, Rodgers has been firmly in the spotlight. Recent explosive comments from Bronco’s head Coach Sean Payton aimed at ex-Denver and now Jets offensive coordinator Nathanial Hackett have dominated the NFL headlines lately. Rodgers, whose move to New York was heavily influenced by Hackett’s arrival, did not take kindly to Payton’s claims of poor coaching methods in 2022. While the Jet’s new man may have felt the need to defend his coach, it has undeniably withdrawn attention from the on-field attributes that Rodgers will bring to the franchise ahead of this season.
In a year that saw him throw his most interceptions since 2008, Rodgers certainly has a point to prove heading into the new campaign. With Devante Adam’s departure last season leaving him with a lack of weapons to utilise, he will be keen to form a strong relationship with the Jets receiving core to regain his status as one of the game’s greatest quarterbacks. Perhaps the reunion with former Packers teammates Alan Lazard and Randall Cobb will provide a familiar platform upon which Rodgers can build a playoff push.Embed from Getty Images
Will Mahomes continue to force his way into the G.O.A.T conversation?
In a season where the loss of star receiver Tyreek Hill had threatened to derail a shot at Super Bowl redemption, Patrick Mahomes delivered. The Chiefs appeared to be struggling to adapt to a new look offence at first but built momentum throughout the season to defeat an arguably stronger opponent in the Philadelphia Eagles. Mahomes was instrumental in forcing his team to new heights, learning from difficult moments to ultimately improve his game and finish the year as the league’s MVP for the second time in his career.Embed from Getty Images
It was Tom Brady’s ability to consistently deliver success despite an often struggling offence that solidified his place as the greatest to play the game for many. Off the back of a season where he overcame several hurdles, Mahomes delivered a season reminiscent of Brady. However, while both players boast elite arm strength and accuracy, an area that sets the pair apart is the obvious difference in mobility and explosiveness. Mahomes appears to channel his upbringing as a baseball player to improvise when a play would otherwise wind up producing no points. His ability to shift from the pocket and change the angle of his throw using a shovel and no-look passes not only catches the eye but produces results. On several occasions last year, he was able to defy the odds and keep his team alive in moments where he looked certain to be sacked or worse – an attribute that one might argue was Brady’s weakest.
There is no denying that with seven Superbowl’s, Tom Brady’s status as the greatest is unquestionable. However, if Mahomes can continue his current trajectory and build on last year’s learning, he will force fans to put his name into the conversation very soon.Embed from Getty Images