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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

NFL Football is back

Photo+Courtesy+of+VisitPhoenix.com

Photo Courtesy of VisitPhoenix.com

It’s the second week in September and that can only mean one thing: the NFL is back. The return of the NFL is a time of hope for fans of all teams and with the amount of parity in the league today, every team can find reasons to stay optimistic.

More people are tuning in to watch than ever before and in turn, the NFL’s latest TV deal has made the league the richest it has ever been. Still, the league has the looming issue of player safety that will inevitably be brought back into the spotlight.

Concussions are still one of the NFL’s biggest concerns and we have now seen multiple young players start a trend of retiring early due to the risk of head injury. The NFL is becoming vulnerable and the very game of football is under fire for questions about its safety.

Even with all the safety concerns, the game is as popular as it has ever been.

Parity makes the league entraining throughout the season, but in the age of the quarterback, teams are bound to have roller coaster season. A team loaded with talent, like the Buffalo Bills for example, may be able to have success early on this season, but once December rolls around, they will surely suffer with Tyrod Taylor at the helm.

There is only a handful of teams who have had postseason success in the last five years, and the common threads are the teams’ quarterbacks. It is no surprise that five of the eight divisions in the NFL have had repeat champions over the past two seasons.

The NFL made a slight rule change this offseason that could have a significant effect on the outcomes of games this season. By moving the spot of the ball on extra point kicks from the 2-yard line to the 15-yard line, the NFL has finally made the extra point something more than a time to get up and go to the bathroom.

From an analytics standpoint, moving the extra point back actually makes going for two much more reasonable because of the success rate on kicks slightly going down.

This will affect the end scores of football games and there were already some wacky scores this preseason. It will be interesting to watch a game where a team misses an extra point late in the game and subsequently loses.

Even though it is highly unlikely the NFL will ever be defunct, there are safety changes on the horizon that can change the way the game is played. More and more people have a basic understanding of what CTE—a progressive degenerative brain disease—is and how brain injuries are harming players in the long-term.

An alarming trend of young players retiring due to head injuries has already sparked declines in participation in football at the youth level. If the trend of young kids choosing other sports over football continues, where will the sport be in 20 years? With the December release of the movie “Concussion,” which follows the story of the doctor who uncovered CTE in retired football players, the NFL and its public relations team can only brace itself for the next media storm.

For now, the only focus is on the upcoming season. Are you ready for some football?

AFC

With Deflategate finally settled—at least for now—the Patriots are still the top dogs in the AFC. Tom Brady made his 14th straight opening day start for New England on Thursday, and that alone has made the Patriots a perennial contender for all 14 of those years.

Peyton Manning will strap it up Sunday across the country in Denver for his 18th season. At 39 years old, Manning is remarkably still regarded as one of the top quarterbacks in the league. The Broncos and Patriots come in to the season as two of the three favorites to win the AFC.

The Indianapolis Colts are the other favorite to take the conference and have quite the quarterback themselves. Andrew Luck came in to the league in 2012 and won 11 games. Luck’s numbers have improved across the board in the two seasons since his rookie campaign, and he is still trending up.

Aaron Rodgers and Joe Flacco displayed the same type of statistical progression through their first three years as full-time starters, and Luck is progressing in the same fashion. Luck and the Colts could be the AFC’s most dangerous team.

The AFC has an established hierarchy of their top three teams—New England, Denver, Indianapolis—but every year, there seems to be a team who surprises people and makes a run at the playoffs.

This year, the Houston Texans seem ready to make the jump. J.J. Watt and his seemingly superhuman powers pushed the Texans to a 9-7 record last year, even though the team went through three quarterbacks during the season.

If Jadaveon Clowney can come back at full strength, the Texans could boast one of the top defenses in the NFL. Watt is already like no player the NFL has ever seen. If the Texans can get steady play from their quarterback position, they can surely make some noise in the AFC.

NFC

The Seahawks have reigned terror over the NFC the past two seasons, making two consecutive trips to the Super Bowl. Making a third straight trip would be unprecedented in the era of free agent football, but if there were a team who could pull it off, it would be Seattle.

They still boast the league’s most talented secondary and with their balanced attack of Marshawn Lynch, Russell Wilson and newly acquired Jimmy Graham, they remain the team to beat in the NFC.

The main team in Seattle’s path is the Green Bay Packers, who suffered one of the most devastating losses in NFL history in last year’s NFC championship game against the Seahawks.

The Packers have the league’s best player in Aaron Rodgers, who is in the middle of his prime and playing on what he calls the most talented team he has ever been a part of.

Other teams in the NFC worth noting are the Cowboys and the Eagles.

Everyone is interested to see how all of Chip Kelly’s moves play out this season and the NFC East should be one of the most competitive and entertaining battles in the league.

The Cowboys lost their top rusher Demarco Murray, but maintained their rock-solid offensive line. The deadly combination of Dez Bryant and Tony Romo have the Cowboys thinking about making a trip to San Francisco in February.

The Minnesota Vikings are undoubtedly a team on the rise in the NFC . The Vikings were a very competitive team last year and they were led by rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.


Follow Chris Deak on Twitter.


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