Nfl, the season starts: Tampa is from encore, Buffalo from Super Bowl

With the advance between the champions and Dallas, the championship of the pros opens. Brady’s main opponents in the NFC are Rams and Packers. The Bills are ready for the last step, with Chiefs and Browns in the front row

Massimo Oriani

@massimooriani

If a Martian landed on earth today and read the sports pages of US newspapers, he might think he had traveled in time as well as space. Yes, because the titles are basically the same as twenty years ago: “Brady the man to beat”. He no longer wears the New England Patriots uniform as in 2001, a season at the end of which he won the first of his seven Super Bowls, but that of the Tampa Bay Bucs, led to triumph last February.

But the substance is the same: the only one to have beaten Father Time, to have found the elixir of life, a dip in the Cocoon pool and away, is always number one. And tonight will kick off the season with the classic home advance of the champions, who will meet the Dallas Cowboys (live Dazn at 2.20).

favorites

Tampa restarts as the team to beat because it returns to the tapes with the roster intact, which is more unique than rare in the era of free agency. And Brady won’t have to spend half a season getting acquainted with a new game system and new companions. Many will try to prevent TB12 from putting the eighth ring on the finger. At least 5 other teams have legitimate aspirations for victory: Chiefs, Bills and Browns in the AFC, Rams and Packers in the NFC. We do not expand the squad further, even if the surprise will inevitably be there, as in all leagues.

Afc: le favorite

The Chiefs are always there. They have changed a lot in the line of attack, after putting Pat Mahomes’ health at risk in the SB, they have the usual stellar attack and a good defense. But getting to the last appointment three years in a row is never easy. The last to succeed were – needless to say – the Patriots from 2016 to 2018 (2 wins). Before them we must go back to the 4 consecutive (all lost …) of the Bills from ’90 to ’93. And speaking of Buffalo, they could be the ones to emerge victorious from the AFC. They’ve taken a step forward every year and now they just miss the last one. Quarterback Josh Allen is among the favorites for the MVP, they are complete in all departments, the defense is at the height of the attack and they present 21 starters out of 22 between the two departments. Third inconvenience will be the Cleveland Browns. Coach Stefanski has finally turned them around. Baker Mayfield is not entirely convincing but the rest of the team is racing, starting with the receivers, with Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry and a Donovan Peoples-Jones who was the best in training camp. If Jadeveon Clowney stays sane, Myles Garrett will form a devastating pair for the pass rush.

the rest

Baltimore can be the usual inconvenience, even if he lost two running backs before the start (JK Dobbins and Justice Hill) and gave Le’Veon Bell another chance to make up for it. The defense still has the means to be the best in the conference. Pittsburgh intrigues in what could be the last round of the waltz for Big Ben. The rb Najee Harris will make sparks. A lot of curiosity about the Patriots, who last year – the first of the post Brady era – missed the playoffs for the first time since 2008. Via Cam Newton, reins entrusted to rookie Mac Jones, a lot of money spent in free agency, a defense (as long as Stephon Gilmore returns after the 6 games now certain in the injury list) of the first band, and a level running back department. Besides, ça va sans dire, a Bill Belichick who has a keen desire to prove that he can win even without the Goat. The Titans remain to be taken with a grain of salt even if the kilometers on Derrick Henry’s legs will begin to be felt, even with two receivers like AJ Brown and Julio Jones to take some weight off his shoulders.

the others

Miami will have to figure out if Tua Tagovailoa is the qb of the future or not. Indianapolis bets on Carson Wentz, but will the former Eagles qb finally be able to play 16 games? The premises were not the best with the injury in the preseason. The Chargers are intriguing with Justin Herbert who did so well as a rookie.

nfc: le favorite

Said of Tampa, the Rams could be the number one challengers now that they have a level quarterback in place of the inadequate Jarred Goff. Matthew Stafford, freed from the Lions cage (literally …) will be able to show what is really worth. Having lost first-time RB Cam Akers doesn’t help. From the Pats came Sony Michel with a desire for redemption. And in defense there is always the number one, Aaron Donald. And then there’s Green Bay … After the tumultuous summer with the Aaron Rodgers telenovela, they start again among the top in what should be the last season of the quarterback with the Packers, on whose management he shot to zero at the beginning of the training camp . Once on the gridiron though, the reigning mvp will still make a difference. With the newfound loyal Randall Cobb and a good pair of rb in Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon. The attacking line remains a question mark with left tackle David Bakthiari – a key player – not yet ready to return.

the rest

The 49ers have the quarterback dilemma. They leave with Jimmy Garoppolo as owner, but until when? Behind him the rookie Trey Lance paws. The structure is solid and basically two years ago they went to SB. George Kittle, Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk will be easy targets for whoever throws the oval at him. Seattle can lead, but also the other way around. Russell Wilson was tempted to do … the Rodgers. In the end, he too stayed and found a line (which in the past seriously threatened his health) reinforced by the arrival of Gabe Jackson and the end of Duane Brown’s holdout. DK Metcalf remains devastating. In defense, linebacker Jordyn Brooks is ready for the leap in quality.

the others

The Saints start the post-Brees era with Jameis Winston taking advantage of receiver Marquez Callaway, ready not to make Michael Thomas regret, stopped after the controversial one-foot operation. Chicago starts with Andy Dalton directing, but it won’t last long, with Justin Fields pounding behind him. Washington has a defense that leaves you glued to the screens with Chase Young and Montez Sweat, Dallas a fantastic attack with the trio of receivers Amari Cooper, Cee Dee Lamb and Michael Gallup. Arizona has to figure out if Kyler Murray is truly racing and if JJ Watt is still physically capable of making a difference.

the year of rookies to taste

It will be a particular year because there are a lot of rookie to taste to follow carefully, a generational change if you like, mouth-watering. Trevor Lawrence with the Jags, Zach Wilson with the Jets, the aforementioned Fields, Jones and Lance. How much has the league changed … Once it was unthinkable that a freshman would start in the NFL. Now the college game has come very close to that of the pros (sometimes even vice versa) and therefore the jump is no longer so traumatic.

forecasts

Playoff, Afc, divisional winners: Buffalo, Cleveland, Indianapolis, Kansas City. Wild card: New England, Baltimore, Pittsburgh.

Nfc, divisional winners: Washington, Green Bay, Tampa Bay, L.A. Rams. Wild card: Seattle, San Francisco, Atlanta.

Super Bowl: Tampa beats Buffalo.

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Nfl, the season starts: Tampa is from encore, Buffalo from Super Bowl

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