On February 8, Kansas City Chiefs playing master Patrick Mahomes left the Super Bowl annoyed. Overwhelmed by the experience and genius of Tom Brady, his counterpart from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, he could not prevent the sinking of his team (31-9), yet favorite of the meeting. “It’s the toughest defeat I’ve suffered in a long time. […] There are no excuses for this, ”said Mahomes.
This year, the distance duel between the two star quarterbacks of the NFL will experience a new chapter. Brady and the executives of the “Buccs” (Fournette, Gronkowski, Antonio Brown, Godwin, Pierre-Paul, White …) are still there. But the seven-time Super Bowl-winning Tampa Bay quarterback is now 44 springs and recently had knee surgery.
The Chiefs have strengthened their offensive line by recruiting Joe Thuney (ex-New England) and Kyle Long (ex-Chicago). What better way to protect Mahomes and allow him to arm his long passes, especially to Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce, his favorite targets last season.
Will we witness the handover that was expected last year? The Chiefs were the Super Bowl favorites after a great regular season. Then they had cracked. Will the two teams meet again in the final? So many questions that will animate the season. Tampa Bay began its championship with a victory Thursday against Dallas (31-29). Kansas City takes the stage on Sunday against Cleveland.
Who could disrupt the Buccaneers and Chiefs plans? The Buffalo Bills and the Green Bay Packers, first of all. Both teams failed last season in the conference final. Buffalo has a great quarterback with Josh Allen, and he has a strong receiver in Stefon Diggs. The Bills also strengthened in defense, selecting the defensive ends Gregory Rousseau and Carlos Basham in the last draft.
Green Bay has in its ranks Aaron Rodgers, the MVP of the previous season. It’s been 10 years since he saw the Super Bowl. Rodgers will be able to count on his receiver Davante Adams, with whom he got along perfectly last year. On the other hand, his offensive line is already weakened, after the departure of Corey Linsley (to the Los Angeles Chargers) and the injury of David Bakhtiari (ligament of a knee), which will take him away from the field for at least six weeks.
It will also be necessary to watch out for Baltimore and Lamar Jackson, the young (24 years old) but already MVP of the NFL (in 2019). The Ravens quarterback will finally want to make his team shine in the play-offs, after three premature eliminations and only one game won, last year against Tennessee. San Francisco, a Super Bowl finalist two years ago, has two QB’s: Jimmy Garoppolo, who led the team in the final, and Trey Lance, freshly drafted. For now, Garoppolo has his hand, as Lance has injured his (finger of the right hand).
There will also be Seattle and his beautiful attack (Russell Wilson and DK Metcalf) and Tennessee, which has the best runner at the moment, with Derrick Henry (2027 yards in 2020). Finally we will follow Detroit and the L.A. Rams, who traded their quarterbacks in the offseason. Matthew Stafford is now in California, while Jared Goff now plays for Detroit.
In the midst of dreadlocks and shaved heads, commonplace in the NFL, it is difficult for Trevor Lawrence and his long blonde mane to go unnoticed. The 21-year-old quarterback, selected by the Jacksonville Jaguars in first place in the 2021 draft, is precisely one of the attractions of the coming season. Versatile player, he combines athletic abilities (1m98, 95 kg) and strong arms, corresponding well to the modern ideal of the position.
Within a franchise in reconstruction (1 victory for 15 losses last year), Lawrence will however have to deal with an uncertain offensive line, little reinforced during the offseason. Protection is however the key to a good integration into the NFL. Joe Burrow, quarterback for the Cincinnati Bengals, experienced it last year at his expense. Left to graze the opposing defenders by a crumbly close guard, the No. 1 of the 2020 draft had exploded in flight in week 11, victim of a rupture of the cruciate ligaments of the left knee.
Last season sounded hollow, the Covid-19 pandemic requires. The gigantic enclosures that house the 32 NFL teams had received little or no spectators. In Tampa, during the Super Bowl, they were only 25,000. This year will be marked by a return more or less to normal, already visible Thursday between Tampa Bay and Dallas.
There will be no limitation of the public, but conditions of access to the stadium which will be specific to each franchise. Some of them (Las Vegas, New Orleans, Seattle) have decided to impose the health pass to allow spectators to attend matches.
“We interact with local authorities on a daily basis, and for the moment, we do not anticipate any reduction in capacity this year,” said Peter O’Reilly, vice president of the NFL. To tease fans even more, two franchises will inaugurate their new stadium this season: the Los Angeles Chargers (at SoFi Stadium) and the Las Vegas Raiders (with Allegiant Stadium).
Validated last March by franchise owners, the increase in the number of regular season games has made a lot of NFL observers talk about it. Going from 16 to 17 matches is a boon for the public and the broadcasters, but also risks endangering the players, already very stressed by an intense and tight season.
Beyond the health of the athletes, this historic choice could also have an impact on the NFL record table. With one more chance to shine, the stars of the championship could aim for performances that were previously unattainable. Among the prestigious statistics studied, that of the number of passing yards in the regular season is popular with American bookmakers. In 2013, Payton Manning, the Denver quarterback, had accumulated 5,477 yards in 16 games. Notice to interested parties …