Back to School for the NFL

I appreciate that to many, the subject of this blog post may be about as interesting as watching paint dry, but never mind, you can always read Fifty Shades of Dave hey?!

For those that remain, who are either fellow NFL afficionados, or those curious enough to dip their toe in something new, what follows is a bit of background, a welcome to the teams involved, and a rash attempt to predict the outcome of the next five months starting tonight (US time) with the monster season opener of New York Giants against the Dallas Cowboys. For those with a blank expression, read on…

A Brief History
The NFL took on it’s current form when it merged with rival league the AFL at the end of the 1960’s. The NFL was by far the longest established league, but the AFL was causing worry amongst the NFL bigwigs enough to agree a proposed merger which also helped to create the biggest single sporting match in the world – The Superbowl.

The first team to dominate the new expanded NFL were the Green Bay Packers, as they won the first two Superbowls.
Into the Seventies and a new team were ruling the roost – the Pittsburgh Steelers. 
As the Eighties dawned, the San Francisco 49ers took on the mantle of the most successful team.
The nineties saw the dominance initially of the Dallas Cowboys, before Green Bay returned to the top. At the turn of the millennium, Denver had finally shrugged off the nearly men tag and won two Superbowls to give legendary Quarterback John Elway a winning retirement present. 
As the noughties wore on, a new force emerged in the New England Patriots led by Tom Brady. 
Now we’re into the new decade and a mini-rivalry between the Patriots and the New York Giants has emerged with two Superbowl meetings in five years. Both times the Giants were rank outsiders, and yet both times they ended up taking the glory.
The team with the most Superbowl victories is Pittsburgh with six, closely followed by the Cowboys and the 49ers on five.
But enough of the history lesson! 

The Teams

AFC East
Buffalo Bills – had a brush with success in the nineties with a record four successive Superbowl losses. Been a bit limp since. Unlikely to ruffle any feathers this year either.
Miami Dolphins – the owners of the only unbeaten season in the history of the NFL. Been on a downward spiral in recent years. Might be an outside shot for the play-offs.
New England Patriots – the current big cheeses. Won three Superbowls in the early noughties and have threatened most years since. A good bet to go far again this season.
New York Jets – the first winners from the ‘inferior’ AFL in 1969 when Joe Namath helped them overcome the fancied Baltimore Colts. Flirted with the late stages of the play-offs in recent years but never reached the big game. Not one to put money on this year.

AFC North
Baltimore Ravens – big hitters in the NFL in recent years, winning the Superbowl in 2001. To confuse things for you newcomers, this team came about when the Cleveland Browns moved to Baltimore, only for the city of Cleveland to kick up a fuss. So Baltimore effectively became a new franchise. Definitely worth a tip for the play-offs.
Cincinnati Bengals – Another team of also-rans having previously flirted with success only to ultimately lose out. The past few years have been less than kind, but an upturn might be on the cards. But not this year.
Cleveland Browns – Remember what I said before? Well, the Browns are back up and running after a break between 1996 and 1999, but still trying to capture their former glory as perennial nearly men. Not likely to capture it yet this coming season.
Pittsburgh Steelers – the Black and Yellow. The Steel Curtain. My team. After a poor eighties and nineties, they’ve been bothering the play-offs regularly with two more Superbowls in the noughties. Still hard-hitters but might not be up to scratch this time out. Sadly.

AFC South
Houston Texans – new to the NFL in 2002, they made their first play-off appearance last season. Don’t count them out again this season either.
Indianapolis Colts – Starting life after Peyton Manning with possibly the brightest star ever to shine – Andrew Luck – a useful by-product of having the worst record in the league last season and getting first pick in the college draft. Might not be enough to bring an immediate return to winning ways though.
Jacksonville Jaguars – welcomed into the league as part of a two team expansion in 1995, they are yet to see their name in lights. I don’t think they will see their name in lights for a while yet, but we will see them regularly in the UK as they have signed a four year deal to play one game at Wembley.
Tennessee Titans – more confusion for you, they used to be the Houston Oilers until they moved to Tennessee and decided to change their name. Appeared in one Superbowl and were beaten by a tackle just a yard from the end zone. Might have a shot at the play-offs again.

AFC West
Denver Broncos – the new home of Peyton Manning. They’ll be hoping he can rediscover his Colts form to take them to success. If he’s fit, then it may just be possible. Well, the play-offs anyway.
Kansas City Chiefs – Not a lot to say about this lot. Not really achieved much, and may not achieve much this year either.
Oakland Raiders – they were fairly big in the late seventies and early eighties thanks mostly to Marcus Allen. Moved to LA, then moved back. Not really living up to their history at the moment, which will continue for another year.
San Diego Chargers – didn’t set the league on fire until the last decade or so, now almost regular divisional champions with the occasional play-off victory. Should be strong enough to win a slowly improving division again this time out.

NFC East
Dallas Cowboys – America’s team. Regular play-off contenders with the occasional blip. Had their purple patch in the early to mid-nineties, but struggled to hit those heights recently. Could possibly put an appearance in the post-season.
New York Giants – current reigning Superbowl champions. Led by Eli Manning (yes, Peyton’s brother). I don’t see them repeating the feat this time out.
Philadelphia Eagles – they’ve been to the Superbowl, seen what it’s like to win, but not first-hand. Regular play-off features in recent years, they will definitely be there again this time out.
Washington Redskins – owners of the second biggest college prospect in Robert Griffin III (not related to Peter Griffin of Family Guy). In the past few seasons they have flattered to deceive doing nothing. This may or may not change this season. I’m going to say not.

NFC North
Chicago Bears – possibly the second greatest team in the history of the NFL yet Superbowl victories have been conspicuous by their absence. One victory in 1985, but since then only one losing Superbowl appearance and many, many fruitless play-off campaigns.
Detroit Lions – No glory in their past. Proud (or not) owners of a season without a single victory not too long ago, but thankfully from there the only way was up. Still climbing. Not play-off mettle this year though.
Green Bay Packers – the first Superbowl super-power. A period in the doldrums came to an end in 1995 with a third Superbowl victory. Now they are almost certainly the best team in the league, but may not get the reward this year.
Minnesota Vikings – another multiple Superbowl loser. There’s a chance they could make the play-offs in the next few years, but not this season. Sorry Vikings fans!

NFC South
Atlanta Falcons – yet another of the traditional ‘weaker’ teams who have turned this round to pester the play-offs on a regulat basis, even reaching the Superbowl in the very late nineties. Will expect to be involved in the play-offs again this time, but will be close.
Carolina Panthers – the other expansion team in 1995, they have fared better, being only seconds from taking a Superbowl to overtime. They lost though. If they continue their upward spiral they could challenge this year.
New Orleans Saints – remember Hurricane Katrina? Well even though it devastated the city, it seemed to galvanise the team. A Superbowl win came from nowhere, but has made them one of the current powers of the NFC. A recent ‘bounty scheme’ disgrace may have blotted their copybook, but they should still win the division.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers – owned by the Glazers, those pesky American owners of Manchester United. A laughing stock in their infancy, but slowly they’ve worked their way to credibility. Heck they even won a Superbowl! But not this year.

NFC West
Arizona Cardinals – re-aligned in the, er, re-alignment of 2002 from the NFC East, their new home gives them a chance to challenge for the play-offs in an arguably weaker division. Will be back in the play-offs again this time.
St Louis Rams – formerly the LA Rams, and the Cleveland Rams before that. Won the Superbowl at the end of the 1999 season but failed to build on it and have sank into mediocrity in recent years, a trend that will run into this year also.
San Francisco 49ers – known in the eighties for their success driven by legendary Quarterback Joe Montana, had a regeneration in the mid-nineties before suffering a lull. Now back on the up, they should coast this division this year.
Seattle Seahawks – moved across from the AFC in 2002, but apart from a Superbowl appearance in 2005, they have not really experienced much success other than making the play-offs as divisional winners with a losing record. Will be fighting it out with the Rams to not finish last.

Right, you lot, it’s taken me hours to write this post about a sport I have alot of time for. Hell, I even stayed up all night in February to watch the Superbowl live, and fully intend to do so again. Who’s going to join me?! Not literally of course, I mean, I only have a small sofa, maybe two people, possibly a three seater. And I have children, so you’d have to be quiet, ok?!

Go Steelers!!!!! 


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