It is Week One of the new NFL season, and a time in which hope springs eternal for all 32 teams.
The NFL prides itself on being a league of parity, one in which any team can win on any given Sunday; so, with that in mind, we have listed reasons for every single team to believe that 2020 might just be their year.
We have already ticked off the AFC hopefuls, and now here is a look at the 16 teams in the NFC…
Philadelphia Eagles (9-7)
Will we finally see a full healthy season for Carson Wentz? We have seen him have an MVP-like season, a late-year resurgence in 2019, and he has thrown 81 touchdowns to just 21 interceptions over the past three seasons. However in the playoffs? 2017: injured. 2018: injured. 2019: four attempts, then injured. The Eagles have enough reason to believe based on Wentz’s ability – we just need to see it in January!
Dallas Cowboys (8-8)
The Cowboys fans are starved of success, desperate to return to what they consider to be their rightful place at the summit. Since claiming a then record-equalling fifth Super Bowl ring – level with the 49ers – in 1995, they have not been back to the big game. The glory days have at times threatened to return, only to prove to be false dawns, like last year when their uber-talented roster missed out on the playoffs altogether. That prompted a change in head coach, with Mike McCarthy – who won a Super Bowl as recently as 2010, with the Packers – coming in. Is it finally the Cowboys’ year?
New York Giants (4-12)
A healthy Saquon Barkley is a game-changer for the Giants. The 2018 Rookie of the Year missed three games last season and struggled for form in the middle of the season. That said, he delivered a reminder of how devastating he can be in late December with 189 rushing yards for a touchdown and 90 yards receiving for another score in an overtime win against Washington. Jason Garrett’s introduction as offensive coordinator is sure to be a major plus in Barkley’s column, while the addition of veteran back Dion Lewis provides welcome help in the backfield.
Washington Redskins (3-13)
The overwhelming sentiment is that Ron Rivera – the new man in charge in Washington – was hard done by in losing his job in Carolina last year. He left a Panthers team that was missing their starting QB, Cam Newton, with a reasonably respectable 5-7 record; they would finish 5-11. It is only five years since Rivera got an MVP tune out of Newton, leading Carolina to 15 wins and a Super Bowl berth. Rivera looks like the perfect fit for the persistently-underachieving Redskins, while second-year quarterback Dwayne Haskins will be hoping some of that Newton 2015 magic rubs off on him after a difficult rookie campaign.
Green Bay Packers (13-3)
After flaming out in the playoffs to San Francisco last season, it seems people want to suddenly write off Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. This is a team that got to the NFC Championship game last season! One away from the Super Bowl. They have a strong defence, No 12 is still one of the best signal-callers around and they have Aaron Jones and all of his 19 touchdowns from the 2019 season out of the backfield. Do not sleep on Green Bay.
Minnesota Vikings (10-6)
There was a fear that the window of opportunity for this talented Vikings squad was closing. The peak was an NFC Championship appearance in the 2017 season, courtesy of a Minneapolis Miracle, but they have since found themselves out of the playoff picture entirely in 2018 and outclassed by the 49ers in the divisional round last year. So there has been a bit of a refresh this summer, with familiar names on the defence, Everson Griffen, Linval Joseph and Xavier Rhodes among the departures, while miracle-man himself Stefon Diggs is lost to Buffalo. The Vikings have got younger, and cheaper, and are ready for another run at the wide-open NFC North.
Chicago Bears (8-8)
While Chicago’s performance could ultimately lie in the hands of up-and-down quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, we have to remember this team is not far removed from their 12-4 season of 2018. Trubisky, Eddie Jackson, Kyle Fuller, Akiem Hicks, Charles Leno Jr, Khalil Mack, Tarik Cohen and Cody Whitehair were all voted to the Pro Bowl in that campaign, and they all return as starters this season. The fact Nick Foles is waiting in the wings to give this team a boost if they need it should only be encouraging.
Detroit Lions (3-12-1)
Matthew Stafford is back at quarterback. The 11-year veteran was putting together a career year last season, with 2,499 yards, 19 touchdowns and a passer rating of 106 through the first eight games before a back injury took him out of action. He is back and the Lions are set to roar once more, with Kenny Golladay leading the fine array of receivers Stafford has at his disposal and the evergreen Adrian Peterson an interesting addition to the backfield – he is the closest thing Lions fans have had to their beloved Barry Sanders from back in the day.
New Orleans Saints (13-3)
Because it surely has to be their year. The Saints have felt cursed in recent years, with most notably a few key calls from officials not quite going their way, but this roster is simply too talented not to win a Super Bowl – arguably the best in the conference.
Atlanta Falcons (7-9)
The Falcons are primed to finally recover from their post-Super Bowl LI slump (where they blew a 28-3 lead to lose to the Patriots). They have since registered a 10-6 finish, followed by back-to-back years at 7-9, which is simply not good enough for a squad brimming with talent, particularly on the offensive side of the ball. Matt Ryan is still one of the league’s best at quarterback, Julio Jones is a beast at wide receiver and Todd Gurley could prove an inspired acquisition if he can rediscover his 2018 form with the Rams when he helped them to a Super Bowl spot.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-9)
Because they have got Brady. And Brady means Super Bowls; he’s won six of them! The Bucs were competitive last year, even with the highly-erratic Jameis Winston at quarterback – the first QB in NFL history to throw over 30 TDs and INTs in a season. A team in need of no more than a little nudge in the right direction, Brady’s arrival is the equivalent of a sizeable shove! The weapons he has at his disposal are considerable, and quite the contrast to the limited arsenal of his last year in New England. Receivers Chris Godwin and Mike Evans each topped 1,000 yards in 2019, oh, and there is just the small matter of Rob Gronkowski coming out of retirement to join the Tampa party.
Carolina Panthers (5-11)
It is all change for Carolina with a new regime under head coach Matt Rhule and the departure of long-time starting quarterback Cam Newton. With change comes hope, and the Panthers should be excited about going young with Teddy Bridgewater in a division with 43, 41 and 35-year-old QBs. First-team All-Pro running back Christian McCaffrey alone makes the Panthers’ attack dangerous, but now they have speed and talent with Robby Anderson and DJ Moore on the outside, and a highly-rated offensive coordinator in Joe Brady. They will be fun to watch!
San Francisco 49ers (13-3)
Many people’s favourites from the NFC, tipped for another Super Bowl run, with the promise that the end result will be different this time. San Francisco held a 10-point lead over the Chiefs – a record-equalling sixth Vince Lombardi trophy within their reach – before a final-quarter meltdown, giving up three touchdowns, cost them the title. The hope is they have learned their lesson, coach Kyle Shanahan – offensive coordinator as Atlanta coughed up a 25-point Super Bowl lead to New England four years’ ago – in particular. It should not be forgotten, though, Shanahan got the 49ers to Miami in the first place, the offensive genius overseeing a massive nine-win turnaround from 2018 to ’19.
Seattle Seahawks (11-5)
While Pete Carroll has been in charge, the Seahawks have reached the playoffs in eight of 10 seasons, winning one Super Bowl, losing in another and clinching four NFC West titles in the process. For the level of consistency Seattle have shown under their beloved head coach, it is impossible to write them off. Add the majestic Russell Wilson into the picture and you are looking at undisputed playoff contenders once again. This team just keep coming.
Los Angeles Rams (9-7)
With a 9-7 record, the Rams did experience a Super Bowl slump, but not a major one. They have experienced quite considerable changes since then – Todd Gurley, Brandin Cooks, Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib have all departed among others – but the consistency of having head coach Sean McVay and quarterback Jared Goff together should prove to be beneficial. They have a 33-14 record together, and you can expect Goff to bounce back this year with new weapons both on the outside and in the backfield. Trust McVay to get the attack back on track.
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