NFL: Close-fought season in prospect

One of the quickest growing sports across the globe, American football continues to grow in the UK. Who is going to dominate their division this season? And more importantly who is going to Superbowl LII? Find out what Air3’s head of sport Harry McArthur thinks…

AFC North

The powerhouse in this division is the Pittsburgh Steelers. With a lethal offence boasting of QB Ben Roethlisberger, RB Leveon Bell and WR Antonio Brown, this team will continue to run up points on their divisional rivals.

AFC East

For me, by far the easiest choice. The New England Patriots have enjoyed a long spell of success in this division, winning it for the past eight years. With coach Bill Belichick at the helm this team have started a dynasty, winning five Superbowls in his time as head coach. Tom Brady has been the QB for all five so that dominance looks set to continue.

AFC West

A massively competitive division that’s probably the hardest to predict. However, I’m going for the Raiders. With a healthy Derek Carr this offence is near unstoppable and with Kahlil Mack leading the defence this team is certainly a force to be reckoned with. With the resurgence of the Chargers, the Chiefs consistency and the Broncos stout defence, though, don’t be surprised to see any team win this division.

AFC South

After several average seasons building this squad, I think the Titans will finally come good. Marcus Mariota’s been given Corey Davis, first round pick (wide receiver) in this year’s draft, to sling the rock to, and this will further open up their running game and ensure their exotic smashmouth offence continues to be one of the most effective in the league. I wouldn’t count out a strong challenge from the Texans however – with the return of JJ Watt they could boast the best defence in the league, but is Tom Savage or Deshaun Watson ready to lead this team to a division title? I think not.

NFC North

The Packers offense always look elite when Aaron Rodgers plays, especially when Jordy Nelson is fit, and I expect this year to be no different. If Ty Montgomery can replicate his form from last season then this offence remains unpredictable and near unplayable. Their defence has been stingy for years, with Clay Matthews being a key cog in that defence, and looks to be strong again this year. Bar an MVP calibre season from Matthew Stafford of the Lions, I wouldn’t anticipate too much of a challenge for Green Bay.

NFC East

Another really tricky division to predict. Without Ezekiel Elliot I expect the Cowboys to regress massively, and Washington have been weakened in this off season having lost Desean Jackson. I think it will be extremely tight between the Eagles and the Giants, but the New York side should just edge it. The Giants have bolstered their receiving corps and I expect their passing offence to be amongst the best in the league. The additions of Brandon Marshall, from the Jets, and Evan Engram, their first round draft pick, combined with their elite defence – this team looks scary to say the least. The reason the Eagles get edged out is because their schedule come December gets really ugly (@Seahawks, @Rams, @Giants, vs Raiders, vs Cowboys).

NFC West

This division will perform a lot better overall than it did last season. The 49ers and Rams were abysmal last season but, after both appointed ambitious new head coaches, they have both recruited well and look to have at least respectable seasons. The Cardinals simply have too much talent on their roster to finish with less than eight wins. The Seahawks take the divisional crown for me though. Eddie Lacy will breathe life into this running game and Russell Wilson will play even better behind an improved O-Line. The Legion of Boom (the Seahawks secondary) is due one more playoff run before the wheels fall off the carriage.

NFC South

One last difficult division to pick a winner from. After last season’s Superbowl collapse, and the loss of offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, I expect the Falcons record to plummet. An awful season last year for the Panthers, who had their own Superbowl hangover, means that they are now looking to bounce back. In order to do so, first round pick in the draft Christian McCaffery will need to help take the pressure off of Cam Newton. The Saints have got themselves an elite running back in Adrian Peterson, but will he see many touches? Plus, that Saints defence still looks leaky, especially when you look at how potent their divisional rivals are in the passing game. My pick for this division is the Buccaneers. The addition of Desean Jackson from Washington and first round draft pick O.J Howard (not a clue how he fell so low, he is going to be a beast), make this offence look terrifying. They have a good defence as well; definitely good enough to help them take the division.

Superbowl LII

AFC– I cannot look past the New England Patriots. The return of Rob Gronkowski, in my opinion the best tight end in the NFL, and the addition of Brandin Cooks, a wide receiver from the Saints, means that the Patriots have improved this offseason. The injury to Julian Edelman is extremely unfortunate, but Cooks will fill in well to replace him. Unless the Madden curse is real and Brady sucks this year, this team looks set for a second Superbowl appearance in a row.

NFC–  There are three teams in the NFC that I think look set for a Superbowl run; Green Bay Packers, Seattle Seahawks and the New York Giants. I’m going to rule out the Giants in this case, purely based on the quarterbacks. I don’t think Eli Manning is at his peak anymore, so will fail to contend with the likes of Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson. So it will come down to the Conference Championship, at Lambeau field, the Seahawks down by four points with 33 seconds on the clock and no timeouts. Seahawks have possession of the ball on the Packers two yard line. Pete Carroll calls to run the ball and Lacy punches it in for the touchdown, memories of Superbowl XLIX are forgotten and the Legion of Boom gets their chance at revenge against the New England Patriots.

Thoughts? Opinions? Stipulations?