AUTHOR: Star Sports Content

STAR PREVIEW: NFL Team-by-Team Breakdown with ANDY RICHMOND

The new NFL season is upon us and we welcome expert ANDY RICHMOND to the Star Sports preview team. Look out for Andy’s recommended match bets on throughout the season but first he gives us the heads-up of what we can look forward to with a recommendation on the Super Bowl winner ….

ANDY RICHMOND is a lifelong punter and sports enthusiast who now writes extensively on horse racing and the NFL. His CV includes long spells on Timeform Radio and Racing UK having previously held several positions at the then-fledgling Betfair Exchange where he worked for six years. He has a particular love for the statistical and analytical side of sports which fits in well with the NFL. He writes all the NFL content on Paul Jones subscription service as well as having his own betting advisory service.

A new NFL season and the first that will see 17-games played by each side as we reduce the 32 sides to the two that will contest the Vince Lombardi for Super Bowl LVI in Los Angeles on Sunday February 13th, 2022.

As a prelude to the season, I’ve attempted to clarify where each team sits within the NFL hierarchy.

1. The Fabulous Five, a quintet of true Super Bowl contenders.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Continuity is certainly a word that I would use with regards to the Bucs this year who return all 22 Super Bowl starters to the roster (a remarkable feat in this day and age) plus all of their coaching staff. It’s hard to find chinks in the Tampa Bay armour but they did steer clear of injuries last year and clearly Tom Brady will know the Bruce Arians offence a lot better this year but he is now 44. Their schedule does look a “soft” one this year though and it would be a major surprise not to see them contending again this year.

Kansas City Chiefs: The Chiefs are 38-8 with quarterback Patrick Mahomes as a starter and it’s no surprise to see them installed as Super Bowl favourites from the off this year as they have been one of the final four teams in the last three seasons. Appear to have addressed their offensive line issues and a relatively soft schedule should see them safely into the post-season once more.

Green Bay Packers: Fallen short in the last two NFC Championship games the Packers have the firepower to blow away sides on offence but can they find a balance with their defence and special teams needing to step up this time around. The last two 13-3 season may be hard to repeat but with Aaron Rodgers at quarterback anything is possible.

Buffalo Bills: Stability has been the key for the Bills, they have built a good roster, are well coached and have a very manageable schedule. Last season they made their deepest playoff run since 1993 and quarterback Josh Allen is surrounded by a talented supporting cast. Buffalo have built a great roster and Head Coach Sean McDermott’s football operation is truly set up for perennial success for the relative future.

Los Angeles Rams: An upgrade at quarterback via ex-Lion Matthew Stafford, a brilliant coaching mind in Sean McVey and a top-five defence which includes the NFL’s best pass-rusher in Aaron Donald there’s a lot to like about the Rams this year. One potential bump in the road are their tough divisional games but if they make the playoffs then they will be a side nobody wants to cross swords with.

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2. Bubbling Under – excluded from the Fab Five but have the potential to be mentioned in the same breath as those sides.

Baltimore Ravens: You could sum the Ravens up thus; since the start of 2019 the Baltimore Ravens have outscored their opponents by 414 points (12.9 points per game) yet they have come up short in the playoffs. Overall they are a reliable, well-coached team with a very strong corner group, a good run defence, a solid offensive line and a dynamic/elusive quarterback in Lamar Jackson but question marks do remain.

Cleveland Browns: Will they flatter only to deceive once more? They have though built a talented and deep roster and there feels more stability around the franchise now both on and off the field having addressed their defensive problems in the off-season. Cleveland couldn’t have really drawn a more manageable group of home opponents, though their road schedule is absolutely brutal.

San Francisco 49ers: In the Super Bowl two years ago but have disappointed since and hence they have taken made some brave calls this year to improve a roster that was ravaged by injuries last year but is when fit stacked with talent. The quarterback position remains a question mark they have to answer.

Tennessee Titans: Suffered a big loss when offensive coordinator Arthur Smith departed and their schedule moves from fairly easy to difficult. On the upside they still have plenty of offensive talent and a fairly weak division (AFC South) to contend with.

3. Opportunity Knocks – have the chance to rank higher but still a boom or bust element in play

Seattle Seahawks: A team that defied logic at times last year yet still emerged with a 12-4 record; there are a lot of outcomes in play with Seattle, they are good at the skill positions but if they start getting conservative it could cost them in a tough division.

Los Angeles Chargers: With disastrous head coach Anthony Lynn gone and one of the best young quarterbacks in the game (Justin Herbert) the future looks bright for the Chargers despite losing some defensive talent in the off-season. Having frustrated and delighted in equal measure of late the Chargers find themselves at a crossroads this season.

New Orleans Saints: With Jameis Winston in at quarterback the Saints could be the ultimate boom-or-bust team, there’s no doubting his arm strength but his accuracy/decision-making is still open to question. Sean Payton the head coach is a creative mind but the depth in the roster especially defensively remains a worry.

4. Fluctuating Fortunes – the season could well be a roller coaster for this group

New England Patriots: Life after Tom Brady, it’s not been easy! They still have the brilliant coaching mind of Bill Belichick directing operations but now have a rookie quarterback in Mac Jones. In truth their 7-9 2020 season was a rather boring and mundane one and despite some roster upgrades through free agency they still have some way to go if they are to regain their former aura.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Are in a transitional state, under head coach Mike Tomlin they have never had a losing season but there are no playoff wins since 2016 and last year’s stretch collapse will have done nothing for their confidence. Neither does a veteran quarterback behind a porous offensive line.

Indianapolis Colts: Can Eagles “cast off” quarterback Carson Wentz keep the Colts competitive this year after his career went into reverse in Philadelphia? The brutal start to the season won’t help the Colts either as in the first eight games they play six sides that are favoured to make the playoffs plus Miami.

Dallas Cowboys: There’s always a lot of hype about the Cowboys and they should be able to produce a top-class offence if quarterback Dak Prescott is back to his best, in fact, their schedule is filled with potential shootouts. On the downside, the Cowboys list of road opponents is pretty brutal, their defence has underachieved for years and they need to step up.

Miami Dolphins: 10-6 last year on the back of their defensive performances although it was turnovers/takeaways that accounted for the dominance as teams still moved the ball on them. Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa still has to convince and despite a favourable schedule they look regression candidates.

Denver Broncos: Likely to bounce back from a 5-11 season with a decent set of skill players on both sides of the ball although doubts remain over quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. Their schedule also presents advantages, with two games against the Raiders as well as contests against the Bengals, Jets, Jaguars, and Lions while playing the NFC East out of conference.

5. More Questions Than Answers – no explanation needed for this group

Arizona Cardinals: In a very tough division (NFC West) and with the third oldest roster in the NFL they face some fine passing offences led by experienced and dangerous quarterbacks. There are also doubts about head coach making this offence really tick.

Las Vegas Raiders: An enigma, promise in some areas, demise in others and the loss of three members of their excellent offensive line from last year. A tough schedule awaits and head coach Jon Gruden could be under pressure with his 19-29 three season record so far not really cutting the mustard.

Atlanta Falcons: Not hard to question their ability to close a game out with their frequent habit of blowing half-time leads to the fore last year. New head coach Arthur Smith and quarterback Matt Ryan offer hope but they are still a side with deficiencies.

6. Nearer The Bottom Than The Top – improvement needed to engage forward gear

Minnesota Vikings: Impacted greatly by Covid-19 last year, they have talent on offence but will it flourish behind an average-at-best offensive line. Their defence is better than it was a season ago, but it’s still not what it was when it was among the best units in the league several years ago.

Chicago Bears: The Bears continue to be what they have been for the past couple of years and uncomfortable test for some teams but they will need their defence to win them games. 8-8 last season improvement is needed and fast.
Washington Football Team: 7-9 last season and in the playoffs they made some fair roster moves but still have a long road to travel. The market is quite high on Washington they are favourites in just four of their games (just once in first 13) and face a far tougher schedule this time around.

Carolina Panthers: The Panthers have a strong skill group to help support new quarterback Sam Darnold plus they added a few interesting pieces to a defence that needed a talent infusion. If Darnold works out they could be a side on the up over the next few seasons but need to prove themselves this.

7. Optimists Only – For The Glass Half Full Types

New York Giants: Without doubt got better this offseason and they have some talented players on the roster on both offence and defence although the big question is this? Can struggling third-year quarterback Daniel Jones significantly improve behind a still questionable offensive line, while the clapping symbol of strategic mediocrity Jason Garett calls plays.

Philadelphia Eagles: If they can stay healthy on both sides of the ball they may exceed expectations especially in a weak division coupled with a seemingly soft schedule. The question mark is a new and inexperienced coaching team; have the ability to surprise.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Things can only get better for the Jags after a 1-15 season; since 2011 they are 44-116 with one winning season. No1 draft pick Trevor Lawrence is seen as the saviour and he does give the Jaguars some hope. I have some doubts over the coaching staff and their schedule isn’t easy but surely the only way is up.

All Aboard For The No1 Pick – Four Jostling for Draft Position

New York Jets: So bad last year that the leading scorer was a kicker who only played nine games. New head coach Robert Saleh will have his work cut out with a rookie quarterback and a mediocre offence overall to work with and the Jets are in full rebuild mode (how many times have I written that).

Detroit Lions: Walking into a season that could turn into a nightmare and it’s going to take time to repair the damage done by not only the last regime but previous ones also. Tough schedule and hard to see them being a side to support unless it’s to be bottom of the NFL pile.

Houston Texans: Hard to find any positives about a team whose off-season is best described as a car crash. Handed the third hardest schedule it’s not hard to see why the Texans could start every game as an underdog.

Cincinnati Bengals: Hopes rest with talented quarterback Joe Burrow coming back from an injury he suffered last year but the Bengals head coach Zac Taylor is 6-25-1 through his first two seasons and that should ring alarm bells. The roster still needs upgrading and if the Bengals start off losing with a tough schedule, they could be in serious trouble.

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ANDY RICHMOND is a lifelong punter and sports enthusiast who now writes extensively on horse racing and the NFL. His CV includes long spells on Timeform Radio and Racing UK having previously held several positions at the then-fledgling Betfair Exchange where he worked for six years. He has a particular love for the statistical and analytical side of sports which fits in well with the NFL. He writes all the NFL content on Paul Jones subscription service as well as having his own betting advisory service.