In just under two weeks time, the defending Superbowl Champions Philadelphia Eagles will take to the field hosting the Atlanta Falcons as they kick off the 2018 NFL season. The Eagles will be looking to defend the crown they won for the first time back in February this year after defeating hot favourites the New England Patriots.
But unlike say the Premier League, the NFL begins in September each year with almost all of the 32 teams in with a shot of the play-offs at least. But due to the fact the season is only a 16 game regular season, there is no place for a slow start. Lose the opening two games and it’s a long haul to make the season a successful shot. It’s is often you see a team who played so well the season before with a strong winning record (13-3, 12-4, 15-1 etc) go on to have the tables turned and end up with 3-13, 7-9 or even 8-8 records and not make the play offs.
As you might know I follow the Dallas Cowboys, the glitz and glamour of the NFL. 5 times Champions, but the last of those occurred back in the mid 90’s, one of the longest runs of any franchise not to make the play offs until the Cowboys returned to the post season a couple of seasons back.
But the competition is a competition for most of the 32, the same can’t be said where in some sports money rules and leaves leagues looking very unbalanced. Money is of course a big part of this game too, but teams operate under a salary cap. Would that work across football or soccer as it’s called? It would certainly make managers and chief executives work harder to fill the cap but make it fit so a squad is balanced.
And whilst an injury to a specific positional player in the NFL can throw a team right off course and effectively end a season at any point for the whole franchise, football teams in the Premier League tend to have the right kind of player to fill an injury void. It’s not always the case however, the Eagles back up Quarterback (QB) Nick Foles came in after a knee injury to starter Carson Wentz and led the team to that Superbowl glory, but now Wentz is fit again, Foles will find himself back on the sidelines as the backup.
The other side of this competition is the re-balance through The Draft, the best college players picked by the franchises to re-ignite themselves. It works so well for the NFL, but to replicate it in other sports is near on impossible to make it work such is the system. The franchise with the worst record each year get’s first pick of the best college players and so on to help make them more competitive. It doesn’t always work out and for some the draft can be a 2-3 year project to make a franchise great again.
For me, the Cowboys are coming closer to the end of that project to make the franchise one of the best again. As always, the NFC East will be as tough as it always is and maybe more so with the Eagles defending their title from that division.
You can always expect the Patriots, Packers, Steelers and Saints to all be up there, but one year there is always a team that comes from nowhere to stake a claim having had a bad losing record the season before, last year it was the Eagles, whose it’s going to be this year?