America’s game explodes back onto the global sporting scene later today, as defending champions Philadelphia Eagles take to their Lincoln Financial Field home for the visit of the Atlanta Falcons.
Doug Pederson finds his charges amongst the favourites once again, however, if the bookies are to believed, everyone is chasing those indomitable New England Patriots.
Many questions are to be answered over the coming months, but before the action gets underway we fielded a selection to Stephen Baumohl, co-founder of Redzonesports.bet.
SBC Americas: The New England Patriots are currently favourites to come out on top once again, what are the reasons for this?
Stephen Baumohl: Quite simply… Brady and Belichick. As a quarterback and coach pairing they have won the AFC championship eight times, and followed that up by winning the Super Bowl five times. They are widely considered the best quarterback and coach in the modern era of the game, and are ‘locks’ for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, once eligible.
They play in a weak division so the route to the playoffs is relatively simple, and then Belichick’s master game-planning and Brady’s perfect execution, along with a tendency for opponents to crumble in intimidation, means they are deserved favourites to make it six.
Personnel-wise this may be one of the weaker rosters they have had in a while, so it will take all of Belichick’s guile to navigate the season, but that is also why they are such big odds for a favourite with 13/2 available in some places.
“If the Eagles don’t return to the Super Bowl, the likely new NFC representatives would be New Orleans”
SBCA: Their Super Bowl conquerors from earlier this year the Philadelphia Eagles head up the rest, how realistic is it that they could retain their crown? And who could be the closest challengers from the chasing pack?
SB: Repeating as Super Bowl champions has not been done since New England achieved it in the 2003/2004 seasons, and only twice in the last twenty five years, so the task is a difficult one. One of the biggest reasons is roster turnover, which began in earnest in the early nineties with the advent of the salary cap and free agency, and meant keeping a championship team together was close to impossible.
As for the Eagles, they will have the majority of last year’s starters back but have suffered some losses such as Patrick Robinson, Trey Burton, Vinny Curry and others, but the biggest obstacle to repeating may be the loss of their offensive coaches Frank Reich and John DeFilippo. Reich, as offensive coordinator, and DeFilippo, as quarterbacks coach, along with head coach Doug Pederson, did an incredible job with the offense as a whole and a miraculous one turning backup quarterback, Nick Foles, in to a Super Bowl MVP. Both have moved on to higher positions with other teams; Reich is now head coach at the Indianapolis Colts, and DeFilippo is the offensive co-ordinator at the Minnesota Vikings.
If the Eagles don’t return to the Super Bowl, the likely new NFC representatives would be New Orleans, whose prolific offense is now paired with a young, improving defense that can consider itself a force in its own right, or maybe the Green Bay Packers, who are always dangerous with Aaron Rodgers at quarterback. The LA Rams have put together an impressive roster and are going to be a big factor, along with the Minnesota Vikings and their formidable defense.
“A couple of outsiders have been popular too, with Denver and San Francisco getting some fair bites”
SBCA: Who are punters backing? Has any big money been wagered on any of the outsiders?
SB: So far there has been quite a few teams that have attracted support, and it began shortly after the Super Bowl in February with substantial money on Philadelphia, then the Rams were all the rage as they signed a lot of big names in free agency.
New England are always popular and are a decent loser on the book along with Minnesota and Jacksonville who have attracted some big bets. A couple of outsiders have been popular too, with Denver and San Francisco getting some fair bites. A significant portion of the book is still to come, however, as we usually have a rush in the last few days of the opening week.
SBCA: Can the Cleveland Browns win a game? How likely is it that a franchise will record a 0-16, and who could that be if so?
SB: Cleveland will actually field a team that has talent at quite a few positions, and I expect them to be massively improved on their last two sorry seasons. Players like Myles Garrett, Josh Gordon and Jarvis Landry can turn games on their own, and with either Tyrod Taylor or Baker Mayfield at quarterback behind a pretty solid offensive line, they will win at least five games. There appears to be a real buzz around the team this year that has been missing in the past and an 8-8 season, although unlikely, is achievable.
Going 0-16 is not very common, it has only ever happened twice, which demonstrates how bad the Browns have been in compiling a 1-31 record over the last two seasons, but if it was to happen again this year, the team that looks most likely is the Buffalo Bills, who have the unenviable combination of one of the weakest rosters and toughest schedules.
“New Orleans will beat the LA Chargers to win the Super Bowl”
SBCA: Ahead of the season’s curtain raiser, what are your predictions for the months ahead?
SB: New Orleans will beat the LA Chargers to win the Super Bowl. Cincinnati and Miami will be surprise playoff teams. New England will under-perform and Hue Jackson will either be fired or win Coach of the Year!