By Matt Ambrose,
Sports Business Writer
Football is finally back. After an offseason full of roster moves, retirements, and of course, deflategate, this season is sure to be one to remember. Here is what to look for as the 2016 NFL season gets underway.
It was the news story that was impossible to avoid. A story signified by a single word that makes football fans everywhere cringe. Deflategate.
That is the reason why Tom Brady will sit out the first four games of the 2016 season. The Patriots will now turn to third-year backup Jimmy Garoppolo from Eastern Illinois University to fill in for the future Hall-of-Famer.
Ultimately, the four game suspension will not derail the Pats’ season, as Brady is sure to return to the field in week 5 with a fire underneath him. That extra motivation will lead the Pats back to the playoffs for the eighth consecutive season.
As for the defending Super Bowl Champion Denver Broncos, they lost their Hall-of Fame quarterback this offseason as well. Peyton Manning announced his retirement soon after the Broncos’ 24-10 victory over the Carolina Panthers. The team announced that Trevor Siemian would be the starting quarterback going into the season over first-round pick Paxton Lynch. Siemian threw for 178 yards and one touchdown in the Broncos’ 21-20 comeback win on Thursday night against the Panthers.
Siemian is aided by the fact that he has a solid receiving core, consisting of Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. The thing that will lead this team back to the promise land is their elite defense, led by reigning Super Bowl MVP Von Miller.
A team that has Super Bowl expectations each season is the Dallas Cowboys. Those expectations took a hit when quarterback Tony Romo went down with a back injury during the preseason. This means that rookie Dak Prescott will be under center in Romo’s absence.
Last season, the Cowboys went 1-11 without Romo, but Prescott’s electrifying preseason could change that. Prescott accounted for seven touchdowns and no interceptions while completing 78% of his passes, giving the Cowboys a reason to be optimistic while Romo recovers. If Prescott can continue this level of play with Romo out, alongside fellow rookie Ezekiel Elliott, the Cowboys should be just fine.
They will face a tough test in their first game, as they take on their division rivals, the New York Giants. The Giants’ upgraded defense will be put to the test Sunday afternoon at AT&T Stadium. The battle for winner of the NFC East will certainly be an interesting storyline to watch as the season progresses.
A dark-horse team to look out for this season is the Oakland Raiders. They are a team full of rising stars, from Amari Cooper, to Khalil Mack, to their quarterback Derek Carr.
Carr threw for just under 4,000 yards last season to go along with 32 touchdowns, while Amari Cooper had 72 catches and over 1,000 yards as a rookie. Khalil Mack has emerged as one of the best linebackers in football, as he really came into his own last season. Mack had 57 tackles, which was two less than his rookie season, however his sack total rose to 15 after having just four in his first season. Mack’s defensive impact along with an improved offense that boasts one of the best offensive lines in football could result in a playoff berth for the Raiders for the first time since 2002.
Another exciting NFL season is upon us. Buckle up.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, September 13th print edition.
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