Amid league closures and travel bans, the NFL’s offseason has been sport’s leading story over the last week. It has emphatically delivered the drama sports fans craved.
Tom Brady has left New England for Tampa Bay. Simply adding Brady has made the Bucs a top five Super Bowl favourite. The six-time Super Bowl winner has more offensive options in Florida than he did last season, a campaign which provoked some doubts about his game.
Todd Gurley, who as recently as 2018 was the best running back in the league, has been released by the Los Angeles Rams, provoking another wave of rumours. Links with Brady’s Bucs were a fearsome prospect for the rest of the NFL, but Gurley ended up in Atlanta with the Falcons.
Brady’s decision to land in Florida, rejecting interest from Tennessee, Indianapolis and the Chargers, has twisted the league. The AFC, which has been represented by the Patriots nine times in the Super Bowl since 2001, is suddenly top-heavy in a different way. The Chiefs and Ravens, led by Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson, are the runaway favourites.
The picture is drastically different in the NFC. It’s much more open.
The Niners, Saints, Bucs, Packers, Seahawks, Eagles and Cowboys are likely the top teams, but with plenty of the offseason still to run, the NFC is absolutely anyone’s to win.
Philadelphia traded for Darius Slay, finally adding an elite cornerback. The Niners extended Arik Armstead and are in a flexible spot having landed a pick for DeForest Buckner. New Orleans extended Drew Brees, Green Bay were an elite defensive team last season and will be looking for offensive weapons. Russell Wilson continues to make his doubters look silly.
Predicting the NFC is almost impossible right now. That is only going to get trickier as teams fill out their rosters and make their draft selections. Brady’s Bucs loom over the rest of the field, and remaining free agents are keen to join Tampa Bay as they pursue their first playoff berth since a 2007 wildcard weekend loss.
A healthy Mahomes makes the Chiefs favourites. Their postseason run earlier this year was the arrival of the next great quarterback, and with the offensive weapons to rip through even elite defences. An epic playoff duel between Jackson and Mahomes might decide the AFC, but the NFC is going to be thrilling from start to finish. The Brady signing puts more eyes on sport in Tampa Bay than ever before.