Kansas City Chiefs' Patrick Mahomes evades Efe Obada of the Washington Commanders All-Pro Reels / Flickr

The 104th season of the National Football League (NFL) kicked off on Thursday, with the Kansas City Chiefs, the most recent Super Bowl champion, hosting the Detroit Lions at Arrowhead Stadium. This kicked off five months of non-stop gridiron action, with every team aiming to be the ones raising the Lombardi trophy in Las Vegas come February. Whether you’re a longtime fan or have never watched the sport before, we’re here to help you get up to speed.

Who are the favourites?

In predicting the teams set for success this season, it may be as simple as looking at last year’s Super Bowl matchup. The Kansas City Chiefs, with the generational Patrick Mahomes under centre, are practically guaranteed to make a deep playoff run. The quarterback’s talent is ridiculous, and despite a relatively poor set of receivers he can improve the rest of the team with his mere presence. Similarly, the Philadelphia Eagles seem equal to, if not stronger than, what they were during last season’s campaign. A strong draft saw them strengthen on both sides of the ball, and, if signal-caller Jalen Hurts continues to produce at an elite level, there’s no reason they couldn’t go all the way this time round.

There are more than a few teams, though, who are ready to make sure a Super Bowl rematch does not happen. The Cincinnati Bengals, with young star Joe Burrow at quarterback, have a dynamic offence and an increasingly stingy defence. There are still, however, lingering questions over whether they can adequately protect Burrow from taking too many sacks. The San Francisco 49ers, despite having arguably the league’s best defence with monsters like Nick Bosa and Fred Warner, are hoping second-year quarterback Brock Purdy doesn’t regress. If he does, the team’s chance at the Lombardi may fall away. It could be the Buffalo Bills that give the Chiefs or the Eagles a run for their money, with the remarkable Josh Allen under centre. However, a slew of preseason injuries to key players, such as Von Miller and Micah Hyde, could prove too much for them to overcome.

Long Shots

For the first time in what feels forever, fans of the New York Jets are entering an NFL season without a crippling sense of dread. Boasting both the reigning “Offensive and Defensive Rookies of the Year” in Garrett Wilson and Sauce Gardner, and a new signal-caller in the form of the illustrious Aaron Rodgers, the team could be a good bet for a strong season. Experiencing optimism for the first time in a while, as well, are the Detroit Lions, who finished last season with a remarkable 8 wins from 10. Wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown has emerged as an elite talent, and last year’s second overall pick Aidan Hutchinson is a dominant force on a very strong defence. Expect also the Seattle Seahawks, Los Angeles Chargers, and Baltimore Ravens to potentially cause problems come the playoffs. Whether any of these teams can break into the league’s elite, though, remains to be seen.


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No Shots

One of the best things about the NFL’s playoff system is that the vast majority of teams have a decent chance at making the postseason. There are some organisations, however, that are almost doomed to fail from the start. The Arizona Cardinals are one such team this year, with almost all of their key players either injured or traded away for draft capital. Both sides of the ball are remarkably weak, and it will be a very long season for their fanbase. Similarly floundering are the Los Angeles Rams, whose roster, while scattered with superstars, is horribly poor and inexperienced. The Rams traded away their future to win a Super Bowl two years ago, and are feeling the consequences of this damaging, albeit successful move. Expect both teams to rack up the losses, in what could become a race-to-the-bottom for the first pick in next year’s draft.

London Games

One of the highlights of the season, from a UK perspective, are the increasingly popular NFL London Games, which have helped the sport to grow in popularity over here since the first matchup in 2007. This year, five teams cross the pond to play three matches in the capital: The Atlanta Falcons and the Jacksonville Jaguars at Wembley, and the Jaguars, Buffalo Bills, Baltimore Ravens, and Tennessee Titans at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. The games promise to be electric, with sell-out crowds, and all teams involved looking like potential playoff contenders. The Jaguars–Bills match in particular is one not to miss, featuring a clash of two young, dynamic, and offensively exciting rosters.