It has been years since any sport league’s offseason has been so eventful, generating buzz from the dramatic and controversial unraveling of “Deflategate,” to a flurry of league-altering trades and team-dooming injuries. Adrian Peterson, one of the best running backs in the league, is coming off an entire season away from the game after a suspension for physically abusing his child. Both Kelvin Benjamin and Jordy Nelson have torn their ACLs this preseason, leaving the Carolina Panthers and Green Bay Packers, respectively, without their most reliable wide receivers. Entering the 2015-2016 NFL season the league has an all new look, and with the season just kicking off, it will be exciting to see how it plays out.
Following last season’s playoffs, where the Indianapolis Colts brought attention to suspiciously deflated footballs that were being used by the New England Patriots during the AFC Championship, “Deflategate” has been the most talked about subject in all of sports. Roger Goodell – the NFL Commissioner – has been at the center of it all, playing as the judge, jury and executioner when dealing with the scandal. After an official investigation into the matter, no conclusive evidence was revealed, but Goodell suspended Patriot quarterback Tom Brady for the first four games of the season. After the appeal for the revocation of Brady’s suspension failed, with Goodell once again as the head of operations, it took the U.S. District Judge Richard M. Berman until Sept. 3 to nullify Brady’s suspension due to lack of sufficient evidence.
“It’s a non-issue: the report had no conclusive evidence,” second-year Mika Lorenzo said. “All it said was that they could not rule out that he may have knowledge that somebody may have been inflating the balls. Really it was stupid.”
While many football fans, especially Patriots fans, back Brady, the scandal has been incredibly polarizing. Several fans believe that, while there was no conclusive evidence, it was obvious that Tom Brady was involved with the deflation of the footballs.
“I think that it is a terrible thing that they just let him get off with no suspension, not even one game,” second-year State College of Florida student Jac Durr said. “I think that he cheated and he should be punished for it.”
Fresh through his run-in with the courts, and winning the Super Bowl before that, Brady unleashed on the Pittsburgh Steelers for 288 yards and 4 touchdowns in a convincing 28-21 win for the Pats to open the NFL season. The strong opening performance only reinforced the belief many have that the offseason drama will only motivate New England to another Super Bowl win.
“Well I am a Patriots fan and I think Tom Brady is going to be pissed off about Deflategate, and come out of the gate swinging, and go out and win another Super Bowl and finally get his fifth and pass his childhood idol, Joe Montana,” Lorenzo said.
Another team in constant contention for the Super Bowl is the Seattle Seahawks, who lost in last-minute fashion to the Patriots in last season’s Super Bowl 28-24 but dominated the Denver Broncos the year before for the ring. With Russell Wilson signed on to a four-year $87.5 million contract extension this offseason, Jimmy Graham looking to be the offensive centerpiece for the Seahawks – who acquired him from the Saints – and the same stifling defense as always, another deep playoff run has to be expected for the team.
While the Miami Dolphins have not made the playoffs since 2008, many expect the Dolphins to break out and make the playoffs on the backs of their frightening defensive line, bolstered by the newly signed Ndamukong Suh, and the young Ryan Tannehill. Now in his fourth season with the Dolphins since being drafted by them 14 overall in the 2012 NFL Draft, the offseason has been good for him, finally displaying the ability to throw the deep ball and the killer instinct to lead Miami’s offense, perhaps into the playoffs.
“I think the Dolphins are going to make the wild card in the AFC East and I actually think that they have a chance to be pretty good,” Lorenzo said. “I think they have the chance to be a nine-win team that manages to win that tenth game to sneak into the wild card.”
While the Philadelphia Eagles did make the playoffs the season before last, Chip Kelly used the offseason to completely overhaul the Eagles’ roster. Kelly traded the NFL’s 2013 leading rusher LeSean McCoy to the Bills for young stud linebacker Kiko Alonso, who, along with cornerback Byron Maxwell, former member of the Seahawks’ “Legion of Boom.” Replacing McCoy, the Eagles signed DeMarco Murray, the 2014 NFL rushing leader, out from their division rival, the Dallas Cowboys. Along with trading Nick Foles to the St. Louis Rams in exchange for former first overall draft pick Sam Bradford, the Eagles have made some massive changes to their team, and so far it looks like they might pay off.
“The additions of Kiko Alonso, Byron Maxwell, DeMarco Murray, and Sam Bradford I think will prove to be great offseason moves that bring the Eagles back into the playoffs,” Durr said. “They might even have the talent to make a deep run.”
With the season finally upon us, NFL fans can sit back and watch the competition heat up in what looks to be a thrilling season of professional football.