2016 proved a fairytale when one of the greatest quarter-backs ever seen, the evergreen Peyton Manning, led the Broncos to a shock win over the regular season bulldozers, the Panthers, and subsequently retired into the sunset.
After week 1, how ironic that the first game of the new season was a replica of the Super Bowl game of the last one. The Broncos proved they’re not just a one man team, edging the Panthers 21-20. With Manning gone, Trevor Siemian, in his fledgling year in the NFL, largely played a safe game, short whipped passing, and perhaps lacking flair. CJ Anderson offset such nerves by being the go-to attacker; making a game-high 92 yards in carries, more than Andy Janovich, Siemian, and Devontae Brooker combined.
What can be taken from this is that if the Broncos are to reclaim the SuperBowl crown, it may require a degree of the miraculous, while the Panthers look less likely to frogmarch their way to the top of the domestic roster, but are nonetheless in with a chance.
Even without Tom Brady – serving a 4 game ban for his part in Deflategate – and the injured Rob Gronkowski at running back, the Patriots have posted 3-0, including a 27-0 blitz of the Houston Texans. LeGarrette Blount leads the way in rushing yards (298) and garnering 4 touchdowns for himself. Admittedly, the Texans were the architects of their own downfall, but that shouldn’t take anything away from a relentless defence that produced 1 interception, 2 sacks, and 2 fumbles from their beleaguered opposition, and an attack that probed and penetrated frequently, with Blount at the heart of it. When Brady and Gronkowski return, the Patriots may just be that much stronger.
Despite a catalogue of injuries keeping almost ten of their unit known the treatment table, the Minnesota Vikings have made a more than healthy start to the new season. A perfect 3-0 sees them sitting top of the NFC North. But it was their performance against the Panthers that marks them out as contenders. The 22-10 victory saw them hound and harangue QB Cam Newton into so many mistakes, the like of which were such a rarity last year. Newton threw for 3 interceptions, and was sacked in his own end zone by Vikings defensive end Danielle Hunter. At the offensive end, Sam Bradford had a solid game, throwing wisely, but not ambitiously. The Vikings made just one touchdown from Bradfords throwing, caught by the 6 foot 6 tall Kyle Rudolph. But special mention has to go to Vikings cornerback Marcus Sherels, collecting a 48 yard Panthers punt, slicing straight through the defence, and returning it all the way to the endzone. The Vikings, for all their solid defensive game, can be considered a real possibility here.
The front-runners for this year’s SuperBowl may not be entirely clear cut yet, but the first three games say something for how the teams will perform for the rest of the season. Thus far the standout teams are the Patriots and the Vikings, both of whom could go all the way.