What We've Learned So Far From the NFL Preseason
The 2021 NFL season gets underway when reigning Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers takes on the Dallas Cowboys at Raymond James Stadium on September 9. Read on to learn more about the upcoming season.
An Enhanced Season
The NFL will debut a new format this season after NFL owners agreed to an extended schedule of 17 regular season games. The biggest change is the interconference alignment for the 17th game. Each team will now play five interconference games, as opposed to four previously, with AFC teams getting the extra home game in 2021. The biggest of the bunch has to be the Packers at Chiefs, pitting Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes against one another.
The Kansas City Chiefs are the outright favorites to win the Super Bowl with every online sportsbook in the country. They defeated the San Francisco 49ers to win Super Bowl LIV, and Patrick Mahomes led them to a second consecutive Super Bowl in February. Kansas City was the heavy favorite to prevail, but it was ultimately no match for Tom Brady’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bucs are the second favorites for the Super Bowl, followed by the Buffalo Bills, who have enjoyed a tremendous preseason. The Rams, 49ers, Ravens, Packers and Browns are also in the mix. The Packers look like a particularly intriguing team to follow this season after all the drama that Rodgers has created throughout the summer.
The Top Offseason Moves
New signings proved pivotal last year. Stefon Diggs was terrific at Buffalo, while an Arizona offense bolstered by the arrival of DeAndre Hopkins looked a lot sharper and DeForest Buckner seriously tightened up the Colts’ defense. Which traded players will have the biggest impact this season? It is hard to look past Julio Jones, who moved from Atlanta to Tennessee. The two-time first-team All-Pro looks to be a significant upgrade on Corey Davis, giving Ryan Tannehill a very strong option alongside A.J. Brown. Orlando Brown could also have a transformative effect upon the Chiefs after joining from Baltimore. All eyes will be on Carson Wentz to see if he can rediscover his best form after trading Philadelphia for Indianapolis. Arguably the biggest offseason trade saw Matthew Stafford move to the Rams and Jared Goff join the Lions in his place. Stafford is joining a much stronger team, and it will be interesting to see if he can lead the Rams to glory.
The Leading Rookies
Trevor Lawrence is the clear favorite to be named Offensive Rookie of the Year after the Jacksonville Jaguars managed to snap him up as the number one pick in the 2021 NFL draft. The QB managed more than 3,000 passing yards and at least 24 TDs in each of his three years of collegiate football, and he looks poised to flourish in the NFL. Yet Justin Fields could give him a run for his money. He impressed on his preseason debut for the Chicago Bears, while Trey Lance has also looked sharp for the Niners. Micah Parsons should toughen up the Cowboys’ defense, and he may well beat competition from Kwity Paye, Jaelen Phillips and Jamin Davis to be named Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Mahomes is the leading contender to win a second NFL MVP award. He was overshadowed by the veteran Rodgers last year, but he looks poised for another epic season this time around. The Chiefs have done well to bring in better protection for their star QB in the offseason, and the likes of Brown, Joe Thune, Creed Humphrey and Trey Smith should help him enjoy a little more time in the pocket. His main rivals are Rodgers and Josh Allen, while Lamar Jackson could also enter the conversation if he regains his best form, but right now Mahomes is the one to beat.