KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
You saw the documentary, right? Quarterback’s the most important position in the game. The Chiefs have got the best quarterback. For as long as Patrick Mahomes is suiting up on Sunday afternoons, they’re going to be there or thereabouts. If you started supporting Man U in the 90s or Man City since they got rich, these are your boys.
Philly is a town on the up with a team on the rise. The Eagles got all the way to the Super Bowl in February before they ran into Mahomes. Led by QB Jalen Hurts, they’ve got talent all over the field and – after some clever drafting in April – are favourites to be the best team in the NFC once more.
By any measure, the Bengals were one of the worst teams in the league for decades. They rarely made the playoffs and, when they did, they lost at the first possible opportunity. Then Joe Burrow rode into town and, in an instant, the Cincinnati Bungles era was over. With ice in his veins, the Macaulay Culkin lookalike is the man most likely to displace Mahomes as the NFL MVP.
The Bills are another AFC team with a history of sustained failure. In the early 90s they lost four Super Bowls in a row. No one else has done anything like that before or since. But now they too have a game-changing QB. He’s called Josh Allen, he’s massive and he’s got a rocket launcher for an arm. The Bills have also got Damar Hamlin on the comeback trail. And, if you like watching sport in the snow, there’s no better place to do that than Buffalo.
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
The Niners came close to making an all-American dream a reality last season. With their first and second-choice quarterbacks out injured, they turned to Brock Purdy – the man they picked with the 262nd and last pick of last year’s draft. They never expected ‘Mr Irrelevant’ to actually have to play, but when he did, he took them to within a game of the Super Bowl. Then he got injured as well. If they look after their QBs better this season, the Niners will go far.
One of the newer teams in the league – they were created in 1996 – the Ravens always play hard and they’ve been rewarded with Super Bowl wins in 2000 and 2012. After settling a long-running contract dispute with a $260m pay offer, they’ve nailed down Lamar Jackson – the one who’s built like Donald Trump – as their QB and signed Odell Beckham Jr to catch balls for him. Should be fun.
The Cowboys are one of the most famous franchises in all of sport. They’ve won five Super Bowls – only two teams have more – but none since 1995. Long-time owner Jerry Jones is a bit of a liability and quarterback Dak Prescott might be too. Or Dak might finally come good and, with a bit of help from defensive superstar Micah Parsons, the Boys could finally end almost three decades of hurt.
NEW YORK JETS
The Jets are a long-time laughing stock that the rest of the NFL might – might – have to start taking seriously. New for this season, they’ve got ayahuasca-taking, Super Bowl-winning veteran QB Aaron Rodgers. Maybe the two-time NFL MVP is past it or maybe he’s the missing piece in a puzzle the Jets have been trying to solve all century.
If you tend to be the likable, non-threatening guy in the room, you’ve just found your spirit animal. After last year’s Hard Knocks, everyone loves the Lions. Just bear in mind, even though there’s a chance they’re good this season, they’ve won one playoff game since 1957 and usually turn out to be terrible.
The last time the Fins were serious challengers, Miami Vice was still on television. But rolled-up sleeves and pastel-coloured suits are now back – and so are the Fins. Maybe. If they can find a way to protect their exciting lefty QB Tua Tagovailoa.
Not so long ago there was talk of the Jags making London their permanent home. But that was when they were rubbish. Now that they’ve got a potentially great quarterback – and possible nepo baby – in Trevor Lawrence, Jacksonville doesn’t want to let them go. The Jags still tend to come to London a couple of times a year though, so they’re as close to your hometown team as you can get.
LOS ANGELES CHARGERS
Surfer dude looks, incredible arm strength, $50m a season – Chargers QB Justin Herbert has a lot going for him. But don’t be seduced by this Californian charmer. He plays for a team that some think is cursed… and the evidence is piling up. In January, the Chargers were winning a playoff game 27-0 against the Jaguars. They lost 31-30.
Like an underdog story? You’ll love Geno Smith. Written off by everyone, the 32-year-old journeyman finally became a star for the Seahawks last year. You’ll also love the Seahawks fans. They get so loud, they sometimes show up on seismographs.
The Steelers are the NFL’s tough guys. They’ve won six Super Bowls – joint most – and since Mike Tomlin took over as head coach in 2007, they’ve never had a losing season. The jury’s out on their young quarterback Kenny Pickett, but they’re all about the defence anyway. TJ Watt is their current game wrecker and, while he and Tomlin are around, the Men of Steel will always have a puncher’s chance.
Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins seduced Quarterback viewers with his nerdy dad ways. But, despite his absolute commitment to doing his homework, he’s not the Vikings’ biggest asset. That’s Justin Jefferson – the NFL’s best wide receiver, with a celebration to match. The Vikings were historically lucky to finish 13-4 last season and cruise into the playoffs. They flamed out in the first round of the postseason and will need a bit more luck to get back there again.
GREEN BAY PACKERS
The Packers are a proud small-town team with a rich history – they’ve played at Lambeau Field since 1957 and, if you can ever get a ticket, a Packers home game is always worth the trip to Wisconsin. Right now, the Packers have just parted ways with QB Aaron Rodgers after 18 seasons, but they’re hopeful new guy Jordan Love is ready to step up. All sounds good – but pick these guys and you will have to wear a wedge of cheese on your head.