NFL set for kick-off

The Myanmar Times - - Sport -

CAM New­ton launches his quest for re­demp­tion tonight as the Na­tional Foot­ball League kicks off with the next gen­er­a­tion of quar­ter­backs eye­ing the throne once dom­i­nated by Peyton Man­ning and Tom Brady.

For the first time since 1997, the open­ing week of the most pop­u­lar sport in the United States gets un­der way with nei­ther Man­ning nor Brady in ac­tion, un­der­scor­ing the end of one of the NFL’s most evoca­tive ri­val­ries.

Man­ning headed into re­tire­ment in March, a month after steer­ing the Den­ver Bron­cos to an up­set vic­tory over New­ton and the Carolina Pan­thers at the age of 39 in Su­per Bowl 50, the fi­nal act of a glit­ter­ing 18-year ca­reer.

New Eng­land Pa­tri­ots icon Brady, mean­while, is banned for the open­ing four games of the new cam­paign after los­ing his long-run­ning bat­tle with the league over the 2015 “De­flate­gate” saga. Carolina Paan­thers QB

It re­mains to be seen whether the 39-year-old Brady can con­jure a record-break­ing fifth Su­per Bowl vic­tory when he re­turns from sus­pen­sion for what will be his 16th sea­son in the NFL.

But while rul­ing the fe­ro­ciously driven Brady out of the cham­pi­onship equa­tion is fraught with risk, there is a lengthy list of ob­sta­cles block­ing his route to next Fe­bru­ary’s Su­per Bowl in Hous­ton.

The most ob­vi­ous comes in the size­able shape of the charis­matic New­ton and the Pan­thers, who open the new sea­son in a Su­per Bowl re­match with the Bron­cos tonight at Mile High Sta­dium in Colorado.

New­ton, 27, had been widely ex­pected to crown an MVP-win­ning 15-1 sea­son last term with his first Su­per Bowl.

In­stead, he was run out of town by Man­ning and the Bron­cos, adding self-in­flicted in­sult to in­jury with a surly, mono­syl­labic post-match press con­fer­ence that dis­mayed his many ad­mir­ers.

“I had so much emo­tion,” New­ton ex­plained in a re­cent in­ter­view. “A lot of emo­tion. We play the game to win. And we didn’t.”

New­ton in­sists how­ever that he has al­ready left Su­per Bowl 50 firmly in the rear-view mir­ror as he looks to­ward the re­match against the Bron­cos and their for­mi­da­ble Von Mil­lerin­spired de­fence.

“I can’t look back,” New­ton said. “A lot of peo­ple are go­ing to make it a re­match, but it’s not a re­match. It’s just our next op­po­nent.

“They’re a great team, we un­der­stand that. We’re putting in our bid to be a great team as well.”

New­ton’s Su­per Bowl dream may de­pend on whether the Pan­thers can nav­i­gate a Na­tional Foot­ball Con­fer­ence brim­ming with some of the league’s most po­tent quar­ter­back tal­ent, most no­tably the Seat­tle Sea­hawks’ Rus­sell Wil­son, Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Pack­ers and Car­son Palmer (Ari­zona Car­di­nals).

In Philadel­phia, all eyes will be on rookie quar­ter­back Car­son Wentz, the num­ber-two pick in this year’s draft, who has been handed a start­ing role with the Ea­gles after the shock trade that sent Sam Brad­ford to the Min­nesota Vik­ings.

But the top pick in the draft – Jared Goff – faces a spell on the side­lines as the Los An­ge­les Rams opt for the ex­pe­ri­ence of Case Keenum to lead them in their first sea­son back in Cal­i­for­nia.

The Bron­cos mean­while will head into tonight’s opener re­liant on their stingy de­fence to keep the Pan­thers in check as they aim to plug the chasm left by Man­ning’s re­tire­ment.

With back-up quar­ter­back and pre­sumed starter Brock Osweiler join­ing the Hous­ton Tex­ans in March, the Bron­cos will start the new sea­son with the in­ex­pe­ri­enced Trevor Siemian call­ing the shots.

Siemian’s reg­u­lar sea­son play­ing time so far has amounted to one snap – in which he took a knee.

Bron­cos gen­eral man­ager John El­way is adamant that the 24-year-old is ready for the plunge.

“Trevor is the guy,” El­way said this week. “We have a lot con­fi­dence in Trevor and be­lieve that he can do the job.”

Siemian’s abil­ity to hit the ground run­ning may de­fine the Bron­cos sea­son in the Amer­i­can Foot­ball Con­fer­ence, where the Pa­tri­ots will hope to get through the open­ing four games with Jimmy Garop­polo deputis­ing for the sus­pended Brady be­fore their star quar­ter­back re­turns against Cleve­land in week five. –

‘I can’t look back. Alot of peo­ple are go­ing to make it a re­match, but it’s ... just our next op­po­nent.’

Cam New­ton

Photo: EPA

Cam New­ton of the Carolina Pan­thers launches a deep ball against the Den­ver Bron­cos dur­ing the 2016 Su­per Bowl. After a long off-sea­son, the sea­son starts tonight with a re­match of these two teams.

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