NFL set for kick-off
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 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.