NFL Preview: 5 Things to Watch in 2013

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The NFL season is approaching as the biggest league in North America gets ready for another season. Last year was one that was filled with controversy as the preseason had plenty of issues that would carry over to the season. Once football started those stories would fade into the background although they would still be talked about. Taking over the headlines and forcing those stories to the back pages would be a number of great performances that would help lead to the Super Bowl. With super rookies and last season dominating the NFL last year there was plenty to talk about leading up to Super Bowl XLVII. Baltimore would go on to win the game that may forever be known as the Blackout Bowl and they will enter the 2013 season trying to defend their title even after losing their veteran leaders. They will go into the season as the champions while the other 31 teams chase them and look to get their own piece of the Lombardi Trophy. There will be the teams that came so close last year looking to finally get the trophy this time. There will also be the teams that are looking to surprise everyone this year as the best comeback team in the league. There are any number of possibilities this season as all NFL teams will be trying to get that trophy either with their offseason additions or a change in management. It is all about winning in the NFL with the leash shortened every year that a team does not win. Every team does whatever they can to win whether it is releasing a long time leader or firing a beloved head coach. There have been plenty of these changes in the NFL over the offseason as there will be new players in new places while new coaches look to put their footprint on the league. Teams are getting ready as the season approaches fast and players and teams alike get ready for another chance at the Lombardi Trophy. The NFL has had a relatively soft offseason compared to 2012 with less controversy than before. That didn’t mean there was none as plenty of stories are already getting plenty of play. Here are five stories that have been and will be talked about throughout the 2013 season as another year is ready to kickoff.

 

Sophomore QB Class

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The 2012 Rookie Class in the NFL could go down as one of the best in the history and it was highlighted by three very impressive young quarterbacks. The NFL was shocked to see Russell Wilson, Robert Griffin III, and Andrew Luck take over the league. Coming into the 2012 draft many people expected that Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III would be good but to do what they did and having third round pick Russell Wilson join them was icing on the cake. Andrew Luck would replace Peyton Manning in Indianapolis as best as anyone could with 4,374 yards and 23 TDs in his rookie year. Robert Griffin would also have a better season with 3,200 yards and 20 passing TDs along with 815 rushing and 7 TDs rushing. Meanwhile Russell Wilson would win the starting job in Seattle after being drafted in the 3rd round and would finish with 3,118 yards and 26 TDs along with 489 yards and 4 TDs rushing. These three QBs would all have great seasons in their rookie year but now they face the toughest test of any young player. The Sophomore Slump is on the horizon for all three of these players but their teams need them to try to avoid this. With the second year coming for these young players teams know what they are about as there will be no sneaking up on anyone. Defences will adjust to their style of play and it will be harder for them to do what they did last year. There will be plenty of eyes on all three of these players as all could suffer the sophomore slump or could continue their rise but only time will tell.

 

New Offence or Just a Fad?

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The NFL is always evolving as the constant battle between offence and defence continues to rage on. Last year teams like Seattle, San Francisco, and Washington would begin to establish the Read Option. With quarterbacks with the talent and athleticism of Russell Wilson, Robert Griffin III, and Colin Kaepernick teams would look to try to let them use their natural ability to make something happen. The Read-Option is an offence where the QB takes the snap and based on his read of the defence hands the ball off to the running back, throws the ball to a receiver, or takes the ball himself to run it. This allowed these QBs to take the game into their own hands and use their athletic ability to take over a game. Last year the Read Option burst onto the scene lead by these three young athletic QBs with the Niners taking the new offence to the Super Bowl. As good as this offence was for these teams there are still a lot of questions to be answered in the 2013 season. New offences come and go year after year with different levels of success. These offences will be picked up by many teams who have the right personnel but they are not the only ones paying attention. Defences are also paying attention to the trend as they have had a full offseason to study the offence and come up with a way to stop them. 2013 will be a big year for the Read Option as it will determine whether the new trend will go the way of the Wild Cat or will become the new offence in the league.

 

New Bad Boys?

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The Oakland Raiders have been considered the bad boys of the NFL for years as they have regularly taken in players who are always in trouble. This offseason a new unexpected team has thrown their hat into the ring for the title of baddest team in the NFL. The New England Patriots have been known for doing things the Patriot Way for years and that means putting the team ahead of everything else. The Patriots have gained a reputation for being a cold franchise that likes to take personalities away in favour of boring press conferences and a lack of sound bites. The personalities are coming out now though and it is not a pretty sight for the Patriots. Along with the Gronkowski mess the Patriots would have to deal with a very serious issue off of the field. This summer Patriots other star tight end Aaron Hernandez would be implemented in a murder case. Hernandez would be named as the prime suspect in the murder of Odin Lloyd after a number of suspicious acts including breaking his phone before handing it to the police, having his house professionally cleaned the day after the murder, and deleting his security footage. The Patriots are dealing with plenty of controversy but that is not necessarily a bad thing as the last time they were embroiled in controversy they had their best season ever. If history is a precursor to this season the Patriots could recover and have their best season yet but few people will be cheering for them after another controversy has invaded New England.

 

International Flavour

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The NFL is the biggest and most powerful league in North America as they make the most money out of any of the big four. They are engrained into the society of North America with everyone claiming a team. The NFL has become massive league in North America but there is little for them to do to make it bigger. This is why the NFL has begun to expand into a once previously bad market to try to grow the game. NFL Europe was not successful enough to survive but that didn’t stop the NFL from beginning the NFL International Series. They will once again go to London this year in an attempt to continue growing the game outside of North America. The commitment to the international growth of the game over the last few years has had its affect though as a good crop of young international players will look to try to make their mark this year. The 2013 draft would feature the biggest and best crop of international talent ever seen in the draft. First there was Ziggy Ansah the BYU product who joined the football team after growing up in Ghana and going to BYU to play basketball but ending up on the football field. Ansah would be joined by Margus Hunt from Estonia, Bjoern Werner from Germany, and Menelik Watson from England. They would be joined later by free agent signee and former British Olympian Lawrence Okoye who has never played football before. Not every one of these players will make their teams but almost all have a very good shot. These players are the best crop of players from outside of North America and they could end up being the start to a new era for international players.

 

PEDs Invading NFL?

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The sports world has been dominated by the invasion of PEDs into the sports consciousness with nobody seemingly safe. The MLB has been the league to take the biggest hits with the Mitchell Report and the Bigoenesis Scandal. Meanwhile superstars like Lance Armstrong have fallen from the pedestal they used to stand on after they were revealed as cheaters. The biggest league in North America has stayed relatively out of the conversation though. The NFL has stayed out of the headlines when it comes to PEDs although the general consensus is that the testing in the NFL is nowhere near any other sport. That may all change this year as the NFL and NFLPA have decided to institute Human Growth Hormone testing in the league. For years experts have believed that the NFL is full of cheaters with men looking inhuman on the field. The league has never had the ability or the want to test these men to see if there is something more to their physique and their strength. After pressure from the public and the government the league will finally establish that ability and with the agreement of the NFLPA they will begin testing for HGH. This could mean that if the suspicious are correct there could be a lot of suspensions this year with big names falling to this new testing. League will test 40 players every week this season and with so many tests something could spring out leaving the NFL in an issue. The NFL could have a Mitchell Report style scandal on their hands although if no suspensions come out of the testing questions will still be there about how good the testing is in the NFL.

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