2016 NFL Preview: 5 Stories to Watch

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The NFL is the king of North American sports as there is no league that has grown as fast or as much as the National Football League.

In fifty years they have gone from a game played by part-time players with fans on the fringe to one of the biggest sports brands in the world.

They have surpassed every other league to become the true past-time for the USA and have massive fans everywhere else in the world.

The league is massive but there are some major questions for the league as they have reached their highest heights.

Overall the biggest question as they head into their 51st season in the Super Bowl era is how much further can they really go.

They are a league that has hit almost every major market in the USA, they have their own TV network, they have their own film division, they are making more money off of TV deals than anyone else, and they have gone into the digital realm in a bigger way than most other leagues.

They have done everything that a league aspires to and they are doing it all pretty well.

The players are making more money every year with contracts rising year-by-year and the owners are making massive amounts as well.

There are plenty of issues to solve within the league as player safety and discipline have been the major stories throughout the last few seasons.

In the bigger picture though the NFL is like any other business throughout the word, they are always trying to get bigger and look ahead to the next thing.

After all, that is the only way the NFL can stay on top because if they decide to rest and not evolve they will be surpassed by another league.

Where they have come from is a great thing and is now the blueprint for many leagues but looking ahead there doesn’t seem to be a lot of room.

In terms of expansion, there are not many places for them to go as Los Angeles now has a team and Las Vegas may soon have a team.football-sidebar

The places that they left may want a team but stadium issues won’t likely be resolved in time to make a difference in bringing back a team.

There isn’t a lot more to do on TV either as they continue to get massive ratings and getting networks to pay massive sums for the rights to show the games.

It is an interesting place for the league but a difficult one as well with limited options on how they can stay ahead of everyone else.

That is where expansion to other countries comes in as the league may look to expand to new places in order to continue their growth.

Not only do they have ceilings to manage but the sport, in general, is suffering from concern over injuries.

Registration for football is down as concussions continue to be big news and many parents becoming concerned over the potential injuries that the sport.

The NFL is massive right now but they want to get bigger and that is the challenge for the next fifty years.

They begin that journey this year as they deal with their own internal issues and look to the future as they prepare to continue their growth.

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The NFL has become so big that they are constantly under the microscope and as a result, the stars of the game are held to a high standard. In the past players were simply allowed to do whatever they wanted to do with little repercussions. They were bigger than anyone and so they rarely saw many people expose the issues they had. That is no longer the case as players are watched constantly and if they step out of line there are more than a few people there to tell them. Although sometimes it isn’t that serious there are times where players have gotten into some serious trouble because they are no longer allowed to do whatever they want. These players are now needing to be careful and act properly as they can no longer get away with things. As more suspensions are handed out though the controversy has somewhat switched from players acting badly to the man who hands down the punishment. Roger Goodell spent a few years in the good graces of fans after he took over for Pete Rozelle. It wasn’t long before the hate started to come though and it started in 2012 when a bounty system was discovered in New Orleans. The result of that discovery was the most severe punishment in NFL history with team officials and players being suspended anywhere from half a season to indefinitely. For many, the punishment was too severe especially when you consider that the proof of those who participated was sparse at best. Since that time suspensions handed down by Goodell have come under fire for being arbitrary and handed down with little to no evidence. Whether it was his indecision in the Ray Rice case, his Josh Gordon decision, or now his Brady decision the power that Goodell has in suspensions has been considered one of the biggest issues facing the league. This season there is sure to be something else that Goodell will need to deal with and there is certain to be people who do not like it. Whether he will make a decision to give up that power or continue despite all of the demands remains to be seen but it seems like this will remain a headline throughout the year as his level of power is coming under fire in a big way and his legacy as the commissioner is slowly being defined.

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Since 1995 the NFL has had one city in their minds as a major goal to make the league complete, Los Angeles. After all, it is one of the biggest cities in the USA and is considered a hub for the western part of the country. Not to mention the possibilities with TV as one of the two cities in the league that is home to almost every major network. Los Angeles has always been a hub for everything in the USA much like New York is to the east. With every other major league having a team there the NFL was the only one without and it was a big gap in the NFL. That was until recently when talk of a team in LA began to grow as investors had brought plans to the NFL to create stadiums and expansion became the focus. That focus turned quickly to relocation instead when three teams ran into walls in trying to get new stadiums in their cities. With most cities now refusing to help billionaire owners pay for state-of-the-art stadiums, teams were stuck with out of date homes and little to no possibility of hosting a Super Bowl. Los Angeles became the city that everyone used to try to convince their cities to build those stadiums. When cities still stood strong the plans began with the Raiders, Rams, and Chargers all beginning to think seriously about moving. Last year those plans came to fruition when the NFL looked at the two major plans, one to move both the Raiders and the Chargers into the same stadium in Carson and one to move the Rams to a new stadium in Inglewood. The league approved the Rams’ plan and gave the Chargers the option of moving into the same stadium to be built in Inglewood. The Chargers have yet to make their official decision, the Raiders will get an option if the Chargers say no, but the Rams have already moved. This year will be the first in over 20 years where the NFL will play regular season games in Los Angeles as the Rams have brought the league back to Los Angeles. Now the question will be whether or not the fans make good on their promise to show up to games, especially as the Rams play in the LA Coliseum while their stadium is being built.

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The NFL is welcoming a team to Los Angeles this year and soon they could be going to Las Vegas if the Raiders get their wish. That leaves very little cities that make sense for an NFL expansion team as even the places that may be without a team are not the biggest markets. The NFL, like every league, wants to expand though as new teams bring more revenue to the league. It brings in at least two new big paydays from the franchise costs and allows the NFL to spread even further. The SUA doesn’t seem like an option though and that has led many to wonder about the possibilities outside of the USA. There are some options close to home according to some as countries north and south of the USA seem to be interested. There have been rumours since the Buffalo Bills began playing north of the border that Toronto is on the radar for an NFL team. It is not out of the realm of possibility as Toronto is already the home to major leagues as the only international teams in the MLB and NBA. The Bills games at the Rogers Centre were well received at first but ticket sales fell as the years went on and the event wasn’t as special. Ticket prices were a major reason for the decline as well with expensive ticket prices to see a team that was far from competitive at the time. Toronto is the fourth largest city in North America and is the centre for a Canadian market, just look at the success of the Blue Jays as Canada’s baseball team. Some rumours have also surfaced that the NFL would like to go to Mexico City, the largest city in North America, where they can tap into the large Mexican fan base that they have. They have hosted a game there in 2005 and will return to Estadio Azteca this year when Houston and Oakland travel to Mexico City. For many that game is considered a test to see the potential. Of course, there is also the rumours of the NFL in London as the plans for games overseas are growing every year. They will play twice at Wembley this year and once at Twickenham Stadium as it seems like Goodell is determined to at least begin hosting one game a week if not putting a team there. The expansion talk will continue as the NFL once again travels outside of the USA this year with all eyes looking to see the potential of new stadiums and new cities.

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He has been one of the league’s biggest superstars over the last decade and comes into a new season with nobody to challenge him as the greatest quarterback on the field. Tom Brady has been at the top of his game for a long time now and with Peyton Manning retiring at the end of last season there really is no challenger as the greatest in the league. He would love nothing more than to add another Super Bowl to his resume this year only building his great legacy. It will be slightly tougher though as Brady will not be on the field for the first four games of the year. That is because of the ongoing drama of what many like to call “Deflategate.” That is, of course, the controversy surrounding the playoffs in 2015 when the Indianapolis Colts complained that the balls used by Brady and the New England Patriots were underinflated. In theory that could make them easier to grip meaning, they would be easier to throw and easier to catch. An investigation was launched and the NFL determined that the Patriots had under-inflated the balls during that game, whether it had a real effect is still up for debate, and they began looking for someone to blame. It wasn’t the first time that the Patriots had done something against the rules and so the team was clearly going to be punished. The biggest question was whether or not Brady had told the equipment managers to deflate the balls or if it was just a mistake. There were reportedly text messages on the phones of the equipment managers claiming that Brady had told them although they never used his name. When Brady went in to plead his case he went in without a phone as he had destroyed the phone before the league could take a look at it reportedly because he was concerned about personal information getting out. The NFL announced a four-game suspension for the 2015 season but that was overturned in court when the lack of evidence let Brady play all year. Another appeal this year brought the suspension back and now he will sit out four games while Jimmy Garoppolo takes over. The incident has brought more criticism of Roger Goodell while also putting the Patriots in the spotlight for the wrong reasons again and there is little doubt that everyone will be talking about this suspension the entire season even after Brady returns.

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The Denver Broncos come into the year as the defending champions and as with every defending champion they have a lot of questions. Every year the champions come into their next season wary of the Super Bowl hangover that seems to sink so many formerly great teams. The hangover is a bit of a myth though as it is less about what the players did in the off-season and more about the players that took a payday on the heels of a championship. Every championship team has a number of players in their last year on a contract and winning a championship gives them more power in negotiations. Most of these players end up leaving their teams in order to get a bigger payday somewhere else. Teams are willing to give that big payday because these players bring in a championship pedigree. That ring brings respect but also expectations for players who look to be the guy in another city. The hangover is really just the attempt to overcome the losses of important players in one off-season. The Broncos now have to do just that as they look to move on from a lot of off-season changes. Most notably they will need to find a quarterback as Peyton Manning retired after winning his second championship. Manning was not the reason for winning the title but the plans for his successor were destroyed pretty quickly. Brock Osweiler was to be his replacement but he left for Houston leaving the Broncos scrambling to find someone eventually signing Mark Sanchez, who was cut at the end of the preseason, and drafting Paxton Lynch. Trevor Siemian will have the unenviable task of replacing Manning for the time-being but that is far from an easy task. The defence will see more important losses as Danny Trevathan and Malik Jackson both left leaving two massive holes in what was a great front seven. That front seven was a big reason for the championship and replacing two key pieces in the same year is a very tough task. If they can they will be one of the few to get over the hangover and get back into the playoffs. If they can’t overcome those losses this could be one of the worst falls for a champion in recent memory as the Broncos are looking to stay on top but without the same roster may have a tough time getting there.

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