Whilst we are still basking in the (glorious?) summer, autumn isn't far away and that means the NFL season is awaiting. Neil Monnery gives us his early views on how things will go.
"For the first time Russell Wilson has a legit top-tier talent to throw the ball to and that defence isn't getting any worse. Seattle are the best team on paper and despite the fact I hate picking the favourites, I expect them to show it on the field."
I don't think many NFL fans will forget the ending to Super Bowl XLIX in a hurry. For those who can't recall, the Seattle Seahawks were one yard and one play away from back-to-back championships but somehow threw it all away. The Betfair exchange isn't too concerned about a potential mental hangover as they are trading as 5.85/1 favourites and it isn't all that surprising.
Russell Wilson has been without a great pair of hands to throw the ball to in his time as quarterback of the franchise but the arrival of Jimmy Graham from the New Orleans Saints, that has all changed. The 6ft 7" Tight End has caught 51 Touchdowns in his five-year career and gives Wilson that elite target that he has been missing.
If you don't think it is a big move, please read what his new manager said about him after he moved to the Seahawks: "He is as special as a tight end can get. He is big, he is fast, and he is athletic as a guy can be. What I am counting on is him complementing the guys and making everybody better. I think we will hopefully be able to add to his game - he is planning on that - and he is going to help us, help Doug [Baldwin]. He is going to help the running game, and the running game is going to help him. There is a lot of stuff that is going to work together here, and I think it is a big, big positive for us."
You can tell that he is rather excited.
The big rivals for the Seahawks to get the NFC berth in the Super Bowl are the Green Bay Packers. One of the model franchises with an elite QB under center in the form of Aaron Rodgers. The Packers didn't make many splashy moves in the season but did release AJ Hawk, who had been one of the best linebackers in the country. Keeping the nucleus of that team together is all they had to do as they were extremely competitive last season. At 7.613/2 to win the Super Bowl, the Packers are unsurprisingly trading at short odds.
Elsewhere in the NFC, the Cowboys are third favourites at 21.020/1 and while re-signing Dez Bryant to a long-term agreement in huge for them, as is the return of Sean Lee from injury, letting DeMarco Murray leave is a hammer blow. They have been linked with a trade for Adrian Peterson for a long time but he seems to have kissed and made up with the Minnesota Vikings (otherwise known as restructured his contract to give him more guaranteed money) so that looks like it is off the table and the lack of a primary running back in Dallas worries me.
Over in the AFC, the same three teams are leading the field once again. The Colts 11.521/2, the Patriots 12.011/1 and the Broncos 18.017/1 are the three teams that most pundits expect to be competitive along with the Ravens 24.023/1 who are always dangerous when it comes to the play-offs.
New England's big question mark is about Tom Brady's four-game ban for 'deflategate'. Watch that situation closely because if that bans gets significantly reduced or even quashed altogether then expect their odds to tumble. They are the defending Super Bowl champions and as long as the Bill Belichick/Tom Brady combination is still going strong then they will be there or thereabouts.
The Indianapolis Colts are the sexy pick. Andrew Luck is probably the most heralded QB to have come out of college since Peyton Manning and he threw for 40 touchdowns last season. TY Hilton had a breakout year and for the 2015 he'll be joined in the wide receiving corps by Andre Johnson. If the former Houston Texan has anything left in the tank, then he'll be a great foil for Hilton. The Colts play in a stinky division and they'll waltz through the AFC South with ease and 1.282/7 might even be too long.
The other team who will attract pre-season money on the exchange will be the Denver Broncos. I suspect punters will be wary because of Peyton Manning's shocking end to the 2014/2015 campaign. The big question is whether it was old age or injury that slowed down the future first ballot Hall of Famer. Ryan Clady, who is the best Left Tackle in the game is out for the season with an ACL injury, so he won't be protecting Peyton's blind-side. Julius Thomas and Pot Roast have both moved on therefore you get the sense that the Broncos window may be closely rapidly. The Broncos play in a tough division and as much as it pains me to say it, I think Peyton retires with less rings than his much less talented brother.
The NFC is the strongest of the two and both Seattle and Green Bay look terrific. I am swayed towards Seattle because of Jimmy Graham. For the first time Russell Wilson has a legit top-tier talent to throw the ball to and that defence isn't getting any worse. They are the best team on paper and despite the fact I hate picking the favourites, I expect them to show it on the field.
Back Seattle Seahawks to win the Super Bowl at 5.69/2