NFL Team By Team

Written by Square in the Air

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With the return of the NFL regular season just over a fortnight away, we’ve put together a team-by-team preview on each of the 32 franchises to get existing American football spread bettors and newcomers to the sport alike excited ahead of the 2014/15 season. This edition will focus on the 16 teams that make up the American Football Conference (AFC), while part two will turn its eye to those which comprise the National Football Conference (NFC).


Without further ado…


Buffalo Bills

Summary: Renowned for their ability to throw the best tailgate parties in the NFL, the Bills’ recent performances on the field are less to write home about. It has now been 14 seasons since they reached a playoff and the franchise is currently up for sale, placing significant pressure on head coach Doug Marrone and general manager Doug Whaley to finally end the drought or risk losing their positions.

Established: 1960
Stadium: Ralph Wilson Stadium, Orchard Park, New York
Playoff Appearances: 17
League Championships: 2
NFL 2013-14 Season: 6-10 (4th in AFC East)
Head Coach: Doug Marrone

Miami Dolphins

Summary: Bizarrely, the franchise may be best known outside of NFL fans’ sphere of knowledge for their appearance in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. Said film featured Dan Marino, the quarterback being one of the most synonymous players in the franchise’s history, and the Dolphins’ inability to replace him after retirement has become something of a running joke. Ryan Tannehill looked like he would finally end the hoodoo, but a subpar sophomore year last season means 2014-15 will be make or break time for the 26 year old.

Established: 1966
Stadium: Sun Life Stadium, Miami Gardens, Florida
Playoff Appearances: 22
League Championships: 2
NFL 2013-14 Season: 8-8 (3rd in AFC East)
Head Coach: Joe Philbin 

New England Patriots

Summary: The Patriots arguably have the NFL’s best head coach in Bill Belichick, and one of the best quarterbacks in Tom Brady, though the latter is getting on a bit now at 37. Together, they have won three Super Bowls (and made five Super Bowl appearances in total) since 2001 and are currently on a streak of 11 seasons with double digit wins. The franchise are easily the strongest in their division, and the addition of Darrelle Revis, a five-time Pro Bowl cornerback, gives them a great shot at this season’s title.

Established: 1959
Stadium: Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Massachusetts
Playoff Appearances: 19
League Championships: 3
NFL 2013-14 Season: 12-4 (Won AFC East, Lost in AFC Championship Game)
Head Coach: Bill Belichick 

New York Jets

Summary: Almost as renowned as Barcelona for passing it sideways (less so for their results), the Jets’ head coach Rex Ryan specialises in defensive tactics. He made the playoffs in his first two seasons in charge, but has been on somewhat of a decline since. He enters this season in the last year of his contract having been told by the owner a .500 finish (50% win ratio) won’t be satisfactory. There are issues at quarterback, too, with neither Geno Smith nor the controversial Michael Vick considered adequate.

Established: 1960
Stadium: MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, New Jersey
Playoff Appearances: 14
League Championships: 1
NFL 2013-14 Season: 8-8 (2nd in AFC East)
Head Coach: Rex Ryan 


Baltimore Ravens

Summary: Having landed the Vince Lombardi trophy (awarded to the Super Bowl winners) in 2012-13, the Ravens underwhelming title defence saw them fail to get out of their division last term – the first time they haven’t qualified in John Harbaugh’s six years as head coach. More concerning, the possible jail-term and at least two game NFL suspension for three-time Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice will be a big blow, but the core of the Ravens’ squad is still made up of playoff veterans. Expect them to make a better go of things this time around.

Established: 1996
Stadium: M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore, Maryland
Playoff Appearances: 9
League Championships: 2
NFL 2013-14 Season: 8-8 (2nd in AFC North)
Head Coach: John Harbaugh 

Cincinnati Bengals

Summary: Having been a perennial laughingstock for much of their existence, the Bengals have experienced something of a makeover in recent times. They’ve qualified for the play-offs for the last three seasons in a row (and in four of the last five) and have one of the best drafting and development models in the NFL. With these newly raised expectations, Bengals fans will be hoping their team can progress beyond the hurdle of the first round that has felled them in each of the last three seasons.

Established: 1968
Stadium: Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati, Ohio
Playoff Appearances: 12
League Championships: 0
NFL 2013-14 Season: 11-5 (Won AFC North, lost in AFC Wildcard Playoffs)
Head Coach: Marvin Lewis 

Cleveland Browns

Summary: Something of a dormant (or maybe extinct) giant in NFL, the Browns were one of the sport’s most dominant forces from the 40’s through to the 80’s, making 27 playoff appearances and winning eight league championships, before the franchise was relocated to become the Baltimore Ravens in 1995. The Browns returned in 1999 as an expansion franchise, and have reached just one playoff since. Though they are solid defensively, the lack of a dominant offence is an issue, especially now that they will be without Josh Gordon. The star wide receiver is set to serve a year-long suspension for a second failed drugs test.

Established: 1946
Stadium: FirstEnergy Stadium, Cleveland, Ohio
Playoff Appearances: 28
League Championships: 8
NFL 2013-14 Season: 4-12 (4th in AFC North)
Head Coach: Mike Pettine

Pittsburgh Steelers

Summary: One of the most iconic franchises in the NFL, having collected a plethora of Super Bowl Championships in the 70’s, the Steelers have been a stalwart fixture in the playoffs throughout their history. More recently however, they’ve missed out for the last three seasons in a row, and will be keen to halt this slide towards mediocrity. A poor start of four defeats on the bounce put paid to their chances last term, and Mike Tomlin has been brutally unsentimental in his change-up of the locker room during the offseason.

Established: 1933
Stadium: Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Playoff Appearances: 27
League Championships: 6
NFL 2013-14 Season: 8-8 (2nd in AFC North)
Head Coach: Mike Tomlin


Houston Texans

Summary: The NFL’s youngest franchise, the Texans are yet to make much of a splash in the division, having only appeared in the playoffs twice during their 12 year history. They were expected to reach the playoffs again last year, but endured a torrid season which included a 14 game losing streak. The upside to this was that they were granted the number one draft pick, which saw them pick up the much vaunted Jadeveon Clowney, arguably the best player available. However, there were some grumbles that this was at the expense of a much-needed quality quarterback.

Established: 2002
Stadium: NRG Stadium, Houston, Texas
Playoff Appearances: 2
League Championships: 0
NFL 2013-14 Season: 2-14 (4th in AFC South)
Head Coach: Bill O’Brien

Indianapolis Colts

Summary: The Colts have reached the playoffs for the last eleven seasons in a row, though could only convert this consistency into one Super Bowl Championship (in 2006). They’ve had a tumultuous post-season, bearing witness to the arrest of owner Jim Isray and a four game suspension handed to outside linebacker Robert Mathis. That said, in Andrew Luck, they have one of the NFL’s most promising quarterbacks, and in terms of talent across the board, it’s hard to see how they can fail to extend this playoff run another year.

Established: 1953
Stadium: Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, Indiana
Playoff Appearances: 26
League Championships: 4
NFL 2013-14 Season: 11-5 (Won AFC South, lost in AFC Divisional Playoff)
Head Coach: Chuck Pagano

Jacksonville Jaguars

Summary: There’s a belief that the Jaguars haven’t really found a proper place in the NFL since their formation in 1993, to the extent that there was even a recent rumour of a shock franchise relocation to London. The Jags have failed to win higher than half of their games for the last five years, but they have taken strides to buck that trend. They were regarded to have made some of the best draft moves in the division during the offseason, adding the likes of Allen Robinson, Zane Beadles and Marqise Lee.

Established: 1993
Stadium: EverBank Field, Jacksonville, Florida
Playoff Appearances: 6
League Championships: 0
NFL 2013-14 Season: 4-12 (3rd in AFC south)
Head Coach: Gus Bradley 

Tennessee Titans

Summary: No, not the team featured in the Denzel Washington flick Remember the Titans, rather one based in Nashville. The Titans have a superb quarterback in Jake Locker, however he has been plagued by a string of injury problems over the last two seasons, and is beginning to make a case for himself as the NFL’s Michael Owen. In head coach Ken Whisenhunt, however, the team have what’s known as a ‘quarterback whisperer’. Whisenhunt is credited as the man responsible for the careers of a number of legends, so there’s hope yet that he can weave his magic on Locker.

Established: 1960
Stadium: Saint Thomas Sports Park, Nashville, Tennessee
Playoff Appearances: 21
League Championships: 2
NFL 2013-14 Season: 7-9 (2nd in AFC South)
Head Coach: Ken Whisenhunt 


Denver Broncos

Summary: The Broncos are all about Peyton Manning. Considered one of the greatest ever quarterbacks, Manning is regarded as a sure-fire future Hall of Famer, but at 37-years-old there are question marks over just how long he can keep his evergreen quality going. Praised for their offensive style, they reached the Super Bowl last time around and are regarded as the AFC’s best positioned franchise to claim the Vince Lombardi trophy.

Established: 1960
Stadium: Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Denver, Colorado
Playoff Appearances: 20
League Championships: 2
NFL 2013-14 Season: 13-3 (Eliminated at Super Bowl)
Head Coach: John Fox 

Kansas City Chiefs

Summary: Having ended 2013 with a 2-14 record, reaching the playoffs last year was a remarkable turnaround. The Chiefs have one of the NFL’s finest running backs in Jamaal Charles – the Texan currently heads up the all-time yards-per-carry average rankings. They weren’t considered to have a successful draft however, taking a leaf from Southampton’s book with weaker incoming players than outgoing. In particular, the release of Pro Bowl cornerback Brandon Flowers has raised many an eyebrow.

Established: 1960
Stadium: Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, Missouri
Playoff Appearances: 17
League Championships: 4
NFL 2013-14 Season: 11-5 (2nd in AFC West, lost in AFC Wild Card Playoffs)
Head Coach: Andy Reid 

Oakland Raiders

Summary: The Raiders’ halcyon days of the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s have dried up around the turn of the millennium, and the team haven’t reached the playoffs since 2002. The last two seasons have proven particular barren, finishing last in the AFC West with consecutive 4-12 records. They head into this season with what many consider to be one of the hardest schedules in the division, but the drafting of previous Pro Bowl MVP quarterback Matt Schaub should give Raiders’ fans a glimmer of hope.

Established: 1960
Stadium: Coliseum, Oakland, California
Playoff Appearances: 21
League Championships: 4
NFL 2013-14 Season: 4-12 (4th in AFC West)
Head Coach: Dennis Allen 

San Diego Chargers

Summary: The Chargers crept into the playoffs last year on the back of four straight wins, despite finishing third in AFC West, but gave a solid account of themselves once they’d got there – having been edged out by the Broncos, eventual Super Bowl finalists in the AFC Divisional Playoff. They have drafted in two cornerbacks; 2013 Pro Bowl star Brandon Flowers and the exciting Jason Verrett with their first round pick. This should sure up their defence, but they are considered pretty light offensively.

Established: 1960
Stadium: Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, California
Playoff Appearances: 18
League Championships: 1
NFL 2013-14 Season: 9-7 (3rd in AFC West, lost in AFC Divisional Playoff)
Head Coach: Mike McCoy



Dallas Cowboys

Summary: It would appear the only way is up for Dallas, having earned the shame of fielding the worst defence in last season’s NFL. They retain the services of Tony Romo, the only quarterback you can rely on choking whenever Dallas may look like winning. To make matters worse they have lost Jason Hatcher, one of the few plays player to shine last year in an otherwise dire defence. One of the most decorated franchises in history, ‘America’s team’ are unlikely to give the country much to be proud of again.

Established: 1960
Stadium: AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas
Playoff Appearances: 30
League Championships: 5
NFL 2013-14 Season: 8-8 (2nd in NFC East)
Head Coach:  Jason Garrett

New York Giants

Summary: Despite eight League Championships, the Giants have come to be known as the neglected, elder son of New York, playing better football but attracting fewer headlines than their neighbours, the prodigal Jets. After spending big over the summer, Giants fans have more to look forward to than just Victor Cruz’s dancing this season however. They can also boast the epitome of a franchise quarterback in Eli Manning, who, despite a poor outing last season, can be expected to gel better with his side’s new offence.

Established: 1925
Stadium: MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, New Jersey
Playoff Appearances: 31
League Championships: 8
NFL 2013-14 Season: 7-9 (3rd in NFC East)
Head Coach: Tom Coughlin

Philadelphia Eagles

Summary: If you were playing Pontoon with the Eagles’ head coach Chip Kelly, you could count on him to twist over stick every time. Michael Vick and DeSean Jackson are out, time for Nick Foles and Darren Sproles to step in. After just one year in charge, Kelly’s side have a completely different look about them to last year.If the rumours that revered Patriots head coach Bill Belichick would travel to Oregon in order to study Kelly’s offence are true, Philly fans should have faith in a man that could take their team to the next level.

Established: 1933
Stadium: Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Playoff Appearances: 24
League Championships: 3
NFL 2013-14 Season: 10-6 (Won NFC East, lost in Wild Card Playoffs)
Head Coach: Chip Kelly

Washington Redskins

Summary: Redskins fans can be a little more optimistic this year after a change in head coach. Many will have been happy to see the back of former coach Mike Shanahan, not least of all star quarterback Robert Griffin III, who was forced to play on a weakened knee that resulted in broken ligaments. He is the player on whom fans’ hopes will rest, having shown great promise in his rookie season. If new coach Jay Gruden can bring the best out of ‘RG3’, Washington could be in for a more successful season than last year’s miserable outing.

Established: 1932
Stadium: FedExField, Landover, Maryland
Playoff Appearances: 23
League Championships: 5
NFL 2013-14 Season: 3-13 (4th in NFC East)
Head Coach: Jay Gruden


Chicago Bears

Summary: A tale of two teams, Bears laid claim to the 30th worst defence in the NFL but the second highest scoring offense last season. Attempting to address the source of the leak rather than rely on their supreme forwards to bail them out, they’ve released and drafted defensive ends. Their season will heavily depend on how much they’ve improved those positions - assuming Jay Cutler and company can pick up from where they left off last season.

Established: 1919
Stadium: Soldier Field, Chicago, Illinois
Playoff Appearances: 25
League Championships: 9
NFL 2013-14 Season: 8-8 (2nd in NFC North)
Head Coach: Marc Trestman 

Detroit Lions

Summary: With a strong roster overall, Detroit already had a clinical offence in Calvin Johnson and Reggie Bush. The fact that they’ve only strengthened it with wide receiver Golden Tate and tight end Eric Ebron is very exciting. There’s little threat of the Lions repeating their historically poor 0-16 season, but quarterback Matthew Stafford needs to step up his game and the sheer number of penalties the Lions concede, such as Ndamukong Suh’s baffling crotch kick on Matt Schaub, must be eradicated.

Established: 1929
Stadium: Ford Field, Detroit, Michigan
Playoff Appearances: 15
League Championships: 4
NFL 2013-14 Season: 7-9 (3rd in NFC North)
Head Coach: Jim Caldwell 

Green Bay Packers

Summary: Although the past four years have seen Green Bay fans celebrate one Super Bowl and three consecutive division titles, their failure to carry their momentum into the playoffs in each of the last three seasons have given fans a reason to feel frustrated. Three times they reached the post-season full of hope, only for those aspirations to be quickly dashed. The fact that they are likely to meet the Seattle Seahawks or the San Francisco 49ers there this year does not suggest this trend will change. With a fit Aaron Rodgers though perhaps anything is possible…

Established: 1919
Stadium: Lambeau Field, Green Bay, Wisconsin
Playoff Appearances: 29
League Championships: 13
NFL 2013-14 Season: 8-7-1 (Won NFC North, lost in Wild Card Playoffs)
Head Coach: Mike McCarthy 

Minnesota Vikings

Summary: After finishing bottom in the NFC North last year, Vikings fans will be hoping for a significant upturn in their fortunes. Although Christian Ponder was emblematic of that disappointment, the arrivals of Head Coach Mike Zimmer and quarterback Teddy Bridgwater give Minnesota cause for optimism. Two time NFL MVP and six time Pro Bowl running back Adrian Peterson’s name still carries the aura it deserves, but an increasing injury proneness may see him enter the twilight of his career.

Established: 1961
Stadium: TCF Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Playoff Appearances: 27
League Championships: 1
NFL 2013-14 Season: 5-10 (4th in NFC North)
Head Coach: Mike Zimmer


Atlanta Falcons

Summary: Another last placed finisher, the Falcons’ key concern this year is how to fill the void left by tight end Tony Gonzalez. His eight touchdown grabs were the highest of the Atlanta roster last year and the absence of an obvious replacement does little to allay fears of consecutive disappointing seasons. Injuries were cruel to Atlanta last year however, particularly the double loss of wide receivers Roddy White and Julio Jones, so fans can expect significant improvement from their side should the physio’s table remain relatively quiet.

Established: 1965
Stadium: Georgia Dome, Atlanta, Georgia
Playoff Appearances: 12
League Championships: 0
NFL 2013-14 Season: 4-12 (4th in NFC South)
Head Coach: Mike Smith 

Carolina Panthers

Summary: The main question this year is whether Carolina’s offensive line will allow quarterback Cam Newton to be at his most effective, as there are widespread concerns that the Panthers are heading into this year with one of the worst in the league. A top notch defence was one of the main reasons the Panthers scored an impressive 12-4 and progressed to the playoffs last year, but it may be a little fanciful to see them repeat that achievement, especially considering their offseason losses including Panthers legend Steve Smith after 12 years of service.

Established: 1993
Stadium: Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, North Carolina
Playoff Appearances: 5
League Championships: 0
NFL 2013-14 Season: 12-4 (Won NFC South, lost in Divisional Playoffs)
Head Coach: Ron Rivera

New Orleans Saints

Summary: The Saints enjoyed a solid season in 2013, despite getting beat in the divisional round by eventual Super Bowl winners Seattle. The marked improvement in New Orleans’ defence last year was astonishing but turnovers is still an aspect that needs addressing. Expectation will weigh heavy on running back Mark Ingram after the departure of his partner-in-crime Darren Sproles, but fans can be confident in quarterback Drew Brees’ ability to maintain their offensive threat.

Established: 1967
Stadium: Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, Louisiana
Playoff Appearances: 10
League Championships: 1
NFL 2013-14 Season: 11-5 (2nd in NFC South, lost in Divisional Playoffs)
Head Coach: Sean Payton 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Summary: Having averaged just 18 points per game last season and ranked 30th in scoring last year, Tampa desperately need to improve their offence. New coach Lovie Smith has teamed up with old pal quarterback Josh McCown (colleagues during their time at Chicago), so fans will be hoping the experienced pair can rekindle their former partnership and be the heart of a new look team. Reaching the playoffs for the first time since 2007 would certainly go some way to win them over.

Established: 1976
Stadium: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Florida
Playoff Appearances: 10
League Championships: 1
NFL 2013-14 Season: 4-12 (4th in NFC South)
Head Coach: Lovie Smith 


Arizona Cardinals

Summary: As part of the toughest division in the NFL, Arizona may again go 10-6 and still miss the playoffs. It’s essential to improve their 2-4 record against the rest of NFC West, even though they would likely be playoff favourites in any other division. If quarterback Carson Palmer can step up on last year, a good season may be in store for Cards fans, however the loss of linebacker Daryl Washington to a year-long drug suspension will be a significant blow.

Established: 1898
Stadium: University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Arizona
Playoff Appearances: 8
League Championships: 2
NFL 2013-14 Season: 10-6 (3rd in NFC West)
Head Coach: Bruce Arians 

St. Louis Rams

Summary: The greatest test facing the Rams this year is breaking down their division’s strong defences. The likes of left tackle Jake Long, right guard Rodger Saffold and veteran center Scott Wells will have to play as often as possible, having all experienced problems staying on the field. If Sam Bradford can become the franchise quarterback Rams fans have been looking for, St. Louis could surprise the big guns of the NFC West.

Established: 1936
Stadium: Edward Jones Dome, St. Louis, Missouri
Playoff Appearances: 27
League Championships: 3
NFL 2013-14 Season: 7-9 (4th in NFC West)
Head Coach: Jeff Fisher 

San Francisco 49ers

Summary: Colin Kaepernick has just signed an enormous contract so Niners fans will be hoping the dual-threat quarterback can justify his salary on the field. Having been within a whisker of the Super Bowl last year, an improved Kaepernick could see San Francisco go one step further, if not win the entire tournament. With one of the strongest all-round rosters in the league, Jim Harbaugh’s side will be sure to capitalise on a potential Super Bowl hangover in Seattle.

Established: 1946
Stadium: Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, California
Playoff Appearances: 26
League Championships: 5
NFL 2013-14 Season: 12-4 (2nd in NFC West, lost in NFC Championship)
Head Coach: Jim Harbaugh 

Seattle Seahawks

Summary: Seattle can confidently lay claim to having the loudest fans in the league, a fact that the Richter Scale attested to in 2011, as they certainly had plenty to shout about last year after a domineering Super Bowl triumph. Yet after significant turnover in the offseason, the Seahawks defence looks weaker and there appears to be a gaping hole in the wide receiver position with the departures of Golden Tate and Sidney Rice. Running back Marshawn Lynch’s performance will be key to their success this season, as will how carrying the weight of their defending champions’ tag.

Established: 1974
Stadium: CenturyLink Field, Seattle, Washington
Playoff Appearances: 13
League Championships: 1
NFL 2013-14 Season: 13-3 (Super Bowl winners)
Head Coach: Pete Carroll
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