Who could lift the NFL’s Vince Lombardi at next year’s Super Bowl?

Doug Pederson and Nick Foles’ side have gone from the hunters to the hunted after their success last year in the Super Bowl. (AFP)
Updated 06 September 2018

Who could lift the NFL’s Vince Lombardi at next year’s Super Bowl?

LONDON: The biggest American sporting show kicks off on Thursday, and this year’s NFL season has a lot to live up to after 2017’s remarkable turn of events. Reigning Super Bowl champions Philadelphia Eagles start us off on Thursday against the Atlanta Falcons, and all this week Arab News has previewed the teams most likely to lift the Vince Lombardi trophy next February…

New England Patriots — Everyone’s favorites before almost every season, 2018 will be the same. One of the best rosters in the history of sport for a decade, the Patriots will be a force to be reckoned with once again. Bill Bellichik and Tom Brady might not have much left in the tank, but they will want to cement their positions as the best ever with yet another Super Bowl ring.

Philadelphia Eagles — You can never count out defending champions from holding on to their title in any sport, and the Eagles are no different. C, but this settled side could well become the first NFC team to win back-to-back titles in 25 years.

Los Angeles Rams — A lot might change from opening day to the “Big One”, one team has been on a lot of people’s lips — the Los Angeles Rams. As defending NFC West Division champs, coming off an 11–5 record, they have added quality to their roster in the offseason. They will certainly go close.

Pittsburgh Steelers — Perennial favorites to win the ultimate prize, Pennsylvania’s other team have lived in the shadows of the upstart Eagles for a few years now. But last year, the Steelers went 13-3 for the season, and even though it ended in disappointment, the underlying factors that contributed to them winning so many games are still very much in place. Dark horses.

Minnesota Vikings — While they were demolished by eventual champions Philadelphia, the Vikings showed themselves to be worthy challengers for the big prize. And thanks to the incredible work by their general manager and the rest of the franchises’ front office, the Vikings are perfectly primed to chase a first ever Vince Lombardi trophy once again in 2018.

New Orleans Saints — Most people’s “second team” after their fairytale win in 2009 in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the Saints will always be a threat with Sean Payton in charge and Hall-of-Famer Drew Brees shepherding the offense. The head says whether they make it all the way will depend on how tight their defense stays throughout the year, but the heart says this storied franchise can go all the way.

Green Bay Packers — Always a force to be reckoned with, the Packers can put their horrific 2017 season behind them. The Wisconsin outfit were boosted in pre-season with the news that legendary quarterback Aaron Rodgers signed a contract extension, which will reportedly make him the highest-paid player in NFL history. Keeping him fit will be key to their chances.

Atlanta Falcons — They were desperately unlucky not to win a maiden Super Bowl championship in 2016, when they missed out to the New England Patriots. Keeping a roster fit is key to making a run at the “Big Game”, and the Falcons have done that well in recent years. If they manage it again this year and Matt Ryan fires on all cylinders, they have an outside chance.

Jacksonville Jaguars — It seems bizarre to be even saying the Jags have a shot at the Super Bowl, considering where they were just a few years ago. But after almost going all the way last year, the Jags’ defense will be the key again. If they can remove the errors on big plays in crunch games, this “possible relocation” team could go out on the biggest of bangs.

Lewis Hamilton tells rivals ‘catch me if you can’

Updated 20 February 2019

Lewis Hamilton tells rivals ‘catch me if you can’

  • Five-time world champion feeling confident of a sixth crown ahead of new season.
  • Pre-season testing going well in Barcelona.

BARCELONA: Lewis Hamilton has warned his rivals they had better get ready to catch his dust as he is feeling “better than ever” ahead of the season.
The 34-year-old Briton enjoyed a near flawless run to secure his fifth drivers’ title last year. He won 11 of the 21 races to beat Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel with two races to spare, and he expects the Italian marque to once again keep him on his toes.
“Ferrari are very strong,” Hamilton said in Barcelona on the third day of pre-season testing.
“It appears they have a better package than last year, which means it will be a bigger challenge for us.
“In the last few years, Ferrari has looked good from the very beginning so that’s to be expected.”
But he said it would be a mistake to draw any hard and fast conclusions from the evidence thrown up by testing.
“We’ll have a better idea I guess this time next week where we stand but still then we won’t know what fuel loads everybody is on and who is showing their cars and who isn’t.”
Hamilton, with a new two-year deal that will earn him £40 million ($52 million) a season, is buzzing after the winter recess.
“I feel in the best shape that I’ve been in,” he assured his fans, as he embarks on his quest for a sixth championship and record sixth consecutive constructors’ crown for Mercedes.
On a sixth title he shrugged: “I am not even focusing on that. It’s a new season, a new year, a new chapter and we have to approach like it’s our first.
“We’re going for number one, that’s how I approach it.
“But it’s not something that I allow my peers to talk about. It’s not what we are here for to focus on that number.”
He dismissed out of hand any notion of complacency setting in at his all-conquering team.
“We are always driven to do something new and to break boundaries and do stuff that no one else has done before but we are fully aware of the work that it will take to deliver something like that and it’s by no means like ‘yeah we are going for the sixth’ like it’s a relaxed thing.
“It’s not like that.”
Hamilton’s bid for title number six begins at the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne on March 17.