BY: CHRIS MAHER
The national spotlight shined on the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks as they defeated the Green Bay Packers 36-16 in the opening game of the 2014 season.
The Seahawks aim to repeat as champions, a feat that has not been done since the New England Patriots did so in 2003 and 2004.
While the defending champions relied heavily on their defense by leading the league in fewest points allowed, fewest yards allowed and takeaways, the big story coming into the new season is whether or not the amount of scoring can match the record-breaking totals put up last season.
Ten different teams, surpassed the 400 point total last season which was the greatest amount of teams that eclipsed that mark in league history, including the AFC Champion Denver Broncos who broke numerous records and became the first team in NFL history to break the 600-point barrier.
The highlight of matchups this season comes from both the AFC West and NFC West.
In additional to their bi-annual divisional games which include a prime-time Thanksgiving Day affair between the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks, these two explosive and physical divisions will be squaring off during the year including a rematch of Super Bowl XLVIII in Week 3 when the Seahawks visit Denver.
Two teams that exceeded expectations under first-year coaches last season will also meet in the back end of Monday Night Football’s Week One doubleheader as the San Diego Chargers visit the Arizona Cardinals.
Following that contest, the Chargers will showcase their high-powered passing attack in their home opener against Seattle on FOX in a nationally-televised affair.
Although not widely recognized, several in-state rivalries will be resumed including the St. Louis Rams visiting the upstart Kansas City Chiefs in Week Eight and the 49ers crossing the Bay Bridge to visit the Oakland Raiders in Week 14.
The Raiders also visit St. Louis in a battle of former Los Angeles football franchises in Week 13.
Another year also means more coaches potentially on the hot seat.
The Dallas Cowboys have missed the playoffs by virtue of losing on the final day of the season each of the three seasons Jason Garrett has been at the helm.
If the Cowboys cannot prove to get over the hump and compete in a division that is certainly winnable, it is hard to imagine Garrett keeping his job.
Since taking over in 2003, Marvin Lewis has yet to lead the Cincinnati Bengals to a playoff victory despite ranking third in total defense with Pro-Bowl linebacker Vontaze Burfict leading the way.
Offensively, they hope to avoid critical turnovers late in a game, which did them in during the playoffs last season. It will be interesting to see how their running game will look now that Giovanni Bernard will get the bulk of the carries.
Seven new coaches also enter their first season with new teams including Lovie Smith and Ken Whisenhunt, who both had prior NFL head coaching experiencing.
Smith takes over a Tampa Bay Buccaneers club that has not been to the playoffs since 2007 and ranked dead-last in total offense last season while having a young and inexperienced defense.
Whisenhunt takes over in Tennessee where they hope to provide a force that can compete with the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC South.