The 2014 NFL season starts on Thursday and here are five players primed for a big year on the road to Super Bowl XLIX.
Tom Brady (New England Patriots quarterback)
Despite New England making it to yet another AFC Championship Game last time out, Brady had a down year statistically as he struggled to gel with a group of young wide receivers. But with those guys one year older and Rob Gronkowski healthy at the start of the season, the future Hall of Famer could well bounce back in a big way during this campaign. Expect him to compete for the NFL MVP title as the Patriots get even better.
JJ Watt (Houston Texans defensive end)
Fresh off signing a contract that has made him the highest-paid defensive player in NFL history, Watt will explode this year. He was exceptional last season despite Houston's dreadful record, recording 10.5 sacks despite being double - and, at times, triple-teamed. With the addition of first overall pick Jadeveon Clowney meaning opponents can commit fewer players to stopping Watt, expect that sack total to get closer to the 20.5 he managed the year before " or even surpass it.
Eddie Lacy (Green Bay Packers running back)
With Aaron Rodgers injured for much of last season, Lacy stepped up outstandingly as a rookie when amassing 1,435 total yards. Green Bay are now moving to an up-tempo offence and seem committed to the running game, a combination that should ensure the former Alabama man avoids the dreaded 'sophomore slump'. So impressive was Lacy that it is not a stretch to think that he could well end up being the best half-back in the entire league this season.
Von Miller (Denver Broncos outside linebacker)
Injuries and off-field issues stunted Miller's progress in 2013, yet he remains one of the premier pass-rushers in the league. With new signing and future Hall of Famer DeMarcus Ware coming in to form one of the most fearsome outside-linebacker combinations in the entire NFL, expect the former second overall pick's sack total to go up significantly and maybe even threaten Michael Strahan's all-time record of 22.5.
Russell Wilson (Seattle Seahawks quarterback)
It seems strange to put Wilson in this category given his successful second season brought a Super Bowl triumph. While their quarterback was extremely impressive, few would argue the Seahawks' success was mainly thanks to a defence that ranks among the best of all-time. Wilson, though, made significant strides himself last year and has looked exceptionally good in pre-season. As such, a campaign in which he catapults himself among the very best quarterbacks in the NFL can be expected.