Super Bowl Champions (prediction at the bottom)
The favorite would be the reigning champion Seattle Seahawks and deservedly so. For them to get dethroned, it will most likely come against one of several improved NFC teams. Put the Seahawks up against another AFC opponent and I believe they repeat. With that said, defense still wins championships in an offensive-oriented league. That cancels out teams like the Atlanta Falcons and Chicago Bears, both missed the playoffs last season. The Green Bay Packers have the makings of a true contender, although the defense is still mediocre their speed might be able to cover up some holes. The Philadelphia Eagles are in line to repeat as NFC East champs, here’s just too many questions all around to roll with them. You like the Denver Broncos? Well, I like the New England Patriots and surprisingly, the Indianapolis Colts better in 2014. The Broncos will be up there and it shouldn’t surprise anyone if they got back to the promised land. I’m down on them because acquisitions like Aqib Talib, T.J. Ward, and DeMarcus Ware have been inconsistent the past few years. If the defense can’t get stops, opponents will do their best to play keep away from Peyton Manning and company, something a few teams did successfully a year ago.
I think the Patriots represent the AFC in the big game, falling short if they collide with the physical Seahawks. Again, we’re back to last year’s champion, but they have their hands full in the NFC West let alone the playoff picture. Odds are against the favorite. I don’t see the San Francisco 49ers overcoming their rival, some players in their core tend to get banged up at the wrong time and that’s part of the game. What about the New Orleans Saints? Yeah, I thought about that for a few minutes until I remembered how different they play on the road. Will it even matter though? They could very well clinch the top seed in the NFC, then again they’re depending on a nucleus of young players.
The Pats have an array of weapons at Tom Brady’s leisure. The defense got beefed up this offseason with size and experience. The Colts look great on paper. The cover-2 defense is patient enough to see if a playoff quarterback will try to squeeze a pass in between the seams that suddenly closes up. I certainly think the AFC is between the Pats and Colts, giving the edge to Bill Belichick and Tom Brady of course. The AFC dark-horse, I would say that would be the Cincinnati Bengals. They have a better duo in the backfield this season, and Andy Dalton is somewhere between game-manager and gunslinger. Do not overlook their stout defense either, those cats are real road blocks for any AFC hopeful.
The NFC is deep and if the Seahawks aren’t making it back to the final game, who is? If you have a strong gut feeling on this one, I suggest you place your bets before the season kicks off. I really like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a dark-horse team. I would not be surprised if they snatched that division away from the Saints and Carolina Panthers. The Falcons are the team expected to bounce back because of their sexy offense. The Bucs however, take another look at them. The Super Bowl is realistic for them. For instance, the 49ers were a stacked team where the defense was built during coach Mike Singletary’s tenure. That squad was inherited by Jim Harbaugh, who pushed the right buttons as a coach and found a quarterback to his pleasure. Well, the conservative Lovie Smith is now in a similar situation after the departure of Greg Schiano. Hey, the NFC South is tough and they’re in the tougher conference as well, so this pick could go either way. They’re not my pick and honestly, I just felt like they deserved to be mentioned before the season starts. You know, before the sports world jumps on their bandwagon as a “surprise team” in 2014.
I hate to do this because I root for the underdog, and my favorite team of course, but the Seahawks just look like they’re starving for greatness. The landscape of the league can change on any given Sunday (I love that movie), with injuries or big games that set the tone and send a message. Apparently, I’m not sold on any team in the NFC beating the Seahawks in January and like I mentioned earlier, they’re too physical for the Pats. I’ll tell you what though, the landscape will certainly change if Marshawn Lynch doesn’t activate beast mode. Whether it’s due to injury or wear and tear, without him I would absolutely favor the 49ers. Maybe even the Packers or Eagles, whoever improves more defensively between the two. I just don’t buy it because I see Pete Carroll spelling Lynch more this season, and perhaps working on the passing attack throughout the year to make them more well-rounded.
Seattle Seahawks over the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLIX. Scores are ridiculous to predict but let’s go with 27-21.