Every year, fans of all teams feel as if they have a chance at winning it all. Although lots of these fans may be considered delusional, if a team plays their cards right, anything can happen. I will be writing 8 articles about why each team can win the whole thing, and each article will cover 2 divisions, 1 from each conference. This week, we will be taking a look at the NFC & AFC North divisions and how each respective team can earn a spot in the big game, and win the sacred Lombardi Trophy. The teams will be listed in the order of how they placed in 2017. Some teams may be shorter than others, depending on if they have a realistic chance or nor.
The Vikings finally got a franchise quarterback when they signed Kirk Cousins to a 3 year/$84,000,000 deal. Cousins will look to bolster the Vikings’ offense, and lead them over the hump. In 2017 with the Washington Redskins, Kirk Cousins threw for 4,093 yards, 27 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions. Great numbers. The NFL has not seen a quarterback of his caliber hit the open market since Peyton Manning’s departure from the Indianapolis Colts in 2012, and the Vikings were fortunate enough to land the 29 year old gun slinger. How can the acquisition of Kirk Cousins win the Vikings the Super Bowl? Well, it’s pretty obvious. For a team with as much talent on both sides of the ball as the Vikings to improve at quarterback tremendously via free agency as they did boosts their chances by a lot. However, there may be some critics that will argue that the Vikings had a solid quarterback in 2017, and still failed to reach the Super Bowl. Case Keenum did really good last year. He basically blew any projections and expectations out of the water with his superb play in 2017, but can we really trust Keenum to replicate that success in 2018? Only time will tell. One thing is crystal clear though… the Vikings now have a proven passer who will make his teammates better. Also, second year running back Dalvin Cook is returning from a season-ending injury, which should provide the Vikings an instant boost in their rushing attack. Although many teams in this series can be considered pipe dreams to win Super Bowl LIII, the Minnesota Vikings are true contenders.
The Lions had a solid year in 2017. They recorded a 9-7 record, and finished just outside the NFL Playoffs. But how can the Lions get into the Super Bowl? Well quite honestly, it is not going to be easy by any means. Detroit will play the Packers and Vikings a total of 4 times, and those 4 games are going to be most critical for the success of this team. It is no secret that the Lions don’t have a good chance, if not any chance at all, to win the NFC North in 2018. If the Lions want any shot at Super Bowl LIII, they’re going to have to do it the hard, gritty, sometimes frustrating, and always nerve-racking way. Through the wild card. With a crowded division featuring the Vikings and Packers, the Lions are going to have to fight with teams like the Panthers, Falcons, Saints, and even the Packers. Obviously, one of the three NFC South teams listed will win the division, so that leaves Detroit with three main competitors for one of the 2 wild card spots in the NFC. It is not going to be easy, but all the Lions need is a chance. With the selection of Kerryon Johnson, the Lions look like they may finally have a rushing attack that has been missing for years. First and foremost, the Lions must take care of business in their most winnable games in order to have some room for error against powerhouses like the Packers and Vikings. If the Lions can sweep the Bears, and atleast split the 4 games with the Packers and Vikings, they may have a good shot for the playoffs.
Green Bay Packers
The 2017 Green Bay Packers can be described with one word, “unfortunate”. Any time a teams franchise quarterback suffers a season-ending injury, the season is practically a wash 9 times out of 10 (yes Eagles fans we know). Although Rodgers went down with a collar bone injury, the Packers still finished with a 7-9 record which is not terrible, however it is not good. With Rodgers back, and a solid running back core, the Packers are due for a bounce-back year. However, is Rodgers returning enough for the Packers to have a realistic chance at hoisting the Lombardi in Atlanta in February? Maybe, maybe not. In my research, many experts have the Pack finishing as high as 12-4, and even as low as 9-7. The Vikings performance will be critical for the success of the Packers, as Green Bay having home-field advantage can be deadly in the playoffs. Even if the Packers go into the playoffs facing a team that they should not beat, being in Green Bay might be all they need. With temperatures going as low as 0 degrees some nights, it makes it hard for a team like the Los Angeles Rams for example to succeed. The Packers chance at the Lombardi not only relies on Aaron Rodgers, but the defense on the other side of the ball. If the defense can perform well, I think the Packers are as good as anyone in the NFL. Defense wins championships.
Here we are. Another year of Bears football. Now, before I get more in-depth with the Chicago Bears and their shot at Super Bowl LIII, I must warn you of how sick and tired I am of hearing about how the Bears might finally come out of the NFC North cellar and perform well. Every year, their always seems to be a few fans that pick the Bears to be in the Super Bowl, with no realistic premise at all. Ladies and Gentleman, if Vince Lombardi was coaching the Chicago Bears and they had Tom Brady under center I would not buy into them having success until I see it on the field. Anyways, let’s talk about how the Bears could in fact win Super Bowl LIII. Their chances rely on one thing and one thing only… the performance of the team. WAIT! I know what you’re thinking. “Well of course it does”. But there is more to it than just that. The Chicago Bears have the puzzle pieces, and now just have to put it together. They have a great running back, a young quarterback that is ready to take the next step, and a defense that ranked number 10 in the NFL last year. However, the Bears simply have not put it together the past couple years. Five straight last place finishes in the NFC North. Is this the year the Bears finally break out of their shell and play the way they should play given the pieces on their team? We will have to see.
The Steelers appear to always be in the conversation as to who is going to hoist the Lombardi in February. The offense for the Steelers is tremendous. Any time a team has arguably the best running back and wide receiver on the same team, they can be Super Bowl contenders. Now, the Steelers main two competitors in 2018 are the Patriots and Jaguars, and a lot of their success hinges on the performances of those teams. But, the Steelers appear to be almost if not already a lock to win the AFC North, which will only help them come playoff time with home-field advantage. If the Steelers want to win the Super Bowl, they are going to have to win a lot of close games against tough teams. However, if the Steelers play well against their division, they should have no problem finding their way into the playoffs. The Steelers 2017 season will come down to coaching, and the performance of Ben Roethlisberger and the two other AFC powerhouses. The Steelers, along with the Vikings and even the Packers, are legitimate contenders in 2018.
The Ravens are one of the hardest teams to project in 2018. They have the defense, but do they have enough left in the tank of Joe Flacco to make a legitimate run in 2018? If Flacco doesn’t have it, is Lamar Jackson ready to run an NFL style offense? Two big questions. One of them the Ravens will not have to answer if Flacco succeeds early in the season, but if Flacco comes out of the gate struggling, it will be interesting to see where head coach John Harbaugh goes with the quarterback position. This year, the Ravens season hinges on Joe Flacco, and Joe Flacco only. If Flacco succeeds, the Ravens have a decent shot at LIII, but if he struggles, it is over.
This one is a stretch. I don’t think the Bengals have any shot at Super Bowl LIII, but anything can happen. It is going to take a lot of gritty, close games, and some luck. If the Bengals come out of the gate and start 2-0 as their first two games are against the Colts and Ravens, they may have a slim chance. With head coach Marvin Lewis being 0-7 in the playoffs as a head coach, the Bengals may have to get rid of him before getting any real recognition in Super Bowl talk. But to sum it up, the Bengals chances at hoisting the Lombardi in February is going to take a lot of luck and fortune.
Oh my. 0-16. It simply cannot get any worse for the Browns. Instead of focusing on how the Browns have little to no chance at Super Bowl LIII, I’ll focus on the positives for this young team. The Browns drafted Baker Mayfield #1 overall. They finally have a proven quarterback in Tyrod Taylor to help groom the young gun slinger, and they appear ready to take a step forward in 2018 with an upgraded team. Browns fans, if you’re reading this, you have bright things ahead of you. Just hang in there and you will be glad that you did in a few years.
Next week we will be going over the NFC & AFC South divisions and discussing how their respective teams can lift the Lombardi in February 2018.