NFL

Identifying Super Bowl Contenders

Everyone knows that only a handful of teams have a real shot of hoisting the Lombardi come February, and today I’ll be identifying and explaining my picks for Superbowl 53. I’ve narrowed down the list from 32 to the seven teams that can contend for a championship this year.

These are in no Specific Order

Philadelphia Eagles

Last year’s Super Bowl champions have a serious chance to repeat this year, keep in mind they went through the tougher conference and bested Tom Brady all with a backup QB. When you add MVP-candidate Carson Wentz back to that offense the team only gets better. With one of the best D-lines, a promising young QB, and a great head coach in Doug Pederson, this team is poised for continued post-season success. Let’s take a moment to realize how good their defensive line is, with Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham the two superstars of the group that is rounded out by Timmy Jernigan, Derek Barnett, Michael Bennett, and Haloti Ngata, and Chris Long. This unit is stacked and also one of the deepest in the NFL when it comes to talent. Their Secondary isn’t bad either, Malcolm Jenkins anchors the group that includes four serviceable corners in Jalen Mills, Ronald Darby, Sidney Jones, and Rasul Douglas. This team was seriously underrated last year, and this season they’ll only be getting better. One of the biggest acquisitions for this team occurred mid season last year in the British-American back Jay Ajayi. They traded a 4th round pick for him (yes, you read that right) and he provided a solid running game for the team, this season they will have him for the full 16 games of the regular season, shouldering the load with gadget back Darren Sproles. This team has tremendous upside and has a very good chance of dominating this season just like last one.

New England Patriots

The Superbowl Window may be closing for the Patriots but as of this year, it’s still open. Brady and Belichick return for at least one more year, and as long as they are running things at Foxborough, the Patriots will have a good chance to collect their sixth title. There are a few flaws in this roster, with the loss of two thirds of their top receivers last year and the departure of Dion Lewis. The skill position groups are looking weaker than in past years. The first 4 games of the year will be tough with Gronkowski being the only reliable target until Julian Edelman returns from a PED suspension. That being said once Edelman reenters the lineup the team will likely enter a hot streak that will carry them to late in January. This team has been a lock for the AFC championship the past few years and this year they face some serious competition with the Jaguars and various defensive playmakers or against the Steelers and the best offense in the AFC. But as stated before as long as Brady and Co. are there, they’ve got a legitimate shot to takedown almost anyone en route to another Lombardi.

New Orleans Saints

The Saints are a great team with a great coach. They were one miracle play away from reaching the NFC Championship last year and have a great young core supported by a Sean Payton and Drew Brees. This team is only going to get better with the progression of Michael Thomas, Alvin Kamara, and Marshon Lattimore. The offensive is a scoring machine led by the timeless Drew Brees and also includes Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram the best running back duo in the NFL. This team is for real, they are great on both sides of the ball. Cameron Jordan was a legitimate candidate for defensive player of the year last season and Marshon Lattimore proved himself as a lockdown corner and took home the Defensive Rookie of the Year Award consequently. Paired with Marshon Lattimore is Marcus Williams a solid safety who has ‘Ed Reed’ upside according to Brees. Last year they ranked 7th in passer rating among opposing quarterbacks the highest the defense has marked since their Super Bowl run in 2010. Don’t be surprised if this team wins 12 or more games and makes a deep run in January that could carry over into February.

Pittsburgh Steelers

One of the perineal favorites in the AFC, the Steelers have the best offense in the NFL and an underrated defense that ranked very well last year in yards allowed. The big blow to this team was Shazier’s injury. He was on fire last season prior to his injury, losing him opened a gap in their defense that teams exploited afterwards. The offense was clicking last season, Antonio Brown was on pace for 1800 yards and Bell proved his worth in another great season where he showed his dual threat potential. The Steelers have been stuck in the playoffs these past few years, and they have fired their OC accordingly, hopefully Randy Fitchner the new offensive coordinator will make the necessary changes to secure the Steelers their 7th ring. Ben Roethlisberger is still a top QB in the league, with him under helm the Steelers will have a shot at the Lombardi.

Minnesota Vikings

The perpetrators of the Minneapolis Miracle, the Vikings were the runners up to the Eagles in the NFC. They are a team built around a solid offense and a great defense. Mike Zimmer is a top five coach in the NFL and the transition of the Vikings defense reflects that. The team has locked up playmakers all over the defense this offseason and picked up Kirk Cousins in free agency. With the return of Dalvin Cook their offense will gain another dimension something Cousins lacked in Washington. The Vikings defense is no joke and one of the most well rounded units in the game. Xavier Rhodes is an elite corner who has the ability to stop star receivers from making an impact. The Secondary also includes the best safety in football, Harrison Smith a guy that changes the way OC’s call games. The linebacker position group is strong as well with Anthony Barr someone who can drop into coverage and get the the QB. Don’t forget Eric Kendricks the versatile interior linebacker who has a knack for making big time plays. The defensive line isn’t as deep as the Eagles but is one of the best in the NFL, Danielle Hunter and Everson Griffen off the edge and Linval Joseph, one of the best interior linemen in the league. The Vikings could very well be appearing in the next Super Bowl and it won’t be a surprise if they do.

Los Angeles Rams

Sean McVay is a phenomenal coach, he transformed one of the ugliest offenses to one that housed the offensive player of the year in 1 offseason. Following a division title and an early exit from the playoffs, McVay upgraded this team and locked in several players for the future this offseason. One of his biggest additions is Brandin Cooks, who will replace and exceed the play of Sammy Watkins in the offense. The Rams also added a pair of Pro-Bowl corners in Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib. Then they went and signed Ndamukong Suh to pair with Aaron Donald. This team has the potential to dominate on both sides of the ball with the level of talent they’ve added to an already great roster. Jared Goff’s play under center should only improve as well, helped out by Todd Gurley one of the best backs in the league and 2017 Offensive player of the year. One part of all teams that is overlooked is special teams, and I believe that this special teams squad is the best in the NFL, coached by the best coach as well in John Fassel. Greg Zuerlein, Pharoh Cooper, and John Hekker. If all things click for this team they will have a good chance to make a deep run into late January, a major contrast from the 7-9 Jeff Fisher days.

Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jaguars are one of best defenses on paper in the past decade, whether that defense can carry them to a Super Bowl is the question here. The offense is on the back of Fournette, with virtually no help. Bortles and Moncrief isn’t exactly the dream QB-WR connection. But don’t let that distract you from how dominant there defense has the potential to be. With a D-line sporting Calais Campbell, Malik Jackson, and Yannick Ngakoue the opposition’s offense will have to release the ball quick and running the ball will be difficult. This team also has the best cornerback duo as well: Jalen Ramsey and AJ Bouye. Ramsey was the best corner in the NFL last season and Bouye was a great pairing. They both have the ability to shutdown a receiver (as long as it’s not Antonio Brown). The linebacker group is elite too, Myles Jack and Telvin Smith are both very mobile in the midfield and can ball hawk in addition to their ability to get after the QB. This season will be a big test for the young group that will have to put together a solid regular season to win their semi-stacked division. If they can make it to the playoffs they will have good shot at making a deep run due to their tough defense and reliable run game.

Honorable Mentions:

Chargers

Atlanta Falcons

Not Honorable Mentions:

Packers – Packers fans I’ll be brutally honest to you, despite Rodgers impeccable performance as QB you don’t have the talent or the coaching to make a serious run for the Super Bowl.

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