Annually, prognosticators all over the United States, from Maine to California to Florida and inbetween, make Super Bowl predictions to kickoff the new season.
Therefore, in the spirit of that tradition, I will contribute my two cents worth.
On the surface, the AFC appears to be simple to figure out, with the New England Patriots being the most logical favorites. My head says the Patriots but my heart moves me to think outside of the box a tad.
The San Diego Chargers have a tremendous opportunity this season to host the AFC Championship game, due to having an easy schedule in general and particularly due to being in the weakest division in the NFL.
Once they win eight games this season, the Chargers will already clinch the AFC West division crown. However, they should take advantage of the opportunity to win as many games as possible to secure home field playoff advantage throughout the post-season.
Hosting and winning the AFC title game is the only scenario I can see which San Diego makes it to the Super Bowl.
Tennessee reflects upon the 2008 season as a missed opportunity, because they soundly defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers in the regular season. While the Titans matched up very well to Pittsburgh, they matched up poorly to the Baltimore Ravens and therefore, lost to them in the playoffs.
The Titans should play inspired football all season long in response to their missed opportunity of last season plus in dedication to the memory of the late Great Titans quarterback, Steve McNair, who led the team just one yard short of a Super Bowl victory in their loss to the St. Louis Rams.
The Pittsburgh Steelers are another very logical consideration. Like the Florida Gators of NCAA Football, the Steelers do not act like a team who will rest and cruise on the previous season’s success and championship trophy.
Pittsburgh is even hungry for Super Bowl ring number seven, continuing their status as the greatest franchise in league history.
The Baltimore Ravens may be one or two wide receivers away from being a favorite to win the AFC. The Indianapolis Colt are always in this discussion in recent seasons, but they are adjusting to coaching changes and they tend to lose to the Chargers in post season.
Will a team that hardly anyone considers grab the AFC title? Probably not, but some people think that the Houston Texans, for example, may take the next step up in terms of winning, perhaps winning the AFC South division.
Like any NFL team, health and particularly the health of the quarterback position, will determine Houston’s fate. Matt Schaub has impressive basic quarterback skills but he seems to have a knack for sustaining nagging injuries. Is he mentally tough?
I look for the Texans to improve but to also experience some growing pains, since they are in a tough division.
So in the AFC, for the 2020 Super Bowl, my head says Patriots but my heart says Chargers.
As usual, the NFC is very wide open and in contrast to the AFC, the conference is more complicated to figure out. Who picked the Arizona Cardinals to make the Super Bowl in September 2008, much less even in December 2008.
While we can rule out teams such as the Detroit Lions, St. Louis Rams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, San Francisco 49rs, and probably, the Washington Redskins, one can make a logical scenario for almost every other NFC team.
Although the Dallas Cowboys have not won a playoff game since the last century, if they can improve their defense and generate efficient offense, then they may possibly use their new Cowboys Stadium as a new home, humongous video scoreboard distraction advantage.
But I doubt it.
However, the Arizona Cardinals should enter this season very confident after almost upsetting the Steelers in the Super Bowl and after discovering a real defense in the last post season.
But if quarterback Kurt Warner gets injured, all bets are off.
The Vikings have the best defense, especially if their defense backs improve. Minnesota has the best running back, if not player, in the NFL with Adrian Peterson. Will Brett Favre lead the Vikes to the promise land? Time will tell.
Can Brett Favre change his game?
If Minnesota can limit Favre to 25 or less passees per game (to limit turnovers and to keep Brett healthy all season), rely on defense and running, and then win the game in the 4th quarter.
But if teams stuff eight in the box, do the Bears have the receivers that can make critical plays? Let’s see what tight end Gregg Olsen offers in 2009.
The Packers are installing a new 3-4 defense but the offense will be on all cylinders, with a confident and talented quarterback in Aaron Rodgers. If running back Ron Grant stays healthy and has another year like the 2007 season, watch out – Green Bay will be very tough to outscore.
In the NFC South, the Atlanta Falcons are both a popular and logical choice, although they have never put together consecutive winning seasons in franchise history. With the addition of tight end Tony Gonzalez and a couple of recent transactions on defense, Atlanta should finish 9-7 or better.
Quarterback Matt Ryan is the real deal.
Carolina Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme may be the raw deal, since the team signed him with a contract extension.
There are two Jakes - (1) the struggling competitor with a Super Bowl experience and with a post season winning record who minimizes mistakes and maximizes wide receiver Steve Smith and who led Carolina to a 12-4 record; or (2) the aging quarterback who has had Tommy John surgery, throws up the ball for grabs for Smith to rebound or for the opposition to intercept.
The Panthers are returning almost all starters from last season, which is both good news (stability) and bad news (being stagnant, not improving the talent pool).
Like Atlanta, Carolina has never had two straight winning, playoff appearing seasons. Unlike the Falcons, I do not expect the Panthers to break that trend due to a difficult schedule, a lack of depth at key positions, and the failure to sign or develop a true punt returner during preseason.
In fantasy football, Brees is the best and most consistent quarterback of the past three seasons. The Saints have retooled in the running back position.
The obvious shortcoming and question about New Orleans is their defense. Most seasons, teams with the best defenses tend to make the Super Bowl.
How well did the Saints address and actually improve their defense via the draft and other transactions?
However, on occasion, a team, such as last seasons Cardinals or that Rams squad that won a Super Bowl, have a just good enough defense paired with a high-powered, passing offense, makes the big dance.
Like the 2008 Arizona Cardinals, is this the New Orleans saints’ magical year? While Drew Brees is better than Kurt Warner, Arizona’s wide receiver corps is the best of the league.
The Saints have a good group of wide receivers and not to be overlooked, a solid offensive line that enable Brees enough time to find an open target and accurately deliver the football.
Expect Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints to light up the scoreboard in 2009 and yes, in January 2010. I did not say February 2010 – yet.
For my 2010 NFC Super Bowl representative, my head says Giants and my heart says Saints. Again, in the AFC, for the 2020 Super Bowl, my head says Patriots but my heart says Chargers.
It’s a split decision.
The New England Patriots will chase and perhaps flirt with 19-0 and fall short in the regular season, but not in the playoffs. The Chargers will win home field advantage, but the Patriots have San Diego’s number no matter where the game is played.
With the additions of WR Joey Galloway and RB Fred Taylor, this Patriots offense may even be more massive and dominating that it was in 2007. New England’s defense is younger but seasoned enough, and most importantly, is built for speed.
The NFC will be murky and inconsistent all season until December and January. However, in the post season, Cinderella will make another appearance, but not with the Cardinals this time, who made their first Super Bowl appearance last season.
Come December or January, I will probably look back and laugh at my incorrect pick, but who knows? Prognosticating is a fun sport - win, lose, or draw.
Another NFC team will finally make their first Super Bowl appearance. Believe it or not, the impossible happens again. No, not the Detroit Lions, as hell will not freeze over.
Yes, our second all “New” Super Bowl, but not the Giants this time.
So who dat? The New Orleans Saints – that’s who dat! Drew Brees will win the NFL MVP award, but Tom Brady will win another Super Bowl trophy and be its MVP.
New England Patriots 34, New Orleans Saints 23, as the Patriots and Steelers continue compete for team and dynasty of the decade.
Whoomps! There it is!
Quote of the Day:
What single ability do we all have? The ability to change.
--George Leonard Andrews