By Steven Weldon
In the last post, I detailed where 23 of the NFL's teams would land this season. In short, on the outside looking in. Today, I'll explain why nine of the best teams in the league have a shot at winning the Vince Lombardi Trophy in Super Bowl XLIV.
GREEN BAY PACKERS
After a down year that included an injury to Aaron Rodgers, the Pack look much stronger on offense and in the secondary. New coach Matt Lafleur could breathe life back into the Packers offense, which finally has a running back that can handle a considerable amount of carries. Look for the Packers to challenge for the NFC North title, and possibly the Super Bowl.
They've got a damn good defense led by Khalil Mack as well as a potent offense. This is Mitchell Trubisky's third year in the league; it's time to shine. He's got some nice pieces around him, and they're the true favorites in the NFC North. They're an outside favorite to win the Super Bowl, provided things go to plan quicker than expected.
Carson Wentz is finally healthy, and former Bears standout running back Jordan Howard has entered the fold. The Eagles also added key pieces on their defense, and have a ton of weapons coming back from injury. The Super Bowl hangover could end this season, and the Eagles could visit the big game for the third time in 15 years.
It's finally coming together! Andrew Luck, Marlon Mack, T.Y. Hilton, a few star offensive linemen. These guys are the dark horse in the AFC. There is one problem, however, and it relates to injuries and Andrew Luck. If he's healthy this season, I'm not sure many teams can stop them. He could land them in the Super Bowl.
LOS ANGELES RAMS
Right now, they're the better team in Los Angeles. They've got the tools to make it back to the Super Bowl, but if Todd Gurley isn't healthy, they've only got a rookie running back to lean on. Luckily, Jared Goff is a very talented passer and the LA defense was still good enough to hold the Patriots to 13 points. We may see this team in the Super Bowl if no other team interferes like they did last year. Yes, that was a pun.
LOS ANGELES CHARGERS
Phillip Rivers is finally hitting his stride super late in his career, with the help of his defense. Melvin Gordon needs to get back on the practice field to contribute to the very high chance of the Chargers taking their talents to the Super Bowl. They nabbed the one-seed in the playoffs last season but promptly blew it to the Patriots. It's gut-check time, LAC.
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
The Chiefs were 45 seconds away from the Super Bowl, and then the defense could not wrap up the game. They have a very good chance at redemption, but they'll have to do it with a different running attack than last season. Patrick Mahomes third season will be a test, as he's rocketed up every "Best QB" ranking list. We'll see if the Chiefs have the cajones to make the Super Bowl this season.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
Look, we all knew it was coming. Tom Brady is still there, and Bill Belichick still gets everything he possibly can out of every possible player. It's just a winning culture, and even when we all think that it's over, it just comes back and kicks us in the shin. The Pats lost Rob Gronkowski to retirement, but there's plenty of skilled offensive players to make up for it. The defense is probably the best in the NFL as well.
I didn't pick the Patriots to win the Super Bowl though.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
This is the best offense in the league. Drew Brees, Alvin Kamara, Michael Thomas, these are some of the best players in our game today. The defense is solid, and they were a mere penalty call away from last season's Super Bowl. They had the tools to beat New England.
I say the Saints win the Super Bowl over the Patriots.
There it is! It's in stone. Follow me on twitter, @Airweldon, to see if I back off of my prediction.