Despite the fact that the NFL season is a 16-game marathon full of injuries, controversy and adversity, predictions are made immediately as to which team will hoist the coveted Vince Lombardi Trophy as the Super Bowl champion. While it is impossible to know who will represent each conference in the league’s biggest game, the beginning weeks of the season have indicated that a few teams are a clear step ahead of their competition.
Representing the AFC will be the two teams that faced each other in the AFC Championship game a year ago: the New England Patriots and the Kansas City Chiefs. The Patriots overcame a late surge by the Chiefs to win the matchup 37-31 in January 2019, and they went on to defeat the Los Angeles Rams in last year’s Super Bowl with a score of 13-3, but will they be able to defend their reign as AFC and NFL champions?
First off, everyone outside of the Boston area can stop groaning. Yes, the Patriots are going to be one of the last teams standing, and no, it does not seem like that will be changing any time soon. After defeating the Los Angeles Chargers 41-28 in the AFC Divisional Round a season ago, the Patriots advanced to their eighth straight AFC Championship game. It seems that the only certainties in life are death, taxes and the Patriots, vying for a spot in the Super Bowl.
The Patriots have an advantage over opponents before the game even begins because of their head coach, Bill Belichick. Through the first two games this season, the Patriots have outscored their opponents by an impressive score of 76-3. With a stifling group of defensive backs led by cornerback Stephon Gilmore and an impressive offense headed by 42-year-old quarterback Tom Brady, the Patriots are in the driver’s seat to win upward of 14 games this season.
Their challengers, the Kansas City Chiefs, led by quarterback Patrick Mahomes, boast one of the most impressive offenses in league history. Claiming league MVP honors in his first season as a starter, Mahomes is poised to become the NFL’s next great quarterback — possibly even dethroning Brady.
The Chiefs struggled defensively last season, but with the strength of Mahomes’s arm and the offensive talent that surrounds him, they pose a threat to any team in any game. Offensive guru Andy Reid, the team’s head coach, has helped develop Mahomes and the offense into a scoring machine that keeps defensive coordinators up at night. The Chiefs should fend off the Chargers to win the division again this season and could win upward of 12 games.
The NFC will be led by the Dallas Cowboys and the Los Angeles Rams. The teams faced off in the NFC Divisional Round last season with the Rams emerging victorious 30-22. Will the Rams return to the Super Bowl after a crushing 13-3 defeat to the Patriots a season ago, or will the Cowboys claim the conference?
The Rams came into the season as reigning NFC Champs and have done nothing to lose their crown thus far. They have scored nearly 30 points per game against their first two opponents, and they seem capable of replicating last year’s success.
While some questioned the health of star running back Todd Gurley coming into the season, he has performed well for the team in a reduced role, and the return of wide receiver Cooper Kupp should allow quarterback Jared Goff to have another impressive season. With the brilliant mind of Head Coach Sean McVay at the helm for the Rams, their offense should continue to impress, and they should win upward of 12 games.
The Cowboys entered training camp this season with questions surrounding the contracts of stars like quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott, but it appears they will not have any players hold out for the season. Dallas boasts an impressive young defensive core and has the best offensive line in the league. While there are concerns about the effectiveness of Head Coach Jason Garrett, the Cowboys have drafted well and may have the most talented roster in the NFL.
The Cowboys entered the season with concerns about the effectiveness of Prescott, but he has impressed so far this season. If his development continues, the Cowboys should win more than 11 games this season.
Although it seems like it’s entirely too early to judge since we’re in the beginning stages of the season, these four teams are fairly safe bets for long playoff runs. In the end, the safest prediction is the Patriots — they have the most Super Bowl wins alongside the Pittsburgh Steelers after winning six of the last 11 championships. My prediction for Super Bowl LIV is that the Patriots defeat the Cowboys 31-13 for their seventh title.