This is the time of the NFL season where just about every team has optimism about their upcoming season and believe they can consistently deliver something special on the field for their organization, city and fans. Every team thinks they have a shot to make it to the playoffs and, dare I say, make it to the Big Game. Right after the draft, it’s rebuilding and retooling time. Guys get healthier. Many players mature and discover more about themselves within their craft. It’s basically a fresh start. But let’s be honest, we know that many teams won’t see the playoff light of day or even have a shot after week six.
It’s not like college football. The majority of teams know their place and where they’re likely going to end up within their conferences. For example, it’ll be a good season if Rutgers wins 4 or 5 games if you look at their schedule. They know that. And the same goes for Temple. If Alabama or Florida State doesn’t win the BCS National Championship, it’ll be a disappointing season. These teams know and understand their rank and positioning within the sport. But it’s not like that at the onset of a NFL season.
I’ll say this, if the management and players on the Tennessee Titans, Oakland Raiders or Jacksonville Jaguars think they’re going to the playoffs or even go to the Super Bowl, they’re sadly mistaken and beyond the realm of delusional. Fervor and enthusiasm shouldn’t be running rampant through these locker rooms. These teams should play with confidence and grow from their experiences.
However, you might be saying, mediocre or middle-of-the-road teams have surprised us over the years, made the playoffs, went to the Super Bowl, and – yes – even won the freaking thing. Two teams in our contemporary history come to mind – the New York Giants and Baltimore Ravens. Neither were picked to win the Super Bowl either year, but sometimes teams find a way to do it and/or luck into becoming champions. Could the Eagles luck into getting to the Super Bowl and winning it? Of course. They’re certainly a better team than the 2011-2012 Giants who went 9-7 in the regular season. Although, I don’t believe this is the year the Eagles will win the Super Bowl. As Las Vegas has shown us, there’s certainly a chance.
Even though I get annoyed with making predictions like this, I’ll be honest, it’s still fun to think about the possibilities. Let’s look at who really has a shot to win the Big Game this year. Some of these picks are common sense and others might make you scratch your head (or buttocks).
Excellent Chance To Make The Super Bowl:
Denver Broncos: Peyton Manning & Co.
Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck is on his way up the ladder and takes teammates with him. This could be the year he becomes Peyton-like.
New England Patriots: Why not? Until Tom Brady and Bill Belichick retire, they’ll always be a top Super Bowl contender. I know, I don’t like it either.
New Orleans Saints: Drew Brees, Jimmy Graham and receiver weapons can put up a ton of points just about every game.
San Francisco 49’ers: They have weapons…everywhere.
Green Bay Packers: Aaron Rodgers still wants to prove he’s top-tier in the NFL. Like Luck, he makes players around him better and hungrier.
Philadelphia Eagles: They did it last year in a weak division, and it’s hard to believe it’s even weaker this year.
Seattle Seahawks: I don’t think they have an excellent chance to make it back to the Super Bowl, but they’ll likely make the playoffs. Teams that win the Big One almost never get back the following year. It’s rare. And the Seahawks aren’t very strong on the road.
Atlanta Falcons: A healthy offensive line will help Matt Ryan and his wide receivers score a ton of points this year. They’ll have to put up the numbers with a weak defense.
Cincinnati Bengals: Andy Dalton has the ability to prove he’s worth the contract he just signed. A solid defense will help propel them to the next level.
Kansas City Chiefs: Andy Reid – and we know it all too well – knows how to bring consistency to a team. Strong on offense and defense as well.
Could, In Fact, Make The Playoffs:
New York Jets: It’s apparent that Geno Smith has become a better QB here in the preseason. He has some help at the wide receiver position now. Plus, Rex Ryan always finds a way to pull out unlikely wins every now and then.
Baltimore Ravens: When they play well, they play great. But when they play bad, it’s terrible.
Chicago Bears: It’s a long shot they could make the playoffs, but they’ll have to get lucky. Matt Forte, Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffrey can’t do it all. But they’ll have to because Jay Cutler is on the downslide.
Arizona Cardinals: They’re a pretty solid team even though their quarterback, Carson Palmer, has been in the league for 27 years. The NFC West is good, and they’ll play a role.
Detroit Lions: Part of me is pulling for this franchise to at least win a playoff game at some point in my lifetime. If Matt Stafford can get his offensive weapons the ball consistently, they have a chance.
Houston Texans: What? Yes, I said the Texans could make the playoffs and I’m basing this on the leadership of new head coach Bill O’Brien. We saw what he did for Penn State Football during the worst controversy in NCAA history. The guy knows how to turn things around and does it quickly.
Won’t Make the Playoffs:
St. Louis Rams
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
San Diego Chargers
Shouldn’t Even Be In The Discussion:
New York Giants