It’s a new NFL season. That means we are only a few months away from the Patriots winning another championship. Sadly. They are again favored to win it all in 2020 with 7-1 odds followed by the Chiefs, Saints and Rams. The Ravens have slightly worse than average odds at 32-1.
American Football Conference (AFC) Favorites:
Obviously the Patriots are still the top dogs of the AFC. They added way too many offensive weapons this offseason in Demaryius Thomas and Josh Gordon, two wideouts who have both been top five receivers in the league. They also added a first-round receiver in N’Keal Harry. Their receiver position is about six deep in starting level talent which scares everyone because, well, Tom Brady. Their defense has a bunch of stars at corner and linebacker, and of course, GM Bill Belichick will scheme his way into a top five scoring defense by the end of the year. Man, they’re so good.
Surprise of the AFC:
Following the Pats were the Colts. Then, Andrew Luck retired: the biggest surprise of an offseason where Antonio Brown froze his feet off. The Colts had the deepest roster in the AFC with an actual offensive line, wildly fast outside threats in rookie Parris Campbell and T.Y. Hilton and a running back group led by Marlon Mack. Their defense has stars at every level with DE Jabaal Sheard, all-pro LB Darius Leonard and free safety Malik Hooker. Sadly, they have Jacoby Brissett throwing the ball so they are probably a .500 football team.
Who to root for in January so the Patriots don’t win again:
The Chiefs are another big boy in the AFC with MVP Patrick Mahomes leading the most explosive offense in the league. They caught a break with domestic abuser Tyreek Hill not getting suspended. Furthermore, Travis Kelce will look to continue his dominance at tight end while Sammy Watkins can help contribute downfield. This offense will be able to score 50 any week, and with the defensive additions of SS Tyrann Mathieu and DE Frank Clark, they have a great chance to win it all.
The Steelers will always be in playoff contention. But they should not be the favorites of the AFC North. They missed the playoffs last year and then lost a top five wide receiver in Antonio Brown. Yes, they most definitely have another stud receiver in Juju Smith-Schuster, but adding locker room chemistry will not make up for the loss of immense talent.
Defensively, they have improved by adding Devin Bush, a sideline to sideline linebacker which they desperately needed after losing Ryan Shazier. But talent-wise the Browns are dripping, and the Ravens are still the reigning champs of the division, so why should we give Pittsburg a playoff spot by default?
National Football Conference (NFC) Favorites:
There is a mix of three teams at the top of the NFC: the Rams, Saints and Eagles.
The Rams, following their Superbowl loss, did very little on offense but added defensive standouts Eric Weddle and Clay Matthews. Honestly, they don’t need to do much more to get back to a Superbowl besides making sure Todd Gurley can stay healthy. Their offense is schematically amazing and loaded with talent. On the other side of the ball, their defense has a crazy high IQ and a Wade Phillips who loves pressure. Unless injuries and age kill a promising season, this team definitely has a shot.
The Eagles are a year and a half removed from some Saint Nick Foles magic, and for some reason seem to keep getting more talent. They have four legitimate running backs, and they added DeSean Jackson and a maybe healthy Carson Wentz to their offense. Defensively, they got Sidney Jones back from injury and have enough d-line depth to run a 5-2 on the regular. If Wentz doesn’t end up on a cart, Philly will have a lot to cheer for in February.
The Saints could’ve been Superbowl champions, or at least NFC kings if not for one thing: the referees. This team, much like the Rams, did not add a whole lot. They lost Mark Ingram in free agency but picked up Jared Cook, who New Orleans hopes is the second coming of Jimmy Graham. This team has everything: an experienced Superbowl quarterback, solid offensive weapons all around, a defense with the ability to get the QB and a chip on its shoulder. If the chip isn’t too big they will do great things.
Why aren’t we talking about them:
The 49ers and the Vikings were literally everywhere before last season. Then Jimmy Garoppolo got hurt and Kirk Cousins was Kirk Cousins.
Firstly, the Niners are about to pop off. Their offense has Olympic sprinter Marquise Goodwin, fantasy savior George Kittle and three starting-level running backs. Not to mention a healthy Garoppolo. The defense also happens to have 5 first-rounders on their d-line who can all bully their way into the backfield. With a few breaks, this team can go 10-6, grab a wild card spot and then who knows.
The Vikings paid a bunch of money for Kirk Cousins. Then Cousins led a mediocre passing game with an atrocious run game. Their lead rusher had 615 yards, Lamar Jackson had more.
If Dalvin Cook comes back and rookie Alexander Mattison can do anything to help the running game, the Vikings will make some noise and maybe a postseason run.
The Ravens are about to “revolutionize the game,” to paraphrase Ravens head coach John Harbaugh. What he means to say is they’re going to run a lot the first few games because they play the Dolphins, Cardinals, Chiefs and Browns who had the worst run defenses in football.
And then in week five Mark Andrews and Marquise “Hollywood” Brown will magically start catching balls for touchdowns while Lamar Jackson demonstrates massive passing improvement.
The offense will be very exciting because they should be able to hurt defenses with a unique run scheme and a greatly improved passing game. Defensively, they lost a couple of pressure producers in Terrell Suggs and Za’Darius Smith. They also lost former all-pro C.J. Mosley. However, schematically Wink Martindale puts pressure like no other.
They also added Earl Thomas to a loaded secondary and they play six newer QB’s. The Ravens have consistently been a dark horse team in the AFC and this year seems like they can make a big run a la 2012.