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It’s January, by far the worst and most miserable month of the year. But it’s not all doom and gloom, as the NFL regular season has ended and the playoff teams have been set. I don’t know how true it is for me to say this, but it really feels like this year over most others that pretty much any team has a good shot at the Superbowl. So I’m going to run through 4 teams that I think you should be paying extra attention to this January.
In the AFC this year, everyone has been talking about the Kansas City Chiefs, or more specifically their second year quarterback Patrick Mahomes. He became only the third quarterback ever to throw 50 TDs in a season and has led the Chiefs to being the NFL’s most efficient offense scoring over 35 points per game. Of course there are still questions about the strength of this team as a whole. The defense is near the bottom of the league in almost every category; not only that star running back Kareem Hunt was released mid way through the season after a video of him kicking a woman in a hotel emerged. It would be fair to say that the Chiefs have issues that are being masked by Mahomes MVP season, but there’s nothing to say that Mahomes can’t continue to carry the weak parts of his team all the way to the Superbowl.
While the Chiefs are probably the favourite in the AFC, my dark horse pick is also led by another young and exciting quarterback, the Baltimore Ravens. As a Cleveland Browns fan it pains me to say it, but Lamar Jackson is very exciting. His ability to run the ball combined with solid passing has given opposing defenses nightmares. Not only that but the Ravens have the most efficient defense in the NFL, allowing less than 18 points per game. A strong defense puts less of a burden on the rookie quarterback, which will hopefully allow him to play at his best. The Ravens are a longshot to win it all in 2019, but they will be exciting enough to watch that I’ll be watching their games closely.
The NFC is a little less cut and dry. It feels like there are lots of “favourites” and not many teams truly feel like they don’t stand a chance. But for me if I had to, I’d put the New Orleans Saints as the most likely NFC Superbowl team. The Saints have such a wide variety of offensive weapons that it’s almost comical. QB Drew Brees led the league in passer rating this year and had an exceptional completion rating of 75%. With Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram in the backfield, along with wide receiver Michael Thomas, the Saints feels just as dangerous offensively as the Chiefs do. The big difference between the two teams is that the Saints have an at least average defence to back up the offence.
In terms of an longshot team in the NFC I’m torn between picking the Philadelphia Eagles and the Seattle Seahawks. The Eagles never really seemed in it the whole year and have just managed to creep back into the playoffs. But once again backup QB Nick Foles is forced to start due to an injury to Carson Wentz. Because the the magic of Foles last year winning the Superbowl, this is why I just can’t count out the Eagles.
A large part of me really believes that Foles will be unnaturally good again and the Eagles will pull of the most improbable back-to-back championship ever, especially after what felt like such a disappointing season. But at the same time, the Seahawks feel to me like they might have some of that same magic. Russell Wilson is exceptionally talented and this wouldn’t be the first time that he’s had to put the team on his back. The Seahawks have a mastermind of a coach in Pete Carroll (who proved that everyone is human in Superbowl 49). Not only that but the Seahawks playoff opponents look to be easier on paper, something that can’t be overlooked.
It is entirely possible that by the time that you read this, all the teams I’ve talked about have lost, making me look like I don’t know what I’m talking about. I do believe that one of these teams will be Superbowl champions, but as long as the Patriots don’t win I think we’ll all be happy.