Early Super Bowl Predictions

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CC By Stephen Luke

New England Patriots at a past Super Bowl

Tyra Garrett, Reporter

Even though it may seem early, Super Bowl LVI (56 in non-Roman numerals) is only 2 months away! With only 5 games left in the regular season, it may be time to start thinking about the realistic Super Bowl contenders. This season is one of the most unpredictable seasons to date, with upsets feeling like a regular occurrence. But even with the upsets, I will try my best to tell Highland students who they should be rooting for this offseason!

Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs have had a very strange season compared to their past success. In a tight AFC title race, it may seem like they are one of the weaker teams fighting for that Lombardi trophy. But, this Chiefs team is still a hassle to go against, with Patrick Mahomes still being a threat to opposing defenses and Chris Jones proving that you should never doubt him and the D-Line.

Patrick Mahomes has been having a difficult season, putting up a career-high 12 interceptions this year. But even with a large number of interceptions, Mahomes is still one of the leaders in passing yards, hitting his star wide receiver and tight end duo Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce for 13 combined touchdowns, and the rest of the team for 12. He also has young and elite talent in Darrel Williams, Derrick Gore, and Clyde Edwards-Helaire, all helping him on the ground game.  

This defense has also been the talk of the league, but not for good reasons. The ChIefs have one of the weakest defenses in the league and maybe the reason for the faults this team has suffered so far this season. But in the last 4 games, this defense has only allowed at most 14 points, improving gradually throughout the season and now finally looking like one cohesive unit. Chris Jones has been a rock for this defense since 2016 and is still proving to be a valuable asset for this team. With help from Frank Clark, this defense is slowly but surely coming back together.

Despite being a proud Chiefs fan, it pains me to say that I do not see the Chiefs making it to the Super Bowl this season. Our highs are high, but then again our lows are low. The performances put on this season is not the same Chiefs team that we have seen in the past 3 years, and with the tough AFC competition, it’s hard to see them making it to another Super Bowl game.

Los Angeles Rams

The 8-4 Rams looked very promising at the beginning of this season with their new acquisition Matthew Stafford proving to be a steal for the team. But recently, the team has been in a slump, even after acquiring star players like Von Miller and Odell Beckham Jr. Even though the team has gone through some tough losses, they are still a contender when it comes to the Super Bowl.

This Rams offense is more threatening than ever before, with Matthew Stafford putting on career performances with his top receiver Cooper Kupp, who is currently leading the league in reception yards. Cooper has been a standout on this team, putting up a career-high 1366 yards and 11 touchdowns. And with OBJ now joining the team, they may have one of the best-receiving duos in the league.

Many defenses have incredible talent, but no other team has the amount of talent that the Rams have. The Rams’ top defensive contributors (Jalen Ramsey, Aaron Donald, Von Miller) have a combined 19 pro bowl selections, which is a huge number for only 3 players. Von Miller is also a Super Bowl MVP, the only player on the Rams to get the prestigious award. These fantastic players aren’t the only ones helping this defense, with 2nd-year safety Jordan Fuller leading the team tackles with 51 tackles, and former Chicago Bear Leonard Floyd leading the team sacks with 8.

Even with all of these assets, it’s hard to see this team advancing far into the playoffs when their recent games have only shown the most devastating flaws that they have. Especially with teams like the Buccaneers and Cardinals proving how consistent they are on both offense and defense. Safe to say, I wouldn’t put all your money on the Rams this offseason. 

Buffalo Bills

The Bills have been making a name for themselves for the past 3 seasons, improving each year on both sides of the ball. Last season they were so close to making the big game but fell short in the AFC championship game. This team is different, but is the difference better or worse?

The offensive side of the Bills team is, as usual, showing how explosive they can be. Josh Allen has thrown for 3216 yards so far this season, having Emmanuel Sanders and Stefon Diggs proving to be great additions to this team. Diggs has caught an astounding 71 throws for a total of 898 yards. But even with a great passing game, the rushing offense is a must have for any successful NFL team, and the Bills have recently been struggling with having a solid running game. They have the second most fumbles in the league (tied with Washington) with 8 fumbles, which is not a good look for a potential Super Bowl team.

There is a bright spot though, with the defense having 16 combined interceptions (3rd overall in the NFL). Mario Addison is also showing up, having the most sacks on the team with 4. They also have the fewest passing yards allowed, only allowing 1983 passing yards so far this season, proving that their pass defense can help win games for the team. 

I think it is clear that this year is not the year for the Bills. They have very big problems with their rushing offense and defense, which can be detrimental to the team’s success. The playoffs are a different story though, with the atmosphere helping some teams perform better. Despite this, the Bills are not a super bowl team. Sadly, I don’t see the Bills making it to the Super Bowl this year.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The defending Super Bowl champions may look different this year but are still big threats to the rest of the NFL. At 9-3, the Buccaneers are having a solid season just like last year, proving to many people that they are serious about going back to back this year. With an elite offense led by who many consider the greatest of all time, Tom Brady, and a defense led by a young Devin White, this team is proving that they are ready for the pressure.

Tom Brady is 44 years old and playing like it’s 2005, leading the league in passing yards, touchdowns, and the MVP race. It’s only his second year with the Bucs and he has emerged as an incredible leader for this team. Tom also has amazing talent surrounding him on the offense, with a combined 15 pro bowl selections among his top receivers. Chris Godwin, Mike Evans, Antonio Brown, and Rob Gronkowski have been great options for Tom, and having Leonard Fournette on the ground game doesn’t hurt either. 

When it comes to the Bucs defense, they are also proving to be intimidating for opposing offenses. With 10 forced fumbles and 14 interceptions, quarterbacks, running backs, and receivers may be cautious when facing this team. Devin White, as I mentioned before, is also proving to be impressive by leading the team with 62 solo tackles. He is also getting help from Shaquil Barrett, who is leading the team with 7.5 sacks and 3 fumbles.

Again we must ask ourselves the question, will they be able to make it to the Super Bowl? I would say this: never doubt Tom Brady. Tom has the most playoff wins than any quarterback that has ever played in the NFL (34 wins) and can handle pressure better than anyone in the NFL. Tom has proved the doubters wrong many times, but this time Brady has even more competition than before. It will be a close call, but I do not see the Bucs making the Super Bowl this year.

Honorable Mentions

Since the regular season is not yet over, anything can and will happen. This means that some teams may surprise me and NFL fans across the country, and make a big run to the Super Bowl. Teams like the Bills, Cowboys, Packers, and Ravens may prove me wrong in the next two months, so I would like to highlight those four teams as honorable mentions.

My Two Picks:

Arizona Cardinals

Our Arizona Cardinals have been on fire this season, with their current record at the time of writing being the best in the NFL at 10-2. But a good record doesn’t mean anything when it comes to playoffs, and Kyler Murray would be making his playoff debut this year (if the Cardinals make it). The pressure of being in the playoffs is bigger than people realize, with the team’s whole season falling on Kyler’s shoulders. 

One wrong move from Kyler, and he is criticized intensely by sports journalists and fans everywhere. But despite past Cardinals seasons, he has help on the offense and the defense. On the offensive end, he has James Conner helping on the ground game, with the running back having a breakout season. He also has Deandre Hopkins, A.J. Green, and Christian Kirk helping with receiving, which is new for Kyler and especially the Cardinals, with Larry Fitzgerald seeming to be their only receiving threat for 15+ years.

 When it comes to the Arizona defense, it is terrifying for opposing quarterbacks to have to face Chandler Jones and Markus Golden, with both of them being the top leaders in sacks for the Cardinals. Byron Murphy is also showing signs of greatness, having 4 interceptions and leading the team in the process.

So the real question is, will they make it to the Super Bowl with all of these weapons? In my opinion, yes this team is capable of being a super bowl team. With all of their new young talent and a new head coach who is leading this team, it will be a difficult ride to the super bowl. Kyler has proved that he can face veteran quarterbacks like Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers in the primetime games, so this may finally be the year for the Cardinals.

New England Patriots

The Patriots and Bill Belichick have proved once again that they are a top 10 team, being the AFC leader at 9-4. This team seemed to be doomed without Tom Brady, but have recently shown that they were willing to start rebuilding from the ground up, and that has been a success for the team.

Mac Jones is the new young gun for the Patriots, playing like someone who has been in the league for years, even though this is only his rookie season. Even if he is a rookie, he doesn’t act like it. He has stepped up as a leader of this team and proved that he belongs. Mac also has help in Jakobi Myers, who has caught 59 passes from Mac, which has resulted in 620 yards. Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson are also proving to be valuable assets to the offense, having a combined 1183 rushing yards. 

The Patriots’ defense is incredible, leading the league in interceptions at 19 and second in the league in pick-sixes at 3. J.C. Jackson is leading the workload when it comes to interceptions, being the team leader and second overall in the league with 7 interceptions. They also have a stellar defensive line, with Matt Judon having an astounding 12.5 sacks this season. With the incredible talent and Belichick’s play-calling, this defense is a force to be wrecking with.For over two decades we have only known the Patriots to be successful with Tom Brady playing at quarterback, but this year I see something different. They have a fun offense and a thrilling defense, both proving to be better than expected at the start of this season. That’s why I can see them making it to the Super Bowl this season. 

So this offseason when you are watching the playoffs occur, try to look out for these teams. The Super Bowl is coming faster than you may think, so these teams may underperform or even exceed expectations!