By: Allan Erickson
A few weeks ago I gave my predictions for the NFC, now it’s time to find out who will face the Las Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII. We’ll start with the obvious ones.
AFC East- Is Tom Brady still playing for the Patriots? Yes? Okay, then we all know who’s going to win this division. Tanehill is back for the Dolphins, but the Jets and the Bills have some growing pains to weather this season, with rookie quarterbacks who will take over the team.
New England Patriots- 12-4
Miami Dolphins- 9-7
Buffalo Bills- 7-9
New York Jets- 5-11
AFC North- Pittsburgh Steelers, division champions yet again. The Steelers still haven’t seen any signs of Le’Veon Bell showing up to work, but at this stage, he’s not going to sit at home whilst his paychecks are taken from him. He’ll show up, and do what he does, be the best running back in the league. Pair that with Antonio Brown, Big Ben, and a young, yet stingy defense, and we’ll see the Steelers take the crown once more.
Pittsburgh Steelers- 10-6
Baltimore Ravens- 9-7
Cleveland Browns- 7-9
Now we’re starting to get muddy.
AFC South- This is going to be a tough division this year. The Jaguars look to be an up-and-coming team for many years to come. But with the return of Deshaun Watson, the Texans will field a solid team this year, I look for them to claim a wild-card spot. I’m excited to see the continued development of Marcus Mariota, Derrick Henry, and the Tennessee Titans, but I believe they fall short this season. As for the Andrew Luck saga, I still have zero confidence in Indy’s offensive line, lack of running game, and the fact that Theo quarterback hasn’t thrown in a regulation game since 2016.
Division Winner- Jacksonville Jaguars- 11-5
Wildcard 1- Houston Texans- 10-6
Tennessee Titans- 9-7
Indianapolis Colts- 6-10
Ah. The AFC West. Do I believe in Patrick Mahomes? Well, if Andy Reid does, then I do too. Kareem Hunt and Tyreek Hill are two of the most explosive players to be on the same offense that we’ve ever seen. I look for Andy Reid’s club to run away with this division. But who’s in the second wild-card spot? Phillip Rivers’ reuniting with Antonio Gates tells me he’s almost ready to call it a career, and really wants to get back to the postseason, where he’s had some struggles, and try and get that elusive Super Bowl. I believe that the best defense in the entire NFL belongs to the Denver Broncos, the addition of NC State standout Bradley Chubb, paired with Von Miller is an absolute nightmare for opposing offensive lines. I look for Denver to lead the league in sacks, and fair quite well in the points allowed column. However; there’s just not enough offensive firepower for the Broncos to be in the playoffs this year, and John Elway will soon have to answer for the bust that is Paxton Lynch. As for Oakland, I don’t like most of the moves John Gruden has come in and made. He’s completely turned over the roster, sending away Khalil Mack, Martavis Bryant, Ryan Switzer, amongst others, doesn’t fair good for the Raiders this season.
Division Winner- KC Chiefs- 12-4
Wildcard 2- LA Chargers 10-6
Denver Broncos- 9-7
Oakland Raiders- 5-11
LA Chargers at Pittsburgh Steelers- too much adversity traveling from coast-to-coast for the Chargers. Pittsburgh wins this game at home and marches towards a redemption game, of sorts. 27-14 Steelers
Houston Texans at Jacksonville Jaguars- tough game to call here. I’m a huge believer in Watson as the franchise quarterback the Texans have always needed. But Leonard Fournette will neutralize Watson, and the Jags will control the clock with the run game, leaving Watson on the sidelines for most of the game, and facing a treacherous defense when on the field. 24-17 Jags
Pittsburgh Steelers at New England- Tom Brady will rue the day he faces Pittsburgh next year. A one and done in the playoffs for Brady, as Big Ben and company upset the juggernaut sending them home, and hopefully, sending Brady into retirement. 27-21 Pittsburgh
Jacksonville Jaguars at KC Chiefs- Really expect this to be a great game, played in Kansas City, I like the Chiefs to win this game in an old-school fashion. A lot of clock control, letting your defense win the game for you. Stop the run game of Jacksonville and make Blake Bortles beat you with his arm. I don’t have that confidence in Bortles, so I expect the Chiefs to host the AFC Championship game. 17-14 Chiefs
Pittsburg Steelers at KC Chiefs
Who would’ve thought? After trading Alex Smith, the Chiefs not only make the conference championship game, they have home field advantage. All that being said, I see the Steelers coming out of the AFC and winning this conference. A game with explosive playmakers on both offenses, Mahomes takes his team to a conference title game in his first year as a starter but winds up coming up short against the savvy Big Ben. 35-28 Steelers.
So there you have it. Pittsburgh vs. the Las Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII. Stay tuned, next week I’ll give you who wins that game, and why. We have an exhilarating ride to the finish. Cheers to football season being upon us once again!