Joseph A. Griswold – Anchor Staff
As we pass the halfway point of the National Football League season, Super Bowl picks are starting to come fast and furious. For over a decade now, the New England Patriots have dominated the American Football Conference and have represented the AFC in eight of the last 20 Super Bowls, winning five of them. This year seems to be no different. Although the Kansas City Chiefs look formidable, Tom Brady has already proven he can beat the chiefs. Furthermore, with New England just one game behind the Chiefs and having the head-to-head tiebreaker, odds are that the path to the Super Bowl in the AFC will go through New England.
In the National Football Conference, however, the path is much more unclear with the sole undefeated Los Angeles Rams falling to the New Orleans Saints and leveling out what is a highly competitive conference.
In the NFC, there are seven legitimate Super Bowl contenders with several teams that are quickly materializing into serious contenders. So, what separates the contenders from the pretenders in NFC, and most importantly who are the Patriots going to meet in the Super Bowl?
The most formidable contenders and favorites to come out of the NFC are either the Saints or the Rams who faced off in week eight with the rams falling 45-35. Both of these teams have one loss this season and have the makings of teams that can challenge for and win the Super Bowl.
The Rams are led by the league’s best offense and the NFL offensive MVP in Todd Gurley. The Saints boast a top five offense and just improved their depth with the addition of talented young cornerback Eli Apple. However, both of these teams lack stout defenses. If either of the defenses fail to be opportunistic, these teams can fall short of Super Bowl glory.
The next tier of teams in the NFC that are contenders, but not favorites include the Carolina Panthers, Philadelphia Eagles, Washington Redskins, Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings.
Of these teams the Panthers have the best opportunity to advance to the Super Bowl due to the success of quarterback Cam Newton in his first year under offensive coordinator Norv Turner. In addition, the Panthers boast an attacking defense, but have shown at times this season to be inconsistent.
The Bears, Redskins, Eagles and Vikings are all tremendously talented teams that have been characterized by extreme highs and disastrous lows. The key to one of these teams contending is the ability to get hot at the right time and ride the momentum through the playoffs.
The last set of teams in the NFC are the dark horse teams, who, as of right now do not even seem to be in playoff contention, but if all goes right can make some noise. These two teams are the Seattle Seahawks and the Green Bay Packers. Both of these teams have struggled to start the season. However, led by two of the league’s best quarterbacks in Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers both of these teams have the ability to make a late-season run towards Super Bowl glory.
Super Bowl LIII in Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta will end in a 38-35 New Orleans Saints victory over the New England Patriots giving Drew Brees his second Super Bowl title.