Super Bowl 55 Predictions
Every summer I get the same question “who do you think is going to win the Super Bowl?” and I always give the same answer “I don’t make my predictions until the night before the season starts”. It annoys people but there is a good reason why I wait, a lot can happen in the days leading up to the season (traded, injuries, surprise retirements). Now we are less than 24 hours away from the start of the season and after going back and forth on some teams, I finally have the two teams that I am picking to play in the Super Bowl.
My rule for picking the two teams is that I look at five tools that every team needs to win a Super Bowl. If a team has four of those tools, I still consider them as a contender but see the road to the Super Bowl as more difficult. The five tools are: Coach, Quarterback, Offensive Line, Defensive Depth, and Defensive Game-Changers. The difference between defensive depth and defensive game-changers, the Ravens have depth at linebacker, the Bears have game-changers in Khalil Mack and Akeim Hicks. With this in mind, let’s start with the AFC teams I didn’t pick to make it to the Super Bowl.
Why I didn’t pick the Patriots
There’s a belief in New England that “In Bill we trust”. I trust that Bill Belichick will give his team a chance to win in every game they play and will make the Patriots a competitive team but there are problems on both sides of the ball. Offensively, the Patriots brought in Cam Newton who has an MVP level ceiling but unfortunately they didn’t bring in many skill players to help out an offense that looked average last year (they drafted two tight ends so one might break out). The defense last season was the best in the NFL and while they are bringing back the Defensive Player of the Year in Stephon Gilmore, many of the star defenders chose to opt-out for the season (including the quarterback of the defense in Donta Hightower. The Patriots made the playoffs last year and will likely make it again but I’m not picking them to do any better.
Why I didn’t pick the Bills
The Bills are one of those teams that can shock everyone and be the top seed in the AFC, likewise they can also fall off this year and not make the playoffs. The Bills can be a sleeper pick to be in the Super Bowl, considering their roster doesn’t have any glaring weaknesses and has the Five Tools to win a Super Bowl. I couldn’t pick the Bills for two reasons, the inconsistency of Josh Allen spells trouble for team that needs to win three games in a row (something the Bills can do… against bad teams) and the snakebite factor since the Bills are one of those teams that just seem cursed (until they win it all, I can’t buy into the hype).
Why I didn’t pick the Colts (plus any team from the AFC South)
The Colts are getting a lot of praise entering this season and are seen as a potential Super Bowl team. Keep in mind that to solve their quarterback problems they brought in Philip Rivers, seriously Philip Rivers as the answer? Last season looked like a modern tragedy with Rivers quarterbacking the Chargers and this is a quarterback that has only made it the AFC Championship once, so why all the buildup? The Colts also has some glaring weaknesses on defense and aside from Darius Leonard, I don’t see any game-changers on the defense. This team might make the playoffs but I can’t see them advancing far.
The other two teams to consider in the AFC South are the Texans and the Titans. Simply put, I see both teams taking a step back this season. The Texans have a great quarterback and JJ Watt and that’s about where it ends. The Titans caught fire at the right time and nobody could figure out Ryan Tannehill, they hit a wall against the Chiefs and it looks like other teams will figure out the Titans offense.
Why I didn’t pick the Chiefs
The Kansas City Chiefs were the most intriguing team to pick throughout the off-season. They have all the pieces and specifically the Five Tools to repeat as Super Bowl Champions. The Chiefs have one of the most explosive offenses and one possibly the greatest quarterback in our generation. I couldn’t pick the Chiefs for two reasons, the first is the “Super Bowl hangover” it doesn’t appear to affect the Chiefs at the moment but it could take a toll on the team as the season progresses (the hangover also comes with a target as everyone will be trying to knock the Chiefs off their throne), the second reason I couldn’t pick the Chiefs is the depth on defense which is more concerning on the backend with the linebacking corp and secondary losing some key players over the off-season. There is also another AFC team that is hungrier than ever that I ended up picking to play in the Super Bowl.
Why I picked the Ravens
The Ravens have to have a massive chip on their shoulder from the fallout of last season’s embarrassment in the Divisional Round. After going 14-2 to grab the top-seed for the first time in franchise history and looking destined to play in the Super Bowl, they lost to the sixth seeded Titans 28-12. I know that the Ravens lost one of their game-changers on defense a few weeks ago in Safety Earl Thomas, I also know that the Ravens lost one of the best offensive linemen in the history of the game in Marshal Yanda as he retired, I also know that Lamar Jackson can be a cursed quarterback that plays great in the regular season but disappears in the playoffs. At the same time, the Ravens have the Five Tools, brought in a great draft class, and are playing with more of a motivation to make it to the Super Bowl than ever before.
We just did a full digest of the AFC teams, now let’s shift the NFC. The NFC is harder to predict as the conference appears less top-heavy than the AFC. Depending on the day, I had a different team in the Super Bowl with different reasons for each one. Let’s dive into the list of teams that I didn’t pick.
Why I didn’t pick the Cowboys
The Cowboys for the first time in years actually look like a Super Bowl contender. After finally agreeing to terms with Dak Prescott (he signed the tag but it looks like he’ll be moving on regardless of the season outcome at the end of the year). Along with Dak Prescott returning, the Cowboys had a great draft class and are bringing play-makers back on both sides of the ball (including getting bold and signing Aldon Smith and Everson Griffin on defense). The Cowboys have four issues that made me not pick them to win the Super Bowl. The first problem I see is Mike McCarthy, he’s a good coach but I don’t have enough confidence in him taking the Cowboys over the hump (he is a great football coach but he isn’t the offensive mind we all expect him to be). The second problem is the Cowboys recent trend to choke in the playoffs, hard to pick a team that hasn’t made it to the NFC Championship game since 1995. The Third problem is the potential weakness in the secondary, they lost Byron Jones in free agency and drafted Trevon Diggs to fill the void (go figure the Cowboys defense would be determined by the play of a rookie). The fourth and most important problem I have with the Cowboys is oddly their offensive line, once known as the Great Wall of Dallas, the Cowboys O-line lost Travis Fredrick this off-season as he retired and lost La’el Collins to a season-ending injury, we give the O-line more credit than it deserves and this year we might see the unit exposed. I still think the Cowboys will win the division but I can’t buy into the hype yet.
Why I didn’t pick the Saints
The Saints are one of these trap teams when it comes to this season's predictions. On one end they have been in the playoffs for the past three seasons and have looked like a Super Bowl caliber team (with the Five Tools). On the other end, the Saints have broken their fans' hearts too many years in a row and this might be the year they take a step back (or use the recent defeats to fuel a SUper Bowl run, if you still want to buy into the hype). The big reason I see the Saints taking a step back this season is simply in part for the cap situation that they are entering/already in. The Saints have already paid Michael Thomas and this points to the other great players on the team either leaving or asking for more money. New Orleans can see this potential dynasty unravel really fast.
Why I didn’t pick the Packers
The Packers were on the doorstep of the Super Bowl last season, going 13-3, winning the Divisional Round game against the Seahawks, and showing little flaws on a roster that was surging under first-year head coach Matt LeFleur, all hope was squashed in the NFC Championship Game as the 49ers ran over the Packers. The Packers entered this off-season needing a run-defense to stop teams like the 49ers from running all over them, some receivers to help out Aaron Rodgers, and maybe a game-changer on defense that the Packers haven’t had since Clay Matthews in his prime. The Packers addressed none of those needs. The Packers didn’t seem to improve this off-season and might even take a step back this season. I think that Aaron Rodgers will keep the Packers competitive but won’t be able to lead them to the Super Bowl.
Why I didn’t pick the Vikings
The Vikings were actually one of the teams I strongly considered as my Super Bowl pick. After overcoming cap Hell this off-season, the Vikings had one of the best draft classes where they replaced all the roster voids and added depth to all the important positions. The Vikings also made a move for star pass-rusher Yannick Ngakoue last month, to add the game-changer that they needed to turn the defense from good to great. There were two problems that I saw in the Minnesota Vikings, one minor problem and one major one. The minor issue is Danielle Hunter being placed on injured reserve to start the season, I know that he can be activated in three weeks but if Hunter is an impact player that they need for the entire season. The major issue I have with the Vikings is Kirk Cousins, aside from his inability to win Monday Night Football games, Cousins isn’t a quarterback that has proven he can win in the playoffs (last year he helped the team beat the Saints but then they got obliterated by the 49ers) Kirk Cousin is the type of quarterback that will assure that your team won’t be bad but has yet to prove that he can take the next step.
Why I didn’t pick the 49ers
The 49ers were the team that snuck up on everyone last year as they went 13-3, grabbed the top seed in the NFC, and represented the NFC in the Super Bowl. The 49ers are a favorite pick by many and are expected to repeat the success of last season. I see good reason to pick the 49ers as they have seen a neutral off-season (losing some great players but also adding some) and bring back the Five Tools. I couldn’t pick them for two reasons, they snuck up on a lot of trams early on last year (it won’t happen again), and they finished a lot of games that could have gone either way and resulted in victories (the 49ers were in an unprecedented amount of close games and some were a matter of a good tackle or a missed field goal), I can’t see the 49ers getting lucky like that again. The 49ers will be a good team this year and are a likely playoff team but I can’t see a team that overachieved last year winning the Super Bowl this year.
Why I didn’t pick the Bucs
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been the team of the off-season as they won the Tom Brady sweepstakes and had surrounded him with weapons that any quarterback could only dream of having. The Buccaneers being the team of the off-season is the same reason I am not picking them to win the Super Bowl. Historically teams that try to bring in a bunch of stars to go All In for one year usually end up disappointing. The Browns last year were the team of the off-season, the year before that it was the Rams (they made it to the Super Bowl but fell apart in the big game), the bottomline is that teams that sign a surplus of free agents and build a “super team” usually underachieve. Aside from the hype, the Buccaneers offensive line still concerns me and the secondary wasn’t addressed this off-season, both are vital to winning a Super Bowl and are more reasons I can’t pick them.
Why I picked the Seahawks
The Seahawks haven’t been the same since Russell Wilson decided to throw a slant at the one-yard line, going from future dynasty to forever futile. Now I look at the Seahawks and see a team that looks as good as the one they had in 2013. Russell Wilson is one of the best quarterbacks in the game and now has the pieces around him to compete. There is a constant knock on the Seahawks offensive line but few people have seen the improvements that Seattle made since Tom Cable left and they started drafting linemen to slowly improve the position, Russell Wilson is also now being protected by several blocking tight ends (the Seahawks had two tight ends last year and brought in Greg Olsen and drafted a Stanford tight end). On the defensive side of the ball, there is some concern of depth but Seattle now has another game-changing defender in addition to Bobby Wagner. The Seahawks gave the New York Jets a surplus of draft picks to acquire one of the best defenders in the game in Jamal Adams. This is the best Seahawks team since the year that they were in the Super Bowl in 2014, unless injuries completely ravage the Seahawks for a second year in a row, I don’t see how the Seahawks won’t be playing in the Super Bowl.
Super Bowl Winner: Baltimore Ravens
If the Seahawks play the Ravens, it will be a game that will come down to the final quarter and likely be decided on the final drive. Both quarterbacks will be mobile, both running games will be in full throttle, both defenses will be making plays. I think the Ravens have all the chips on winning this year and Lamar Jackson will make just enough plays to give the Ravens their first Super Bowl Championship since Super Bowl 47.