Back in the preseason I made some not so humble predictions about the top teams headed to Super Bowl XLIX. My memory is not as good as it used to be and neither is yours with all the digital input we let ourselves take in nowadays. So we need to take a look back at my predictions to see just how brilliant I am in terms of NFL football guruism. I hope this doesn’t hurt too terribly.
Seattle Seahawks – Hey they are not out of this thing yet! Sure, they have little to no offense. Marshawn Lynch is brooding over his possible removal come 2015. And Pete Carroll isn’t quite as excitable as he was last year. But they are still the defending champs until they are not anymore. How you like that John Madden logic? The fact is they are 8-3 and a projected 5th seed in the playoffs. They have four games left on the schedule and none of those games will be easy wins. Even the last game against the Rams is certainly not a guarantee, as St. Louis beat them in the first contest this season. The Hawks beat San Francisco on Thanksgiving easily but have to play them again in a couple of weeks. How they fare against division leading Arizona will tell us a lot about their chances in the post season. I am not convinced they are going to be left out of a Super Bowl rerun. But they certainly do not strike fear in teams like they did at the end of last year.
San Francisco 49ers – I am out on this team. They can still smash mouth with the best of them on occasion, but my confidence is low on Harbaugh’s crew. A three year run in the NFC Conference Title Game was great. A fourth edition in a row is asking too much I am afraid. It looks like Jim Harbaugh will be coaching another team soon, as the Raiders and Jets have expressed interest in the guy. Teams may try a trade to get him before his contract is up with the Niners. San Fran is still a quality team, but at 7-5 they can’t afford much more in the loss column.
Denver Broncos – I can see Denver getting back to the Super Bowl this year. They have looked good most of this year with Peyton Manning dominating defenses like normal. The team has been more well rounded with the amped up defensive pieces also. They have key losses this year to the Patriots and the Seahawks. Both games were at the opponents’ house and was the difference in the games. Seattle beat Denver up early but had to withstand a comeback from Peyton and company to get the win. The Patriots had no trouble with Denver at all. Chalk that one up to Belichick just having Manning’s number and Brady always trying to prove he is the better QB. The Patriots are the biggest obstacle to Denver’s Super Bowl return.
Green Bay Packers – Aaron Rodgers may be having his best season ever. We won’t know until the end, as Green Bay judges its players by championships. The way it should be. And if Rodgers gets the Pack another ring, he will be held up above that tractor driving Brett Favre. But he needs that ring. Early in the year it looked like Green Bay was not able to play with the best in the league. They lost to Detroit and got hammered by Seattle. Pundits were not impressed. But once the team found its rhythm, they have looked like one of the top four teams in the NFL. Last week they beat the super hot Patriots in Green Bay. The result could have been different in Foxboro. The two meeting in a neutral site would be interesting. That could happen on February 1, 2015.
Those previous four teams were my highest hopes for this year’s Super Bowl. I am still with all of them except San Francisco. Seattle is my least favorite of the three. I would go with Green Bay over Denver to win the Super Bowl if I had to bet.
On to the teams I didn’t have on my radar in the preseason. The Patriots are an obvious one. I felt like they were not going to be much different than last year. No good receivers and a badly damaged Gronkowski were going to hinder the offense. That was my feeling and that was reality early in the year. However, Tom Brady keeps on working his magic by making scrub receivers relevant. Gronk has gotten more dominant every week and avoided injury so far. He even smashed a defender into a camera stand to make it clear he was back. The cornerback has not been heard from since. I still want to see how the Pats fare in the playoffs when they have to play the best of the best. The past few years have not been kind to them, as their weaknesses have been exploited in the post season.
Arizona has had the best record in the NFL most of the year. They are a tough team that is coached very well by Bruce Arians. They are leaning on a backup quarterback for the rest of the way however. Drew Stanton is playing well and it isn’t like Carson Palmer was at the top of the NFL rung of quarterbacks anyway. I still would hesitate to bet on the Cardinals to make it to the Super Bowl. They have the feel of a good regular season team that may get knocked out in the first playoff game they are in.
The other two teams that are playing at a Super Bowl level are the Eagles and Colts. Both are projected Wildcard teams at the moment, but could climb higher in the next few weeks. Philadelphia has been almost as consistent as Arizona all year long. The Colts can put up big points at will and I trust Andrew Luck as much as any QB not named Aaron Rodgers.
So there you have it, my renewed Super Bowl outlook. I think you will find my results pretty impressive once the season ends. If not, there is always next year.