Every season we sit back and try to make a solid prediction as to who will win the Super Bowl and which two teams will represent their conferences for a chance at the Lombardi Trophy. Every season we've been able to narrow it down to about two or three teams per conference that have a legitimate chance at winning it all. This is season is quite different. I count about 12 teams overall with legit shots at reaching and winning the Super Bowl. I will be writing my AFC contenders article soon but for now here are the five teams that can possibly come out of the NFC.
courtesy of Yahoo! Sports
Los Angeles Rams - The defending champs almost weren't had it not been for the superb connection between Matthew Stafford and Cooper Kupp, plus Aaron Donald dominating on defense in the 4th quarter against the Bengals in Super Bowl LVI. The reigning champs can't simply depend on Cooper Kupp winning the wide receiver triple crown again! That's why Allen Robinson was brought in to play along side him. Stafford throws too many interceptions, in fact he led the league in picks last season with 17. Los Angeles can't rely on Donald to clean up all of Stafford's mistakes. If Cam Akers is the starting running back then he better have a big year if L.A. is to repeat. That's the key for the Rams. They will need to run the ball in crucial moments this season against some tough teams. They'll need to grind the clock down and hold a lead. The running game will balance out not only the offense, but the entire team.
Green Bay Packers - Yea I know DeVante Adams isn't there anymore. But Aaron Rodgers is and he is the back to back reigning NFL MVP. Rodgers was great before Adams and he'll be great after. However, I expect the Packers to run the ball a lot more this year as they have an excellent one-two punch in Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon. The Packers also have an underrated defense with one of the best secondaries in football. If Rodgers can stay hot into the playoffs and that defense lives up to the hype then Green Bay can find themselves back in the Bowl after a 12 year drought. All that being said, the key for the Packers this season is executing on special teams. The Packers special teams unit was a complete failure all season whether it was attempting a field goal, trying to block a punt and trying not to get their punt blocked. Not to mention the poor tackling and complete lack of execution as a unit. Green Bay is solid all around but if their special teams unit doesn't play well then we'll just see a repeat of last season against the 49ers in the divisional round of the playoffs. A game the Packers should have won.
San Francisco 49ers - The 49ers are coming off a somewhat suprising run making it to the conference championship and nearly beating the eventual champion Rams for the third time last season. The 49ers were right there, just fingertips away from winning when Jaquarski Tartt dropped a sure handed interception thrown by Stafford. That's how good this team is and they did it with Jimmy Garoppolo as the starting quarterback. 49ers fans will tell you that Jimmy G was the reason why the Niners didn't reach the Super Bowl and even the reason they lost to Kansas City in Super Bowl LXV. That's why San Francisco traded up to take Trey Lance so high in the 2021 draft. The Niners are built to win right now. Much like the Denver Broncos, people said San Fran was just a QB away from being a champion. Jimmy G is not that guy but Trey Lance might be. And he is the key for the Niners success in 2022. The organization gave up so much to draft Lance because of what they believe Lance can do on the field that Garoppolo just can't. Those tangible skills that the sophomore QB has is why the 49ers know they have a legit shot at winning the Super Bowl with this kid under center. The 49ers are a ready made team. Lance just needs to get in there and learn on the job because the Niners know Jimmy G is not going to win them a title.
Tampa Bay Bucs - This team won a Super Bowl two years ago with many of the same players on the roster for the 2022 season. True there is no more Gronk, for now, and Antonio Brown is out. So clearly there's a void between Mike Evans and Chris Godwin who's coming back from tearing up his knee against the Saints last season. That truly effected how the Bucs offense was run as Godwin was leading the team in receptions. So Tom Brady is going to need another guy he can rely on. May I present to you that guy and the key for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers success - Mr. Russell Gage. Yup, that smallish receiver from the Atlanta Falcons! We know that Brady loves throwing to the slot. Normally Gronk or A.B. would be Brady's guy but since they're both gone Gage will be the WR in the slot grabbing Brady's attention. Gage is an underrated receiver and stepped up big for the Falcons on quite a few occassions. I can see him catching 90 balls this year and moving the sticks consistently. With that void in the middle and Godwin coming back from knee surgery and may not even be ready for week 1, Gage will be heavily called upon to pick up the 1st down on 3rd and 3 and in other critical situations.
New Orleans Saints - Some of you may be thinking right now, why the heck does this guy have the New Orleans Saints in as NFC contenders?! Well I'll tell you! The Saints just missed the post season last year by one game. They played tough football and scrapped all season with a back up quarterback and a banged up offense. The offesne started out with some promise until Jameis Winston went down for the year after suffering a fracture on his right hand. The defense was the key to the Saints success last season and almost made it into the tournament. With a healthy Jameis Winston and Michael Thomas back with the additions of veteran Jarvis Landry and rookie sensation Chris Olave is tremendous. Pair that with the abilities of Alvin Kamara in the backfield and we're talking a lot of points on the board. All these great weapons won't matter much unless the offensive line can run and pass block for this team. The loss of OL Terron Armstead has left a gap at LT as he is one of the best in the league at his position and got rewarded for that by the Miami Dolphins. The Saints also drafted rookie Trevor Penning to hopefully replace Armstead and block Jameis Winston's blind side. That's the key for the Saints this year. The offensive lineman will determine if the line of scrimmage moves forward or backward. The rest of the Saints line consists of Andrus Peat and Cesar Ruiz who are both very good guards along with Ryan Ramczyk at RT and Erik McCoy playing center. That's the likely starting five on the O-Line and it's a potentially really good starting five. If this unit plays up to their potential then New Orleans can get right back in the post season after taking a year off.