The Philadelphia Eagles shocked the football world last season by defeating the New England Patriots to win the franchise’s first Super Bowl. Speculations abound on whether or not they will be able to continue this new-found success and, possibly, win back-to-back titles. Honestly, there’s a realistic chance for this young Eagles team. There are four teams from each conference, however, who can keep that from happening.
Who Can Dethrone The Mighty Eagles?
First, let’s start with the NFC. These four teams have a legitimate chance to not only take the Lombardi trophy, but keep the Eagles from even having a chance to defend it in Super Bowl 53.
The Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings were, without a doubt, the favorite to become the first ever NFL team to play a Super Bowl in their own stadium. Minnesota had a questionable offense at times but addressed the quarterback position in a big way by signing Kirk Cousins. Even with Case Keenum at quarterback, the Vikings were a top 10 offense in scoring with 23.9 points per game. With receivers like Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen, as well as one of the best tight ends in the NFL Kyle Rudolph, this could be a very dangerous passing attack in 2018.
On the ground, Dalvin Cook only played in four games last season but averaged almost five yards per carry. We should see a healthy balance of Latavius Murray and Cook to help open up this offense and the Vikings could easily be a top eight team. On defense, the Vikings allowed a measly 15.8 points per game. This was the number one defense in the NFL in terms of points allowed last season.
The Los Angeles Rams
The Rams could have easily been a Super Bowl team last season. Unfortunately, they had an off game against the Falcons in the wild card round and missed out on the chance to prove it. Jared Goff really came into his own last season and proved that he was a franchise quarterback. Add one of the NFL’s best running backs in Todd Gurley and it’s no surprise this squad was the highest scoring offense in 2017.
The defense is lead by defensive guru Wade Phillips and features the League’s best defensive lineman Aaron Donald. The Rams also added Ndamokung Suh to bolster the defensive line as well as top corners Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib. With the offense likely being in the top three in scoring, and the defense likely being top five in points allowed, the Rams are a legitimate contender for the Lombardi trophy in 2018.
The New Orleans Saints
The Saints have consistently been a top five offense, or better, for the last decade, mainly because of elite quarterback Drew Brees. The offensive rookie of the year runningback Alvin Kamara, mixed with a healthy dose of Mark Ingram, adds another level to this already explosive offense and makes them difficult to handle. It’s extremely likely this Saints team will become the number one offense in 2018.
On the defensive side, defensive end Cameron Jordan is an absolute monster. The defense still struggled a little in 2017 but the addition of young players such as cornerback Marshon Lattimore has shown tremendous potential for this defensive unit.
The Atlanta Falcons
I know the Falcons are coming off a laughable (or cryable) season on offense and are just a year removed from the biggest Super Bowl collapse in NFL history but hear me out. Atlanta is also a year removed from having a historical season offensively, which saw quarterback Matt Ryan take home the MVP award. The offense struggled in year one under Kyle Shanahan and thrived in year two. If year two under Steve Sarkisian is remotely similar, this is a dangerous offense coming into 2018.
The ticket to success, and a possible Super Bowl return, will be the defense. Dan Quinn has brought in, quite possibly, the most athletic defense in the League. This is the same defense that completely shut down the number one Rams offense in the wild card round and held the Super Bowl champion Eagles to a measly 15 points. If the offense can get everything ironed out, this is gonna be a fun team to watch.
The New England Patriots
As long as Tom Brady is the quarterback and Bill Belichik is the coach, this Patriots team will ALWAYS be in the mix. The Patriots were number one in offense in total yards and number two in points scored last season. The Patriots landed wide receiver Cordarelle Patterson this off-season and look to bring back a healthy Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski which makes this a, nearly, unstoppable unit.
Defensively the Patriots allow teams to gain all kinds of yards but manage to keep teams out of the endzone (with the exception of Philly, of course). The defense may struggle a little under a new defensive coordinator but, again, Brady and Belichik are there. Does anything else really matter?
The Pittsburgh Steelers
Ben Roethlisberger still has enough in the tank to make another Super Bowl push, plain and simple. With weapons like Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and (hopefully) Leveon Bell, this offense should be able to put up some serious numbers.
Defensively Pittsburgh seems to have the perfect mixture of talent. There are the good young players, such as T.J. Watt and Sean Davis as well as productive veterans like Cameron Heyward and Tyson Alualu. The Steelers led the League in sacks last season and should have no problem keeping that trend going. Pitt will definitely miss Ryan Shazier but still have the talent to be a top 5 defense in 2018.
The Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jaguars may not have necessarily been a Super Bowl favorite, but I think it was widely expected that they would shock the world and, somehow, make it past New England. Jacksonville led the League in rushing yards thanks to the rookie phenom Leonard Fournette and finished fifth in points scored. The offensive line improved tremendously and the offense seems to be a slight upgrade at the quarterback position away from being great.
Defense is where the money is with the Jaguars, quite literally! Jacksonville held nothing back when going after free agents Calais Campbell, A.J. Bouye, and Barry Church and boy did it pay off! The Jaguars finished second in both points and yards allowed in the NFL, only behind the Vikings (and not by much). Jacksonville was only a single sack away from tying the League’s best sack totals and fields, arguably, the best duo of cornerbacks in the NFL with Bouye and Jalen Ramsey. If the offense can execute in 2018, and the defense continue to perform at a high level, this is a dangerous team.
The Houston Texans
The Texans, in recent years, have seemed to be merely a quarterback away from being a real Super Bowl contender. After many (!) failed attempts, it seems as though Houston has found their franchise quartereback in Deshaun Watson. Watson may have missed most of the season due to a knee injury, but he was very impressive in the seven games he played in. With running backs Lamar Miller and D’Onta Foreman and, one of the best receivers in the League, Deandre Hopkins, Watson should thrive in 2018.
On the defense, it all rests on the status of J.J. Watt. Houston has a great defense without Watt but there’s no question they are better with him opposite Jadeveon Clowney. With a solid front seven, the Texans needed some help in the secondary and look to have addressed that need with Tyrann Mathieu. If Watt can stay healthy, the pressure generated from he and Clowney should create plenty of turnover opportunities for the honey badger. There are a lot of factors that go into this team succeeding but, rest assured, if everyone can stay healthy this is a legitimate contender.