Football fans can practically taste it in the air: The days are getting shorter, the weather is getting colder, and students everywhere are heading back to school. Fall is upon the sporting world, and with it comes football season.
In February, the NFL season concluded with a historic comeback victory by the New England Patriots over the Atlanta Falcons in the 51st Super Bowl. This year, every team is looking to dethrone quarterback Tom Brady and the Patriots—the benchmark of excellence in the league for the last decade and a half. After another offseason full of surprises and blockbuster deals, some new faces are set to emerge, but the favourites remain familiar.
The AFC is the weaker of the two conferences, lacking depth but boasting elite teams strong enough to resist whoever ultimately emerges from the NFC. The AFC West looks to be the most competitive division in the conference, with plenty of young, exciting talent on the Oakland Raiders and the Kansas City Chiefs. Meanwhile, the Denver Broncos have an elite defence, but their offence has fewer weapons than your neighbourhood pick-up game. As usual, the AFC South will provide the NFL world with comedic relief as the Tennessee Titans will likely run away with the pathetic division. With quarterback Marcus Mariota entering just his third year, Tennessee still probably won’t make much of its division championship.
In the North, the Steelers are primed to establish a similar level of divisional dominance. Pittsburgh has one of the most potent offensive lineups in football, stacked with superstars such as running back Le’Veon Bell, wide receiver Antonio Brown, and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Its defence need only be average for the Steelers to have a very good chance at winning it all.
However, the clear favourites in the AFC are the defending-champion New England Patriots. Brady and Bill Belichick are the greatest quarterback-coach duo in the history of the league and should easily top the pitiful AFC East division. In the conference championship, it’s close between the Patriots and the Steelers, but the tiebreaker goes to the GOAT.
AFC Championship Prediction: Patriots over Steelers
The NFC should, once again, provide some terrific competition this year. The Seattle Seahawks, Atlanta Falcons, and Green Bay Packers—favourites in each of their divisions—could all challenge for the conference title thanks to their respective veteran quarterbacks. From those three teams, the Packers—with two-time MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers—provide the most serious threat.
However, the group to watch this year will be the NFC East. The division will be a dogfight once again, delivering fiery rivalries and intriguing storylines along the way. In the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys, the East boasts two top picks to win the Lombardi Trophy. New York can take advantage of an elite secondary anchored by safety Landon Collins and one of the league’s brightest stars on offence in wide receiver Odell Beckham, Jr.
Meanwhile, the Cowboys are primed to make a serious run at the Super Bowl after going 13-3 last season, led by two rookies, quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott. The former now has a full year of experience under his belt and he’s had a promising preseason. Elliott will likely dodge a six-game suspension from the NFL and even if he does miss time, Dallas is well-equipped to manage it with the best offensive line in the league and perfectly capable backup rushers. Once the playoffs come around, there’s nowhere for the Cowboys to go but up.
NFC Championship Prediction: Cowboys over Giants
The Patriots are favoured to win it all, but Brady has turned 40 already, whereas the Cowboys are a young, exciting team on the rise. The next generation of NFL stars is here, and Prescott leads the way.
Super Bowl LII Prediction: Cowboys over Patriots