We’ve all talked a lot about how the AFC is absolutely stacked this year. And it’s true. Especially with all the offseason movement from free agents and some stellar drafts by AFC teams, it certainly seems that the scales have tipped in that direction.
What’s funny is that these AFC West teams are inevitably going to beat up on each other. Whoever ends up winning the Avengers Division will have a few bumps, bruises and may lose a few men along the way. I wouldn’t be surprised if every division team split their series with their rival opponents. You’ve also got formidable teams across other divisions within the conference like Buffalo, Tennessee and perhaps even Baltimore this year. Those won’t be a walk in the park and odds are those AFC West teams are playing one or all of them this season.
But at the end of the day, there will be one representative of the NFC in the Super Bowl regardless of how much some of us may want to just see two AFC West teams and be done with it.
With that in mind, I’d to take a look at the top contenders within said NFC. They may be pretty obvious, but I’d put them up against any team in the AFC right now, too. So, while the AFC may be deeper, the NFC won’t exactly be easier given that everything will go through these three.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
They may have succumbed to the Los Angeles Rams, who, yes, will come later on this list, in the Divisional Round of last year’s playoffs but thanks to the magic of the Buccaneers’ front office and people like Mike Greenberg and Jackie Davidson, Tampa Bay is once again returning most of their starters. Those players are not only leftover from a successful 2021 season, but most were also there for the Bucs’ 2020 Super Bowl run. They know what it takes to climb the mountaintop and that kind of experience is dangerous. Add in the fact that quarterback Tom Brady did indeed come back from a short-lived retirement after all and has the most motivation he’s ever had to return to the big game, Tampa Bay is a no-brainer contender to capture a second title in three years.
They will also have a brilliant defensive mind at the helm this year with former defensive coordinator Todd Bowles sitting in the head coaching chair. He will ultimately still have control over the defense and has said he will continue to call plays, but he brings a new attitude and discipline to both sides of the ball. He’s going to do it ‘his way’ as he stated in his introductory press conference and you can bet he wants to hoist that Lombardi as a head coach as bad as anyone.
Green Bay Packers
Brady isn’t the only petty king in the NFC, though he’s much more likeable than this one. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers was just handed an exorbitant contract extension to remain a Packer, likely through the end of his career. However, he lost his top weapon when Green Bay traded away Davante Adams to the aforementioned AFC conference where he is now paired with his former college quarterback in Derek Carr as a Raider. The Packers laughably refused to draft another wideout in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft despite having two first-round picks. Yet they frustratingly still got a top talent when they took North Dakota State’s Christian Watson in the second round. Watson just seems like Rodgers’ kind of receiver and if I know anything from being a lifelong Bears fan watching things consistently just work out for Green Bay, I know this situation won’t be the exception.
Rodgers, as much as I hate to admit it sometimes, is still a phenomenal quarterback who is itching to capture that Super Bowl victory – something he and Green Bay haven’t done since 2011. Brady has won four championships in that time period. Just saying.
Given Head Coach Matt LaFleur’s offensive creativity to make it work with Rodgers and what he’s got, along with the fact that Green Bay was able to answer some defensive questions in the draft, they’ll be just fine. And we should expect them to once again make a deep playoff run – if only to choke again in the conference championship.
Los Angeles Rams
Did I purposely put these guys last on the list because I’m still salty from the aforementioned Divisional Round playoff game? Who’s to say?
But Carmen, it was going to be a fairy tale! Brady completed the comeback. The football gods were supposed to smile down upon Tampa that perfect ‘winter’ evening. It wasn’t supposed to end that way!
Ahem. I digress.
Being the professional I am, not even those prior allegiances can keep me from admitting the Rams are still a great team and they’re coming into the season with all the swagger the defending champs should.
For anyone holding out hope that defensive tackle, end, monster (et. all) Aaron Donald would for some reason have retired at the top of his game – you’re a fool. Did you see how much fun that man was having at the parade? It was no boat parade or anything… but there’s nothing quite like that high and these guys are pre-programmed to chase after it again and again. Los Angeles is as dangerous as ever and the NFC is undoubtedly going to have to go through them if they want a shot at Vinny.
These teams are obvious contenders, sure. But they’re also perhaps some of the most complete teams league-wide. Whoever ends up representing the NFC in Super Bowl LVII won’t roll over. They’ll prove a tough opponent no matter which AFC team gets out of the conference alive.