The NFL kicks off today. America’s favorite game is back to playing real games. No lockouts, no replacement referees but just fully loaded football. Everybody has their Fantasy teams ready to roll out tonight so Tuesday morning they can go back to the office and proclaim their dominance or hide in shame in the thrashing delivered by their coworker. The question is now who will make a push for the throne. Will the Seahawks be the 1st team to repeat in ten years? Do the 49ers have what it takes to break through? Will AFC take the Superbowl trophy home?
Today I will tell you who I think will be the power brokers this year in the league. Not saying going to give you a Lombardi Trophy winner just yet but will tell you the teams that will be making some serious noise in the conversation.
The AFC will not be as deep as the NFC but the teams at the top will be as good as any in the league. They all will make a run at the Superbowl. Here are the 3 teams that have the best chance of repping their conference.
The Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals will be back and in control of the AFC North. The Steelers will be back but not able to control the division. Don’t expect much from the Browns and the Ravens are still trying to find a new identity in the post Ray Lewis era. With one the top sets of wide receivers and a solid running game, there will be no excuse for Andy Dalton to make that next step. Package that with a strong defense and it may finally be Marvin Lewis’s time. Now the organization is replacing both coordinators but talent should prove too strong to hold down.
The New England Patriots
Expect Bill Belichick and company to be in their usual spot at the top of the AFC East. The division is weak and squad should be back at full strength. Last year the Patriots found out that they had a running game that they could depend on later in the season. Expect the Patriots to be playing in the AFC Championship game. The defense is younger and strong and having Revis taking away one side of the field and Belichick’s game planning will be a hard barrier to overcome.
The Denver Broncos
John Elway and company the Broncos brass are all in on this year. The team that got embarrassed in the championship last year is pushing to get back. With their toughness in question the Broncos plan to steamroll whoever is in front of them on their way back. Denver should probably get the top seed in the AFC this season. The defense is totally retooled and will have a healthy Von Miller for a full season. Combine that with a DeMarcus Ware who still has some gas in the tank, you will get a very dangerous pass rush from Denver. Peyton Manning will keep the game at a track meet pace that will force opposing teams to pass most of the game. No expense was too high this offseason and the Broncos went shopping. There is no challenge for them in the division and the Chiefs will probably even backslide a little.
Keith B. Holt
Follow on Twitter @Kholtjr