Given the fact that the Green Bay Packers went 15-1 last season but got knocked out by eventual champions the New York Giants in the NFC’s divisional round of the playoffs in January, it seems reasonable to think Aaron Rodgers and his gang have some unfinished business to take care of. But that doesn’t mean they will win another Super Bowl (as they did two seasons ago).
With a young defense coming in and trying to improve upon the NFL’s worst ranked defense from last year, and the fact that Rodgers is 3-18 in his career in fourth quarter comeback opportunities, I just can’t pick this team to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl next February.
On the other hand, there’s Eli Manning, who in this past 2011-2012 season, had 15 of his 29 TDs come in the fourth quarter. Add in the NYG’s no mercy veteran defense, and you have the makings of a Super Bowl-contending team once again.
As far as the AFC in concerned, the Baltimore Ravens and (my home team) New England Patriots are the real Super Bowl contenders. I give the edge to the Ravens, however, due to the unstable offensive line situation in NE, where four veteran linemen have either retired (Matt Light), are injured (Logan Mankins, Sebastian Vollmer), or possibly retiring (Brian Waters). Plus, the somewhat shocking recent cuts of veterans like WR Deion Branch, C Dan Koppen, and backup QB Brian Hoyer don’t help.
Yes, Tom Brady still has Wes Welker and the best TE duo in football (Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez), but with Brandon Lloyd as the only proven veteran addition to an offense that also saw BenJarvis Green-Ellis leave (for Cincinnati), there isn’t much depth at all on offense. And that could be a big problem as the season goes on.
The biggest concern, however, is the defense. The Pats have never won a SB title without a Top Ten-ranked defense, and having been ranked near the bottom in 2011-2012 (even though it was middle-of-the-pack in terms of points allowed), I don’t see it drastically improving this season, even with the addition of stud rookies like Chandler Jones and Dont’a Hightower.
Baltimore’s QB Joe Flacco has a stabler situation to work with on offense, with the balanced attack of RB Ray Rice and wideouts like Anquan Boldin, Torrey Smith, and speedster Jacoby Jones. The NFL’s third-ranked defense last season, led by Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, will no doubt do everything it can to help lead this franchise to its first Super Bowl since 2001. Their main concern right now, however, is holding fort without reigning AP Defensive Player of the Year Terrell Suggs, who will miss the first six weeks of the season while healing from an Achilles injury suffered during the spring.
All in all, even though it’s not really smart to bet against Eli Manning at this point, I still expect the Ravens to finally take their recent playoff success to the next level. In a tight, defensive battle, I predict they will defeat the NYG in the Super Bowl in New Orleans come February 3, 2013.