September 7th marks the start of the 2017 season for the National Football League and the football pundits are jockeying their opinions as to which teams will make it to Super Bowl Sunday. So, I thought I would throw my two cents and give it a shot. But, before I put my neck on the line, I needed to look at those teams that can be considered legitimate contenders versus those that fizzle at the end. As many of you know, some teams start off strong, but due to a wide variety reasons, they just don’t follow through. People that know football are aware that the season can easily be divided by games played from September to the middle of November and games played November thru December. You see, the weather during the latter part of the season will force many teams to adjust their game plans accordingly. Games played in Buffalo New York in September are not the same when played in December. So, my list reflects those teams that I feel will be able to make the necessary adjustments for the elements.
The Dallas Cowboys will continue to dominate over the course of their season. A well-balanced offense featuring Dak Prescott at quarterback, Dez Bryant at wide receiver, and Ezekiel Elliott at running back will keep opposing defenses on their heels. The obvious concern is the possibility of a six-game suspension for Zeke, but with Darren McFadden in the wings the Cowboys shouldn’t miss a beat. Defensively, Dallas will be without the services of pass rushers David Irving and Damontre Moore due to suspensions but, with the acquisitions of rookies Jeff Heath and Chidobe Awazie in the defensive backfield, things could be promising.
The Green Bay Packers are consistently in the hunt for post season play. With quarterback Aaron Rodgers at the helm, along with receivers Jody Nelson and Randall Cobb, the Packers present a formidable passing game. Factor in the running game featuring Ty Green and Green Bay’s offense is a force to be reckoned with. On defense look for Clay Matthews and Clinton-Dix to wreak havoc on opposing teams.
The Oakland Raiders should contend for Super Bowl Sunday with a healthy Derek Carr at quarterback, Amari Cooper on the receiving in, and with the recent acquisition of Marshawn Lynch. Add one of the best offensive lines in the National Football League, it’s hard not to imagine they could go all the way. Defensively, with Kahlil Mack rushing the passer and tackle Justin Ellis anchoring up front, Oakland will be tough to beat. The one and only concern facing Oakland in recent years is the defensive secondary, however, drafting Gareon Cowley at cornerback could remedy the problem.
The New England Patriots can be summed up with one name–Tom Brady. The quintessential quarterback with offensive weapons, Rob Gronkowski and Brandin Cookes, give the Patriots one of the best offensive threats in the league. The loss of wide receiver, Julian Edelman, for the year hurts, but with the offensive brilliance of Coach Bill Belichick the Patriots will fill the void. Additionally, New England fields one of best defensive teams in the universe. Anchored by linebacker Dont’a Hightower and cornerback Malcolm Butler the Patriots will be a nightmare for the opposition.
So, which teams make it to the big show? Well it’s a tough call. All four above-mentioned teams can easily contend for the Lombardi Trophy. But my gut tells me it will be Dallas and Oakland competing for the Championship with the Raiders pulling it out in overtime. Of course, every team is susceptible to injuries and off the field incidents which can impact a team’s ability to compete. But regardless, it will be an enjoyable sixteen weeks.