By Christian S. Kohl
With the NFL season now finally under way, the games once again officially count. Each team has just 16 chances to distinguish itself from the pack in order to secure a playoff spot and hopefully a bid in the Super Bowl. The question is, quite simply, will the Super Bowl champion emerge from the AFC or NFC?
Since the big game is merely a one game contest, absolutely anything can happen. The sport of football is simply too grueling to endure playoff contests which are multiple games long. If the championship were 7 games long, no player on either side would be standing at the end. So the single elimination style of the playoffs lends itself to big surprises and huge upsets. For the purposes of this discussion, the question is better stated as, which conference has the best talent pool to produce a likely champion?
The answer to that is the NFC, and it's not close. The amount of firepower emerging from the NFC on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball all but dwarf that of the AFC. The defending champion Ravens dismantled their team from last year in the interest of long term rebuilding. The Patriots have lost key offensive weapons and may see their sustained excellence begin to fade. The Steelers are also showing their age on both sides of the ball, and now have too many question marks on offense. Moreover, the AFC sports more teams with effectively no chance, such as Jacksonville, Tennessee, Buffalo, and San Diego.
The NFC features a talent pool far deeper, and any one of a half dozen teams representing the conference in the Super Bowl would be nothing shy of fearsome. If quarterbacks like Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick can continue to impress in their second season at the helm, either of these teams could very well be the odds on favorites for the Super Bowl. The run games are strong, and the defenses are fearsome. The Falcons and Saints feature explosive offenses with often suspect defenses, but might be capable of putting a solid run together through the postseason. The NFC North features 3 teams who have a shot if a few things click in Green Bay, Chicago and Detroit. The Lions may seem a stretch, but Bush offers them a valid option at RB, and the biggest knock on their defense is the seemingly unlimited personal foul calls. A little discipline and execution and they could put together a run on Megatron's back.
The AFC features perhaps only one team nobody really wants to see: Denver. If the Broncos remain healthy, and some of its defensive standouts return to form after injuries heal and suspensions expire, they could give the NFC all it could handle should they reach the Super Bowl. Their corps of WR is stellar, and the whole world knows Peyton Manning is after multiple championships. This may well be the year he has enough pieces around him to pull it off.
The Broncos have all kinds of talent, but the NFC is far and away the deepest conference this year. They have the best chance to deliver a title this year. They win this week's battle, and by a respectable margin.
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Christian S. Kohl is a sports contributor for CBS Local Digital Media.
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