With tons of young talent surrounding the NFL ranks at the moment, it's quite obvious that the league is going to have its share of parity as the years go on. We're seeing young quarterbacks and skill players dominate the game right now, and many teams are in the mix for a deep playoff run because of it. There's really no telling exactly which teams are going represent each conference in the Super Bowl during the proceeding seasons; with a bevy of teams currently primed to take the next step, there are feasible possibilities anywhere you turn in the league right now.
This level of competition is exactly what the league wants to see. This level of parity is what has made the NFL the most popular league in America, and is what continues to drive ratings and fan interest. Over the next five years, we're going to see new elite teams emerge, while others may fall off the map. This makes the playoff picture unpredictable, and will almost certainly result in some interesting Super Bowl matchups. Let's take a look at what may happen.
Here's a prediction of the participants and the winners of the next 5 Super Bowls.
15 2018 AFC: Oakland Raiders
It's the perfect storm in the AFC right now, and the Raiders are poised to do some serious damage in the upcoming season. Derek Carr got hurt just before the playoffs began last season, which signaled a first-round exit for Oakland while playing backup Connor Cook. That will not be the case this year.
The Raiders have perhaps the best offensive line in the game, an elite receiver in Amari Coopers, a franchise quarterback in Carr, and a powerhouse running back coming back from a year of rest in Marshawn Lynch. They're going to outscore just about everyone they play, and be one of the absolute best teams in the league this season.
14 2018 NFC: Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons' offense is almost too good not to make it back to the Super Bowl. In a 2016 season that saw them finally take the next step, they had playmakers all over the field, including Julio Jones, Devonta Freeman, Tevin Coleman, Taylor Gabriel and Mohamed Sanu, and Matt Ryan had his best season yet at quarterback. The scary part? They're all returning for the upcoming season, and there is no reason to believe that they'll suffer regression.
While there a lot of intriguing teams in the NFC, it's hard to call any of them a bigger favorite than the Falcons. Their defense may not be great, but it should be good enough for them to allow the offense to show up and put up around 30 points every game, which should get them plenty of victories. The Falcons are just as good as they were last year, if not even better.
13 2018 Winner: Oakland Raiders
The Raiders want a second chance after suffering the Carr injury last year, and they're going to get it. In what will be a shootout of a Super Bowl, they will finally avenge the struggle of the past 15 years or so, which featured mostly mediocre teams, and show that they are indeed now on top of the football world. The defense will be just good enough to stop the Falcons when it matters most, and Oakland will take advantage.
With the team set to move to Las Vegas in a few seasons, it will be one last parting gift to the fans of Oakland who stuck by their team through some pretty rough patches in recent history. This fanbase doesn't deserve to lose their team, but if they eventually have to, they can at least take solace in the fact that the Raiders were able to win another Super Bowl in Oakland when they had the chance.
12 2019 AFC: New England Patriots
Before Tom Brady retires, the Patriots are going to have one final sendoff. In two years they'll make it back to the Super Bowl and add one more ring to Brady's resume. They have one of the most talented offensive rosters in the league at the moment, and there's no reason to expect that they are incapable of making one more Super Bowl appearance at the very least.
It's crazy to think about, but we may see New England play some of their best football in the next couple of seasons. They have a stacked roster on both sides of the ball, and will be able to go far in the AFC each year. They're a threat every year, but Bill Belichick may have his best roster yet, and that's a scary thought.
11 2019 NFC: Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles have quietly put together one of the better rosters in the NFC on both sides of the ball, and they're an under-the-radar candidate for a deep playoff run in a couple of years. Carson Wentz will have multiple seasons under his belt at this point, and could reach his potential early. The defense is chock full of talent, and by this point Alshon Jeffery will likely be re-signed as well.
Philadelphia will earn a playoff berth in the upcoming season, and that will set them up to do some real damage in 2018. Expect Doug Pederson to show himself as a massive upgrade to Chip Kelly, and restore the Eagles as one of the main threats in the NFC. It won't be easy, but the Eagles have the talent to do so once Wentz gets a bit more experience.
10 2019 Winner: New England Patriots
Just like their previous Super Bowl meeting in 2005, the Patriots will once again walk away victorious. They have the tenured playoff experience, and the best head coach/quarterback combination the game has ever seen. The Eagles will keep it close, but ultimately New England will be too much to handle. Any lead that the Eagles are able to acquire will be taken back by Brady late in the game.
It will be Brady's 6th title, and ultimately signal the end of his career. He'll want to go out while on top, and waiting in the wings will be Jimmy Garoppolo to take his place as the long-term quarterback. While Brady could probably play longer, he'll consider how his legacy would look if his 6th and final title was won on his final game. It would be a storybook ending to a Hall Of Fame career, and he won't want to stay too long at the party.
9 2020 AFC: Houston Texans
The Texans knew that Brock Osweiler wasn't the quarterback of the future, so they dealt him away to Cleveland and went all-in by drafting DeShaun Watson out of Clemson in this year's draft. Despite it being a weak quarterback class, Watson was the best of the bunch, and in a few years he could develop into one of the game's elite players.
Houston should also still have most of their defensive core, maybe even J.J. Watt if he can stay away from injury. By this time, they're going to have a complete team, and could be due for a Super Bowl run early into Watson's career. It could all come together very quickly for Houston, and they should have a great 2019 season that would allow them a trip to the Super Bowl in February.
8 2020 NFC: Dallas Cowboys
The core of the Cowboys offensive line is going to remain intact for the long haul, and their offense should suffer very little drop-off from the elite level they're playing at now, in general. Zeke Elliot and Dak Prescott will likely remain the starting running back and quarterback for a long time, and the Dallas offense will continue to flourish as a result of perhaps the best running game in the league. By the 2019 season, they'll still be a well-oiled machine, and should have no trouble remaining one of the top teams in the NFC.
The defense may be suspect at the moment, but will plenty of young talent in the secondary, there is a plan in place to improve it. If former 2nd round pick Jaylon Smith can shake the injury bug, and finally perform at an elite level at linebacker, there's even more reason to be optimistic. Regardless of how they perform this season, there's reason to believe that the Cowboys will have one of the better teams in the league in several years, and in what is sure to be a loaded NFC East. They're not there yet, because of their defensive woes, but in a few years those problems should be rectified, allowing the offense to lead the way, with no threat of the defense blowing a lead.
7 2020 Winner: Houston Texans
If DeShaun Watson can live up to the expectations, then the Texans are going to be in good shape. He has a knack for making big plays at the right time, and he'll prove to be one of the most athletic and talented quarterbacks in the league. Now, Houston won't have to just rely on their defense to get it done, and if everything comes together, they will win a Super Bowl in the next few seasons.
The Texans will be one of the first teams with the ability to take advantage of an AFC playoff landscape without Tom Brady in it, most likely. They'll be ascending just as the current wave of elite quarterbacks are beginning to retire, opening the door for a new generation of dominant teams. If Houston plays their cards right, they'll fall squarely in that category.
6 2021 AFC: Indianapolis Colts
Andrew Luck has been consistently let down by a mediocre front office, but with new blood in the Indianapolis brass for this season (Chris Ballard as new general manager), there are reasons for optimism. In a few years, he should be able to have completely fixed the offensive line and the defense, which should give the Colts a much better chance of going on a deep playoff run.
They already have the franchise quarterback in the aforementioned Luck, and now it's just about doing some housekeeping on the rest of the roster. Even with just some upgrades, Luck is good enough to carry the team to postseason success. With Tom Brady likely out of the picture by the 2020 season, the Colts have an opportunity to be successful.
5 2021 NFC: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Combining their efforts during the 2016 season with saw them improve, as well as Jameis Winston commanding the team, along with the most recent offseason, an the Bucs are now one of the critics' darlings in the NFC. They may still be a year or two away from real competition, but there is a lot of reason for optimism. Led by Lavonte David, Gerald McCoy and Kwon Alexander on defense, they'll showcase themselves to be even more improved this year.
On offense, Winston is the man in charge at quarterback, and Mike Evans will continue to be his main target for years to come. Tampa Bay may need to draft a running back, or supplemental receiver help in the next few years, but the core group of players are in place for a deep playoff run. As Winston matures, they're going to be a dangerous team.
4 2021 Winner: Indianapolis Colts
With some semblance of a real team around him, Luck is going to be too much for the Bucs to overcome. He's the more dynamic quarterback than Winston, and should be still in the prime of his career at this point. With an improved front office, he should have the offensive personnel necessary to finally carry the Colts to a Super Bowl victory.
The defense should be led by safety Malik Hooker, and will have a unit formidable enough to supplement Luck's offense. Ultimately, the Colts will be a contender again in a few years, although it may take a few years of development in the interim before we start to see it come to fruition. Luck is still one of the best quarterbacks in the league, and he'll have much less competition by the 2020 season.
3 2022 AFC: Los Angeles Chargers
Philip Rivers may be retiring in a few seasons, but Chargers have a great young roster that can grow into a Super Bowl contender. They aren't ready to compete right now, but this may be the season where they begin to turn some heads as to how good their young talent really is. The scary part is, they have it on both sides of the ball.
Joey Bosa was one of the best young pass rushers in the league last year, and Melvin Ingram is a dynamic linebacker. With Melvin Gordon running the ball, and Mike Williams slated to be the go-to wide receiver of the future, the Chargers have a promising young team, and they will be ready to make a deep playoff run by the 2021 season, to play in the Super Bowl the following February.
2 2022 NFC: San Francisco 49ers
Similarly, the 49ers have some really nice pieces in place to be good in a few years. The quarterback is the obvious concern right now (along with other notable problems), but other parts of the roster have some great young talent, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. Solomon Thomas, Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner are all excellent young talent in the front seven. With some boost to the secondary, the San Francisco defense will be very good in a few years.
Offense is still a work in progress, but new coach Kyle Shanahan stands a good chance to getting back up to snuff. Kirk Cousins may eventually make his way over from Washington, so the 49ers could have their quarterback of the future as early as next season. If that happens, expect the Niners to begin winning games again.
1 2022 Winner: Los Angeles Chargers
Led by whoever the replacement for Philip Rivers ends up being, the Chargers will take advantage of an amazing young roster, and prove themselves to be the best in the league by this time. They'll edge out the 49ers in the Super Bowl, and capture their first title in franchise history.
The seeds for a playoff run like this are already in place, and the Chargers should begin to make strides this season. With a few more upgrades to the offensive line, this looks like like a team on the rise, and they'll eventually get to the playoffs on a consistent basis. That may not happen this season, but it will come eventually. Keep an eye out for them down the line.
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