Yet another NFL season has come and gone and in reality, not much has changed. The New England Patriots are still the model franchise and the team that everyone else wants to remove from the top. This will remain a difficult task for the next couple of seasons, as the Patriots still have the best coach and the best quarterback in the game. Also we cannot disregard the fact that the Pats also have highly regarded defensive and offensive coordinators in Matt Patricia and Josh McDaniels. However, this does not mean teams will not try to outwit the Patriots and win the Super Bowl themselves.
So, how will teams try to remove the Patriots from the top? The offseason. Most teams will load up in free agency and hope that this is enough to take them to the promise land. Teams are also going to have to draft well and hope their young players will take the next step in their development.
Currently, there are many teams in the NFL with talented young rosters that have a good chance to be strong contenders for the next several seasons. This list includes Atlanta, (although, truthfully, I do not know how they are going to recover from their epic choke job) Pittsburgh, Green Bay, Dallas, and Tampa Bay.
Overall, I think we are going to start to see more balance in the AFC over the next few years because father time will catch up to Brady, eventually. This will give room for other teams to contend for the Super Bowl.
The NFC is where I think we will see more of dynasty type teams such as the Cowboys, Packers, or even a surprise team like the Buccaneers. This leads to the ultimate purpose of this article: predicting the next five Super Bowl games and champions.
15 2017 AFC Champion - New England Patriots
Overall, the AFC will be a much better conference next year. Pittsburgh will have a chance to address their weak secondary in the draft, free agency and through player development.Look for the Denver Broncos to bounce back as well. They will have an outstanding defense, they may upgrade at the quarterback position, and they also have about $40 million in cap space. We have seen in the past how aggressive John Elway is during free agency and I expect it to be no different this year.
Despite all of this, I still have the New England Patriots repeating as AFC Champions in 2017. Yes, the Patriots have many key free agents this offseason including Dont'a Hightower, Logan Ryan, Alan Branch, Martellus Bennett, Chris Long, and Duron Harmon, but remember they will have around $60 million in cap room. Therefore, I expect a lot of these players to return.
Also, let us not forget, the Patriots will still have Brady, Belichick, and hopefully a healthy Gronk.
14 2017 NFC Champion - Seattle Seahawks
I think the Seahawks have finally realized that you cannot be cheap when it comes to paying players in the trenches. With the league's lowest payroll on the offensive line, look what happened to Russell Wilson. He was playing hurt for much of the season and was always under constant pressure in the pocket. The few games the offensive line did play well, like the game in New England, the Seahawks offense was able to move the ball down the field. Seahawks management will see this and heavily invest into the o-line. Therefore, dramatic improvement can be expected from the Seahawk offense.
We also know the defense will be at the top of the league in almost every statistical category, if they can stay healthy. Overall, I expect a strong bounce back season for the Seahawks next year.
13 Super Bowl LII Champion - New England Patriots
Just like their first dynasty, the Patriots will win three of four Super Bowls and this time, two of the wins will be against the Seattle Seahawks. How remarkable would that be?
So why do I pick the Patriots to beat the Seahawks? This was a very difficult decision, but at the end of the day, it comes down to trusting Brady and Belichick more than Carroll and Wilson. Do not get me wrong, Carroll and Wilson are great, but just not at Brady and Belichick level.
It will be a back and forth game that likely comes down to the turnover battle, or last possession. In the end, Brady will do just enough to get by the lethal Seahawks defense. Meanwhile, the Patriots defense will be their usual steady selves and do enough to win the game.
12 2018 AFC Champion - Denver Broncos
The streak of Denver or New England representing the AFC in the Super Bowl continues. Denver's quarterback of the future, Paxton Lynch will be ready to take a big step in his third year in the league and head coach Vance Joseph will use the valuable experience he gained in his rookie season to lead the team to Super Bowl 53.
The Broncos will also still have outstanding veterans on their roster including Von Miller, Demariyus Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, Chris Harris, and Aqib Talib. We also know that John Elway is going to be aggressive in the offseason and sign a bunch of solid players to complement the team.
Overall, now that the aforementioned veteran players are armed with a decent quarterback, the Broncos will look to win another championship.
11 2018 NFC Champion - Green Bay Packers
Aaron Rodgers will finally get his chance to earn a second Super Bowl trophy. Rodgers and his talented receivers will continue to put up big numbers on offense. Who knows, maybe Rodgers even breaks some regular season records, if he can be consistently great, instead of struggling for a few games as we have seen the past two seasons.
However, the major factor for the Packers is that they will be able to have addressed their biggest weakness by 2018: defense. We saw Rodgers indirectly plead to the Packers to go away from their usual philosophy and load up on talent in free agency. While, I do not think they will "load up," I expect the Packers to be more aggressive than in years past and sign solid defensive players. After all, you cannot continue to waste a great quarterback in his prime by having a terrible defense.
10 Super Bowl LIII Champion - Green Bay Packers
I said Paxton Lynch would be ready to take a big step, but I did not say he was ready to win a ring just yet. The Broncos will run into a hungrier team and hungrier quarterback and as a result, they will be the "first loser" of the 2018 NFL season.
In regards to Rodgers, have you have heard of the saying if you win one you are good, but if you win twice that means you are great? We know that Aaron Rodgers is very talented and one of the best quarterbacks in the game today, but to ultimately establish himself as one of the all-time greats, he needs to win another championship, which he will do at Super Bowl 53.
The Packers will win Super Bowl 53 and Rodgers will also win the Super Bowl MVP, silencing any critics about his place in history as one of the best quarterbacks of all time.
9 2019 AFC Champion - Pittsburgh Steelers
I know Big Ben has been contemplating retirement, but I say 2019 will be his last season. There is just too much money for him to leave on the table by retiring at this point. Knowing that it is his final season, there will be a little more sense of urgency in Pittsburgh than in years past.
By this time one would hope that the Steelers have finally improved their awful secondary. Additionally, Le'Veon Bell will be in his physical prime during this season. Furthermore, young wideouts such as Eli Rogers will have developed into legitimate number two wide receivers. This is great news for Steelers fans, as a major problem with the Steelers offense in 2016 was that there was no true receiving threat besides Antonio Brown. That will all be changed by the time 2019 rolls around.
8 2019 NFC Champion - Dallas Cowboys
If Jerry Jones can put his ego aside and let Dak Prescott stay as starter, the Cowboys should be a formidable team for the foreseeable future. In his short time in the NFL, Prescott has shown that he has the ability to lead a team. More importantly, he is calm and composed, which are traits I want my quarterback to have, especially in pressure situations. I am not saying he is the next Tom Brady, but there are just some similarities that are hard to ignore, such as composure, late round draft pick, and taking over for a highly paid veteran.
Also, do not forget the Cowboys will have one of the top running backs on their team for the foreseeable future in Ezekiel Elliott. Overall, if Cowboys management can do their part by continuing to put solid talent around these two stars, there is no reason the Cowboys will not be contenders for years to come.
7 Super Bowl LIV Champion - Dallas Cowboys
Both of these teams will have great offenses and they will both have defenses that are capable of making big plays, but also prone to giving up a lot of yardage. As a result, we will see a high scoring Super Bowl 54. Unfortunately for Pittsburgh and their fans, it will not be a happy ending for Roethlisberger, as they will not be able to get past the Cowboys.
Why do I choose the Cowboys to ultimately trump the Steelers? Ultimately, Zeke and Prescott will be too much for the Steelers to handle. Zeke will be his dominant self, forcing the Cowboys to overload the box. When this happens, Prescott will work play action magic to receivers like Dez Bryant.
However, in the end, the biggest difference will be that the Cowboys defense will be able to force one more turnover than the Steelers.
6 2020 AFC Champion - Oakland Raiders
Finally, we will be out of the era of Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, or Ben Roethlisberger representing the AFC in the Super Bowl. By the time 2020 rolls around Derek Carr will be a seasoned veteran and he will have one of the game's top receivers in Amari Cooper at his side. Carr will be a top three quarterback in the game and as a result, Oakland (or Las Vegas?) will be a threat every season.
Overall, some people may be surprised that I waited all the way until 2020 for the Raiders will rise to the top of the AFC, but I feel that many Oakland players will have to go through some growing pains, such as learning to deal with inclement weather before they can punch their ticket to the Super Bowl (we already saw how badly Oakland receivers struggled in cold weather this year).
5 2020 NFC Champion - Tampa Bay Buccaneers
If the end of the 2016 season was any indication, "Famous Jameis" and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers should be a formidable team in the NFC for years to come. They have talent on both sides of the ball and will have built an overall solid team around their franchise player, Winston, by 2020. Right now, their biggest problem appears to be consistency and this especially applies to Winston. Winston has shown he has all of the tools to be a dominant quarterback, it is just a matter of him going out there every Sunday and doing it.
I firmly believe that by the time 2020 comes, Winston will have solved these inconsistency issues and be a top quarterback in the NFL. Winston and Evans will form a dynamic duo, the defense will be balling, so watch out for Tampa.
4 Super Bowl LV Champion - Oakland Raiders
There are three major reasons I am picking Oakland to win this game. Firstly, I choose Derek Carr over Jameis Winston. This is not a knock on Winston, but I just think Derek Carr has the chance to be something special. In 2016, we already got to see how good Carr is under pressure when the game is on the line in the 4th quarter. With experience, he will only get better in these situations and teammates will follow his lead.
The second reason is that I trust Jack Del Rio more than Dirk Koetter (assuming they are still the head coaches). Koetter is a nice offensive mind, but I am not sold on him as a head coach. Obviously, he can prove me wrong, but we will have to wait and see.
Finally, it is hard to imagine Tampa Bay acquiring a game wrecker like Khalil Mack. Mack can single-handedly win a game, much like Von Miller did in Super Bowl 50 and I do not know if Tampa has that ability.
3 2021 AFC Champion - Indianapolis Colts
By the time 2021 rolls around, newly hired general manager Chris Ballard will have had more than enough time to turn the Indianapolis Colts around. Some may argue the Colts will be in contention sooner than 2021, but with the mess Ryan Grigson made, it is going to take some time before we see the Colts back in contention.
We know (well at least hope) Ballard will invest high draft picks to positions other than wide receiver. As a result, the Colts will finally have a good offensive line around Andrew Luck, allowing him to stay healthy.
They will also have a defense that is capable of winning some big games. Overall, maybe when they play the Patriots in 2021, the Colts will not get run over like they have been in the past few seasons.
2 2021 NFC Champion - Dallas Cowboys
After beating the Buccaneers in the NFC Championship, the Cowboys will be back in the Super Bowl. Like my last prediction involving the Cowboys, the combination of Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott will be too much for other NFC teams to handle.
Elliott will do just enough to tire out the Bucs defense by gaining over 4 yards a carry. He will also have developed great receiving skills by 2021 and serve as a backfield threat in the passing game. This will force the Bucs to crowd the line of scrimmage and when they do, Prescott takes over. He will dominate with the play action and under center drop backs. Although many fans will hate it, the Cowboys will be back in the big game at Super Bowl 56.
1 Super Bowl LVI Champion - Indianapolis Colts
Andrew Luck is just too talented of a quarterback to not win the Super Bowl. I know other talented quarterbacks like Dan Marino did not win either, but I really believe Chris Ballard is going to do a great job in Indianapolis. Luck will not be forced to carry the entire team like he has been doing much of his career. Yes, Luck will still be his dominant self, but his defense will finally be able to make some game changing plays for him.
This improved defense will ultimately be the deciding factor when Indy wins the Super Bowl. Luck, Prescott, and Elliott will do their thing, but the Colts defense is going to make one more play than the Cowboys and the Colts will be crowned champs.