Philadelphia Eagles: Jalen’s big leap
After a rough 3-6 start last season, the Eagles finished as one of the hottest teams in the NFL at 9-8. Philly dominated the NFL Draft by selecting Georgia Bulldogs defensive tackle Jordan Davis and perhaps the steal of the draft linebacker Nakobe Dean. In addition, they traded for A.J. Brown, one of the best receivers in the NFL. However, in order to make the Super Bowl, quarterback Jalen Hurts needs to make the leap to “elite” status. Many bettors across all platforms have put Hurts on their MVP tickets. With Brown and DeVonta Smith as one of the better receiving duos in the league, Hurts might overcome the current +2500 odds on Fanduel. If Hurts can become one of the elite quarterbacks, the Eagles can bring another Lombardi Trophy back to Philadelphia.
Dallas Cowboys: Don’t choke
Ah, yes… “America’s team”. Three playoff wins since 2003. Eight playoff appearances since 2003. The most valuable sports team on the planet and nothing to show for it in the last 20 years. Most of those playoffs losses the Cowboys were favored to win, including last year’s heartbreaking loss to the 49ers. But maybe this year is the Cowboys year. QB Dak Prescott finished last season with 4449 yards (seventh in the NFL) and 37 touchdowns (fifth in the NFL). RB Ezekiel Elliott rushed for 1002 yards (seventh in the NFL) and 10 touchdowns (sixth in the NFL). Zeke is paired with Tony Pollard, who is arguably the best backup RB in the NFL. Dallas had two pro bowl caliber receivers in CeeDee Lamb and Amari Cooper as well. Defensively, they drafted linebacker Micah Parsons in the 2021 Draft. Parsons finished the season as an all-pro at just 22-year-old. This team will remain roughly the same, except Cooper has gone to the Browns. Michael Gallup and tight end pro bowl-caliber tight end Dalton Schultz are more than capable in filling Cooper’s stats. Third-year cornerback Trevon Diggs can repeat as the league’s interception leader. This team has a lot of talent on both sides of the ball. If they can stay hot during the playoffs, they can win their first Super Bowl since 1996.
Washington Commanders: More than just the defensive line
I’ll be honest, I told many people last summer that Washington would be a dark horse to make the NFC Championship. I thought their defensive line was of elite status and could carry them to the final four. However, defensive end Chase Young tore his ACL in Week 10 last season and Washington missed the playoffs. The offense also struggled last season as QB Taylor Heinicke was subpar and RB Antonio Gibson started most games, but battled injuries throughout the season. Gibson is now healthy and the Commanders traded for QB Carson Wentz. In 2017, while on the Eagles, Wentz was the leading NFL MVP candidate, until he tore his ACL late in the season. They drafted receiver Jahan Dotson in the offseason and re-signed pro bowl caliber receiver Terry McLaurin on Tuesday. If Carson Wentz returns to his MVP form and the defensive line proves to be one of, if not the best in the NFL, the Commanders could win it all.
New York Giants: Offense, offense and offense
In the NY area, fans have mutually agreed that the Giants should move on from quarterback Daniel Jones if he doesn’t step up this year. Running back Saquon Barkley has battled injuries the last two seasons and has moved down in fantasy football drafts. When the Giants signed receiver Kenny Golladay, he was expected to be one of the best receivers in the NFL. However, he didn’t score a single touchdown in 14 games last season. In the four games that rookie receiver Kadarius Toney started (before injury), he had a very solid 420 yards. His speed and route-running ability make him one of the most unique receivers going into this season. Defensively, the Giants are criminally underrated. They have no weaknesses, especially after drafting defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux. He’ll pair excellently with Leonard Williams on the other side of the front four. Third-year Alabama safety Xavier McKinney was considered a pro bowl snub. If everyone on the defense could play to their potential, they could lock down many teams. Jones needs to prove he’s the franchise, Saquon needs to stay healthy and Kenny Golladay and Kadarius Toney need to find the end zone. If they could do this, they would have a shot at winning the Super Bowl.
Los Angeles Rams: Keep doing what you’re doing
The reigning Super Bowl champs just need to do what they did last season. After losing all-time great linebacker Von Miller to the Bills, they acquired another future hall-of-fame linebacker in Bobby Wagner. However, they have the toughest strength of schedule as their 2022 opponents had a combined average .567 win percentage. The Rams should be able to overcome this challenge once again, though, as they are stacked at every position. Don’t be surprised if the Rams repeat.
San Francisco 49ers: Find the quarterback
It’s expected that Trey Lance will get the starting QB job over Jimmy Garoppolo. The 49ers have a great team and were a few minutes away from defeating the Rams in last season’s NFC Championship to go to the Super Bowl. Defensively, the Niners are great, as they are led by two-time pro bowl defensive end Nick Bosa and 2020 all-pro linebacker Fred Warner. Offensively, receiver Deebo Samuel had a breakout season and became a unicorn for the 49ers as he also played running back. Tight end George Kittle battled injuries last season, but still became a pro bowler. Garoppolo has been the starting QB for San Francisco since 2017. However, he’s yet to make it into that top 10-15 QB rank and he’s 30-years-old. Lance was a question mark when he was drafted because he went to North Dakota State, an FCS school. If Lance can become a Top 15 quarterback, the Niners could be a darkhorse to not only win the Super Bowl, but to have one of the best records in the NFL.
Arizona Cardinals: Live without D-Hop
When Green Bay Packers cornerback Rasual Douglas intercepted Cardinals QB Kyler Murray, everything changed for Arizona. That interception ended their undefeated 7-0 start and they finished the regular season at 11-6. All-decade receiver DeAndre Hopkins suffered multiple injuries including a season ending MCL tear in Week 14. Without D-Hop for seven of the final nine weeks, Murray struggled as he only eclipsed 300 passing yards once in the final six weeks. In the offseason, the NFL discovered D-Hop was using PEDs last season, meaning he’ll be suspended for the first six games of the upcoming season. Murray needs to find a way to live without D-Hop during that time period. The Cardinals acquired receiver Marquise Brown in the offseason. He is a very solid deep-threat, which are the kind of throws Murray excels at. Running back James Conner is coming off his best season as a pro bowler. Arizona used him perfectly last season as an elusive and receiving back. Veteran weapons A.J. Green and Zach Ertz need to turn back the clock for the first six weeks in order for the Cardinals to get a great start. Defensively, future first ballot hall-of-fame defensive end J.J. Watt returns after a season-ending injury last fall. Linebacker Isaiah Simmons and safety Budda Baker are primed for pro bowl seasons. To put it simply, the Cardinals need to replicate what they did in the first half of last season (even without D-Hop) and do it for this entire fall/winter.
Seattle Seahawks: Weapons need to carry
After losing Russell Wilson and Bobby Wagner, two of the best players in Seahawks history, this offseason, Seattle is in an interesting spot. They have one of the best receiving duos in the NFL with D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett. When they traded away Wilson, they received Broncos QB Drew Lock and his tight end Noah Fant. However, Geno Smith currently has the starting job under center, but it’s still uncertain who will start Week 1. Smith has a very solid supporting cast as well as newly drafted running back Ken Walker III. Smith hasn’t been a full-time starter since 2014. Defensively, they are led by pro bowl safeties Quandree Diggs and Jamal Adams. Smith will need to use his weapons wisely and the rest of the defense will need to step up if they want to win the Lombardi.