NFL column closing thoughts

Tyler Frost, Reporter

As we are nearing the home stretch of the NFL season and the semester, I wish everyone good luck on their finals, and good luck to their favorite team in the playoffs. We’ve witnessed a very entertaining season with many surprises. Andrew Luck’s retirement, Lamar Jackson’s monster season, and the Steelers vs. Browns brawl highlight the up and down moments of 2019. There is still plenty of football to be played, and it is fair to close the semester out with the state of the NFL, some final thoughts, and predictions.

We will soon be entering a new decade, and the NFL has changed completely from how it was just ten years ago. Quarterbacks cannot be touched without a flag being thrown, and it seems that mobility has become a necessity to play the position. NFL offenses now seem to have a college feel to them, and defenses are adapting by making sure they have speed at every position. Throughout sports, the leagues evolve every generation with new athletes coming in, having the greats of the game to look back on. Despite the constant change, the NFL seems to always come full circle. The last several seasons have displayed elite passing to the fans through the means of spread offenses. This year, the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens are among teams dominating the league at the moment, doing so with a power running scheme. One thing that does remain consistent, defense wins championships. The majority of winning ball clubs play a physical style of defense, that will be key in their aims toward a Super bowl.

Though many teams are nearly eliminated from playoff contention, there are still quite a few teams with the playoffs in their site and Super bowl aspirations. A team like my Pittsburgh Steelers, though they have little to no chance at a Super Bowl appearance, have positioned themselves for an impressive playoff berth. I am proud of the efforts led by Coach Mike Tomlin, overcoming injuries and many obstacles toward a winning record. This would not be possible without Minkah Fitzpatrick, T.J Watt, and the defense helping out a previously struggling offense, now trending upward with 4th string quarterback Devlin “Duck” Hodges coming into the lineup and impressing. Teams like the Buffalo Bills have also leaned on their elite tier defense to the top wild-card spot. The Minnesota Vikings will likely be a strong wildcard team, having one of the best overall rosters in the NFL. I don’t know that I trust quarterback Kirk Cousins and coach Mike Zimmer to win when the pressure is on. We still enjoy exciting offenses, as I would watch out for the Dallas Cowboys and Kansas City Chiefs to make a run in the playoffs, as their time to heat up starts now. The Cowboys have been inconsistent this season, but are still in position to win the NFC East since the Eagles are a huge disappointment. Dallas has all of the necessary talents in Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliot, and Amari Cooper to pose as a playoff threat. Patrick Mahomes has battled a few injuries this season, but he is getting back to full strength in time to take his Chiefs to the big stage. I would content Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers are just as dangerous. Deshaun Watson’s Houston Texans are also electrifying, but the Texans and Packers lack pass protection and the few more defensive pieces necessary to take it all.

Despite those playoff teams being potential threats, it will be all about the following five teams. The Baltimore Ravens, New England Patriots, San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, and New Orleans Saints all have a strong chance to appear in, or even win the Super bowl. It’s pretty surprising that either the 49ers or Seahawks will be a wild card team, but whoever ends up in second place in the NFC West will be one of the most lethal wildcard teams to go on the road in recent playoff memory. I believe that the 49ers will need home field advantage to have a chance, as they are a young team with little playoff experience. I trust Russell Wilson more than Jimmy Garoppolo, and see Seattle as a bigger threat despite the Niners being a more complete team. Ultimately, I see the New Orleans Saints home-field advantage as tough to beat. Drew Brees, Alvin Kamara, Michael Thomas and the Saints defense give them a great chance to make the Super Bowl, as they came just one bad call away from being there last year. They went 5-0 with backup quarterback Teddy Bridgewater when Drew Brees was injured. The Saints are my pick to make the Super Bowl from the NFC. They will face either the New England Patriots or Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens are the better football team, and far more dynamic on offense. Ultimately, defense wins championships, and I don’t believe in the Ravens pass rush. The Ravens demolished the Patriots on Sunday night football in Baltimore this season, but it is rare for the genius coaching of Bill Belichick to lose twice to a team in one season. I trust the Pats to adjust, and don’t trust Lamar Jackson to make the winning throws against this legendary Patriots defense. The Patriots will win the AFC Championship and make the Super Bowl, again.

The two oldest quarterbacks in the NFL will face off in the big game, Tom Brady and Drew Brees holding almost every passing record in history. I envision the Saints offense being too much for the Patriots to stop. Wide receiver Michael Thomas is on pace to break regular season statistical records, and is a weapon that the Patriots lack. I don’t believe they are dynamic enough on offense to beat the Saints who will represent the tougher NFC. I envision The New Orleans Saints as the 2019-2020 Super Bowl Champions! Prediction: Saints 24 – Patriots 17

I appreciate everyone who followed my column and stayed up to date on reading the Renegade Rip. I hope everyone has a great rest of their semester, happy holidays, a fresh start to the new decade, and an immaculate ending to the NFL season.