By Jake Davidson ’19 Matthew Druyanoff ’19 and Matthew Gross ’19
Super bowl winner:
Matthew G and Matthew D: Seahawks:
The Seattle Seahawks were one bad playcall away from winning last year’s Super Bowl. Head Coach Pete Carroll will use the mistake as a lesson when he leads the talented Seahawks squad this year. This offseason, the Seahawks added one of the NFL’s best tight ends in Jimmy Graham, but it cost them two-time Pro Bowler and starting center, Max Unger. Graham’s receiving skills should help Quarterback Russell Wilson. Marshawn Lynch, the team’s starting running back, will complement Wilson and Graham to form one of the most lethal offenses in the NFL. Safety Kam Chancellor held out until week three due to contract concerns, but now he is back to complete the Seahawks’ Legion of Boom. The Seahawks were fortunate enough to have safety Earl Thomas III and cornerback Richard Sherman to be able to carry some of Chancellor’s load. The team has stumbled out of the gate with a 2-2 record, but they are talented enough to take the Lombardi Trophy back to Seattle.
The Pittsburgh Steelers have and have had the tools to succeed for a long time. Now as these players have fully formed into NFL veterans, completely watched and respected by the whole community, the Steelers have the best chance to take their Black and Gold to the Super Bowl for the first time since their championship win in 2009. Some of these talented players include Antonio Brown, arguably the best wide receiver in the league; Heath Miller, a very strong and experienced tight end; Le’veon Bell, one of the NFL’s biggest rising stars in his third year playing and of course quarterback “Big Ben” Roethlisberger. Roethlisberger has claims on almost every passing record in Steelers’ franchise history and is a shoo-in to the NFL Hall of Fame once he retires. Even with Roethlisberger’s injury this season, the Steelers are sure to win many games with veteran Michael Vick playing with the Steelers’ many dangerous weapons. Although the Steelers have started their season with a 2-2 record, they reside in the toughest division in the league, the AFC North, and are sure to bounce back. Pittsburgh’s only barriers to Super Bowl 50 are the fan-favorite Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots. With the Seahawks, until Head Coach Pete Carroll stops showing his impulsiveness that came out most prominently in the deep red zone interception in last year’s Super Bowl, the Seahawks will never be able to win another championship. With New England, however, the problem lies in repetition. While it may have worked last season, a whole second season of just Tom Brady passing to Rob Gronkowski will not go unnoticed. Defense will tighten up and they will have a harder time winning games against other good teams like the Steelers.
Matthew G: JJ Watt
Throughout his career, defensive end J.J. Watt has lived up to his nickname “J.J. Swat”. In 2012, he recorded 16 deflections. His successful 2014 season led to a runner-up finish in the MVP vote; however this is the year that Watt will win the MVP. Watt had the second most sacks in the NFL with 20.5 sacks, with only Justin Houston ahead of him (22 sacks). Watt is not only a great defensive player, but he also plays some tight end and caught three touchdown passes last season. HBO’s “Hard Knocks,” a show that followed the Houston Texans training camp, showed Watt practicing at tight end, so it will be expected to see him on the offensive side of the ball again this season. His contribution to the Texans on both sides of the field should lead to an MVP in Watt’s future.
Jake: Adrian Peterson
He’s lean, he’s mean and he’s angry. Coming off of a season-long suspension regarding a misdemeanor, running back Adrian Peterson is bound to have a chip on his shoulder. The Minnesota Vikings have been close to helpless without him, and he is excited to get back in the game. Peterson was inarguably the best running back of the 2014 season, and has been the most picked first round draft pick in ESPN fantasy leagues for the past two years. In 2013, Peterson rushed for 2,097 yards, and in the 2013-2014 season for 1,266. It is widely thought that he will achieve these numbers this season as well, and he is the most viable candidate for the MVP award.
Matthew D: Aaron Rodgers
Last season, quarterback Aaron Rodgers dominated the NFL by using his incredible arm and amazing accuracy. The reigning MVP threw for over 4,300 yards, which ranked sixth highest amongst NFL quarterbacks last season. He also threw the third most touchdowns, with only Peyton Manning and Drew Brees ahead of him. In addition, he threw the fewest interceptions out of every quarterback that threw more than nine touchdowns. Rodgers can pinpoint any wide receiver on the field and throw it perfectly to him. He also has wide receiver stars Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and James Jones, who are his favorite targets. Rodgers is back and ready to contend for the MVP award.
Matthew G: Dolphins
The Miami Dolphins offseason was headlined by the $114 million they gave to DT Ndamukong Suh. Suh should improve a defense that finished tied for 16th in sacks last year. They also added tight end Jordan Cameron, wide receiver Greg Jennings and wide receiver Kenny Stills. In the draft, the Dolphins selected WR Devante Parker (Louisville) and RB Jay Ajayi (Boise State). Starting QB Ryan Tannehill is a rising star in the league and has improved significantly each season. Tannehill finished the 2013 season with 3,913 yards passing and got better last season with 4,046 yards. His new receiving weapons in addition to top receiver Jarvis Landry should help him top last year’s number. Another up-and-coming player on the Dolphins is their starting running back Lamar Miller, who, similarly to Tannehill, has progressed each year with 709 rushing yards in the 2013 season and 1,099 rushing yards last season. Although the Dolphins have started out with a 1-3 record, their firing of Head Coach Joe Philbin should put the team on the right track.
The Buffalo Bills were definitely not the team thought of when an NFL fan would mention the word “win.” It is safe to say, however, that the Bills have had a very successful offseason that could jumpstart them onto the track to a winning record. The transactions started with extremely fast wide receiver Percy Harvin. The former Seahawk was placed as the primary receiver on the Bills’ depth chart, and will definitely add some skill to the offense. Another offensive addition was former Philadelphia running back Lesean McCoy. McCoy rushed last season for 1,319 yards and five touchdowns, and is expected to put up similar numbers with the Bills because of his prolific reputation. In addition, the Bills’ defense last season only gave up 312.2 yards per game total, putting them at the fourth overall position in the league. With a fresh, new offense and an already great defense, the Bills are sure to have a much better season than the last.
Matthew D: Titans
After the Titans’ horrible season last year, their 2015-2016 season looks very promising. Led by rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota, the Titans have started this season with a 1-2 record. Picked second in the draft, Mariota is a rookie quarterback who can throw and run. Some say he is a younger version of Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, and the Titans hope that this is the case. Last year, the Titans lost 14 out of their last 15 games, leading to an embarrassing record with only two wins during their entire season. During the last offseason, they signed OLB Brian Orakpo and drafted wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham. They also have veteran running back Bishop Sankey and Kendall Wright, who is one of the Titans’ many offensive stars. Sankey, much like Mariota, also had an amazing season opener. With young offensive and defensive stars, the Titans look very promising this year and may be a playoff contender.