With the dark nights beginning to start earlier and a chill in the air, it can only mean one thing. No, not that Thanksgiving, or even Christmas, will soon be here. Something much more important than that. It means that the NFL regular season is really heating up.
For many, this time of year means football – and many fans will bet on NFL games online to make their predictions while their favorite teams do their best to extend their involvement into the New Year and the playoffs.
Fewer than half of the teams actually make it to the postseason though. Some can probably already be counted out of the running – we’re looking at you Arizona and Carolina. But that still leaves a lot of teams in with a chance of the ultimate prize in football – Super Bowl glory. Let’s take a look at which teams might still be playing in January of next year.
Definitely Making the Playoffs
At the time of writing, we have just passed the halfway point of the regular season and there are some teams that you just know are going to enjoy a longer campaign than others. As strong as the AFC is, reigning champion Kansas City look certain to go deep into the playoffs this year. A weak AFC West helps its cause and don’t be surprised if Taylor Swift is spotted at games for a while yet.
Other divisions in the AFC are a little bit closer to call. But Baltimore and Jacksonville both look good to win theirs, while the East is harder to figure out. Buffalo was expected to come out on top but it could be Miami that claims the top spot.
The Philadelphia Eagles are really the only runaway division leaders in the NFC, with Dallas unable to put up much of a fight. The 49ers were the tip for many pundits but a losing streak has derailed their efforts. The team from the Bay Area should still make it to the playoffs at least though.
The other NFC team that should be able to make the postseason is Detroit. The Lions have endured a long period of failure but now a divisional title might be making its way to the city for the first time in 30 years. A relatively easy schedule only helps matters.
So if those teams have just about secured their berth in the playoffs, who are the ones that could still sneak in? An injury to Aaron Rodgers in his very first game ruined any hopes the Jets had but the Bengals might be back in the hunt in the AFC North. Joe Burrow is back and showing why Cincinnati was tipped by some to overcome the Chiefs this year.
Seattle is another team that might have a chance of making the postseason. With many NFC teams not looking as if they have the legs to make it to the end of the regular season, the Seahawks look set to come in behind the 49ers in the West as a Wild Card team. A tough schedule could yet derail them but there is the talent available to do better than some of their closest rivals.
New Orleans also has an outside chance of reaching the playoffs. In fact, thanks to a weak division, the Saints might even fancy their chances a little more. Atlanta and Tampa Bay don’t look like challenging and the less said about Carolina, the better.
Need a Miracle
Any team with a losing record with half the season gone can usually be disregarded. But Minnesota sits just behind Detroit in the NFC North, has won more than it has lost, and would normally be relatively confident of sneaking into the playoffs. But losing QB Kirk Cousins was a major blow and now the Vikings could fall even further back in the Wild Card race.
Justin Jefferson returning to the team will be a huge plus – and there are some very winnable games left on the schedule, especially against divisional rivals. But fans of the team will tell you how it has let them down before, even when it has been in a better position. Let’s just say that you shouldn’t expect the Vikings to still be playing in January.
Super Bowl LVIII
It is all very well picking out the teams we think might make the playoffs but you don’t really need a crystal ball to predict 14 teams from a range of just 32 at this stage of the year. So, how about picking the winners of Super Bowl LVIII? Well, we’re going to go one better than that.
For only the second time in Super Bowl history, we predict that the same teams that left the field last season will be facing each other again in Las Vegas in February. But, unlike the unfortunate Buffalo Bills of the early 1990s, we see Philadelphia getting revenge on Kansas City to claim the biggest prize in football.
Patrick Mahomes inspired his team to score 17 points in the fourth quarter at the beginning of the year to give the Chiefs their second Super Bowl triumph in just four years. But we back Jalen Hurts and AJ Brown to make it to the very end this time around.
Philly will desperately want to beat Kansas City (if that is indeed the championship match-up) and has already proved this season that it is a team that can score the points when it really matters. The Eagles surprised Tom Brady and his Patriots to win Super Bowl LII and now it feels as though the birds will fly again in Vegas.