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Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 13:57 PM

SB, AFC, NFC Best Bets

12 Weeks of 2019 NFL Futures Predictions
 
Well, here we are. Three months of weekly NFL futures predictions wraps up with this piece and it's been a fun grind to say the least. Football content has really started to hit overdrive throughout the industry in recent weeks, but these pieces have been coming at you since the beginning of May, so I appreciate all of you that have taken in some part of this journey along the way.
 
And after going through the team win total gamut to start, touching on individual awards and statistical achievements, to playoff bound teams in recent weeks, we've reached the chronological end of year now with Conference winners and even a Super Bowl winner at the end. Hopefully six months from now we can look back at all of these previews with fondness while holding numerous winning tickets in our hand, but as far as the actual NFL season goes, there can only be one winner in February, and hopefully the team featured at the end of this piece will be that team.
 
But we've got to get through the conference winners first, and as a big believer in using history as a guideline for the future, it's a history lesson where we start.
 
To Win the NFC Championship
 
Chicago Bears (+700)
 
If you've gone through all 11 of the previous NFL futures pieces, it should come as no surprise that I am quite high on Chicago this year, having already discussed them to surpass their season win total and claim the NFC North in the process. But I've also got no problem taking it one step further in backing them to be the NFC's representative in the Super Bowl, and aside from all the on-field stuff they've got that should play really well on both sides of the ball, history is seemingly on their side as well.
 
Of the 19 NFC Champions we've seen in this century, 12 of them were playoff teams the year prior. So for as much talk as there is about 2-3 playoff teams dropping out and making way for 2-3 different playoff teams each year, if you're a franchise on the NFC side of things with a Super Bowl run as a realistic expectation, you'd better experience some playoff success earlier. Obviously that's not the be all end all, as two of the last three NFC Champions – 2017 Philadelphia Eagles and 2016 Atlanta Falcons – made the Super Bowl after failing to make the playoffs the year before, but the only other team to join those two teams in that boat this decade was the 2011 New York Giants. So 66.6% of the time over the past nine seasons, the NFC representative in the Super Bowl was a playoff team before, and that percentage only drops to 63% for the century.
 
That in itself has to be good news for fans of the New Orleans Saints, LA Rams, Chicago Bears, Dallas Cowboys, Seattle Seahawks, and Philadelphia Eagles, but we can narrow down that field as well.
 
Only once this century (5.2%) as the reigning NFC Champion gone back to the Super Bowl (Seattle in 2014) so that takes the Rams – who are favored at +450 – out of consideration.  The Saints, who lost to LA in last year's NFC Championship fall into a role where the defending NFC runner-up has only won the conference the following year twice since the start of the century (10%), as as the second favorite to win the NFC at +550, it takes New Orleans out of the running as well. You know my thoughts on Dallas and Philadelphia from a few weeks back, and while Dallas was hard to put on the chopping block here, they ended up there because...
 
Of those 12 teams to win the NFC as playoff teams from the season prior, half of them (6) were losers in the Wildcard round in that previous year.
 
It's a trend that panned out last season with the Rams making the Super Bowl after losing in the Wildcard round as the #3 seed vs Atlanta in January of 2018, and it's one that hasn't been as successful during this decade, but one that connected five times from the 2001 Rams to the 2010 Packers. That puts Seattle and Chicago squarely in the picture, and while Seattle was a late cut as well, it's the complete nature of this Bears team that gives them the edge. Defensively is where the Bears stand out above the majority of NFC rivals – especially Seattle – and there is a long history of success in the NFL for QB's like Mitchell Trubisky who are in Year 3 of their pro career.
 
As long as Chicago is able to keep all their key guys healthy, and perhaps even run up enough regular season wins to earn a Top 2 seed in the NFC, visiting teams coming to Soldier Field in January will not be conducive to success.
 
To Win the AFC Championship
 
Kansas City Chiefs (+400)
 
Given New England's dominance in the AFC this century, looking at the potential AFC Champions this year from the same historical perspective discussed for the NFC doesn't apply. But that doesn't mean there aren't other historical angles we can't take here to end up landing on the Chiefs like I have.
 
For one, in the history of the AFC Championship – going all the way back to the AFL days, only one team (the early 90's Buffalo Bills) has ever won four straight AFC title games. New England is currently sitting on three in a row, and only the early 1970's Miami Dolphins were able to do that in the AFC, before stumbling in 1974 playoffs and failing to even make it to the AFC title game. Take that how you will, but yes, it means I am calling for two new combatants in this year's AFC Championship game.
 
Moving the time line a little closer to recent days, it was in 2005 that the Pittsburgh Steelers became the first team this century to lose the AFC Championship game one year and then win it the next; something Kansas City is looking to do in the 2019/20 season. That result by Pittsburgh kicked off a scenario where four other teams – New England in 2007, Baltimore in 2012, New England again in 2014 and 2016 – where the previous year's AFC runner-up managed to take that next step and go the distance. That's what positive history lies in front of the Chiefs this year, and they really were just an average defense away from being Super Bowl bound last year.
 
And while there are other teams worthy of consideration, the Patriots should finally take that decline step in 2019, the Cleveland Browns are overhyped in terms of Super Bowl potential, and my thoughts on Indianapolis are here.  In terms of teams that were last on the chopping block, they'd be the LA Chargers (+700) and Baltimore Ravens (+1600), but until the Melvin Gordon scenario gets sorted out in Chargers land, and Ravens QB Lamar Jackson can prove he can be a legitimate throwing threat in this league, I'll hold off my units backing those teams until later in the year.
 
Finally, it's important to note that of those five teams since 2005 that were able to win the AFC Championship the year after losing in that game, four of the five went on to win the Super Bowl that season – with only the 2007 New England Patriots and David Tyree's helmet catch spoiling that being a perfect number. Which brings me to this year's champion, where the coronation of QB Patrick Mahomes being one of the faces of the league going forward is complete.
 
Super Bowl 54 Champions:
 
Kansas City Chiefs (+800)
  
12 Weeks of 2019 Futures Predictions
 
1) Baltimore Ravens
2) Indianapolis Colts
3) Chicago Bears and San Francisco 49ers
4) Atlanta Falcons
5) NFL ROY
6) Most Passing Yards
7) Most Receiving Yards
8) Most Rushing Yards
9) Make Playoffs Yes/No
10) AFC Division Winners
11) NFC Division Winners 


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