Here are the two teams that I think will go all the way to the Super Bowl in 2009.
NFC: The Green Bay Packers
With or without Brett Favre, Green Bay will be solid with their defense and running game headed by Ryan Grant.
Grant isn't a one-year player —he is a playmaker and is a threat to break off a long run. Green Bay’s defense is easily the best in the NFC. Linebacker A.J. Hawk is a playmaker who has speed to keep up with most running backs in this league. Brady Poppinga is a hard hitting, mean linebacker who is the perfect compliment to Hawk and is one of the best in the league.
I would rather have Greg Jennings, James Jones or Donald Driver over Terrell Owens any day. Not to mention, quarterback Aaron Rodgers played very well with Favre gone.
Defensive end Aaron Kampman is a master when it comes to sacks and can be truly intimidating on the field. Ryan Pickett is a run stopper, with his big body the primary reason that Vikings running back Adrian Peterson was held to under 30 yards.
Another factor in favor of the Packers is that John Jolly and Cullen Jenkins are huge and have great speed. They can catch running backs and beat slow offensive lineman to the ball. Green Bay’s secondary includes experienced veterans Al Harris who is still as quick as anyone in the league and Charles Woodson who still has that swagger from his days at Michigan.
Atari Bigby and Nick Collins are not household names but soon will be. They hit hard, they have great hands and they make the open-field tackle when the Packers need it the most.
I predict that the Packers will go 12-4 this upcoming season, winning the NFC in the process.
AFC: San Diego Chargers
Running back Ladainian Tomlinson is all charged up and ready to make the next step in the run for a Super Bowl for San Diego.
Rivers will now have the playoff experience in getting deep in the hunt for the championship, which is vital for any team in the NFL these days. Wide receiver Chris Chambers is a veteran with speed and great hands, which will help Rivers mature into a good pocket passer.
Another factor is in Vincent Jackson. Jackson is a great finesse player with incredible speed. Also, Rivers can throw to the best tight end in football — the big, fast beast known as Antonio Gates. When its third and long, all Rivers needs to do is find Gates and he will get them a first down.
The Chargers easily have the best offensive line in football — Goff, Clary, Dielman, McNeil and Hardwick know how to get it done. Tomlinson can be sure that he will average at least five yards a carry this season with them blocking for him.
On defense, the Chargers are even better. Defensive tackle Jamal Williams is one of the biggest guys in the league, and offenses everywhere know it. He plugs up the middle right up, causing either a loss or no gain for whoever comes his way.
On his side, the Chargers have Luis Castillo, who has speed and can sack like no one else in the business. On the other side, Igor Olshansky proves his leadership as he is the defense’s captain.
The Chargers also have one of the deepest linebacking core in the league. Shaun Phillips is like a defensive end considering he can run like a gazelle and tackle like Lawrence Taylor. Shawne Merriman is the best linebacker in the league and he proves it year-after-year. Merriman’s play makes him like a hybrid of Ray Lewis and Willie McGinest, monsters in their own right.
Matt Wilhelm and Stephen Cooper are two core guys that any team could build their linebackers around. Not to mention, Cromartie and Jammer are the most athletic guys on the field whenever they play. If you throw a ball near them, you’re making a big mistake. They make you pay for it. Last but not least, McCree and Hart are solid safeties who get the job done and then some. They tackle like linebackers but have soft hands like cornerbacks.
If that doesn’t say it, I don’t know what will. The Chargers will go 11-5 and win the AFC.