Though the success of the Arizona Cardinals in 2008-2009 has no direct effect on the outcome of this season, I mention as a way of saying: Don't be surprised if the Super Bowl features the long-running joke known as the Cincinnati Bengals.
And you, they just might win.
Earlier this year, I called out Carson Palmer in several blogs, not saying that he read them, but I called him a, "Quarterback on welfare" who had failed in his role of leadership. Palmer however has stepped-up.
The Bengals (in my opinion) are playing the way a Super Bowl team should: Defense, running, and timely passing.
The Bengals just showed that they can handle the Steelers in Pittsburgh, and have also showed that they can win with defense. The Patriots and Colts are weak on defense, as the Patriots just showed by going for it on 4th-and-2 against Indy; a decision which of course, cost the game for New England.
Knowing that the Bengals can play strong defense and exploit weak defense, or succeed against a strong one like Pittsburgh, in Pittsburgh no less, tells me that the Bengals should be able to handle New England if need be.
The biggest question mark is whether Cincy can handle Indy. Based on the strengths I have already listed, I think Cincy can do it.
As for the Vikings, the Brett Favre experiment has been paying off, after I had believed that football was no longer The Passion of Brett Favre, and that the NFL was merely an escape from the realities of his world.
I like the Vikings though, because like the Bengals, the Vikings appear to be the most complete team: Defense, running, and timely passing, unlike New Orleans, which has a hot-and-cold defense that I think can be exploited by Adrian Peterson if need be.
When a team has a power runner like that, it wears down a defense. Like I said, the New Orleans defense is not a rock solid one. Moreover, the only NFC team with a stout defense, and relative consistency, is the New York Giants.
So barring another shocker in the NFC, as the Cardinals did last season, I think Minnesota is the team to beat.
Tough call between the Vikings and Giants, but if the Vikings have home-field, I would take Minnesota.
As for the Super Bowl, I would rather not pick which team I think will win, right now. I'll reserve that for later.
(And if the Bengals can do it with owner Mike Brown, then the Raiders can do it again with owner Al Davis).