Reaghan Wharff – Kansas City Chiefs
The Kansas City Chiefs have had a good track record in the regular season during Andy Reid’s tenure, but that hasn’t translated to success in the playoffs … until this year. Last season the Chiefs finished with a 10-6 record, then traded quarterback Alex Smith to Washington, paving the way for the Patrick Mahomes era to begin.
As a junior, and led the country with 5,052 passing yards in 12 games. That being said, he is the perfect fit to play in Reid’s high-flying, gun-slinging offense.
He showed that in week one’s matchup against the Chargers, throwing for four touchdowns in a 38-28 win. Mahomes doesn’t have to do it by himself either. He’s got arguably the best tight end and receiving corps in the NFL.
Pro Bowl tight end Travis Kelce has been named as one of the NFL’s top 100 players for the past three years. In addition, he has 307 receptions, 3,900 yards and 22 touchdowns over his last four seasons. He’s a big target in the red-zone and gives Mahomes a reliable option when things break down.
On the outside, receivers Tyreek Hill and Sammy Watkins are two of the fastest players in football. Mahomes loves to throw the deep ball and who better to throw it to than Watkins and Hill.
Running back Kareem Hunt started his NFL career last season with the Chiefs and lead the league in rushing with 1,327 yards. He’ll be a great weapon that can take some of the pressure off of Mahomes and add a dimension to an already powerful offense.
Defense will be the question mark for this team, but they’ve got a great anchor and leader in Justin Houston, but he’s only averaged about seven sacks since 2014. The defense isn’t great, so there will be a lot of shootouts at Arrowhead this season. The offense can more than make up for it.
With the powerful offense the Chiefs have this season, it should be no surprise they will go far. That’s why they’re my way-too-early pick to win Super Bowl LIII.
Anthony Cullotta – Minnesota Vikings
The Minnesota Vikings came one game away from making Super Bowl LII last year, when they lost in the NFC Championship to the Philadelphia Eagles. That Vikings team is not much different from the team they have this year.
Last year’s defense, lead by all-pro safety Harrison Smith, has all its top members returning. The offense will be improved after adding a proven Kirk Cousins to an already talented receiving core in the offseason.
In week one, the Vikings played a well rounded game of football on their way to a 24-16 win over a much improved San Francisco 49ers team.
The biggest difference in the Vikings this year is not about any of the moves they made; It is the fact that they are getting their young star running back Dalvin Cook back from an injury. Last year, Cook tore his ACL in week four that put an end to what was shaping out to be a breakout year for the young running back.
Cook looked explosive in the opener and was not shy about getting hit. Cook had 22 touches in week one, and that is bound to go up as the season progresses and he gets stronger. It helps that the Vikings have a more than qualified number two back, Latavius Murray to help work Cook back into a larger role. The two backs combined for 33 touches and 137 yards and really put a stamp on the game by wearing down the 49ers defense, which opened up passing lanes for Kirk Cousins to hit leading receiver Adam Thielen six times for 102 yards.
As long as the Vikings defense can play close to the level that they showed all last season and what they showed on Sunday, they are going to find themselves winning a lot of games.
That offense is not a one hit wonder as they showed on Sunday that their receivers can really play. Simply put Kirk Cousins is a huge upgrade from Case Keenum and a healthy Dalvin Cook makes the 2018 Vikings a very dangerous team. They have high expectations and as long as they can play the way that they have been, they will continue to be my pick to win the Super Bowl when the calendar flips over into 2019.