Welcome to War Room, where Yahoo Sports’ football minds kick around the topics of the day. This week, we’re at the halfway point, so we’re reassessing our Super Bowl picks, and we’re also considering which division will end up being the worst in the NFL. Onward!
Question 1. So, who’s your Super Bowl matchup NOW?
Philadelphia vs. Pittsburgh. Pennsylvanians will flock to Minnesota in droves for the battle of the Keystone State in Super Bowl LII. The Rams might be the only offense right now that could hang with Philly but their front 7 puts them over. And if they can get home field, watch out. The Steelers too will get over that New England hump. They’re so balanced, and Big Ben has one more Super Bowl left in him.
I’ll take the Eagles and the Steelers. Carson Wentz deserves to be in the conversation — if not the frontrunner — for MVP. The Eagles can stop the run as well as anyone and should be able to run it better themselves with Jay Ajayi in the mix, both of which are huge when the weather turns bad. Despite all the drama in Pittsburgh, the Steelers are the most complete team in the AFC. Big Ben isn’t his old self, but with playmakers such as LeVeon Bell, Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster and a very good line in front of him, he doesn’t have to be.
I’m going Rams-Chiefs. And what a beautiful sight it will be. Two of the most fun offenses in the league, two monster defenses battling it out and the true reintroduction of the NFL in Los Angeles. While KC is undeniably in a slump right now, their losses haven’t looked bad and could’ve easily swung the other way. Plus St. Louis football fans would have to decide between rooting for the team that ripped their hearts out or pulling for Kansas City. No team has turned around quite like the Rams have this season. They’ve got everything in place to make a deep playoff run for the next few years. There’s no reason they can’t get that started now.
Let’s go with an all-Pennsylvania matchup and say Steelers-Eagles. Philadelphia has the best record in the NFL and looks every bit as good its 8-1 mark indicates. Carson Wentz is a legitimate MVP candidate and you’d be hard pressed to find a better defensive front than the one the Eagles have in place. As for the Steelers, they have a formidable defense and more weapons than you can count on offense. Of course, they’ll have to get past New England first, but I think that’s an easier task this year than ever before. Get ready for two weeks of Primanti Bros. vs. [insert favorite cheesesteak spot here] debates.
Shalise Manza Young
My initial pick for Super Bowl LII was Giants-Patriots, and, well, that’s clearly not going to happen. Thanks, Ben McAdoo. But I always stick with my picks as long as they’re still a viable option, so I’ll stay with the Patriots from the AFC. They’re 6-2 and tied for the best record in the conference, so it’s not like it’s too far-fetched. Plus, Tom Brady (did you know he’s 40? I’ve heard he’s 40!) is still playing at an MVP-worthy level. For the NFC, I have to say the Eagles. Yes, they have the best record in the league right now so it’s kind of easy to pick them, but Carson Wentz has been so impressive, and he has a number of talented players on his side – including Jay Ajayi, who should add even more once he gets up to speed on the offense. And defensively, they’re strong against the run and on third down, two key areas.
It’s hard not to like an all-Pennsylvania matchup, so I’m rolling with Philadelphia over Pittsburgh. Carson Wentz is your MVP right now. He’s playing like a man possessed, making all the tough throws and displaying a level of poise and toughness we don’t often see from second-year quarterbacks. The addition of Jay Ajayi is already paying dividends and I love a defense that only gives up 19.9 points per game. Pittsburgh meanwhile, is red hot. Ben Roethlisberger has taken a step back, but Antonio Brown (first in the NFL in receiving) makes up for it and then some, and rookie Juju Smith-Schuster has become a willing Robin to his Batman. Just get Le’Veon Bell 20-plus touches a game and this team becomes a tougher out. Finally, I’m not sure the Steelers’ defense is as good in the secondary as it needs to be, but the pass rush (fourth in sacks) and linebacker play is very strong.
Question 2: Every year, there’s a division that vomits up a terrible champion, a 9-7 team that gets the early Saturday slot in the first weekend of the playoffs. Who’s it going to be this year?
Could it be any team other than whichever one wins the AFC South? The Titans got a lot of hype coming into this season, but they’re a meh 5-3. Jacksonville has been a bit of a pleasant surprise, but they’re 5-3 too. The Texans will be lucky to win two more games the rest of the season if they stubbornly stick with Tom Savage and TJ Yates at quarterback, not to mention the losses of JJ Watt and Whitney Mercilus on defense. And the Colts are just terrible. Even if Andrew Luck was healthy they’d still be bad. –Young
I know I just predicted them to go to the Super Bowl, but no team benefits more from being in their division this year than Pittsburgh. The AFC North is awful and I’d be stunned if the Steelers didn’t finish with a 6-0 mark to boost their record, potentially earning a first-round bye in the process. That isn’t to say they won’t deserve to be in the playoffs come January, but there’s no denying they have an easier path than any other team in the NFL. –Sulla
I can’t not take the AFC South. Indianapolis is a full fledged dumpster fire and with Houston losing Deshaun Watson, we can expect the same fate for the Texans. Tennessee has been a huge disappointment, largely because third-year quarterback Marcus Mariota seems to be stuck in neutral. I give Jacksonville credit for compiling elite young talent and developing a terrific defense, but Blake Bortles in the playoffs? Come on. –Schultz
Although the AFC South may seem like the easiest answer, I’ll take the NFC North. Aaron Rodgers has simply dominated that division for the last eight years, and without him, the outlook is significantly altered. The Rodgers-less Packers and Lions have faltered as of late and the Bears, though they play everyone hard, aren’t going to make it. The Vikings have beaten just one team with a winning record at the time of the game: Green Bay, which lost Rodgers early in that matchup. The Vikings shouldn’t scare anyone, even with an inflated winning record. –Pereles
You could make a case for almost every division this year. I’m going to stick with the NFC South. The Bucs just shut down Jameis Winston, the Falcons are playing like zombies, the Panthers’ defense relies on Luke Kuechly’s health and the Saints have beaten just one team currently over .500. That screams pretender status for a New Orleans offense that is putting up huge numbers to start the season. The NFC South has produced some of the most fun teams in the league recently, but it’s hard to make a case for it this year. –Schuster
I’ll swing for the fences (baseball term) and say the AFC West. All of a sudden, this entire division looks like a bowl of plain oatmeal, and that’s something I never thought I’d say given how fast it started. The Chargers changed addresses but not fortunes, the Raiders are a bizarro version of last year’s team, the Broncos would be better off if the defense also played offense and the Chiefs started their annual January fade three months early. KC is the best bet to both win this division and win it strong, but at the moment, the AFC West is an AFC Mess. (Full refund of purchase price if dissatisfied with attempt at humor.) –Busbee
The NFC North. The Vikings have a great defense yes, but they’re a mirage who’ve benefited from an easy first half schedule. The Packers are cooked without Rodgers and the Lions too are just a team that relies on bounces going their way to win football games. The Bears might actually not finish last and that should tell you all you need to know about these four teams. –Velaski
That’ll do it for this week! Got a suggestion for a future War Room? Hit us up at firstname.lastname@example.org and hit us with your questions. See you next week!
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports and the author of EARNHARDT NATION, on sale now at Amazon or wherever books are sold. Contact him at email@example.com or find him on Twitter or on Facebook.
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