Question of the day: Which teams will play in the Super Bowl? [Updated]
Writers from around the Tribune Co. weigh in on the topic. Please check back throughout the day for more responses, and feel free to leave a comment of your own.
Dan Pompei, Chicago Tribune
This isn’t one of those years when there are clear favorites to make it to the Super Bowl. Instead, there is a pack of strong teams in each conference. In the AFC, it’s the Patriots, Jets, Steelers, Chiefs and Ravens, and you have to throw the Chargers in there too because of the way they have been playing lately. In the NFC, it’s the Falcons, Saints, Bears, Eagles, Giants and Packers.
The closest thing the league has to a runaway train is the Falcons, so they should be the NFC favorite at this point. They are healthy, they are hot, and they are 19-1 at home with Matt Ryan as their quarterback.
In the AFC, the most well-rounded team could be the Jets. Their formula of pairing strong defense with a powerful run game could make them stronger as the season wears on.
[Updated at 9:46 a.m.:
Sam Farmer, Los Angeles Times
I still like my preseason Super Bowl pick of Green Bay-Baltimore, but given the chance to revise that, I’d lean toward New England in the AFC, because of Tom Brady’s experience and the likelihood the Patriots will clinch home-field advantage.
It’s hard not to like how the Chargers are surging -– they’re the hottest team in the conference -– but San Diego needs to prove it can get it done in the postseason and in a bitter-cold place like Foxborough, Pittsburgh, East Rutherford or Baltimore.
In the NFC, Philadelphia has been impressive for stretches, but the Eagles were beaten soundly by Chicago, a team I'm not convinced can beat good teams week after week. The most complete team looks to be Atlanta, which is deadly at home, where Matt Ryan is 19-1 as a starter.
If the Patriots and Falcons can tie up home-field advantage, they’re the best bet to wind up squaring off in Dallas.]
Ken Murray, Baltimore Sun
There are three to four teams in each conference that have the wherewithal to reach the Super Bowl. Unlike last year, the top seeds don’t figure to have it made, either.
In the AFC, I discount the Patriots because of their torpid defense, Tom Brady notwithstanding. The Chargers are making a late run but always find a way to blow a home game. Scratch them. There’s something missing with the Ravens that defies logic, and they can’t master the fourth quarter, so they’re out. The Steelers have suffered too many injuries. That leaves … the Jets, destiny’s darlings. Rex Ryan’s boys have his back, at least this year.
In the NFC, I still like the Packers, but the Falcons are very hard to beat in the Georgia Dome, as Green Bay found out Sunday. I think the Eagles have an outside chance if Michael Vick stays on course. The Packers still have to climb over the Bears in their division. If the Falcons can get through a three-game road streak next, they’ll get home field. And I think it’ll be good enough to get them to the Super Bowl.
Joseph Schwerdt, South Florida Sun Sentinel
When the Jets and Patriots meet Monday night in Foxborough, it will have nothing to do with parity. It will have everything to do with who represents the AFC in the Super Bowl. Sure, parity allowed the Browns to thump the Patriots by 20. And parity was a factor when the Jets struggled against the likes of the Lions and Bengals. But if parity is the AFC South, you can have it. The Jets will prevail Monday, not only because they are good, but also because they may be the luckiest team ever.
In the NFC, the West has given parity a bad name with two teams tied at 5-6 atop the division. Ooooh. So close it hurts just to watch! Go east to Atlanta, where the Falcons keep proving how good they are. Jet-Falcons.]
Photo: Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan. Credit: Tami Chappell / Reuters