Five NFC Teams With the Best Super Bowl Chances

San Francisco and Detroit should be favorites to remain on top. Plus, more on the Patriots’ GM search, the Broncos’ stance on Bo Nix and where Caleb Williams stacks up against other QB prospects in Albert Breer’s mailbag.
The Detroit Lions and San Francisco 49ers are favorites to remain on top of the NFC.
The Detroit Lions and San Francisco 49ers are favorites to remain on top of the NFC. / Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK

You asked. I answered. Let’s go …

From Jason Kroulik (@crowlick): Can you rank the top 5 NFC teams to make the super bowl in order?

Jason, yes, I can …

1) San Francisco 49ers: They’re still the most complete team in the conference. And if they hit on first-round receiver Ricky Pearsall, who’s older and more NFL-ready than a lot of his peers, and Brock Purdy takes another step, look out. Health, to me, is really the only question because it’s the one thing that can take down any team.

2) Detroit Lions: Yeah, it’s chalky to put last season’s conference finalists first and second. But so many of Detroit’s top players are still ascending—Aidan Hutchinson, Brian Branch, Jack Campbell, Penei Sewell, Amon-Ra St. Brown and Jahmyr Gibbs, just to name a few—and the staff, incredibly, returns intact. It’s hard not to see a heck of an encore to last year’s breakthrough for Dan Campbell’s crew.

3) Philadelphia Eagles: The team needs young guys to step up on the lines of scrimmage, with bedrocks Jason Kelce and Fletcher Cox retired. A lot rides on guys such as Cam Jurgens, Jordan Davis and Jalen Carter living up to their potential. There are also two new coordinators. But the ceiling here is still sky-high.

4) Los Angeles Rams: The loss of Aaron Donald makes me a little nervous about putting Los Angeles this high. Obviously, that’s no small loss. Still, Sean McVay guided a team undergoing an extensive cap reset (carrying $75 million in dead money) to the playoffs, and guys such as Puka Nacua, Byron Young, Kobie Turner and Kyren Williams should only get better. I love Jared Verse and Braden Fiske coming aboard, too.

5) Green Bay Packers: Jordan Love made a major leap late in the year, and I think you can take his trajectory and—without calling him Aaron Rodgers—compare it favorably to Rodgers in 2008 and ’09. Also, I love the young skill group that’s going to grow up with him, and defensive coordinator Jeff Hafley will supercharge a talented defense. The big question lingering from there, then, will be how things shake out along the offensive line.

While we’re here, I did toy with the idea of throwing the New York Giants into the mix, because I think their strength on the lines of scrimmage should give them a chance. But in the end, I do think these five teams have earned the right to be separated from the pack in a strengthened NFC.

From Austyn Wright (@80zkid4Ever): How many wins do the Titans get next year?

Austyn, as I view it, the Tennessee Titans probably have enough talent to flirt with .500, but the growth of the AFC South—the Houston Texans and Jacksonville Jaguars both have rightful playoff expectations, and Shane Steichen’s first year with the Indianapolis Colts was promising—has me slotting them around 7–10.

I do like the investment into the offensive line, starting with line coach Bill Callahan joining his son Brian in Nashville, and how the team is efforting to get an answer on Will Levis in the new staff’s first year. Putting Calvin Ridley, Tony Pollard, Lloyd Cushenberry and first-rounder JC Latham around the second-year quarterback, and giving him a big-time quarterbacks expert as his head coach, should give them the best chance to decide whether Levis is the guy for 2025 and beyond.

In getting that answer, I think they should be able to field a pretty competitive team, albeit one that probably won’t be in the AFC playoff mix.

Levis will be surrounded by talent, including first-round star Latham.
Levis will be surrounded by talent, including first-round star Latham. / Denny Simmons / The Tennessean / USA

From KTA (@keiteay): Do you think the stadium deal ultimately gets done in Jacksonville? How would you personally handicap it?

KTA, the reality is a public-money ask in the billions—with a B—is hard to handicap. I would guess that, based on the history of such matters in Florida, the Jaguars will have trouble getting funding from the people. And if that’s the case, obviously, bigger questions will arise. Will owner Shad Khan make up for any sort of shortfall in public money? Would someone swoop in and try to buy the team? Would this mean pushing the relationships the team has in London to another level?

We’ll see whether things get to the point where those are issues people in Jacksonville have to worry about. One thing that’s clear: The process is now entering a critical stretch.

From Christian Turner (@Christian_T14): What’s going on with Justin Simmons?

Christian, I think it’s two things and they’re related.

The first is that the market just hasn’t been there for safeties this offseason. Despite a slew of notable names in free agency, only one player got into eight figures in APY (new Packers safety Xavier McKinney, who was lured from the Giants with a deal at $16.75 million per year). The second is that, as such, and given the fact that he’s already made a ton of money, Simmons didn’t see the fit or deal yet to make him jump.

Now, he’s lost a little something as a player—and being a step slower as a post safety does matter. But he’s still plenty good enough to help someone. And, clearly, he’s using the flexibility he has as a guy who’s gotten his set-for-life financial security to wait for the right deal, and situation, to come along.

From Chris Mercurio (@Cmerc5): How do the Patriots get anyone to interview, to satisfy the Rooney rule, if everyone knows it’s Eliot Wolf’s job regardless?

Well, certainly there were a lot of guys, Chris, that get your sentiment—rising execs like Terrance Gray of the Buffalo Bills and the Cincinnati Bengals’ Trey Brown were among those to shoot the Patriots down. They had former Carolina Panthers cap czar Samir Suleiman and Eagles director of scouting Brandon Hunt in Boston on Wednesday to interview for the job and, after those interviews are complete, they’ll be able to move forward with the expected hire of Wolf.

So if you’re Suleiman or Hunt, or Gray or Brown for that matter, why would you interview?

I think there are two reasons. The first one is just to get the interview rep. There’s a skill to these presentations, and getting a chance to go through the practice of doing it once is valuable. Gray and Brown, for what it’s worth, have been in the mix for jobs, so this is probably a little less valuable to them. The second reason to go is because all the NFL owners talk. If you knock the interview out of the park, the owner might tell other owners, which can ignite your market, and Patriots owner Robert Kraft is powerful and connected.

In the end, yeah, the Patriots are probably going to affirm Eliot Wolf as their top personnel guy, GM title or no GM title, and maybe before you read this answer. But there is value for other guys in going through the process.

From CHStormTracker (@CHSStormTracker): Are the Broncos, Sean Payton in particular, really as sold on Bo Nix as they claim to be? Or is this all a show, and they just took the QB they had to take because the Falcons took Penix?

No, Storm. They had Nix as third among the quarterbacks. They would’ve taken him over Drake Maye, J.J. McCarthy and Michael Penix Jr. And since it’s Payton making this call, I think it really is worth paying attention to.

Payton saw in Nix an efficient quarterback who played faster, and more mistake-free, than any other quarterback in the class. The Denver Broncos also saw, after witnessing him in person, a physically sturdier player—with big hands and a big lower half—than some made him out to be and with a stronger arm than most thought.

We’ll see, of course, whether Payton is right. But I wouldn’t doubt his conviction.

(Or his ability to evaluate quarterbacks.)

The Denver Broncos selected Nix with the No. 12 pick in the 2024 NFL draft.
The Denver Broncos selected Nix with the No. 12 pick in the 2024 NFL draft. / Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

From Henry Matthews (@henrymHuss26H): Have you heard anything on when the NFL schedule will be released? There was a rumor that it would be this week but that doesn't sound like it will happen now.

A week from Wednesday.

From Bryan Orenchuk (@BryanOrenchuk): Loved your article on the Bears’ process with Caleb. In your experience, was Caleb the best option and if so, who is the closest prospect in recent memory to be as clean on and off the field with franchise leading potential?

First of all, thank you, Bryan. I really enjoyed writing that one.

And I’d put the elite quarterback prospects in my time covering the league into two buckets. The first would be the A guy like this doesn’t come along every year, or even every few years bucket. The second would be the He could be the No. 1 pick in any draft bucket. This, of course, is rarified air, and based on how these guys are viewed coming out.

So if I go back to when I started covering the league, in August 2005, here’s my rough feeling for how these two groups would break down …

Bucket 2: Matt Ryan, Matthew Stafford, Sam Bradford, Cam Newton, Robert Griffin III, Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota, Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, Joe Burrow, Jayden Daniels, Drake Maye.

Bucket 1: Andrew Luck, Trevor Lawrence, Caleb Williams.

Obviously, this is very subjective. I have some first picks I left off. There are a couple of guys who went third that I put on. And some of the above guys didn’t make it. But to me, it’s the difference, for example, between Peyton Manning in 1998 and Carson Palmer in 2003, even if both guys went first.

That’s the simplest way I can illustrate how Williams is seen. He’s the best quarterback prospect in at least three years, and maybe in 12.

From Bernie Bahrmasel (@BernieBahrmasel): What are you hearing this offseason regarding Trey Lance and is he an option for QB2 this year in Dallas? Who would you say he compares to favorably based on the small sample we've seen?

Bernie, I’d start here with Trey Lance: He is, by all accounts (including my own), a fantastic kid and a good worker, and just got caught in a weird situation in San Francisco. After getting hurt he watched the sand in the hourglass on his time to develop fall due to the Niners’ place as a contender in the NFC. I still believe that if the potential is there for Lance to make it, he’ll pull every lever he can to do so.

At this point, if he can grow to be Tyrod Taylor, that’d be a big win.

And that’s to say I think it’s O.K. to hope he can become the Dallas Cowboys’ backup quarterback, and play well in spots, but it’s asking too much to think that he’ll be the right backup plan if somehow Dak Prescott isn’t on the team in 2025.

From collin duddy (@LoboExplosivo): How much for Najee Harris to the Raiders?

A Day 2 pick, maybe? I don’t know, to be honest. But there are a few teams, given that the 

Pittsburgh Steelers have Jaylen Warren, who should put in the ask.

From Paul Andrew Esden Jr (@BoyGreen25): Jets GM Joe Douglas has a long track record of adding veterans during the summer months: Morgan Moses, Kwon Alexander and Dalvin Cook. I'd imagine this season would be no different considering the all-in mentality around the organization. Who could the Jets lure in?

I’m looking at the current crop of free agents, Paul, and Simmons makes a lot of sense to me. And I’d have said Ryan Tannehill, before remembering that Taylor landed there. Tight end would be the other spot to look at. Maybe Logan Thomas would make sense for them (you’d think that if, given his relationship with Rodgers, Robert Tonyan was coming aboard, it’d have already happened).

Albert Breer