Let’s begin with the obvious: The Patriots are the team to beat until proven otherwise. But that spoils all the fun. Let’s look elsewhere for our matchup in the Super Bowl.
How about the Chiefs vs. the Eagles on Feb. 2 in Miami? Patrick Mahomes vs. Carson Wentz. Andy Reid vs. his former assistant Doug Pederson. Reid vs. his former employer.
New faces in new places, and the Chiefs could be favored by 2½ points — the number the Westgate posted as an early line with the AFC winner over the NFC champion. That speaks to one aspect of this Super Bowl possibility: The Chiefs are more likely to make it than the Eagles.
The Chiefs came within a coin flip of making it a year ago, when the Patriots scored a touchdown in overtime on the first possession. Frankly, I wish the NFL had spent more time making it fairer for both teams in a postseason overtime than working so hard on sending pass interference to the replay booth. Having that foul judged by slow motion will lead to all kinds of unexpected problems.
Mahomes threw for 5,097 yards and 50 touchdowns last season. Peyton Manning is the only other quarterback to throw for at least that much in a season. Even an expected regression leaves Mahomes as elite.
The Chiefs were handed the key to a long playoff run when the NFL did not suspend Tyreek Hill after another off-field incident with his significant other He’s the most dangerous deep receiver in football. Then there’s Travis Kelce, the NFL’s best tight end, veteran receiver Sammy Watkins and rookie receiver Mecole Hardman.
The only question about the Chiefs is on defense. Steve Spagnuolo, who spent eight years as an assistant under Reid at Philadelphia, was hired as the defensive coordinator in the offseason. With him comes a change from a base 3-4 to a 4-3. Coaches around the AFC West are not convinced that the Chiefs have the right personnel for the 4-3. Time will tell.
Three of the Chiefs’ September games are on the road, but they still have an excellent chance to start 4-0. They open at Jacksonville, go to Oakland, host the Ravens and then play at Detroit.
Circle Dec. 8 on your calendar as perhaps the biggest day of the season in the AFC. That’s when the Chiefs travel to New England. They combined for 68 points in the AFC title game and 83 in the regular season.
I was going to pick Minnesota instead of Philadelphia in the NFC, but the difference is their divisions. The Vikings have their hands full with four games against the Bears and Packers, and the Eagles have four games against the Giants and Redskins.
Even though the Eagles are without their fallback weapon in Nick Foles, a healthy Wentz should be able to lead them to their second Super Bowl title in three years. Their September schedule is a bit trickier than Kansas City’s. They open at home against the Redskins, travel to Atlanta, host Detroit and then play at Green Bay on a Thursday night. The key date for the Eagles could be Dec. 22, when they face the Cowboys for the second time.
The addition of DeSean Jackson gives Wentz a four-pack of good receivers, along with Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor and tight end Zach Ertz. And the defense, led by tackle Fletcher Cox, is Super Bowl-ready.
The Chiefs-Eagles would be a heck of a Super Bowl that the public would like. Yes, Bill Belichick is the greatest coach and Tom Brady the greatest quarterback, but I am ready to see them in Canton and get some new faces in the Super Bowl.
Brent Musburger’s betting column appears Saturday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He is host of My Guys in the Desert weekdays from 2 to 4 p.m. on VSiN.com, SiriusXM 204 and 920 AM The Game.