Photo via Kirby Lee, USA Today Sports

With the NFL season just under way, it’s time to make some projections. With that, here’s mine: The two teams that will play in the Super Bowl in Minneapolis, Minnesota will be the Seattle Seahawks and the Oakland Raiders.

Photo via Kirby Lee-USA Today Sports

For the Seattle Seahawks, the two best players on their defense and maybe their team are Earl Thomas (West Orange Stark) and Michael Bennett (Alief Taylor). Thomas is ready to reprise his role as the best safety in the NFL. He suffered a brutal leg injury in 2016 that forced him to miss the final five games of the season. The Seahawks were 8-3-1 until their game against the Carolina Panthers. Their record after Thomas’ injury was 3-3 and they got blown out in the divisional game 36-20 against the Atlanta Falcons.

Prior to last season, Thomas was one of the surest players in the NFL with six straight seasons of 16 starts and he’s had five interceptions in a season three times. Since Thomas joined the Seahawks in 2010, Seattle has won a Super Bowl, nearly won a second, missed the playoffs once and never finished earlier than the divisional round.

The Seahawks have been even more prolific since Bennett came from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2013. The Seahawks won the Super Bowl in 2013 with the help from Bennett, who had four forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries that season. They went to another Super Bowl in 2014 and made the divisional round the last two seasons. Bennett has also been a sack machine with 30.5 sacks in four seasons with Seattle. Bennett now has help on the defensive line with Seattle’s trade for Sheldon Richardson.

Their defense would have the chance to become legendary if they are able to topple an offense like the Raiders, which has all the components to become the best in the NFL. The main reason for that is the Raiders have the best young quarterback in the NFL in Derek Carr (Fort Bend Clements). Like Thomas for the Seahawks, Carr is also coming back from a season-ending leg injury, which he suffered in the Raiders’ second to last game against the Indianapolis Colts.

Oakland WR Michael Crabtree (Photo via Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports)

Prior to the injury, Carr was pushing for over 4,000 passing yards, over 30 touchdown passes and fewer than 10 interceptions, but just missed with 3,937 passing yards, 28 touchdown passes and six interceptions. But it was enough for Carr to lead the Raiders to a 12-4 record and back to the AFC playoffs for the first time since they lost the Super Bowl in 2002. The Raiders have improved from three wins, to seven wins and 12 wins since Carr was drafted by Oakland.

Carr is ably supported at the wide receiver position by Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree (Dallas Carter). Crabtree has had the best seasons of his career with at least 85 receptions and eight touchdowns in two years with the Raiders. Carr will also be protected by a strong offensive line led by guard Kelechi Osemele (Langham Creek) and new addition Marshall Newhouse (Lake Highlands).

Osemele will be in his second season with the Raiders and has made at least 14 starts in four of his five seasons. Newhouse, who went to TCU, spent his last two seasons with the New York Giants. Carr will also be protected by fullback Jamize Olawale who went to North Texas and hand off to DeAndre Washington (Fort Bend Marshall).

The Raiders’ offense against the Seahawks’ defense would be a dream Super Bowl matchup. But if both teams reach the Super Bowl, the difference will be the Seahawks’ offense. The Raiders have Mario Edwards (Denton Ryan) and Cory James (Del Rio) on defense.

Seahawks, though, have Germain Ifedi (Houston Westside), Luke Joeckel (Arlington) and Rees Odhiambo (Mansfield) on their offensive line to protect Russell Wilson, which will be just enough for Seattle to win the Super Bowl.

 

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