MINNEAPOLIS — The Super Bowl gets an upgrade in 2019.
Super Bowl LII was played Sunday night in the two-year old U.S. Bank Stadium, which cost $1.1 billion to construct. Super Bowl LIII will be played next year in Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, which opened this season and cost $1.6 billion.
Now for our annual way-too-soon prediction: Who makes it to next year’s game?
In keeping with the theme about lots of money, I’m picking the Cowboys and the Patriots. Billionaire Jerry Jones vs. billionaire Robert Kraft.
Based on Forbes’ most recent report, the Cowboys are No. 1 on the list of most valuable NFL franchises at $4.8 billion. The Patriots are second at $3.7 billion.
On the day after the Super Bowl five years ago, I had my only direct hit: Denver vs. Seattle. I wasn’t brave enough to pick a score, but I’m pretty confident I would not have said Seahawks 43, Broncos 8.
It’s foolish to pick any team other than the Patriots in the AFC as long as Bill Belichick is the coach and Tom Brady is the quarterback. Why bother picking a trendy team like the Jaguars or Chargers or a solid choice like the Steelers or a surprise like the Texans with Deshaun Watson and J.J. Watt coming back healthy?
Let’s face it: New England plays in a weak division and is virtually guaranteed to win the AFC East and receive a first round bye. Brady said again last week he wants to play into his mid-40s and as long as Belichick has Brady, he will continue to be a master of replaceable parts.
Belichick does have one big issue: He’s has to replace both his coordinators and while he’s lost coordinators in the past, never both at the same time. As early as Monday, the Lions will announce they’ve hired defensive coordinator Matt Patricia and the Colts will name offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels as their new head coach.
Will it matter? If there are any problems, Belichick can do both jobs himself in addition to being the head coach.
The Cowboys are going to rebound from their 9-7 season that was sabotaged by Zeke Elliott’s six-game suspension for domestic violence. Even as Elliott kept pushing the suspension back with minor court victories, the inevitably hung over the Cowboys all season. They were only 5-4 with him before the suspension finally hit, then lost their first games without him and even though they won their last three without him, they were out of the race by the time he returned for the 15th game.
Dak Prescott regressed without Elliott but will build off the adversity. Jones needs to get him a new big-play receiver with Dez Bryant no longer being able to get any separation and he needs additional playmakers at each of the three levels of the defense.
Of course, with Carson Wentz coming back next season, the Eagles will contend. I like the Saints, but think they will have a tough recovering from the Minneapolis Miracle and the NFC South is so competitive they beat each other up and any of the four teams could win it; the Packers are always in it because of Aaron Rodgers but otherwise are flawed; the Rams are a fun team but not Super Bowl-rady just yet; the 49ers need two more drafts and they will be Super Bowl contenders with Jimmy G.
Super Bowl LIII: Cowboys 31, Patriots 21
(c)2018 New York Daily News
Visit New York Daily News at www.nydailynews.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.