Rick Zamperin: National Football League's 100th season kicks off with a bang

The National Football League kicks off its 100th season Thursday night with its most storied rivalry, Packers vs. Bears.

The game marks the 199th meeting, including playoffs, between Green Bay and Chicago. The Packers lead the all-time series with a record of 97-95-6.

Both teams are expected to be playoff contenders in 2019, but as we’ve seen in past years, expectations don’t always become reality.

With that in mind, it’s time to unload my NFL predictions for the league’s 100th anniversary campaign.

Last year, I predicted the New Orleans Saints would beat the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Super Bowl. This time around, I am picking two different combatants to face off for the Vince Lombardi Trophy on Feb. 2 in Miami.

South Florida may be hosting Super Bowl LIV (54) but the Miami Dolphins are going to be the furthest from the playoffs. The team is in full rebuild mode and will finish dead last in the league this season and will have the No. 1 overall draft pick next spring for only the second time in franchise history (2008, LT Jake Long).

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In the AFC, the defending champion New England Patriots will, again, win the East Division with ease. The Pittsburgh Steelers will take the North, the Houston Texans will claim the South, and the Kansas City Chiefs will finish atop the West. The two AFC wild card playoff teams will be the Los Angeles Chargers and Cleveland Browns.

Yes, the new-look Browns will make the post-season for the first time since 2002.

Over in the NFC,  the Philadelphia Eagles will grab top spot in the East, the Minnesota Vikings will take the North, the South will go to the New Orleans Saints, and the Los Angeles Rams will claim the West. The Seattle Seahawks and Dallas Cowboys will grab the two wild card spots.

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Now, anything can happen in a win or go home playoff game, so this is where NFL predictions can come off the rails. Still, Kansas City will get a measure of revenge against New England and will beat the Patriots in the AFC title game while Philadelphia will topple the L.A. Rams in the NFC championship.

Chiefs vs. Eagles would be one heck of a Super Bowl as Kansas City head coach Andy Reid goes up against the team he once led to four consecutive NFC title games and a Super Bowl appearance. And it would be extra sweet to see Reid and the Chiefs bring the Lombardi Trophy back to K.C. for the first time since 1970.

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