This is the moment everyone has been waiting for! Over the last seventeen weeks, players have played sixteen games, taken countless hits, endured life-altering injuries, and potentially gone months without seeing close friends and family due to Coronavirus, all for this moment right here. A shot to cement your name in history by winning the Super Bowl.
No one makes it to the playoffs on accident – every team has worked hard to get here and will work even harder to stay here. It is going to be a hard, long battle, and only one team gets to win it all and bring the Lombardi home to their fans.
So, here are the reasons why your team is going to be the one dropping a banner in September, going in ascending order of odds to win the Super Bowl.
NFC Version Here
Cleveland Browns (+5000)
Reason for winning: Favorable path to the prize
This may be a hot take, but the Browns’ most unfavorable match-up is this weekend against the Pittsburgh Steelers. A divisional game against an opponent that got to rest many of their starters last week, whose success is built on their defensive front seven. This seems like a nightmare for a team whose game plan begins and ends with their ability to run the ball. Combine this with Kevin Stefanski’s testing positive for the Coronavirus and being unable to call plays from the sidelines, and it is going to take 100% from the Browns to get to the divisional round.
However, if the Browns can make it to the divisional round, they will get some very favorable matchups from there on out. In the divisional round, they would likely be playing the Kansas City Chiefs, a team that notoriously can not stop the run, unless the Colts beat the Bills this weekend, in which case they would end up going to the victor of the Tennessee-Baltimore wildcard game. A team with a questionable defensive line and immobile quarterback in Tennessee or a divisional opponent who gave them a nice wake-up call just a few weeks ago – neither seems like a major issue.
From there, they would just have to deal with the championship round, which likely puts them against Kansas City, which again, leans Cleveland. Then they get to be the run-heavy team in the Super Bowl with a decent defensive line, which is almost always the team that succeeds. This puts Nick Chubb in a position to carry his team to history and Kareem Hunt an opportunity to show his value in the playoffs.
Indianapolis Colts (+4000)
Reason for Winning: Defense
The Indianapolis Colts are ranked second in the league in yards per rush, which is why they have allowed the second least rushing yards overall. They have the third-highest forced turnover percentage, sixth-most forced turnovers, eleventh least yards per play allowed, seventh-most QB hurries, twelfth most sacks, second least missed tackles, and the eighth lowest-scoring percentage allowed. This defense is criminally underrated and defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus deserves to be in the conversation for future head coaches in the league.
This defense has some very scary and smart players in their defensive front seven: Deforest Buckner, Justin Houston, and Darius Leonard to name a few. Kenny Moore and Xavier Rhodes hold down the defensive secondary, which only makes the front seven’s job easier.
The Colts get a huge challenge upfront, matched up against a Buffalo Bills’ offense that is explosive and occasionally decent defense. If they make it past there, it would be a date with Kansas City, a team who has struggled to protect Patrick Mahomes all season, and whose offense has gone flat the last few weeks of the season. It is not an easy path for the Colts, but it is not impossible.
Tennessee Titans (+2800)
Reason for Winning: Passion
It is so easy to just put “Derrick Henry” in the reason for their success, and the reality is that he is going to play a huge role in whether or not they move forward. 2000 yards seasons are amazing, and to do it twice in a row is historic for a reason; however, I believe that the biggest factor that is going to help the Titans succeed in the next few weeks is their passion to win.
Mike Vrabel has been very outspoken about how much he wants his team to succeed, making very odd and explicit comments about his desire to win a Super Bowl. Every player on the team has something to prove: Derrick Henry is trying to become the best running back of all time, Ryan Tannehill had so much of his career wasted, AJ Brown wants in on the elite receiver conversation, and Malcolm Butler wants to prove he is worth the money he is being paid and Belichick was wrong.
On top of that, the Titans got so close to the Super Bowl last year. They were in the AFC Championship game, up to ten points, and with the best running back in league history, that should be enough. It is not their fault that Patrick Mahomes transcended to Super Saiyan 2 in this matchup and had three of his top ten plays of all time. They were so close, and I can promise you that they want to finish the deal more than anything else. Sometimes that is just enough.
Pittsburgh Steelers (+2200)
Reason for Winning: Defense
Oh, how the mighty have fallen! Remember Week 10 when every pundit had the Steelers as the top team in the league, with the Seattle Seahawks in a distant second place?
There is a lot of bad on this team, to the point that they may be the second weakest team in the playoffs and definitely the weakest team in the AFC bracket. The offense is inconsistent and may even serve to the detriment of the team, the defense does not know how to finish games, their run game… exists apparently.
If there are any major positives on the team it is their defense. They play with fire, swarming to the ball/ball-carrier with speed and aggression. They have the second-most turnovers in the league (first most of the playoff teams), allow the second-worst scoring percentage, allow the second-lowest yards per pass, third-lowest yards per play, and third-lowest total yards.
The Steelers start the playoffs against the Browns, a divisional opponent who has struggled against divisional rivals this year but can punish you in the ground game. Then they would likely be matched up against the Bills, an explosive offense that can hurt you, and from there, we are likely talking about a game with Kansas City, and I do not need to tell you about their offensive firepower.
Baltimore Ravens (+1200)
Reason for Winning: Momentum
Why do the Ravens have such high odds to win the Super Bowl despite being the five seed? Momentum. Things have been going the Ravens way since Lamar Jackson left the Browns game to relieve himself, which apparently is a thing that we legitimately think is fueling their momentum based on the number of times ESPN has mentioned it.
Sure, we can argue about who those three most recent wins were against (New York Giants, Jacksonville Jaguars, Cincinnati Bengals), or whether or not momentum is really that effective of a driving force, but if the Ravens have a shot in the playoffs, it is because of momentum.
This may upset some casual fans and Baltimore Ravens’ fans, but the reality is that the Ravens do not deserve to have this high of odds for winning the Super Bowl and are only so highly favored because of their recent wins. The Titans are going to roll them in the first round and squash any form of “Momentum” they have.
Buffalo Bills (+700)
Reason for Winning: Quick Scoring
Alright, now we are on the Super Bowl favorites, the teams that analysts are actually picking to make it to the big one. In the NFC, there are quite a few of these teams, but in the AFC, there are only two. So we need to break them down.
The Buffalo Bills have a problem defending the run. All three of their losses this season came from teams that ran the ball effectively against them (Kansas City, Tennessee, Arizona), and, unfortunately for the Bills, two of those teams are in the playoffs with a chance to do it again. Further, the Ravens have a great running back room and the Colts know how to run the ball effectively, even if they do not always do that.
This means that the defense is going to be on the field for a very long time, giving the offense less time to score. This puts Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs in a position where they need to score quickly to stay in the game. This is the difference between Buffalo going one and done, and making their way to Miami to bring the Lombardi home to the city that deserves it more than most football cities.
Kansas City Chiefs (+200)
Reason for Winning: Not making mistakes
The Chiefs are the most talented team in football, and when it shows, it shows. It shows in 200 receiving yards for Tyreek Hill in the first quarter against the Tamp Bay Buccaneers, it shows in Travis Kelce breaking all of the tight end records this season, it shows in L’jarius Sneed being in the mix with the elite receivers in his rookie season, it shows in Patrick Mahomes existing.
The problem – they constantly make mistakes.
Mecole Hardman dropped way too many passes and just as many punts. Bashuad Breeland, somehow, can not go three snaps without getting flagged for holding. Ben Niemann. Steve Spagnuolo’s schemes constantly forget about the middle of the field. Andy Reid has been terrible in mid-range third downs and the red zone. Mahomes has been finding more defenders’ hands than receivers’ hands too, meaning the mental mistakes affect every level of the team.
If Kansas City cleans up the mistakes and just focuses on being the best team in the league, they will win every game in January and have a great matchup with the Green Bay Packers in February.