With over one-quarter of the NFL’s season in the books, let’s take a look at the teams from the NFL’s American Football Conference that have the best chance to make it to Super Bowl LIII. This list will cover the likely teams to play in the big game on February 3rd as well as a sleeper that under the right circumstances might just be able to sneak into the game for a chance to win it all.
You never know what you’re truly going to get out of a team in the pre-season and much of the time, even a few games isn’t worth much. The Eagles weren’t on anyone’s list last year until they set the league on fire. Who are this year’s Eagles? Who has the best shot? This list starts with a team that most people expected to contend but won’t.
Any hopes for the first-ever Super Bowl host team to play in the Super Bowl should end right here, right now. It won’t happen. The Falcons, who have stumbled out of the gate to a 1-4 start seem to be going through a bit of a Super Bowl loser delayed hangover. Last season, it seemed at the start of the season that they were going to be a team to be reckoned with after their epic collapse in the Super Bowl the year before. They played good football but ultimately weren’t able to return to the Super Bowl last year.
This year it seems as if the window has closed. An imposing defense is now playing some significantly uninspired football. Matt Ryan hasn’t looked quite the same and Devonta Freeman has been injured.
Atlanta’s main problem is the strength of their division. They’re going to win some games but they find themselves already three games back behind the Saints and two games behind the Panthers. Overcoming that deficit in a very strong NFC even at this point is too much to ask.
Los Angeles Rams
The Rams are seemingly all in this year. In many ways, they’re trying to copy division rival Seattle Seahawks plan from a few years ago – spend money on talented free agents and homegrown talent while paying a quarterback on a rookie contract. Maximize the talent on the roster and take a shot at it all before they have to hand out a huge contract to QB Jared Goff.
Jared Goff enters his third season in the league with an offensive roster loaded with talent. Todd Gurley heads the attack while wide receivers Robert Woods, Brandin Cooks and Cooper Kupp stretch a defense thin.
Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips who had a loaded roster last year got even more talent this offseason. The Rams traded for cornerback Marcus Peters and acquired cornerback Aquib Talib and defensive tackle Ndamokung Suh. They finally got Aaron Donald signed to a long-term extension. This team has been rolling over the competition on its way to a 5-0 start. There’s a good chance they’ll be playing into late January this year.
New Orleans Saints
The Saints play in maybe the most competitive division in pro football. They are led by one of the most competitive coaches (Sean Payton) and quarterbacks (Drew Brees) in football as well. Those two reasons are why the Saints have a chance. Brees has said he wants to play until he’s 45 but has wavered a bit on the recently after breaking the record by most yards ever thrown for by a quarterback. It’s no secret that Brees would like to add another Super Bowl win to his resume. He’s already a Hall of Fame first-ballot lock but winning a second Super Bowl would represent success in his mind.
Paytons offense remains dynamic and with the two-headed monster in Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara, the Saints pose a significant threat to embarrass every defense they play. Yards and points come in bunches with this group.
The Saints defense surprised a lot of people last year with how well they played. Their defense in the past has probably been the only reason they haven’t won a second (or third) Super Bowl during the Brees/Payton era. Although the defense hasn’t been as good as last year thus far, it hasn’t killed them either. The window is closing fast on this team and the Saints just might be ready to break through to Atlanta in February.
We have to give the reigning Super Bowl champs some credit, right? Things haven’t started the way most expected them to with a 2-3 record after five games. They still have dynamic quarterback Carson Wentz who recently returned from an ACL tear suffered last season. They added Mike Wallace to the list of weapons Wentz has. The defense returns most of its starters from last season and their defensive line that was already dominant added Michael Bennett this offseason.
If Wentz can return to last seasons form and the Eagles don’t experience the number of injuries they did last year, this team could become the first team since the Patriots in the early 2000’s to repeat as Super Bowl champions.
Sleeper Alert: Minnesota Vikings
Probably not considered much of a sleeper by many but, come on. The Vikings? In the Super Bowl? Something has to go wrong for that to happen. The Vikings are one of two teams to be 0-4 in Super Bowls and every possible way for bad luck to strike this team emerges at the worst time.
This year, things might be different. They bring a strong defense and an offense with a very good quarterback in Kirk Cousins. He will have weapons they never gave him in Washington with Dalvin Cook at running back, Stefon Diggs at wide receiver and Kyle Rudolph at tight end. Mike Zimmer has a good hold on his team and they’re motivated.
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