Now that some teams are halfway through the season, we can start to parse through who’s good, who’s not and who might be in the NFL. The NFC hasn’t looked nearly as stacked as expected so far, with the Vikings and Eagles sputtering so far this year, while the AFC is continuing to look incredibly top-heavy. There are a lot of factors to consider when we look at Super Bowl odds, but SportsLine has the 2019 Super Bowl odds weekly, not to mention simulation percentages.
This week, things are murkier than ever. We saw the Eagles trade for Golden Tate, the Texans trade for Demaryius Thomas and there are some games coming up with potential playoff implications, including the marquee showdown of Rams vs. Saints. The 49ers could even be eliminated from NFC West contention this weekend. With all of that in mind, here’s how teams shake up for Super Bowl LIII.
A quick note: These are listed in chronological order of Super Bowl simulation percentages.
Super Bowl LIII odds
Yup, it’s the Patriots. They may have started the season slow, dropping two of their first three, but the Patriots have stormed back and won five straight games. Tom Brady looks like himself again, and the defense looks as good as ever. The X-factors, however, are Bill Belichick and a team that’s just used to winning. The Patriots are consistently in the mix, so it’s hard to bet against them.
It seems like, as has become tradition, some people were fooled by the Pats’ slow start. However, Sony Michel is emerging into a good running back (though his hands could use some work), and Julian Edelman already leads Patriot wide receivers in receptions since his return from a four-game suspension.
Needless to say, don’t sleep on the Patriots. Or do, it doesn’t matter. They’re coming for No. 6 this season after last year’s disappointments.
The other contenders
The Los Angeles Rams are arguably the most dangerous team in football, sitting pretty with the last undefeated record in the NFL at 8-0. They haven’t even had their bye! You have to pick your poison against this team. Let Jared Goff carve you up with a his cornucopia of receivers or let Todd Gurley shred your defense in the running game. Brandin Cooks is a bona fide deep threat, Cooper Kupp is expected to return this week, and Robert Woods is a problem. On defense, you’re dealing with Ndamukong Suh, Aaron Donald and Michael Brockers on the line, Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib on the corners, and now Dante Fowler Jr. is in the mix. This team is utterly terrifying top to bottom.
The Rams face their toughest test so far this season on Sunday, when they travel to New Orleans to play the Saints. It’s too early to say, especially with the Panthers creeping in the NFC South, but this game could have major implications for the NFC playoff picture. Drew Brees and Michael Thomas have a special connection, and Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara provide the best 1-2 running back punch in the NFL. The Saints’ run defense is No. 1 in the league this year, but the secondary has been picked on, particularly in the slot. If Kupp is back Sunday, look at that matchup.
Finally, the Chiefs are the Patriots’ biggest concern in the AFC. Patrick Mahomes and Tom Brady already squared off in what may have been the best game so far this year, with the Patriots ultimately coming out on top 43-40. That’s the Chiefs’ lone loss this season. Kareem Hunt has proven last year wasn’t a fluke, and the Chiefs are the team to beat in the AFC West.
Still in the mix
The aforementioned Panthers are very much in the conversation, and they’ve kind of been buried beneath the Saints and Rams when we talk about elite NFC teams. Cam Newton is playing some of the best football of his career (yes, including his 2015 MVP season), and the Panthers are winning games all sorts of different ways — from a 17-point comeback against the Eagles to a convincing win over the Ravens.
The Seahawks are also being good odds in simulations after a big win over the Lions. Russell Wilson is actually getting some protection from his offensive line, and the Seahawks defense has played well despite the dismantling of the Legion of Boom being complete. Combine that with a solid rushing game, and the Seahawks suddenly look a lot more dangerous in the NFC — although any progress they make would likely be through the wild card with the Rams dominating.
In the AFC, the Chargers are surging, but they face a similar problem as the Seahawks and Panthers: They’re stuck in a division with a dominant team. Philip Rivers is having one of the best seasons of his career, and Melvin Gordon is every bit the feature back he was expected to be. Austin Ekeler has become a phenomenal complement to Gordon, while Mike Williams and Tyrell Williams finish drives with touchdowns.
The Steelers, are also surging, with James Conner emerging as a terrific lead back in Le’Veon Bell’s absence. The Steelers are trusting Conner on the ground, and the receiving duo of JuJu Smith-Schuster and Antonio Brown force defenses to respect Ben Roethlisberger throwing the ball. The Steelers started this year 1-2-1, but they’ve won three straight to take the lead in the AFC North.
The long shots
The NFC North is a mess right now, with the Vikings and Packers continuing to struggle. The Bears have an air of overachieving this year, but they were grounded in the weeks leading up to a win over the Jets (which came without star pass rusher Khalil Mack). The Vikings are coming off a loss to the Saints, while the Packers lost a heart-breaker to the Rams. Both teams will try to pick up some momentum this week.
The Eagles are chasing the Redskins in the NFC East right now, and a trade for Golden Tate might help rejuvenate a team with a killer Super Bowl hangover. Carson Wentz has been solid, but the Eagles have been losing games creatively this season, whereas the Redskins are playing well behind a stingy defense and the renaissance of Adrian Peterson. The Cowboys, meanwhile, continue to hold onto Jason Garrett and stagnate at inopportune times.
The Texans are also being given decent chances, and that’s largely due to playing in the struggling AFC South. The Jaguars and Colts have both hit speed-bumps this year, with the Jaguars in particular having a lot of issues finding any type of consistency. The Texans traded for Demaryius Thomas to account for the hit of losing Will Fuller, and DeAndre Hopkins has (again) solidified himself as one of the best receivers in the NFL.
The Ravens’ defense, meanwhile, has been grounded the past two weeks by the Saints and Panthers. Them and the Bengals are still very much in the mix for the AFC North, but both teams need to prove they can run with top-level teams before they start getting taken seriously in the AFC.
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