With Super Bowl LII between the Patriots and Eagles in the rearview mirror, we have just breezed through the first wave of free agency in the NFL and the 2018 NFL Draft period. The skeleton of the rosters for most of the NFL teams is in place now and the early odds for Super Bowl LIII are already out. We have prepared a short analysis of the main favorites for the Super Bowl LIII, as well as some sleepers.
Some teams will be seen as no-brainer choices, while others might jump out as unlikely sleepers. We have also included some teams that many have high hopes for, but we found some serious flaws that they will be hard-pressed to overcome to compete for a Super Bowl.
Here are our picks:
New England Patriots – 6 to 1
If there is one constant in the NFL, season after season, is that Tom Brady and Bill Belichick always keep the New England Patriots in contention. After missing out on their 6th Super Bowl win against the Eagles, the Patriots are poised to make another run at it this year.
The core of the team is back, as TE Rob Gronkowski is expected to commit to playing for the Pats in 2018. The Patriots will also be getting their best WR Julian Edelman back from injury, which forced him to miss all of 2017. Edelman is Tom Brady’s favorite target and safety valve, which is really important taking into account the state of their offensive line which has lost T Nate Solder to the New York Giants.
Sure there are more talented rosters in the NFL than the New England Patriots but none are as well coached as the one in New England. Bill Belichick constantly excels in situational football and game planning, putting his players in the best position to win football games. It also helps that New England has owned their division for the better part of last two decades as well.
The Bills, Jets, and Dolphins all seem to be in various stages of rebuilding their rosters and none of them are expected to challenge New England for the division title in 2018. The AFC is really thin at the top, with the most likely opponent they will have to face down the road to Super Bowl LIII being the Pittsburgh Steelers, a team that Brady and Belichick have had their way with.
It Seems that another AFC Championship Game trip is a given for the Pats, with an excellent chance to win the Super Bowl LIII.
Philadelphia Eagles – 8 to 1
It seems a bit disrespectful to put the reigning Super Bowl Champions as the second favorites to win it all in 2018. After all, the Eagles are returning a loaded roster which will also include a now healthy MVP-caliber QB Carson Wentz, who missed the second half of 2017 season, including the playoffs and Super Bowl LII. Their roster is still packed with one of the best offensive and defensive line units in the NFL.
The Eagles also have a group of versatile skill players on offense that will make Carson Wentz’s job easier. They have added some depth in the 2018 NFL Draft, as well as signed NT Haloti Ngata and WR Mike Wallace. Their biggest offseason addition was a trade for DE Michael Bennet from the Seattle Seahawks.
With the Dallas Cowboys expected to bounce back and be in the playoff hunt as well as the New York Giants improving with a healthy WR Odell Beckham Jr. and the addition of RB Saquon Barkley.
On top of all that, the NFC is quite top heavy with several teams poised to make a run at the Lombardi trophy. Still, the Eagles have the 19th most-difficult schedule in the NFL in 2018, making their road to Super Bowl LIII a bit easier.
Minnesota Vikings – 9 to 1
The Vikings magical playoff run was halted last year in the NFC Championship Game where they lost to a team that had a better play at the QB position. With Case Keenum gone to the Denver Broncos, the Minnesota Vikings have gone out and signed the best available QB in free agency, Kirk Cousins. Although their offensive line still needs work, the Vikings have surrounded Kirk Cousins with excellent skill players and one of the best receiving corps in the entire NFL.
The biggest issue with the Vikings is their offensive line, which didn’t perform up to Super Bowl contender standards. They have done little to improve the unit, outside of signing T Riley Reiff as a free agent. Still, overall the unit will need work if they are to going to keep Kirk Cousins upright. They also face the 8th most-difficult schedule in the NFL on their road to SB LIII.
The division is also quite competitive as well. In the end, all we depend on the type of season that Kirk Cousins will have. If he is able to get over his post-season troubles and perform at the high level he has demonstrated in the regular season for the Redskins, the Vikings have a good chance.
Los Angeles Rams – 9 to 1
The Los Angeles Rams were the surprise team of 2017 under the leadership of new head coach Sean McVay. Jared Goff had an excellent sophomore campaign and the Rams showcased an explosive offense to go along with their stout defense.
The Rams didn’t disappoint and they have added some massive reinforcements to their roster in the form of CB’s Marcus Peters from the Kansas City Chiefs and Aqib Talib from the Denver Broncos in trades, as well as DT Ndamukong Suh from the Miami Dolphins. They did lose WR Sammy Watkins but managed to compensate that loss by trading for WR Brandin Cooks from the New England Patriots.
The improved roster makes the Rams one of the Super Bowl LIII favorites, but they will face the 5th most-difficult schedule in the NFL to get there. The division will be more competitive as well, as the San Francisco 49ers are expected to contend for the playoffs, and improved Seahawks and Cardinals teams are not going to be a walkover either.
Pittsburgh Steelers – 12 to 1
For the last several years, the Pittsburgh Steelers were among the frontrunners for the Lombardi Trophy. However, they always seemed to run into the New England Patriots who ended their Super Bowl hopes. The Steelers still have one of the best offenses in NFL, even with the LeVeon Bell contract situation still up in the air.
Their needs were mostly on the defensive side of the ball, as linebacker and safety spots seemed really thin in 2017. They have added S Morgan Burnett in free agency and S Terrell Edmunds via the draft to solidify the safety spots, while the linebacker question still remains in flux.
They shouldn’t have a difficult time taking care of their division with the Browns, the Bengals, and the Ravens all in different stages of rebuilding their rosters. They also have one of the easier schedules in the NFL in 2018 (tied for 25th by difficulty).
The fate of this Steelers team will be tied to defensive production in 2018 if they are to reach and win Super Bowl LIII. They can put up points on anybody but have consistently shown that they can’t stop teams in the playoffs. If they are able to put together at least a decent defense, this might be the year for them.
Houston Texans – 25 to 1
The Houston Texans seemed to be poised for a playoff berth in 2017 until the injury bug hit them hard. Without their rookie sensation QB Deshaun Watson and their perennial DPOY J.J. Watt, the team struggled. Both of them will be back at full strength this year to a Texans team which on paper has the easiest schedule in all of NFL. They had a busy offseason trying to upgrade their offensive line and secondary.
They have added DB Tyrann Mathieu and drafted S Justin Reid from Stanford to improve their secondary, while the offensive line has received an overhaul with the additions of T Seantrel Henderson, G Senio Kelemete and G/C Zach Fulton in free agency as well as drafting OL Martinas Rankin from Mississippi State.
Their division will be competitive with the Jaguars coming off their best season in a while by reaching the AFC Championship Game, Titans reaching the playoffs and Colts improving with the return of Andrew Luck.
Still, with their stellar defense and offense full of playmakers, Houston can put together an amazing run if their additions work out and they stay healthy.
New Orleans Saints – 20 to 1
The New Orleans Saints had a great season in 2017 and seemed like SB contenders until that crushing loss to the Minnesota Vikings in the playoffs. Losing in such a fashion is only a testament to the Saints Super Bowl credentials. The Saints went out and added more depth to their secondary by signing CB Patrick Robinson and S Kurt Coleman, while the addition of LB Demario Davis should further improve an already talented linebacker corps.
In this year’s NFL Draft the Saints have added a complementary pass rusher to DE Cameron Jordan, by drafting DE Marcus Davenport from UTSA in the first round. High-powered offense run by Drew Brees will be back in 2018 as well, with the additions of WR Cameron Meredith and TE Benjamin Watson.
Standing in their way is one of the most difficult schedules in the NFL (2nd overall) and a competitive division where the Falcons and the Panthers have each been to the Super Bowl in the last 3 years, as well as the Buccaneers, are an improving team. The NFC playoffs will be a challenge as well, but if healthy and in-form, the Saints have a chance to make a Super Bowl run.
Denver Broncos – 33 to 1
Last but not least, we have chosen the Denver Broncos. It might sound crazy picking a team which had a Top 5 pick in 2018 NFL Draft as a potential Super Bowl sleeper but the Broncos are a much better team than their record in the last 2 seasons. They were hindered by the worst QB play in the NFL in the past 2 years and shaky offensive line play. They have gone out and fixed their QB problem by nabbing QB Case Keenum after his amazing season with the Vikings and resisted the hype to draft a QB.
They landed the draft’s best defensive player in pass rusher Bradley Chubb from North Carolina State. They have also added T Jared Veldheer to strengthen their offensive line as well. They did cut RB C.J. Anderson and traded CB Aqib Talib to Los Angeles Rams, but their secondary is still loaded and they added RB Royce Freeman in the 2nd round of 2018 NFL Draft to compensate.
They also have a much easier schedule than last year (tied 25th in the league by difficulty) and their division is going through a transition as the Chiefs try to break in a new QB and rebuild, the Raiders still can’t stop anybody and the Chargers roster is still full of holes.
It also helps that AFC is a top-heavy conference, where both Pittsburgh and New England are offensive powerhouses that the Broncos match up well with. If their offseason additions work out and Bradley Chubb turns out to be the defensive force they expect him to be, the Broncos might end up in the middle of another Super Bowl run.