Conference Favorites to Win Super Bowl LV
Kansas City Chiefs (2019 record 12-4) – Even the most abject contrarian would find it impossible not to include the Super Bowl defending Kansas City Chiefs as one of the top two threats to win the AFC followed by a Super Bowl championship. Even in the odds Chiefs are the favorites, currently priced at about +750. Kansas City is loaded and has arguably the best quarterback in the game under center with 24-year-old Patrick Mahomes slinging laser beams to the sublime Tyreek Hill streaking down the sidelines or Sammy Watkins over the middle. And if his twin terrors are covered then there is always the best tight end in the game, Travis Kelce, muscling his way into space for a short pass that often turns into a long gainer.
But Kansas City needed to add a running back that would be as, if not more, equipped to catch a pass out of the backfield than busting through defensive lines. Damien Harris is a decent running back but certainly not a game-breaker or a true receiving threat. Therefore, the Chiefs decided to pass on some of the more highly acclaimed running backs in April’s NFL Draft and instead called out LSU’s Clyde Edwards-Helaire with the final pick in the first round.
However, they also addressed one of their few deficiencies from last year, stopping the run, and selected Mississippi State’s Willie Gay with the 63rd overall pick. This team is poised to make another Super Bowl run and the only team that can stop them from claiming the conference crown and moving on is the club directly below.
Baltimore Ravens (2019 record 14-2) – Baltimore’s counter to Patrick Mahomes is their own young superstar under center, Lamar Jackson. Although the former Louisville product didn’t have the lofty passing yards, ending the regular season with a pedestrian 208 yards per game average, he was surgical in tossing for a league-leading 36 touchdowns, and 113.3 passer rating, against just six interceptions. Yet, the primary reason Jackson didn’t have the gaudy passing yards of many of his elite contemporaries is due to the fact he gained over 1200 yards on the ground and scampered seven times into the end zone. Jackson, at quarterback, was the sixth-leading rusher in the league and no quarterback came close.
The Ravens ended the 2019 campaign with the best record in the NFL but were stunned by the Titans in the second round after earning a first-round bye. However, this year we can expect they will be a more mature team, and ready for the second season when they make their march through the postseason on a collision course with the Chiefs. It can be argued that the Ravens will be even better this year after a stellar draft that saw them land LSU’s inside linebacker Patrick Queen in the opening round followed by one of the best running backs in the draft when Buckeyes’ sensation J.K. Dobbins fell to them in the second round. Barring a calamitous spate of injuries, the Ravens are a lock to win the AFC North and are currently being offered at +800 to win the Super Bowl, trailing only the Chiefs.
New Orleans Saints (2019 record 13-3) – The Saints locked up their aging, yet still lethal, quarterback when they signed future Hall of Famer Drew Brees to a two-year pact which should close the curtain on his illustrious career when it is finished. The Saints were shocked by the Vikings in the wild card round but will be well equipped to make another run at Super Bowl glory this season. Brees has plenty of weapons surrounding him and the Saints tapped Michigan offensive lineman Cesar Ruiz in the first round as added protection for the 41-year-old star.
New Orleans will need to improve their pass defense as they were a middling 20th in passing yards allowed but they did get a versatile and athletic linebacker in the third round when Wisconsin’s Zack Baun was surprisingly available at that late stage in the draft. There are four NFC teams that could easily find themselves in the Super Bowl mix but the Saints have to be categorized as the frontrunners in 2020.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2019 record 7-9) – The GOAT, Tom Brady, is a Tampa Bay Buc and he will be reunited with his old buddy from New England, Rob Gronkowski, the greatest tight end ever to lace’em up. As you may know, Gronk had retired after the 2018 season but decided to return to the gridiron once Brady made the move down south. The offense is loaded with weapons and Brady will get to choose from speed merchant Mike Evans, sure-handed Chris Godwin, and a twin tight end set of Gronkowski and OJ Howard.
The Bucs did the right thing in the opening round of the draft when they selected arguably the best offensive tackle in the draft, Tristan Wirfs, to be TB12’s new blindside protector. And if third-round pick Ke’Shawn Vaughn, out of Vanderbilt, can spark what has been a lethargic rushing attack then this offense will be fireworks from start to finish.
However, the team’s Achilles heel was their pass defense which was as porous as any in the league last year. In order to address that, Tampa Bay wisely chose Minnesota safety Antoine Winfield Jr. Ironically, the Bucs run stop unit was tops in 2019, allowing a mere 73.8 yards rushing yards per game. This team could easily put it all together and find themselves playing in the Super Bowl at their own stadium. Yes, Raymond James Stadium is the site for Super Bowl LV and nothing would be more of a storybook ending than that!
There is no doubt that these teams will be fighting it out for the Super Bowl Championship.