Why Every Remaining NFL Playoff Team Won’t Win the Super Bowl
Super Bowl odds come courtesy of TopBet and are accurate as of Monday, Jan. 8. Like usual, please double-check these lines before placing any wagers, as they are subject to change prior to kickoff of the divisional playoff round.
Atlanta Falcons (+650)
The Offense Isn’t Good Enough
The Atlanta Falcons‘ offense isn’t what it was last season, when it tallied points with near-historical potency. They wrapped the regular season 15th in points scored per game, and quarterback Matt Ryan is anchoring a passing attack that places 20th in touchdowns.
Solid rushing options can help keep the Falcons afloat and control the clock when they build a lead. But that’s not enough in the playoffs. Maybe they’ll get past the Carson Wentz-less Philadelphia Eagles, for obvious reasons. Beyond that, though, they don’t have the firepower to keep pace with the league’s elite, and their foremost weapon, their defense, isn’t stingy enough to ferry Super Bowl hopes on its own.
Jacksonville Jaguars (+1800)
Blake Bortles Is A Human Roller Coaster
Blake Bortles is a living, breathing seesaw. He started the season plagued by rumors of a potential release, but he finished the year on a quasi-tear, helping advance a top-five offense.
Then, however, came the Jacksonville Jaguars‘ Wild Card matchup with the Buffalo Bills. Bortles basically did nothing. He laid down 88 yards on the ground, but finished just 12-of-23 out of the pocket for one touchdown and 87 yards.
Defenses are built to stop the run in the playoffs. Opposing coordinators know teams are looking to burn the clock and control possession time whenever possible. That’ll make it much harder for the Jaguars’ pristine rushing machine to shoulder its offensive production.
They’ll need Bortles to come up big, starting with their divisional date against the Pittsburgh Steelers. And that doesn’t bode well for their chances of lasting beyond the NFL’s unofficial Week 19.
Minnesota Vikings (+350)
They’re Facing The Saints
Quarterback Case Keenum is more than just a keeper for the Minnesota Vikings. Their offense has been pleasantly mediocre all year, in large part because he’s mustered the occasional big play and safeguarded the team against turnovers.
Blend this protection with a first-rate defense, and you get what seems to be a viable Super Bowl threat—provided the Vikings aren’t asked to survive a postseason shootout.
Pulling the New Orleans Saints during the Divisional bracket doesn’t suit the Vikings. Their defense will gum up the Saints’ running game, but no team in the league has the personnel to completely slow Drew Brees behind center.
Indeed, should they get past this week, the Vikings will register as borderline NFC favorites. But that’s the problem: The Saints, even on the road, won’t go down quietly—or, for that matter, without a full-bore aerial assault the Vikings are built neither to stop nor rival.
New England Patriots (+190)
The Defense Isn’t Battle-Tested
The New England Patriots are indomitable on the surface. Tom Brady is an MVP candidate even while appearing human for possessions at a time, and the defense checks in at fifth in points allowed per game after an unflattering start to the year.
And yet, their defensive success feels hollow. They played through one of the NFL’s easiest schedules during the regular season, facing only a handful of top-tier offenses. And none of those matchups came after a Week 4 showdown versus the Carolina Panthers. Plus, they are 30th in passing yards allowed and 31st in rushing yards allowed per carry.
Fortunately for the Patriots, they pull the Tennessee Titans in their Divisional square dance. Unfortunately for them, that only increases the chances they’ll be left shell shocked when forced to challenge a higher-quality attack, from the Jaguars or Steelers, should they make it through to the next round.
New Orleans Saints (+600)
Cracks Are Showing In The Defense
Credit the Saints for placing 10th in points allowed per game. Their defense is shockingly good, instilling in them a certain balance incumbent of the most serious Super Bowl contenders. They certainly proved their mettle whilst fending off the Panthers in the final minutes of Wild Card weekend.
At the same time, we must not pretend the Saints’ defense is verging on elite. They’ll be on the road this week, where they’ve proven particularly susceptible on the less glamorous side of the ball. They coughed up 29 points in Minnesota during a Week 1 loss to the Vikings and gave up an average of 25.7 points over their final three road tilts of the regular season.
The Vikings do not come complete with the most potent offense in the league, but they’re more than competent. And better systems await the Saints should they make it through to the Conference Championship, where they could feasibly face the Eagles, or if they find themselves in a Super Bowl sparring with the Patriots or Steelers.
Philadelphia Eagles (+1500)
Carson Wentz Ain’t Walking Through That Door
Let’s not overcomplicate things for the Eagles: They’ll be without starting quarterback Carson Wentz for the postseason, which all but torpedoes their shot at doing any serious damage.
Nick Foles is a capable backup, someone who was once a starter. But the Eagles’ offense cratered over the final two weeks of the regular season, amassing a combined 19 points against a pair of unimpressive defenses. They could reasonably end up being putty the Falcons’ front seven hammers into early submission en route to an absolute blowout.
Pittsburgh Steelers (+450)
Sneaky-Unimpressive Rushing Attack
Antonio Brown is set to suit up for the Steelers this week, ensuring they’ll be at full capacity against the Jaguars. But while they’ve been largely unstoppable at home, Jacksonville poses a uniquely interesting matchup for a rushing attack that, if anything, has held back the offense.
The Steelers finished the regular season 20th in total rushing yards and 25th in yards per carry. Le’Veon Bell remains one of the NFL’s most dangerous weapons, but that has just as much to do with his pass-catching ability as it does his ground game.
The Jaguars, meanwhile, enter Sunday with perhaps the league’s best passing defense. They finished third or better in total yards allowed, touchdowns allowed and interceptions. Their ground prevention isn’t anything special, but their ability to make life hell on Ben Roethlisberger could compel the Steelers to lean heavily on an equally handicapped rushing game.
And the concerns don’t end here if Pittsburgh wins. That only succeeds in setting up a likely date with the Patriots, who, despite being far from battle-tested, have flashed an ability to stifle ground attacks in the red zone.
Tennessee Titans (+6000)
Still Searching For An Identity
The Titans snuck past the Kansas City Chiefs last week by sheer dumb luck: Quarterback Marcus Mariota ended up throwing a touchdown to himself, recovering a pass that was deflected by Darrelle Revis within close proximity of the red zone. If that play unfolds as most pass deflections do, Tennessee is watching the rest of the playoffs from home.
In the end, though, all the Titans likely did was buy themselves another week of football. The Patriots lost just two games at home all season and haven’t experienced the slightest letdown in Foxborough since Week 4.
More than that, the Titans still don’t have an identity. They don’t rank in the top half of the league in either points scored or points allowed per game. Their passing game is straight up bad, their run game is mediocre, and they boast one of the worst passing defenses in the NFL. They deserve kudos for their ground prevention, but that won’t buy them much against the Patriots.
Count on Brady and crew to pick them apart through the air.
*All statistics come courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference and are accurate leading into games being played Saturday, Jan. 13 and Sunday, Jan. 14.
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