In an era of football parity at the top level of the sport, small deficiencies become a big deal for any NFL squad seeking a championship. Issues like an aging roster, underperforming quarterback, ineffective role players or an eggshell defense could easily plummet top teams out of the playoffs.
During the preseason, Super Bowl odds tend to focus mostly on historical performance than current potential, creating a gap between the perception of a team’s quality and their actual ability to win. These five overrated NFL clubs will struggle to meet expectations in 2018.
NFL Odds Courtesy Of CanadaSportsBetting.ca
New England Patriots (+500)
There’s little doubt that the Patriots will win the AFC East again – after all, they’re up against the Bills, Dolphins and Jets. One could argue that the lack of competition in their own conference forms the heart of their Super Bowl odds. Since the road to the championship game’s relatively easy, New England’s considered the favorites to win.
Cracks have started to show in the concrete hoodie Bill Belichick wears to protect the Patriots from mediocrity. New England probably would’ve won the Super Bowl last year if they played Malcolm Butler, who could’ve prevented some of the easy passing yards enjoyed by Foles. The team leaned on Tom Brady too hard last season, requiring another ridiculous fourth-quarter comeback to survive against the Jaguars during the AFC finals.
But the most intriguing argument against the Patriots revolves around their battle with an undefeated opponent – time. Brady, Gronkowski, Edelman and Amendola form one of the oldest air attacks. The defense simply doesn’t feature the athleticism of other top defending groups, exposing New England to the type of big plays which ultimately sunk their championship hopes.
A +500 line to win the Super Bowl greatly overstates the Patriots actual odds of winning, which is far more uncertain.
Green Bay Packers (+800)
The easy analysis of the Green Bay Packers in 2018 revolves around the axiom that any club which employs Aaron Rodgers automatically becomes favorites to win their division, conference and Super Bowl. As one of the very best pivots of all time, Rodgers has a proven ability to lift his team single-handedly to victory.
There’s no evidence that Rodgers will slow because of age or his reconstructed collarbone. The rest of Green Bay’s squad is far from a guarantee. Running back Aaron Jones had 5.5 yards per carry on 81 attempts last season, but will miss two games for violating a substance abuse policy. Jamaal Williams and Ty Montgomery produced at a comparatively reduced rate.
Davante Adams proved himself as a top wide receiver with 10 TDs and 885 yards on a Hundley-lead offense, but he’s dealt with multiple concussions, placing his health in a precarious position. The defense doesn’t look much better on paper, relying on rookies in the secondary. Despite new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine replacing Dom Capers, the personnel isn’t present to improve the much-maligned pass rush.
Coach McCarthy expects his defense to outperform Rodgers and the offense, an unrealistic scenario. There’s simply no way that the Packers match up well against the Eagles, Rams and Vikings, all of whom feature elite depth on both sides of the ball. Green Bay shouldn’t be considered second-favorite to win the Super Bowl over NFC rivals.
Pittsburgh Steelers (+1000)
Despite a 13-3 record last season, a detailed look at the Steelers reveal a crumbling squad on-field and in the front office. In 2017, Pittsburgh defeated the Browns twice by an average of 3.5 points; beat the Ravens by a single; bested the Bengals by a field goal and barely scraped by the Hundley Packers, allowing 28 points (!) to Green Bay at Heinz Field. Coach Tomlin watched his club lose against the freaking Bears and become unraveled against the Jaguars by a 30-9 score.
Losing the divisional round against Jacksonville wasn’t a big surprise, but the fact that the final score was 45-42 was a massive shock. Pittsburgh features arguably the best wide receiver combo in Brown and JuJu, along with multi-purpose beast Le’Veon Bell, who finished second to Todd Gurley for overall yard production. Everyone expected the Steelers to score against strong defenses, but no one believed that the Jaguars could break the 40-point mark.
Instead of accepting the fact that Ben Roethlisberger leans on Bell as a pressure relief valve, the Steelers front office decided to play hardball with Le’Veon’s contract – a dangerous game for any club expecting to win the Super Bowl. Pittsburgh believes they can replace 1,946 yards and 11 rushing and receiving TDs through a committee of backs and receivers.
Making up for the absence of a first-team, all-pro, dual-threat running back will be impossible, but the tragic injury suffered by Pro Bowl linebacker Ryan Shazier devastated the soul of the Steelers defense. Ryan’s personality and leadership are truly irreplaceable. Without Shazier and Bell, it’s tough to see the Steelers improving year-over-year.
Jacksonville Jaguars (+1500)
Fans of relentless “smashmouth” football should find themselves drawn to the Jaguars, the current standard bearer of old-school pigskin. During the 2018 playoffs, Jacksonville front-loaded the offense on the sturdy shoulders of Leonard Fournette, who attracted sufficient attention to free up space downfield for the air game. The result was “playoff Bortles” and an excruciating near-miss against the Patriots during the AFC championship game.
Some believe that Blake Bortles is underrated, but his supporting stats do not support this argument. Interceptions have always been an issue, forcing offensive coordinators to simplify Blake’s game and hand the ball to Fournette more often. As such, Bortles hasn’t cracked the 90 mark for passer rating during his four seasons with the Jags.
There’s a chance that Blake finally finds his niche and transforms into a top-ten QB, which would immediately lift Jacksonville as genuine contenders. Unfortunately, with a career accuracy of 59.1%, Bortles turning into a championship-quality pivot remains a distant prospect.
A shame, because the Jaguars defense happens to be one of the most fun to watch in the NFL. Lead by first-team all-pro Jalen Ramsey, who backs top-notch smack talk with elite secondary coverage, Jacksonville’s swagger overwhelms lesser teams while humbling arrogant squads like the Steelers. Unfortunately, the quarterback gap between the Jaguars and top competitors will prevent glory for Jacksonville.
San Francisco 49ers (+1800)
Do you believe that the 49ers have a better shot at a Super Bowl than the Dallas Cowboys, Carolina Panthers and Houston Texans? Some teams become rapidly infecte by false hype, a phenomenon which lifts the 49ers into dark horse contenders for Super Bowl 2019.
Clearly, Northern California buys into the five-game win streak at the end of the 2017 regular season with far too much enthusiasm, flooding the market with unrealistic Super Bowl wagers. Home victories over the Titans and Jaguars were laudable, but wins over the weakened Bears, Texans and “week 17 Rams” impressed far less.
Carlos Hyde left the squad, leaving San Francisco with a net loss of talent between the end of last season and the beginning of this campaign. Hyde was a horse, leading the club in rushing, total yards and TDs. All signs point to Garoppolo functioning well as a franchise pivot, but the 49ers haven’t finished surrounding him with the type of supporting talent which will maximize his talent.
If anything, sky-high expectations could add needless pressure to a growing squad. San Francisco will be up against elite competition in the NFC West, with the Rams rightly lauded as favorites to scoop an NFC crown. Seattle’s lost a lot of defensive talent, but they could easy finish with a better or comparable record than San Francisco in 2018. Put simply, the 49ers can’t win a Super Bowl if they don’t qualify for the playoffs.
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