The Long Game – My Top 4 Super Bowl Picks & Odds To Win It All!
Will the addition of sure-fire future Hall of Fame signal-caller Tom Brady transform the Tampa Bay Buccaneers into instant Super Bowl contenders?
Will the absence of Brady help the Buffalo Bills win the AFC East and contend for a Super Bowl berth even more than they did a year ago? Will Ryan Tannehill and the Tennessee Titans pick up where they left off after reaching the AFC Championship game a year ago?
New Orleans Saints (13-3, 1st in NFC South)
Let’s see, three years ago, the Saints went 11-5 and were one play away from reaching Super Bowl 52 when they got stunned by the Minneapolis Miracle to see their championship hopes go up in smoke. Two years ago, New Orleans went 13-3 and beat Philly in the divisional round before losing to thRams 26-23 in overtime in the NFC Championship game thanks to arguably the worst blown call in NFL playoff history. Last season, the Saints went 13-3 for the second straight season despite the fact that future Hall of Fame quarterback Drew Brees missed five games. New Orleans lost to Minnesota again in the playoffs, this time, 26-20 in overtime. Now, following three straight disappointing playoff finishes, two of which should have seen them reach the Super Bowl, I’m backing Brees and company to reach the NFC title tilt in 2020.
New Orleans finished the 2019 campaign ranked ninth in total offense, seventh in passing a decent 16th in rushing and a stellar third in scoring (28.6 ppg). If New Orleans can improve a defense that was a stellar fourth against the run, but an uninspiring 20th against the pass, I believe the Saints could end up representing the NFC in Super Bowl 55.
New Orleans made some nice addition in free agency by picking up guard Andrus Peat, safety Malcolm Jenkins and wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders among others and the organization will likely go for a defensive back with the 24th overall pick in the upcoming NFL draft. 37 regular seasons wins and a pair of playoff victories in the last three seasons, leads me to believe the Saints are due!
Seattle Seahawks (11-5, 2nd in NFC West)
I know the Seahawks may not be the most popular pick to reach Super Bowl 55 in the loaded NFC, but I love the perennial excellence we’ve seen out of this team ever since they made Russell Wilson their starter back in 2012. Seattle has never recorded a losing record in eights seasons with Wilson running the show. As a matter of fact, Seattle has recorded seven double-digit winning campaigns and seven playoff berths since 2012 with their worst mark being a 9-7 finish in 2017.
The Seahawks finished the 2019 campaign ranked eighth in total offense, including fourth in rushing and ninth in scoring (25.3 ppg). While Wilson had another phenomenal season that saw him pass for 4,110 yards with 31 TD passes and just five interceptions, the Seahawks do need to upgrade a defense that was mediocre across the board a year ago in finishing 26th in total defense, 27th against the pass, 22nd against the run and an identical 22nd in points allowed (24.9 ppg).
To address their needs this offseason, the Seahawks added veteran tight end Greg Olsen, tackles Cedric Ogbuehi and Brandon Shell and defensive end Bruce Irvin, among others, in free agency. With the 24t pick in the first round, Seattle could go for a pass rushing end or they could go for either linebacker A.J. Epenesa or Patrick Queen. No matter what happens in the draft, I firmly believe that Russell Wilson is so good he can almost single-handedly carry this team to the playoffs, much like last season.
Baltimore Ravens (14-2, 1st in AFC North)
Baltimore posted a league-best 14-2 record a year ago as quarterback Lamar Jackson had a humongous breakout campaign by passing for 3,127 yards with 36 TD passes and just six interceptions while setting a new NFL record for rushing yards by a quarterback with a mind-boggling 1,206 yards and an additional seven scores.
Now, heading into the 2020 season, the Ravens look like they could very well duplicate their success from last season after finishing second in total offense and first in scoring (33.2 ppg) and an equally impressive third in points allowed (17.6 ppg) while ranking inside the top seven in every meaningful statistical category on both sides of the ball, except passing where they finished 27th.
Baltimore added a handful of veterans on the defensive side of the ball in free agency while slapping the franchise tag on linebacker Matthew Judon and the Ravens should be able to add another quality player with the 28th pick in the draft. Make no mistake about it, Baltimore looks poised to challenge for Super Bowl berths for years to come.
Kansas City Chiefs (12-4, 1st in AFC West)
Last, but certainly not least, there’s the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs. The reigning champs were downright dominant on the offensive side of the ball in finishing 2019 ranked fifth in passing and fifth in scoring (28.2 ppg). Kansas City could improve their rushing attack in 2020 after finishing 23rd in rushing a year ago, but I believe their rushing statistics are askew because of their prolific passing attack. 2018 league MVP Patrick Mahomes passed for 4,031 yards with 26 TD passes and five interceptions in 14 games and he could be far better in 2020, like he was in throwing a mind-boggling 50 TD passes in 2018.
Defensively, the Chiefs need to improve a unit that finished 17th overall and 26th against the run, though they did also finish an encouraging 7th in points allowed (19.3 ppg). To address some of their needs, Kansas City added veteran tackle Mike Remmers and cornerback Bashaud Breeland while putting the franchise tag on superstar defensive end Chris Jones. To make matters even worse for their opponents in 2020 is the fact that the Chiefs are widely expected to add gifted running back D’Andre Swift with the final pick in the opening round of the upcoming NFL draft.