As we head into week 11 of this football season, the true contenders are beginning to separate themselves from the rest of the pack. However, with the fall of the last two undefeated teams these past two weeks, its unclear which of these top-tier contenders have the best shot at playing in February. Let’s take a look at the 5 teams most likely to play on Super Bowl Sunday in just a few months.
5. Kansas City Chiefs
This year has not gone how Chiefs fans expected it would go. Injuries have played a major factor (even excluding Mahomes the Chiefs have been without many supporting pieces throughout the year), but the team is still far too talented to have 4 losses already. Despite their troubles thus far, Kansas City is still primed to take the AFC West; the Raiders and Chargers are both close in record but not in ability. While they will likely have to win a few on the road in January, there isn’t a single team in the league who feels confident hosting Kansas City in a do-or-die game. The juggernaut potency of the offense combined with the impressive game scripts drawn up by Andy Reid make the Chiefs prime contenders to go on a playoff run and make the Super Bowl.
4. Baltimore Ravens
Right now, nobody in the league can stop the Ravens. Lamar Jackson is playing in a way the league hasn’t seen since prime Michael Vick, and it has completely prevented opposing coaches from creating an effective defensive game plan. His improvement of his throwing ability has prevented defenses from being able to stack the box, meaning that Lamar is finding absurd amounts of running lanes. The additional threat of criminally-underrated running back Mark Ingram is just rubbing salt in the wound. Baltimore has put themselves in a position where they are extremely likely to get a playoff bye, meaning they only have to win 2 playoff games to make the Super Bowl. The big road block in Baltimore’s way is a rematch against Brady and Belichick, but this time in Foxborough. Given that Bill was able to sufficiently stymie last year’s unstoppable Chiefs, the smart money is on him being able to do the same thing to Lamar this season. However, the Ravens are still certainly not to be dismissed, as if Belichick cannot figure out how to stop them by January then it is likely that the Ravens will take the AFC and get a chance to win the Lombardi.
3. San Francisco 49ers
In a tight matchup against their division rivals, the Niners were a missed field goal away from being a dominating 9-0. While the tough loss to Seattle ends the perfect season, it should not reduce the fears opposing teams have about San Francisco. That game was a matchup of two of the best teams in the league, and could have easily gone either way. The Niners still boast a top 2 defense, genius head coach, and underrated offense. They are currently in a position to have home field advantage throughout the playoffs, which would be a huge boost to an already deadly team. The main obstacle standing in their way?: An absolutely grueling remaining schedule. San Francisco still has matchups against Green Bay, Baltimore, New Orleans, Los Angeles (Rams), and Seattle. Due to this very tough schedule, there is a fairly good shot that the 49ers will end up being a wild card team despite their dominant start to the season. Seattle is knocking on the door for the division. Just how good is Seattle? See below.
2. Seattle Seahawks
Just a year and a half ago, the Seahawks were projected to be on the beginning of a rebuild, with the dismantling of the Legion of Boom and massive roster turnover. A year and a half later, the Seahawks are coming off of a 10 win season and are looking like one of the best teams in football so far this year. The win against San Francisco was enormous, as a loss would have almost surely shut them out of the NFC West race. The win, alternatively, puts them just one game behind San Francisco with a tie-breaker on them. This means that Seattle controls their own destiny, and with the way they’re playing it’s not ridiculous to talk about them running the table. The addition of Josh Gordon brings this offense into the top echelon of the league, while the defense has been formidable largely thanks to the game-changing ability of Clowney. A large part of Seattle’s success has to be given to head coach Pete Carroll, who has managed to lead his team to continued success over the decade despite an ever changing roster. The MVP play of Russell Wilson has obviously been enormous for this team as well. Both Wilson and Carroll are currently right on the cusp of reserving their spots in Canton and they are currently performing at the best they ever have. Seattle should currently be the favorites in the NFC to make the Super Bowl.
1. New England Patriots
In the AFC, that honor goes to the New England Patriots. Yes, they lost to the first “real” team they played against, but they are still the best team in the league. The two weakest position groups on the team this season have been pass catchers and offensive line; the returns of N’Keal Harry and Isaiah Wynn over the next two weeks should be massive boosts to both of them. The defense is still as good as they were being hyped to be two weeks ago; Lamar is just that special. Despite how amazing Lamar is, the Patriots will likely figure out what to do by January; it is likely occupying every spare thought in Belichick’s head. Assuming they can take care of the Ravens, there is just not much competition for the AFC; the Texans are porous outside of their two shining stars (Watson and Hopkins), the Colts just lost to the Dolphins, the Bills haven’t looked impressive the past few weeks. This just leaves the Chiefs, who just don’t have the same “it” factor that they did last year. It’s also worth mentioning that the Patriots always improve as the season progresses and they learn more about the team. It becomes a little harder to learn where improvements are needed when the team coasts by in all of the games, so this Baltimore game will likely lead to some insights from the hoodie. The offense will figure it out eventually (probably against Dallas alongside the return of Wynn) and the defense will continue to dominate. Unfortunately for fans of parity, the Patriots are the team best positioned to make the Super Bowl.