5 NFL Teams With Best Shot at Upsetting Reigning Super Bowl Champion Patriots
All Super Bowl odds come courtesy of TopBet and are accurate leading into Week 14. Teams are ranked based on the likelihood that they’ll upset the New England Patriots (+200) in a postseason tilt, irrespective of whether it comes during the AFC playoff bracket or in the Super Bowl itself.
5. Los Angeles Chargers (+2500)
Wait, come again? The Los Angeles Chargers? The .500 Los Angeles Chargers? The might not even win the AFC West Division or, by extension, even make the playoffs Los Angeles Chargers?
The Chargers are a sneaky-good bet for two reasons. First and foremost, we need to pick a second team from the AFC. It’s only right. The Patriots will have to play two games to earn a Super Bowl trip, giving them more opportunities to lose.
But challenging them in the AFC also means playing in Foxborough, where they absolutely own opponents. Few teams have the juice to stand up to them on their own turf.
Los Angeles might be one of them. The defense is among the five most stingy in the league, particularly when it comes to stopping the aerial assaults, also known as the Patriots’ bread and butter. And though the Chargers’ offense currently ranks in the bottom half of weekly output, it has started to normalize. They’re tallying a close to average 22.3 points per game and trending upward.
Pit them against the Patriots, and they’ll be heavy underdogs—like pretty much everyone else. But Pro-Football-Reference’s Simple Rating System, a valuable tool that rates teams according to strength of schedule and point differential, pegs them as the AFC’s fifth-best squad by a wide margin, with an opportunity to jump up to third by year’s end.
4. Philadelphia Eagles (+550)
Some people are ready to make a case that the Philadelphia Eagles are the NFL’s best team—and it’s tough to entirely fault or discredit them.
Advanced metrics rate them as the league’s most potent offensive unit, with a top-10 defense. That balance is lethal, especially when it comes to competing in the Super Bowl. Pore over the historical data, and February’s big dance is overloaded with participants who positively dominated one side of the ball while remaining inside the top 10 or better on the opposite end.
Still, the Eagles are a young team relative to other championship hopefuls. Quarterback Carson Wentz, an MVP candidate, is only a sophomore. And the defense has showed some cracks in games when it needs to come up with big-time.
This inexperience was on full display most recently in a loss to the Seattle Seahawks, a quality team that derailed the Eagles’ winning streak by committing fewer errors. This Philly squad may need to experience the trials and tribulations of a postseason exodus before being fully ready for a run at the Patriots—not unlike last season’s Dallas Cowboys, minus the complete personnel instability.
3. Seattle Seahawks (+1600)
Consider the Seahawks a necessary middle-ground pick. Their defense has been ravaged by injuries, but they continue to rank in the top 10 of both points scored and points allowed per game.
More than that, they have familiarity on their side. They won’t wilt in a game against the Patriots, just because it’s the Super Bowl. They have been to a pair of Super Bowls over the past half-decade, earning themselves one championship.
One of those matchups, at the end of the 2014 season, even came against the Patriots. They lost, but the game came down to the wire, on a goal-line play.
It helps, too, that Russell Wilson was the quarterback for both those Super Bowl cameos, and that the defense, despite glaring absences, is made up of veterans who won’t be intimidated by the moment.
Yes, we’ve seen the Seahawks lose some big games this year. But we’ve seen them win some huge contests as well. They’re on pace to secure 11 victories and can still lock up on defense against the best of the best. If the Patriots had their pick of who, among playoff squads, they could face in the Super Bowl, the Seahawks would no doubt finish at the bottom of it.
2. Pittsburgh Steelers (+450)
Arguments can very easily be made to slot the Pittsburgh Steelers in the No. 1 spot. But the knowledge that any theoretical matchup with the Patriots will probably come in hostile territory detracts from their appeal just a tiny bit.
Emphasis on a tiny bit.
Offense has been the Steelers’ greatest weakness to date, which, truthfully, hurts their opponents more than them. They can still put points up in hurry. Le’Veon Bell is a freight train with lateral gait. Think about that. Ben Roethlisberger is old, at 35, but barely showing it. He throws more than his fair share of interceptions, but the Steelers are sixth in passing touchdowns and eighth in net yards per passing attempt.
Boom-or-bust potential works on that side of the ball when it’s paired with an elite-level defense that snuffs out quarterbacks and forces turnovers like whoa—which is just what the Steelers have.
1. New Orleans Saints (+1400)
Oh, yes. Let’s go here.
The New Orleans Saints have dropped two of three since rattling off eight consecutive victories—a slump by this season’s standards. But look at who those three matchups came against: at Los Angeles Rams, versus Carolina Panthers and at Atlanta Falcons.
Any team in the NFL, including the Patriots, would take a 1-2 record coming out of that stretch. The Saints have proven time and again this season that they’re an elite team, one with, perhaps, the league’s best offense and a much-improved defense.
Crazier still: New Orleans is touting just four losses despite playing out the league’s most difficult schedule. Given their above-average slate, and their record, SRS rates the Saints as the NFL’s absolute best team, further evidence that they’re a force with which to be reckoned—and, as a result, one team the Patriots shouldn’t want to meet in the Super Bowl.
*All stats come courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference and are accurate leading into games being played during Week 14 unless otherwise cited.
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