In just a couple of days, we’ll find out which teams are playing in Super Bowl LIII, and there will be two weeks of non-stop coverage leading up to February 3. Heading into Championship Weekend, the Saints and the Chiefs are considered the two favorites to get to and win the Super Bowl, but things could obviously change after Sunday. NFL Network’s Cynthia Frelund has the favorites as New Orleans (29%), Kansas City (28%), Los Angeles (22%), and New England (21%), but my model is nearly the opposite ahead of the conference title games.
The Chiefs are an incredibly talented team that can be unstoppable at times, but the Patriots have shown they can be as unstoppable as any team in NFL history when they’re on in the postseason. Tom Brady has a 14:1 TD/INT ratio in his last six playoff games. Even at Arrowhead, the Patriots probably shouldn’t be three-point underdogs in the AFC Championship Game. Put simply, if this bracket played out ten times, don’t you think the Pats would win three of the ten times? 31% for a team that has won five Super Bowls might be too low.
If Kansas City is able to get by New England, though, they’ll have as much confidence as ever heading into the Super Bowl. Andy Reid is now 21-4 coming off the bye as a head coach (including 4-1 in the postseason), and he’ll obviously get a bye week for the Super Bowl if his team makes it. Not that the AFC title game is a de facto Super Bowl, because that’s definitely not the case; but if the Chiefs topple Belichick and Brady, they will probably be the Super Bowl favorites against either the Rams (who they narrowly lost to in the crazy Monday-nighter in LA) or the Saints.
The Rams are given a better chance to win the entire thing than the Saints because they have a legitimate game-wrecking force on the defensive side of the ball. As was displayed in the aforementioned Monday night win over the Chiefs, Donald and the defense can make game-changing plays, which might be necessary to beat whichever team emerges from the other conference. Also, this running game is the hottest of any of the four teams left, so that’ll help them control the clock and set up play-action passes in Sean McVay’s offense, making things difficult for the Patriots or Chiefs to gameplan for in a matchup with the Lombardi Trophy on the line.
It doesn’t feel right to have Drew Brees’ team last, but the Saints might have trouble stopping two great offenses in two straight games—and the three other remaining teams all have great offenses. The Sheldon Rankins loss is big for the middle of the defense, and both the Rams this week—and potentially the AFC team in a few weeks—will certainly test it. The good news for New Orleans is that they play in the Superdome this Sunday, while the Super Bowl remains in a dome at Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium (where they have familiarity with being in the same division as the Falcons), and Brees thrives in controlled environments.