Super Bowl Preview: Which Los Angeles team will rise?
We're in September, but it's never too early to think about America's biggest spectacle in February.
Super Bowl LIII will be played at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, the home of the Atlanta Falcons.
This will be the third Super Bowl in Atlanta after the city previously was host to Super Bowl XXVIII in 1994 and Super Bowl XXXIV in 2000.
You can't ever get enough parity in the National Football League, and I can guarantee this year will be no different.
Who do you think can be this season's Philadelphia Eagles; a team which opened up as 60/1 entering last year before ultimately capturing its first Super Bowl in franchise history.
Will the Los Angeles Rams with Jared Goff steal the show? How about the New Orleans Saints with Drew Brees still leading the offense to go along with a much improved defense?
Will quarterback Tom Brady and the New England Patriots make a ninth Super Bowl appearance in the Brady/Belichick era? Or will the greatest dynasty in all of sports finally hit its long-awaited wall?
Does Aaron Rodgers get the Green Bay Packers back to the Super Bowl? Or will newcomers like the San Francisco 49ers or Chicago Bears surprise the league?
The questions never end. There are many storylines heading into the 2018-19 NFL season.
Want to know my top 10 favorite Super Bowl odds heading into the season? Check them out below.
Here are the best teams with the best odds to take home the Lombardi Trophy in Atlanta:
10. New England Patriots
The Patriots enter the 2018-19 NFL season as the biggest favorite. I mean who wouldn't want to put money on Tom Brady and Bill Belichick? The reason why I have them at No. 10 is because there really isn't a huge risk factor with taking the Patriots. Since 2001, the Patriots have played in 12 AFC Championship Games, including the last seven, with a chance to get to the Super Bowl.
The Patriots are also the last team to win back-to-back Super Bowls (2003-04), which is why the Philadelphia Eagles (10/1) didn't even make it to this list. The Patriots are almost a sure bet to at least play in the AFC Championship Game, but I like the idea of taking a risk elsewhere.
9. Pittsburgh Steelers
It was almost a guarantee that the Pittsburgh Steelers would play the Patriots for the opportunity to get back to the Super Bowl, but the Jacksonville Jaguars had something to say about that. The Steelers have a lethal attack on offense, which consists of a top five quarterback in the NFL, a top five running back in the league, a fantastic offensive line, to go along with the best wide receiver in the game.
I want to say it's almost a lock for the Patriots to meet the Steelers in the AFC title game, but again, nothing is for certain. And I feel strongly about a few other teams in the AFC to make some noise this year.
8. Los Angeles Rams
Gone is Jeff Fisher, in comes head coach Sean McVay, and the Rams literally go from the worst offense in the NFL to the number one offense in the league. Not only do the Rams have an explosive offense, centered around quarterback Jared Goff and running back Todd Gurley, but the addition of wide receiver Brandin Cooks should be a cause for concern for opposing defenses.
The Rams' defense might be one of the scariest in the league. Defensive tackle Aaron Donald signed the most expensive contract for a defensive player in league history, and the Rams picked up defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh to pair with Donald. Newly acquired defensive backs Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib will anchor a ferocious secondary. There are lots of egos and personalities on this Rams squad, but one day in the near future, there is a possibility we may look back and say the Rams were the Eagles of last year.
7. New Orleans Saints
The Saints were two games away from meeting the Patriots in the Super Bowl last year, but New Orleans' defense met the "Minneapolis Miracle" with seconds remaining in its Divisional Round game against the Vikings. Quarterback Case Keenum connected with Stefon Diggs for the game-winning score to lift Minnesota over New Orleans and onto the NFC Championship Game and left the Saints heartbroken.
If there is one team in the National Football League bitter about the way their season ended last year, it's the New Orleans Saints. Quarterback Drew Brees isn't getting any younger, and with young centerpieces on offense, including running back Alvin Kamara and wide receiver Michael Thomas, the Saints have enough on defense to get back to the playoffs and get Brees back to the Super Bowl before retirement.
6. Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jaguars were on the brink of upsetting New England in Foxboro in the AFC Championship Game, but Tom Brady was magic in the Patriots' come-from-behind win.
One of two things will happen with the Jaguars this season: 1. They will cruise to the AFC South crown and once again be a scary opponent for any team in the playoffs or 2. The Jaguars will completely crumble and won't even come close to winning the division and they will have to revisit their quarterback situation with Blake Bortles next year.
With a top tier defense and a stout running game led by second-year pro Leonard Fournette, I like the Jaguars' chances to win their division and wreck havoc in the playoffs.
5. Atlanta Falcons
Here's a fact: No team in the Super Bowl era hosting the Super Bowl reached the Super Bowl that season. If there is a roster in this league that can come out on top against all odds, it's the Atlanta Falcons.
Quarterback Matt Ryan was an MVP two seasons ago as he led the Falcons to the Super Bowl against the Patriots before a historic collapse in the big game Look for the Falcons, who also made the playoffs last year before falling to the eventual Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles, to come out of the NFC South once again.
4. Baltimore Ravens
I'm not in love with the Ravens especially since they've missed the playoffs in each of the last three seasons, but it's impossible to forget about a franchise with a winning pedigree. At 50/1 to win the Super Bowl, I wouldn't mind taking a risk on the Ravens to come out of the much weaker AFC.
Yes, the Ravens are a completely different team from their Super Bowl run in 2012, but this preseason Joe Flacco looked rejuvenated, the running game with Alex Collins improved late last year, and with the additions of Michael Crabtree, John Brown, and Willie Snead at wide reciever, the Ravens are guaranteed to be better on offense.
The Ravens defense finished sixth in points per game last year, allowing 18.9 ppg, just behind Philadelphia's 18.4 average and New England's 18.5. To put this in some kind of perspective, Baltimore was only one of three teams ranked in the top 10 in points per game to not make the playoffs. The other two teams were the Los Angeles Chargers and Chicago Bears.
3. New York Giants
Nothing went right for the New York Giants last season. When star wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. injured his ankle in the preseason against the Cleveland Browns, it was basically a sign of things to come for Big Blue. Not only did Beckham Jr. reinjure his ankle in the regular season and was forced to have season-ending surgery, but the Giants' offensive line was abysmal in pass protection for quarterback Eli Manning, and the defense was nowhere near anything like it was two years ago when the Giants made the playoffs before losing at Lambeau Field to the Green Bay Packers.
With a revamped offensive line, and the addition of running back Saquon Barkley, the No. 2 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, pressure will certainly be taken off Manning's shoulders on offense. With weapons in Beckham Jr., Barkley, along with wide reciever Sterling Shepard and tight end Evan Engram, there's no excuse for Manning assuming everyone stays healthy.
The Giants have a really good chance at winning the NFC East, and we all know what happens when they make the playoffs. Big Blue is always a tough out.
2. Carolina Panthers
When I saw the opening odds of the Carolina Panthers, I licked my chops and immediately put them on my list. I just didn't expect them to be as high as No. 2. Also if you haven't noticed, the Panthers are the third team on this list from the best division in all of football, the NFC South.
Whether you like him or not, Cam Newton is an MVP. I don't believe he is the best passing quarterback out there, but there's no better athlete at the position than the 6-foot-5, 245-pound Auburn product.
The addition of Norv Turner as offensive coordinator is intriguing, especially with his history of producing some of the best offenses in football, which brings me to running back Christian McCaffrey. My fellow fantasy football fanatics, if you want to place a bet on an individual here's one for the taking.
My bold prediction for McCaffrey: A top 5 fantasy football running back, with over 100 receptions. Book it.
If the Panthers improve on defense and stay healthy, they will certainly make noise.
1. Los Angeles Chargers
Is there any team in the National Football League with bad luck like the Los Angeles (formerly San Diego) Chargers? The Chargers finished 9-7 last season, which was good enough for second place in the under achieving AFC West. But in my opinion, their record was nowhere near the level in which they played.
The Chargers began the season 0-4, which included back-to-back losses on potential game-winning field goals to start the season. They suffered a 24-21 loss to the Denver Broncos in Week 1, and a 19-17 loss to the Miami Dolphins in Week 2.
Add in a 26-24 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 4, and a 20-17 defeat to Jacksonville in Week 10, we may be talking about the No. 1 seed 13-3 Chargers instead of the 9-7 team which failed to make the playoffs.
If you haven't checked out the Chargers roster yet, well now is the time to look because they are loaded.
Future Hall of Fame worthy quarterback Phillip Rivers leads the way and he has an arsenal of weapons to get the football to. That list includes running back Melvin Gordon, and wide recievers Keenan Allen, Mike Williams and Tyrell Willams. Their defense consistents of arguably the best pass rushing tandem in the NFL, Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram, Denzel Perryman leads a solid linebacker core, and shutdown cornerback Casey Hayward will shine in the secondary.
The reason why I love the Chargers this season more than in years past is because I feel like this is the year everything can potentially come together. Expect growing pains with Pat Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs, the Oakland Raiders are a few years away because of a depleted roster, and the Denver Broncos haven't been good since Peyton Manning was under center.
I'm in love with the Chargers at odds of 40/1 to win the Super Bowl. After the Patriots and Steelers, the next best team is Los Angeles in the AFC, and quite frankly, I think the Chargers can take down either of those AFC powers.
Watch out for the Los Angeles Chargers in 2018.