This is an update to my original Super Bowl Futures blog that I wrote prior to week 16.
I previously chose 7 teams that I felt had a legitimate chance at the Super Bowl. Going into the divisional round 5 of those 7 teams still remain alive. If things go the way I foresee them we should have a matchup next week that guarantees an automatic winner. To remind you of the teams I have remaining they are:
The Saints and Rams are both heavy favorites this weekend playing teams that are inferior to them. I see both of them winning their matchups and advancing to the NFC Championship game. This will be a rematch of a game we saw the Saints win 45-35 in week 9. This game should be different with Rams cornerback Aqib Talib playing. I see the Rams winning this game and being the team to come out of the NFC.
In the AFC I see the Colts beating the Chiefs outright this weekend. This will certainly be the Colts toughest test to date as you could make the argument they have faced a fairly easy schedule to this point. They present a tough matchup for the Chiefs as well. The Chiefs defense ranked 26th in overall efficiency (12th passing, 32nd rushing). Their terrible rush defense plays right into what the Colts want to do on offense which is establish the run behind their dominating offensive line. The Colts ability to control the line of scrimmage, both offensively and defensively should be the key to this game. The Chiefs have shown to be very vulnerable in recent weeks against teams that run the football well. They had a 1-2 stretch against the Ravens, Chargers and Seahawks with their only win coming in overtime against the Ravens. The Colts play the perfect brand of football to beat the Chiefs and I see them doing so this weekend.
This brings me to the final matchup of the Chargers and Patriots. The Chargers finished the season with a better record than the Patriots and ranked higher in overall efficiency (3rd) than the Patriots (7th) and are still 4.5 point underdogs in this game. I agree with the line though as the Patriots present a tough matchup for the Chargers. The Patriots can run a horizontal offense that relies on Tom Brady getting the ball out quickly to shifty receivers and running backs getting in space and making plays after the catch. This negates the Chargers excellent pass rushers and also gets them tired quickly. I see the Patriots opening this game running the hurry up offense and working quickly down the field against a Chargers team that is used to playing at a slower pace. I expect James White to be the focal point of this offense catching balls out of the backfield. Home field advantage is also a factor with the Chargers traveling to their second straight early game on the east coast. The only other time the Chargers have played two straight early games this season were against the Browns and Titans (London) going 2-0. This will be different though as there is expected to be snow right around kickoff for this game as well. The Patriots also have not lost a home game this year. On top of all of that we have the coaching matchup of Anthony Lynn vs Bill Belichick. The Patriots have dominated this round since their last loss in 2010 and I don’t expect this year to be any different. I expect a win and cover here.
That brings me to my hypothetical AFC Championship that pits the Colts against the Patriots. I said in my previous blog that the team I was most confident in representing the AFC was the Colts and I still believe that to be true. They are the most talented on both offense and defense. They are very well coached. Most importantly, they are playing their best football at the right time. Despite starting the season 1-5 they won 9 of their last 10 to make the playoffs as the 6 seed. Their offensive and defensive lines are both dominant which bodes well for playoff football. They played earlier this season but the game was on a short week and the Colts had not yet found their identity. They are a totally different team now and I see them representing the AFC in the Super Bowl.
To recap, I see the Super Bowl being the Rams and Colts.