After last week’s Divisional Round of the NFL Playoffs, the four remaining NFL teams are the New Orleans Saints, Los Angeles Rams, New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs. Which team will win the Super Bowl?
For the Saints, Rams, Patriots and Chiefs, one more win gets them into the Super Bowl. One more win gives them a chance to be crowned as champions of the NFL. Two of these of four remaining NFL teams will get that chance after Sunday’s Conference Championship games. However, making it to the Super Bowl means there’s one more game left to win. That’s the Super Bowl itself.
Any of these four remaining NFL teams could win the Super Bowl. All of them would be worthy champions. With that being said, any of them could also lose the Super Bowl, or not make it at all. These are the four best teams in the NFL. Anyone can beat anyone at this point of the season. What we’re going to do today is examine one reason why each of the four remaining NFL teams will win the Super Bowl and one reason why they won’t.
Remaining NFL teams
New England Patriots
Why they will: RB Sony Michel
Tom Brady should obviously be the reason why the Patriots will win the Super Bowl, right? Well, not this year. Tom Brady has done this many times before, but I’m not sure I’d want him throwing the ball around 40 or 50+ times a game. If I were a Patriots fan, I’d rather watch the Patriots dominate on the ground. Enter Sony Michel.
Sony Michel has had a fantastic rookie season. He carried the ball 209 times for 931 yards and six TDs during the regular season. Had he not missed three games, he’d easily have been a 1,000+ yard rusher. Michel carried his regular season success into the playoffs. In their dominating win against the Chargers, Sony Michel ran for 124 yards and three TDs. He averaged 5.4 yards per carry. The Chargers just couldn’t stop him.
Because Michel was too good on the ground, Tom Brady couldn’t be stopped in the passing game either. He threw for 343 yards and one TD. Brady was Brady, but it looked like it was so much easier to be Brady because of how Michel controlled the game on the ground.
The Patriots are now going up against Patrick Mahomes and the NFL’s best offense. If they make it past them, they’ll have to up against either the Rams or the Saints. What can the Patriots do to keep these explosive offense’s off the field? Run the ball, run the ball and then run the ball some more.
Why they won’t: Lack of pressure on opposing QBs
When the regular season came to an end, guess where the Patriots ranked in sacks. 30th. They were tied for second worst in the league with the New York Giants. They only tallied 30 sacks all season long. Usually when you see a low number of sacks, it means a low number of pressures.
In their win against the Chargers, the Patriots were able to sack Philip Rivers two times. That’s decent, but here’s what I was impressed with. They got seven hits on Philip Rivers. Although they only sacked him twice, they got a good amount of pressure on him throughout the game. That has to stay constant for the Patriots to win the Super Bowl.
The other three remaining NFL teams ranked second (Saints), fifth (Chiefs) and ninth (Rams) in sacks allowed this season. If the Patriots can’t get pressure on the league’s best offense’s and QBs, they can’t expect to win the Super Bowl. Jared Goff would be the easiest QB to overcome, but Patrick Mahomes and Drew Brees? I like their chances if they have time to throw the ball.
Kansas City Chiefs
Why they will: Explosive offense
If you’re looking for an offensive show, look no further than the Kansas City Chiefs. This team led the league in points per game, averaging 35.3. In their Divisional Round win, this team absolutely dominated the Colts’ defense, winning the game 31-13. This week the New England Patriots are coming to town. A New England team who just walked all over a 12-4 Chargers team who was tied for the best record in the AFC. In that game against the Chargers, the Patriots put up 41 points!
For the Chiefs to make it to the Super Bowl, this offense has to be as explosive as ever. It’s probably going to take 40+ points. That’s not a huge deal for the Chiefs, who scored 40+ points five times during the regular season. They were close on several other occasions.
Patrick Mahomes and his incredible throws. Travis Kelce, who is one of, if not the best TE in the NFL. Tyreek Hill, who will be the fastest player on the field. How do you defend that? All of these guys are going to have be at the top of their game to win the Super Bowl. The other three remaining NFL teams can all score, but there’s something special about this offense. How explosive this offense is will go a long way, especially with their questionable defense, which we’ll talk about next.
Why they won’t: Questionable defense
I was actually impressed by how well this defense played against the Colts last week. They held a hot Andrew Luck and his offense to 13 points. This defense dominated! Now the question is, can they do it again against the Patriots? If they make it past them, can they do it against either the Saints or Rams?
We’ve seen flashes of the Chiefs being able to play well defensively, but they haven’t been able to do it consistently. During the regular season, the Chiefs had four games where they gave up less than 20 points. Those four games were against the Jaguars, Bengals, Cardinals and Raiders. Not impressive.
In games where they played the league’s better teams, this defense gave up 43 points (Loss to the Patriots), 54 points (Loss to the Rams), 29 points (Loss to the Chargers) and 38 points (Loss to the Seahawks). Those are just to name a few times. This defense even game up 33 points to the Raiders one week, although the offense saved the day by scoring 40.
The three offense’s left are ranked second (Rams), third (Saints) and fourth (Patriots) in points per game. Can this defense hold up against the best offensive teams in the NFL?
Los Angeles Rams
Why they will: Play-calling
Todd Gurley, Jared Goff and Brandin Cooks. You could name a ton of players on this team who dictate their success. While that is true, there’s nothing making the Rams as successful as they are more than play-calling. You could find several NFL teams who have stars you could easily matchup with Gurley and Goff offensively. What you can’t find, is several NFL teams who call plays like the Rams do. When they have star players offensively and the best play-calling in the NFL, how do you defend that?
The Rams have the best play-calling in the NFL because they run multiple plays from the same formation. If the Rams run a run play from a certain formation, the next time they come out in that formation, they’ll pass. The defense thought they knew what was coming, but they had no idea. If you haven’t noticed this while watching the Rams play, watch this video of Good Morning Football’s Nate Burlesson explaining just how explosive this style of play-calling can be here.
How do you defend that? It’s nearly impossible. Even when the Saints beat the Rams earlier in the season, the Rams still scored 35 points. New Orleans had to score 45 to comfortably beat them. Of the remaining NFL teams, the Rams by far have the best play-calling. If they win the Super Bowl, their play-calling will be the reason.
Why they won’t: QB Jared Goff
Jared Goff finally got his first playoff win last week, which makes his playoff record 1-1. Despite getting his first playoff win, Goff was underwhelming. While it’s true Goff didn’t need to do anything spectacular to win their Divisional Round game because of how well their running game was, it would have been nice to see a little more from him.
Even though the Rams got the win, Goff completed just 53.6% of his passes for 186 yards, zero TDs and a passer rating of 74.4. Goff may have been able to get away with that kind of play against the Cowboys, an offense who struggled all season, but what happens when the Rams go up against the offense’s of the Saints, Chiefs or Patriots? Goff won’t be able to get away with completing 53.6% of his passes and having a 74.4 passer rating. He just won’t be able to against Drew Brees, Patrick Mahomes or Tom Brady.
I know Goff has played well throughout the season, but in two playoff games, Goff hasn’t impressed me. In his two playoff games, Goff has completed 53.4% of his passes for 445 yards, one TD and a passer rating of 76.6. How many playoff games can you win with that from your QB?
New Orleans Saints
Why they will: They remain calm, cool and collected
In their win over the Philadelphia Eagles, the Saints dug themselves into a 14-0 hole in the first quarter. Drew Brees threw an INT on his first pass attempt. Then they had to punt on their second drive. Everything was going wrong, while everything went right for the defending champs. It really couldn’t have been a worse start for the Saints, but what they did after that terrible start impressed me.
Did the Saints panic? Not one bit. A lot of times when teams dig themselves into an early hole, they panic and start to play a game that’s not theirs. Instead of getting away from who they are, the Saints stuck to their game, slowly chipping away at the 14-0 lead built by the Eagles. By halftime, the Saints had almost dug themselves out of that hole by getting the score to 14-10. By the end of the third quarter, the Saints took the lead, eventually winning the game 20-14.
If the Saints win the Super Bowl, one of the main reasons why will be because of their ability to stay calm, cool and collected in big games. Going against the Rams and then either the Patriots or Chiefs, there’s a good chance they’re going to have some points scored on them. These are three of the best offense’s in the NFL. Don’t be surprised if the Rams build a lead on the Saints in the Conference Championship game. If the Rams do build a lead, don’t be surprised if the Saints come back. There’s a reason this team went 13-3. They’re not just a good offense when they’re winning. This team will play their game regardless of the score.
Why they won’t: Relying too much on WR Michael Thomas
WR Michael Thomas has established himself as one of the best WRs in the NFL. Thomas recorded 125 catches for 1,405 yards and nine TDs in the regular season. In the Saints’ game against the Eagles, Thomas recorded 12 catches for 171 yards and one TD. Having a receiver who can consistently change a game is something every QB wants, but what happens when that receiver gets shut down?
Looking back at the Saints’ schedule, their two worst performances came against the Dallas Cowboys (10 points) and Carolina Panthers (12 points). In both games, Michael Thomas was held to below 50 yards receiving. That’s not a problem if another receiver steps up, but Thomas was the leading receiver in both games.
In the game against Dallas, Thomas was held to 40 yards. Outside of RB Alvin Kamara, who was targeted 11 times, no other Saints receiver was targeted more than three times. In the game against Carolina, Thomas was held to 49 yards. Outside of RB Alvin Kamara, who was targeted nine times, no other Saints receiver was targeted more than four times.
What does that tell us? It tells us the Saints don’t have a reliable receiving option outside of Michael Thomas. Thomas had about twice as many yards as the Saints’ next leading receiver, who was RB Alvin Kamara (709 yards). The next leading receiver on the team was rookie Tre’Quan Smith, who caught 28 passes for 427 yards and five TDs.
If the Rams, Patriots or Chiefs are able to limit the impact of Thomas, they will limit the impact of everyone else on the Saints’ offense. For the Saints to be one of the four remaining NFL teams to not only make, but win the Super Bowl, their other receiving options need to step up.