There was a time when the New England Patriots had never won a Super Bowl. It’s difficult to fathom now, but for a while, their only title game appearance was a brutal 46-10 whooping by the hands of the Chicago Bears.
New England eventually built up quite the dynasty under the watchful eye of head coach Bill Belichick, but every team has to start from square one.
Some teams may never get to the promised land. The Cleveland Browns, Detroit Lions, and Arizona Cardinals are three good examples of teams that have yet to take home the Lombardi Trophy and at least for another year won’t get the opportunity to prove people wrong.
Maybe next year, Browns fans.
Instead of throwing pity parties for the NFL franchises that have yet to win the big prize, those of you betting on the Super Bowl should be considering which teams are closing in on their first league championship.
After all, the Philadelphia Eagles made history with their magical run in 2017, and teams like the Carolina Panthers and Atlanta Falcons made a go of it in recent years.
Sure enough, there are a few teams that have never won the Super Bowl that very well could pull it off this year. Let’s take a look at their odds of actually making it happen in Super Bowl 53.
Carolina Panthers (+10000)
I’ll list the Panthers first, as they might be the least likely to get the job done out of this group. They’re 6-6 following a four-game skid, but at one point, they looked like one of the better teams in the NFL.
Carolina should be good defensively, but they simply haven’t been consistent on that end. They also are incredibly dynamic offensively, but Cam Newton has fallen apart in recent weeks. A brutal four-interception outing in week 13 was perhaps the icing on the cake.
Most would point to a mind-numbing 52-21 blowout loss in Pittsburgh as their season-altering defeat. Maybe, but it was the 20-19 loss the following week to the Lions – one that should have been a win – that may have sent this team off the rails.
Head coach Ron Rivera opted to go for two instead of force overtime, and when it didn’t work, he may have lost his team a bit. The next two weeks produced tight losses to the Seahawks and Buccaneers, and suddenly Carolina is at risk of missing the playoffs.
Maybe, but they’re still in it as we speak.
The good news is that the Panthers win at home and get two more games at home over the last four games. The bad news is that they face the Saints twice down the stretch, and splitting their home/road games won’t get it done.
Inconsistency and an inability to win on the road don’t get you very far in the playoffs, but the Panthers have one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in the game and the #2 overall ground game in the league.
Being able to run the ball and put up points could come in handy if they make the playoffs. I doubt it equates to a title run, but at +10000, the Panthers are technically still in it and far from the worst flier bet out there.
Minnesota Vikings (+3300)
Minnesota carries way better Super Bowl odds going into week 14 due to a slightly better record (thanks to a tie) and the fact that they currently hold down the final NFC wild card spot.
It’s anyone’s guess if that actually sticks, but the Vikings absolutely have the makeup of a championship team.
Adding Kirk Cousins during the offseason finally gave them a competent decision-maker under center, while he’s shown all year that he can dice up any defense with a slew of talented weapons around him.
That’s translated to big numbers (Vikings rank 7th in total passing) and has kept Minnesota in the playoff hunt. Dalvin Cook should be supplying the Vikes with a steady ground game, too, but the fact that he hasn’t been able to may suggest Cousins’ production to this point is all the more impressive.
Minnesota took a step back defensively early in the year, but as a whole, that’s still a strength for this roster. Mike Zimmer’s crew gets pressure on the quarterback (8th in sacks), ranks 7th against the pass, and also stops the run (7th there as well).
The Vikings haven’t been great on the road, but they’ve been plenty fine at home and played well in a tense battle with the Rams earlier in the year. They fell flat in week 13 in New England, but they still control their destiny when it comes to the playoffs.
In fact, if the Bears collapse, they might even have an outside shot at nabbing the NFC North crown.
The latter might be a reach, but Minnesota holds the tiebreaker over both the Green Bay Packers and Philadelphia Eagles. A huge week 14 tilt with the Seattle Seahawks may end up being the statement win they need to punch their playoff ticket, too.
If you’ve read my initial thoughts on the early betting lines for NFL week 14, you’ll know that I’m expecting the Seahawks to take that one. But it’s far from impossible that the Vikings prove me wrong and end up making the postseason.
Once in, the Vikings have the explosive offense and stingy defense of a title contender.
I’m not entirely sold on Kirk Cousins in the clutch, but this is a team that made it to the NFC title game a year ago. If they can close the year strong and get in the playoffs, they’re not going to be a team anyone wants to face.
Houston Texans (+1600)
You’ll see an understandable drop in odds with the Texans, who started the year off at 0-3 but have ripped off an insane nine consecutive victories.
That’s pretty impressive, especially since Houston initially got their hot streak going with a number of tight wins and have also sprinkled in some crushing blowouts throughout the process.
The point there is that Houston can win more than one way. Lamar Miller can help out on the ground, Deshaun Watson can flat-out ball, and J.J. Watt’s successful return from injury has lifted up a very serviceable Houston defense.
Schematically and from a talent perspective, the Texans are as good as anyone in the league. They have the balance and upside of a legit title contender.
I have two problems, though. One is with head coach Bill O’Brien, who clearly knows how to spark an offense but has zero playoff wins. In fact, he’s never even gotten the Texans past nine wins.
The team will try to do that this week against the Colts, and even if they fail, they’ll have three more games to make it happen. They will, and eventually, they’ll punch their ticket to the playoffs, one way or another.
The second issue is the fact that 0-3 teams just don’t go on to win Super Bowls.
Only roughly 10% even recover enough to make the playoffs. That makes Houston marching past the likes of New England, Kansas City, and Pittsburgh in a year where their head coach will be vying for his first career playoff win, well, a mild reach.
Los Angeles Chargers (+1200)
Here’s your best bet in 2018 for a team that has never won the Super Bowl to finally get it done.
Even if you disagree, every die-hard NFL fan has to partially want this to happen just so the fiery Philip Rivers can finally hoist the Lombardi Trophy.
All of the fiery.
I’m not sure there is another quarterback in league history that has been this good without getting much recognition.
Rivers continues to simply do his job, though, and with the Bolts storming back to upset the Steelers in week 13, it’s official that we need to be aware of the other LA squad.
The Chargers have historically been teases. They start hot and fizzle out down the stretch, they struggle early and go on ultimately meaningless runs, or they simply send us on a roller coaster of mediocrity.
I was always hesitant to buy into them this season, but this year truly has been different.
Melvin Gordon has been incredibly productive all year, and Rivers has sliced up the opposition when needed to give the Chargers one of the most balanced offenses in football.
The defense got by without Joey Bosa for the first half of the season, too, but with their stud pass rusher back in the fold, they’re looking dangerous on that side of the ball as well.
It’s fair to wonder if the Chargers can actually beat the Patriots or Chiefs with their season on the line, but of the non-Super Bowl winners that will be in the mix, they do feel like the best bet.
Will a First-Time Super Bowl Winner Happen This Year?
Ultimately, I wouldn’t bet hard on a first-time Super Bowl winner hoisting the Lombardi Trophy at the end of the season.
That isn’t because it’s impossible or because these teams aren’t good, though. In fact, the Chargers and Texans are both very good and absolutely deserve a flier bet. I might even build a small case for Minnesota.
But the Panthers and Vikings aren’t even locks to make the playoffs just yet. It’s likely only one will get in, and even if/when they do, they have to get through the Rams and/or the Saints. I don’t really see that happening, as that’s very likely the NFC title game we all get (and surely deserve).
The AFC is a little more loaded this year. That’s not how I viewed it during the preseason, but if you look at the top of the conference, there really are about five teams that could realistically get the job done.
Houston and LA are certainly two of them. They can run the table. I just don’t think they will.
Bill O’Brien has never won a playoff game. Even if he gets out of the first round (assuming that’s where Houston starts), he then has to take out his former boss in Bill Belichick and/or outlast the mighty Chiefs.
The Chargers already lost to the Chiefs once, and while they’ll get another crack at them before 2018 is up, I’m not sure I favor them in a playoff setting. You also have to consider that there’s a pretty good chance these two will take each other out early in the playoffs.
Suddenly, that’d mean just one remains to get through the Chiefs and Pats.
The reality is that this is the year of the Pats/Chiefs and Rams/Saints.
There are seasons where you’re going to want to cheer on the wild card, and both Houston and Los Angeles undoubtedly have narrative backing them. But this isn’t the year to logically bet on them.
New England is way too experienced, and Kansas City is way too good. One of those teams is getting to and possibly winning Super Bowl 53.
I don’t mind tossing some flier bets on the Texans and Chargers just because I love their stories, and it’d be fun to see them win. But if you’re looking for a realistic Super Bowl winner, they’re probably going to fail you in the end.
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Super Bowl Betting Odds on Potential First-Time Winners – Panthers, Vikings, Texans, and ChargersDecember 7, 2018