Will the NFL Super Bowl Feature Another First-Time Winner?
It has been a very unusual year in the sports world. In many of the major team sports, we had squads that were contenders at various junctures who finally rose to the occasion and won it all in 2019.
The Virginia Cavaliers buried the ghosts of Ralph Sampson and last year's first-ever top seed opening-round loss (64 to 68 teams) by winning the prize in college basketball.
The St. Louis Blues had the fewest points in the NHL to start 2019, and they ended up as Stanley Cup champions for the first time in their history.
Lastly, the Toronto Raptors, who had a miracle shot from Kawhi Leonard in Game 7 of the first round against Philadelphia, went on to win there next three series and become the kings of the NBA.
Each story was unique in its own way, and it will be something the fans of those teams will never forget.
Though it does not happen every year, often enough, there are cycles in sports. Why, who knows, it seems these events will randomly happen and once someone starts paying attention to them they stop.
The NFL is known for turnover of division champions year after year. And while familiar teams make the playoffs regularly over periods of time, in this decade alone, we have had three first-time champs (New Orleans, Seattle and Philadelphia), and Atlanta should have won theirs in 2017.
Let's explore what teams could win a Lombardi Trophy for the first time and beat the NFL odds.
Cleveland Browns (+1300 odds)
After years of futility, but high draft choices, Cleveland is a hot commodity for an NFL team on the rise. All across the country where sports betting is now legal and at offshore sportsbooks, Baker Mayfield and his Browns teammates are getting the love, and in the latter stages of July they are the tied for the sixth choice to win the Super Bowl this upcoming season. We temper our enthusiasm until Cleveland actually has a winning season. Still, the St. Louis Rams went from 3-13 to NFL champs in 2000.
Los Angeles Chargers (+1440)
The Los Angeles Chargers might not have any fan base to speak of in the L.A. area, but if they could win the AFC West and receive a first-round bye, they would have a legitimate chance at hoisting a trophy. The Chargers have enough talent to make a run, and Philip Rivers is another elderly quarterback who continues to defy his age. If Melvin Gordon's contract is solved and the still younger defense takes the next step in maturation, the Bolts are a team that could win the AFC; and who knows from there. The Chargers are a very intriguing choice for NFL picks. Sportsbooks have the team from Carson, California, at 7th overall.
Jacksonville Jaguars (+3200)
Two years ago, Jacksonville had a fourth-quarter lead in the AFC title tilt versus New England and could not seal the deal. The Jaguars took a massive step backward in 2018 to 5-11, and most are writing them off this season because, well, they are Jacksonville. Nevertheless, Jaguars have a good running game and an ample amount of talent on defense that could rebound after eating a big slice of humble pie after last year. If coach Doug Marrone builds an offense that includes new quarterback Nick Foles in the read option, maybe, just maybe the Jags could surge again. Keep in mind the oddsmakers have Jacksonville in the top half of all teams, tied for 14th. Just sayin'.
Houston Texans (+3500)
Houston won the AFC South last season with an 11-5 record, but those setting the betting odds are less enthused about the Texans and have them below Jacksonville. Two major areas of concern about Houston are the offensive line and the pass defense. The O-Line was arguably the worst in the league, especially in pass protection, where quarterback Deshaun Watson was under siege. The Texans were 28th against the pass, and late in the season when watching their games, too often, nobody from the secondary was even in the TV shot when an opposing receiver first caught the ball. Both situations were addressed, yet uncertainty remains.
Atlanta Falcons (+3700)
The Dirty Birds are the 20th pick to win the Super Bowl, and that figure is deserving. This a team that had brutal offensive line play in permitting 108 quarterback hits and 42 sacks. A pair of offensive linemen were drafted in the first round along with four free agents to compete for jobs. Coach Dan Quinn said the best five linemen will start. The underachieving and oft-injured stop troops were 28th in total defense, and that is why Quinn got the job; to improve on that side of the ball. If and it's a big if, Atlanta can make dramatic improvements in those two areas, other than New Orleans and the L.A. Rams, the third spot in the NFC is largely up for grabs and Falcons have ability if not the moxie.
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