NFL Contenders for Super Bowl in the 2021 Season: Brady & Tampa Bay in the Mix
With the NFL Draft and Free Agency in the rearview mirror, teams have begun to transition from the off-season to training camp plans to prepare for the upcoming NFL season. The new year has brought a ton of change to NFL rosters as each team looks to add to their strengths and address their weaknesses. With that being said, it’s time to discuss the teams with the best odds of winning the Super Bowl during the 2020-21 season.
There are a few teams who should make this list at no surprise, including the defending Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs. My list comprises six teams I believe have a legitimate shot at winning the Super Bowl this year. Many factors have been attributed to my rankings, such as Super Bowl odds and win projections by many experts in the NFL.
|Rank||Team||Win Total||SB odds||2019 Record|
Kansas City Chiefs
2019 record: 12-4
There is no surprise here at my number one slot. The Chiefs currently have the best odds to win it all, with a +650 to repeat as champions. Kansas City returns 20 of the 22 starters from last year’s championship team, so it should be as good if not better than last year. The defending champs also boast arguably the NFL’s most dynamic scoring offense. Not only do they have the league’s best quarterback in Patrick Mahomes, but they also have a series of dynamic receivers who can take the top off of defenses on any given play. The wideout group is headlined by Tyreek Hill, who in twelve games, posted 58 receptions, 860 yards, and 7 touchdowns during the 2019 season Hill certainly would have eclipsed the one-thousand-yard mark had he played in all 16 games for the Chiefs. Tight end Travis Kelce also gives Kansas City a premier receiving threat in the middle of the field. The 7-year pro posted his 4th consecutive one-thousand-yard season during last year’s campaign.
Ranked 2nd in points per game (29.9 PPG), the Chiefs added more weapons to an already elite offense when they drafted LSU’s Clyde Edwards-Helaire in the 1st round of this year’s draft. The pick should drastically help KC’s 22nd ranked rushing attack. On the defensive side of the ball, the Chiefs were a top-ten group, ranking 7th in points allowed per game (18.5 PA/G). Kansas City also has two elite pass-rushers in Chris Jones and Frank Clark, who produced 17 total sacks. During the offseason, KC managed to bring back starting cornerback Bashaud Breeland. Brining back Breeland to line-up alongside CB Kendall Fuller gives the Chiefs two quality-caliber corners. If the Chiefs manage to stay a top-ten defense in 2020, this should allow Patrick Mahomes and the offense to carry less of a burden than last year. I fully expect Mahomes to have another MVP-caliber season and for the Chiefs to have a vastly improved running game.
2019 record: 14-2
The Ravens are fresh off of a season in which we saw them winning an NFL-best 14 games in the regular season. Experts currently have the Ravens with 11.5 winning projections, which ranks tops in the NFL along with Kansas City. Each year Lamar Jackson seems to get even better. Last year we saw him shed defenses while throwing for 3,127 yards with 36 TDs and only 6 interceptions en route to MVP honors. Jackson also contributed on the ground 1206 rushing yards and 7 TDs. The Raven’s quarterback has become the poster boy for dual-threat quarterbacks around the league. What makes the Ravens so dangerous is their balance across the board, as the team ranked 1st in scoring (31.9) and 3rd in points allowed per game (16.9). The offense isn’t entirely Jackson either, as running back Mark Ingram III posted 1,018 yards and 10 TDs on the ground last season. Baltimore ranked 1st in rushing yards per game at 204.8 yds/g, fifty more than the league’s next best rushing offense (San Francisco). In the draft, the Ravens added Ohio State RB J.K. Dobbins, who join Jackson and Ingram in the backfield. On the outside, Baltimore features speedy wideout Marquise “Hollywood” Brown and one of the top young tight ends in Mark Andrews. They also addressed their WR depth by drafting Texas‘ Devin Duvernay in the third round.
Defensively, the Ravens also have one of the best young corners in Marlon Humphrey and acquired perennial pro-bowler Calais Campbell from the Jacksonville Jaguars. The team also placed the franchise tag on edge rusher Matt Judon who recorded 9.5 sacks last year. One of the biggest holes the Ravens had going into offseason was linebacker. To address the need, the team drafted LSU LB Patrick Queen with the 28th pick in the draft. I project Queen as a Day 1 starter and a huge steal for the Ravens. The Ravens should have no trouble moving the ball on the ground, and if WR Marquise Brown can stay healthy, it should give QB Lamar Jackson a consistent deep threat to keep defenses honest with Baltimore’s top-ranked run game. If Lamar Jackson can take another step forward in his third year and the defense improves in the playoffs, I see the Ravens meeting the Chiefs to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl.
San Francisco 49ers
2019 record: 13-3
The 49ers have the third-best odds at winning the championship with a +900 and a 3rd highest 10.5-win projection. In a matter of seasons, the 49ers have become a blueprint for rebuilding franchises, building from the inside-out, and nailing their draft picks in the process. I have San Francisco 3rd on my list simply based on their ground game and elite defense. During free agency, the squad lost wideout Emmanuel Sanders to the Saints with knocks their passing game quite a bit. Sanders’ departure also opens up an opportunity for budding second-year WR Deebo Samuel to become the number one option for Jimmy Garoppolo. Sander’s departure also gives star tight end George Kittle a chance at more targets and scoring opportunities. The 3rd year pro racked up his second consecutive season of at least one thousand yards receiving and was awarded a trip to the Pro Bowl and First-Team All-Pro honors. The team also managed to trade for 7-time Pro-Bowl OT Trent Williams. This should improve an already impressive 49er rushing attack, which ranked 2nd in rushing last year (153.5 yds/g).
Defensively, many believed the 49ers group to be the best of all-time through the first few weeks of the season before they cooled off down the stretch. Although they shipped DT DeForest Buckner to the Colts, they retained DL Arik Armstead. The 49ers defensive line projects as one of the best in the NFL with DEs Nick Bosa and Dee Ford anchoring an elite pass-rush that recorded 48 sacks last year. The 49ers could find themselves a WR1 in Deebo Samuel, and George Kittle should have a monstrous season. If San Francisco can sustain an elite running game, things should open up for QB Jimmy Garoppolo which would take the pressure off of the 49er defense. I see the 49ers winning their division and making a deep playoff run if other players on offense step up in the departure of Emmanuel Sanders, and QB Jimmy Garoppolo has a big season.
New Orleans Saints
2019 record: 13-3
The Saints have always been one of the best teams in the NFL for the past decade, and I have them at number four on my list. They hold the 4th best odds at winning the Super Bowl this season at +1200 and share the same win projection as the 49ers at 10.5 games. The Saints retained all-time passing yards leader Drew Brees on a 2-year deal as well as short deals with backup QBs Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill. The offense has been elite for years now and ranked 5th last year in points per game at 28.1 PPG. The Saints also added former 49er wideout Emmanuel Sanders on a 2-year deal to an offense that already has NFL reception leader Michael Thomas as its number one receiver. The addition of Sanders should take the attention off of Thomas and draw more one-on-one matchups for the 4th year pro. Along with Sanders and Thomas, Drew Brees should have an array of weapons that include TE Jared Cook and Alvin Kamara in the backfield. The Saints also retained starting OT Andrus Peat to an offensive line ranked 5th according to Pro Football Focus.
Without many holes on offense, the Saints looked to shore up some holes on the defensive side of the ball. In free agency, New Orleans added former Eagle’s standout Malcolm Jenkins to form one of the best safety tandems alongside Marcus Williams. The team also re-signed starters David Onyemata (DT) and P.J. Williams (CB). Linebacker was also a pressing need for the Saints, as they drafted Wisconsin LB Zach Baun in the 3rd round of the draft. Baun received first-team Big-Ten honors last season. With the additions of Jenkins and Baun, I look for the Saints to have an improved defense that ranked 15th in the league last year. If defensive end Cameron Jordan can replicate last year’s performance (15.5 sacks), he should spearhead a very talented defense that has underachieved the last couple of seasons. I fully expect Brees, Thomas, and Kamara to lead an offense capable of scoring the most points in the league next season. My prediction is that the Saints can win their division and make it to the NFC Championship game if the defense records a top-10 finish this season.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
2019 record: 7-9
I project the Bucs as the team with the biggest turnaround in the upcoming season. Although they had a losing record last season, the additions of Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski on offense have catapulted the team from mediocracy to title contenders. Tampa holds the 5th best odds at winning the Super Bowl this year with a +1500. Despite a losing record last season, the team ranked 4th in scoring at 28.6 PPG. Tom Brady is an automatic upgrade over former QB Jameis Winston, with the latter throwing for 30 INTs last season. To put things into perspective, Brady has never thrown for 15 INTs in a single season. The Bucs also lost six of their nine games last season by a touchdown or less. With Brady at the helm, Tampa figures to be at least in position to win a bunch more games than they did last season.
Brady joins a team with a ton of weapons at his disposal. WR Chris Godwin broke out for 1,333 receiving yards last season and also caught 9 touchdowns. Along with Godwin at receiver, Tampa also boasts 3-time Pro-Bowler Mike Evans and TEs Cameron Brate and O.J. Howard. My only concern with this offense is a consistent running game, as the Bucs finished 24th in rushing per game last season. On defense, the Bucs finished 25th in total defense, allowing 24.7 PPG. I look for that number to decrease quite a bit as they addressed a ton of hole this offseason. They re-signed starters Jason Pierre-Paul and Ndamukong Suh, as well as 2019 sack leader Shaq Barrett. Barrett recorded 19.5 sacks in 2019. In the secondary, Tampa drafted Minnesota’s Antoine Winfield Jr., the third highest-rated safety in the draft. With Brady at the helm, the Bucs should have much more stability on the offensive end and fewer turnovers. I project the Bucs to win nine to ten games this season and compete with New Orleans for the NFC South.
2019 record: 8-8
The Cowboys come off a very disappointing season in which they finished 8-8. However, I have them 6th on my list for several reasons. They return the same offensive unit as last year and added to an already talented team with several excellent draft picks and some impressive free agency moves. Dallas also holds the same win projection by experts as the Bucs at 9.5 games. On offense, Dallas returns all but one of the starters on its offensive line- a unit that ranks 4th in the league last season according to Pro Football Focus. Center Travis Frederick retired due to Guillain–Barré syndrome and left a massive hole in the middle of the offensive line. Still, without Frederick, I fully expect Dallas to remain as one of the top rushing offenses this season. With weapons like Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and running back Ezekiel Elliot already, the Cowboys didn’t target a position player in the first round. That was the case until Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb fell into their laps with the 17th overall pick.
The addition of Lamb gives quarterback Dak Prescott an elite option out of the slot as I project Lamb as a future Pro-Bowler in years to come. Defensively, Dallas surprised me as they finished 11th in scoring defense last season while giving up 19.8 PPG. While starting corner Byron Jones headed to Miami in free agency, the Cowboys again struck gold in the draft when they selected Alabama’s Trevon Diggs in the second round. They also re-signed starter CB Anthony Brown to a 3-year deal and reached an agreement with safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. If the Cowboys can stay healthy on defense and Diggs plays to his potential at corner, the defense should apply some extra help to Dallas’ elite offense. I’m predicting that Dallas will win at least nine or ten games this season if quarterback Dak Prescott plays similarly to last year, and if the defense can record a top-10 finish.