NFL: The 5 Teams Most Likely to Win the Super Bowl in Indy
In a season that has been filled with surprises, it is almost impossible to predict who each conference winner will be, let alone the Superbowl winner.
We have been spoiled with outstanding catches, talented rookies, and passionate coaching (maybe a little too passionate, Harbaugh). There have been unlikely winners, like the Bills, Lions, and 49ers, but there have also been unlikely losers, like the once upon a time "Dream Team" Philadelphia Eagles.
This article does not contain bold predictions; it is an assessment of how the first six weeks have given us, the fans, a glimpse of who has the best chance to be champs. At this point, the season is up for grabs, but here are the five most likely teams to be celebrating in Indianapolis:
In no particular order:
San Francisco 49ers: It took six years, but Alex Smith is finally a trustworthy quarterback. The 49ers have been one of the many surprises this season, but they look like their pieces have finally come together.
They have the second-best run defense right now, allowing only 74.7 yards per game.
Their running game is great, with Frank Gore having another outstanding season. The 49ers are fifth overall with 131.5 rushing yards per game. Remember: When it rains, it Gores.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The Bucs have looked solid over the first few weeks, despite a meltdown to the 49ers. They have a lot of great young players, but their inexperience may come to bite them down the stretch.
Buffalo Bills: The Bills have been dominant aside from losses to a not-so-great Bengals team and an inconsistent Giants team. They have showed they have what it takes to win games against good teams, but those two losses show the possibility of a fluke. They are a good team, but they do not have the playoff experience to win the Super Bowl. Still, anything can happen this season.
5. Pittsburgh Steelers
Despite the two loses, the steel curtain is up once again. The Steelers are first in the NFL in total defense, allowing 270.5 yards per game.
Their offense is nothing to get too excited about, but it has been respectable. It has averaged 303 yards per game, eighth in the league.
A key to their success is if Big Ben is healthy. With some injuries early on, he does not look too dependable. Still, with a healthy team the Steelers can be right back in the Superbowl.
And, of course, they lead the league in swagger—closely tailed by the Oakland Raiders.
4. Detroit Lions
The Lions are front-runners for the most improved team of the year, with a slight step ahead of the Bills and 49ers.
If you told me at the end of the 2008 season, when the Lions were 0-16, that in three years they could be Super Bowl contenders, I would have gone on a ten minute rant about how little you know about football. This year, the Lions have shown that they are no longer going to be the team at the bottom of the standings.
Stafford is finally healthy and is showing what he can do, not sitting on the sideline for the entire season. The Lions are eighth in the NFL with 277 passing yards per game. If Stafford stays healthy, who knows what he can accomplish.
On top of the Lions passing game, they have one of the best run defenses in the game. Ndamukong Suh would be a unanimous vote for league intimidator, and teammate Nick Fairley hopes to crack the top five some day.
Watch out for this Lions defense come the playoffs.
3. New England Patriots
Year after year, the Patriots display outstanding football. Other than their one loss to the surprising Buffalo Bills, they have had a relatively easy few weeks.
Their passing defense is awful, just horrendous. It is astonishing how bad their pass D is considering they are 5-1. They are last in the league, allowing 322 yards per game through the air. Their run defense is decent, only allowing about 100 yards per game.
So, how can a team with such an awful defense be atop its division?
The man wearing No. 12, that's how.
Tom Brady is leading the league in yards per game at 350.5. He has thrown 16 touchdowns and eight interceptions.
But on top of Brady, the Pats running game has been good as well. With a little help from Steven Ridley, Green-Ellis has had a great year. Both of these running backs combine for 124 yards a game, eighth in the league.
2. Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens simply embarrassed the Steelers in Week 1, a dominating 35-7 victory. They've had only one bad game this season, where they lost to the Titans 26-13.
The Ravens' offense is in the top half of the league with 245.6 passing yards, and 121.6 rushing yards per game. Nothing too spectacular, but still a very respectable offensive unit, featuring Joe Flacco and Ray Rice.
Like many years prior, the Ravens defense has been extraordinary. They are seventh overall, allowing 210 passing yards per game. Their run defense is third overall, allowing just 76.6 rushing yards per game.
Most coaches would agree that defense wins Championships, unless your Bill Belichick.
1. Green Bay Packers
I know everyone has been saying it, but the Packers are pretty darn good.
Green Bay has won every single game this year with ease, with the Panthers being the only team to come within one possession.
Despite their success, the Packer defense has been pretty shoddy. They are third-last in pass defense, allowing about 300 yards per game. Their run defense has been pretty good, however, allowing just 83 yards per game. That leaves them at 383 yards per game, 23rd in the league.
However, their offense has been outstanding. They are fourth in the league with about 424 total yards per game. Rodgers has been the most proficient quarterback, leading the league with a 122.5 QB rating.
Fortunately, Greg Jennings will not have to "put the team on his back" if the Pack keeps playing like they are now, in which case they may not lose a game.