NFL's Most Overrated Teams Entering 2018 Training Camp

Mike Tanier@@miketanierNFL National Lead WriterJuly 23, 2018

NFL's Most Overrated Teams Entering 2018 Training Camp

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    Chris Carlson/Associated Press

    "Overrated" is the ultimate preseason insult in the NFL, so we don't throw it around lightly here at Bleacher Report.

    That said, some teams enter training camp with oversized reputations, unrealistic expectations and preseason hype (or gambling odds) that don't match up with the product that's about to take the field.

    The following teams are ranked according to the disparity between how good fans and experts think they will be (determined, in part, by the Super Bowl odds posted by OddsShark) and how good they really are (as determined by the most infallible of sources: my opinion).

    Most of the teams on this countdown are pretty good; some are even great. They just aren't good enough to live up to their billing, and most are just as likely to fall flat on their faces as compete for the Super Bowl.

    Let the brake-tapping and shade-throwing begin!


6. Dallas Cowboys

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    Ron Jenkins/Associated Press

    Super Bowl odds: 20-1

    What they are considered: A team that would have contended for the Super Bowl last year had it not faced the crippling adversity, losing its running back to a midyear suspension that it should have spent months preparing for in the first place.

    What they really are: The '67 Mustang that your uncle only thinks he knows how to restore.

    The Cowboys spent this offseason in "we meant to do that" mode. Cutting Dez Bryant to clear cap space? Meant to do that! Begging Jason Witten not to retire, even though he's been fading for four years? Meant to do that! Spending almost a quarter of the defensive budget on Tank Lawrence's franchise tag while still drowning in dead Tony Romo money? It's all part of a master plan, Cowboys fans!

    The Cowboys' receiving and tight end corps looks like something from the future roster of Salt Lake City's AAF team. The lack of experience and quality at receiver will hinder Dak Prescott's effort to bounce back to 2017 form, which will make Jason Garrett's offense more run-oriented and predictable, which will further hinder Prescott's efforts, and so on.

    The young, budget-friendly secondary will get picked apart when it matters. It's great to have Randy Gregory back, but let's wait for that second career sack before we pencil in a Von Miller-type season. And no, Earl Thomas isn't coming, because the Cowboys cannot afford to pay him, because the Cowboys still manage their salary cap like a college sophomore who just got their first credit card.

    Those Super Bowl odds are appropriate, but the Cowboys are getting 7-2 odds to win the NFC East. Picking them to win the division means picking the Eagles to collapse, Washington to suffer another injury apocalypse, the Giants to not catch any lightning in their Odell Beckham Jr.-Saquon Barkley bottle and for Witten understudy Rico Gathers to suddenly become more than a minicamp Antonio Gates impersonator.

    That's not a wager you want to make.

5. Los Angeles Chargers

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    Chris Carlson/Associated Press

    Super Bowl odds: 35-1

    What they are billed as: Stealth favorites to win a division in flux.

    What they are: The coolest band on the side stage.

    No one watched any Chargers games last year. That's right: not a single human watched a single game.

    What about their big Thanksgiving win, you ask? That was a Cowboys game full of Cowboys storylines. Uncle Carmine just looked up from his fifth helping of stuffing every once in a while and said, "Boy, that Joey Bosa is a gamer. Who does he play for again?"

    The Chargers are like the Cowboys in that they have some formidable strengths (the pass-rushers, Philip Rivers, Keenan Allen) and many weaknesses (zero depth anywhere) that are easy to overlook if you are not paying attention. Since no one is paying attention and the front-line talent is spiffy, the Chargers look like the strongest team in the AFC West, and the odds reflect that.

    The Chargers have spent the latter half of Rivers' career noodling around .500 because they searched for a new home with more urgency than they searched for ways to win a Super Bowl. This season will be no different. Luckily, no one will be watching except road-trippers rooting for the other team and some confused soccer fans.

4. New England Patriots

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    Steven Senne/Associated Press

    Super Bowl odds: 5-1

    What they are considered: The prohibitive favorites to crush everything in their path and win the Super Bowl.

    What they really are: The slight favorites to crush everything in their path and win the Super Bowl.

    Now, 5-1 odds aren't all that impressive. The Golden State Warriors, for example, are getting 4-7 odds to win next year's NBA championship, meaning you need to bet $100 to win $57, meaning the house wants you to bet the Warriors about as much as your local coffee shop wants you to sit around all day taking advantage of their free refill policy. At 5-1, the Patriots are a rather enticing wager.

    But the Patriots are getting 1-7 odds to win the AFC East. No, those numbers are not reversed: You need to bet $7 on the Patriots to win their division if you want to win one buck. Treasury bonds have higher interest rates.

    Those odds are both an endorsement of the Patriots and an indictment of the Jets and Bills, who have taken the low 'n slow barbecue approach to rebuilding, and the Dolphins, who have spent a decade trying to bail their boat by drilling holes to let the water out.

    The Patriots are still very, very good. They are also thin at many positions (including quarterback), old at others (particularly quarterback) and moody and disgruntled at a few (you get the idea). They only resemble the overwhelming force of nature we have grown to know and tolerate because the names above the marquee remain the same.

    In the NFC, the Patriots would be just one of seven or eight viable Super Bowl contenders. But as long as most of the AFC is cowed by their mere presence, the Patriots can use their VIP passes to cut to the front of the line.

    Tom Brady will get old one of these years. This may or may not be the year. But you don't want to lay 1-7 odds that it won't be.

3. Houston Texans

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    David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    Super Bowl odds: 20-1

    What they are billed as: So overrated they're underrated!

    What they are: So underrated they're overrated!

    The AFC South is now both a tough division and a tough division to handicap. The Jaguars are good, and that causes the same existential crisis you face when your little nephew is suddenly big enough to beat you one-on-one in basketball. The Titans are a playoff team, and Andrew Luck has been spotted throwing football-shaped objects. The whole world feels out of balance.

    In the old AFC South, we could pencil in 11 to 12 wins for the Texans with decent injury luck and a sophomore year from Deshaun Watson that comes anywhere close to the Russell Wilson-meets-Johnny Unitas expectations that have been set for him.

    But nothing comes easy in the AFC South anymore. Also, the Texans have a patchwork offensive line, J.J. Watt hasn't been close to healthy in two full seasons, and there's still a chance that Bill O'Brien will scream his way into screwing up the Watson situation somehow.

    The Texans are favored to win the AFC South at Vegas Insider (7-4 odds for the Texans, 2-1 for the Jaguars). That's a product of Jaguars skepticism and Watson speculation, not sound wagering strategy.

2. Carolina Panthers

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    Chuck Burton/Associated Press

    Super Bowl odds: 23-1

    What they are billed as: A former NFC champ getting back to the things that made them contenders.

    What they are: A former NFC champ moving away from the things that made them contenders.

    The Panthers are weak at wide receiver, weak in the secondary, old and thin at the pass-rush positions, expensive and ineffective on the offensive line, and coping with suspensions and injury concerns at linebacker. They have turned their offense over to a coordinator in Norv Turner who is likely to nerf their most dynamic players.

    Or, as talk-show hosts will proclaim by late October, this is all Cam Newton's fault.

    The Panthers made some modest upgrades at the skill positions in the offseason, adding C.J. Anderson (Jonathan Stewart with less mileage) and Torrey Smith (Ted Ginn Jr. crossed with a congressman). It looks like they are trying to recreate the magic of the 2015 Panthers.

    But Newton provided much of that magic, and it's hard to tell what he or all-purpose weapon Christian McCaffrey will look like after Turner pound-pound-pounds them into the 1992 Cowboys-shaped holes on his pegboard.

    The Panthers have the potential to be extraordinary but seem determined to be ordinary. It's a formula that is more likely to bury them in a brutal division than recapture the glory of 2015.

1. San Francisco 49ers

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    Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

    Super Bowl odds: 20-1

    What they are considered: The NFL Cavaliers, led by LeBron Garoppolo.

    What they are: The most overhyped team coming off a 6-10 season in human history.

    The 49ers are led by a quarterback who has thrown 12 career touchdown passes. They are shockingly thin at the skill positions, employ no defender on the front seven who has recorded more than six sacks in a season and will plug in at least two new starters on the offensive line this year.

    They're not just a rebuilding team; they're an early-stage, high-volatility rebuilding team that is still auditioning starters and contributors at key positions.

    Yet the 49ers are getting almost the same odds to win the Super Bowl as the Jaguars, who played in the AFC Championship Game last year, and the Falcons, who won the NFC two years ago and 10 games last year.

    The 49ers are favorites of would-be taste-makers and trendsetters who prefer to be a year too early than a year too late. But when it comes to evaluating NFL teams—and making smart betsit's better to be accurate than trendy. The 49ers will be contenders someday; maybe someday soon. But not this year.


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