Top NFL Teams Most Likely to Squander Their Chance at a Super BowlJanuary 4, 2022
Top NFL Teams Most Likely to Squander Their Chance at a Super Bowl
Although every team goes into the NFL playoffs hoping to win the Super Bowl, things rarely go as planned.
Only one can lift the Lombardi Trophy, leaving the other 13 contenders wondering what happened and what they could improve on to avoid the same fate next year.
It even happens to Super Bowl favorites, the teams that enter the postseason seemingly poised for a title run only to instead get sent home empty-handed.
It happened last year when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers made a championship run from the No. 5 seed despite having worse odds than the Baltimore Ravens, New Orleans Saints, Buffalo Bills, Green Bay Packers and Kansas City Chiefs going into the postseason. In fact, Tampa Bay bested three of those clubs en route to the title.
There are countless other occasions in which clubs squandered their championship dreams in a postseason collapse.
It will surely happen again this year, with some of the top contenders looking ripe for a playoff upset. With that in mind, here are four legitimate contenders that are most likely to see their Super Bowl hopes go unrealized.
Super Bowl odds courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook.
Dallas Cowboys (11-5)
Super Bowl Odds: +1100
The Cowboys may have clinched the NFC East title and a playoff spot for the first time in three years, but the team will have a tough time returning to the Super Bowl after a 26-year hiatus.
Dallas has been one of the more inconsistent contenders this season. The Cowboys notched early season wins over the New England Patriots and Los Angeles Chargers, but their performance against top-tier foes has left something to be desired.
The team couldn't overcome the defending Super Bowl champion Buccaneers in the season opener and fell short against the Chiefs—the reigning AFC champs—in a mid-season trip to Arrowhead Stadium.
While both of those losses occurred on the road, the Cowboys have even become vulnerable at AT&T Stadium in recent weeks.
Dallas dropped a home game to the Las Vegas Raiders on Thanksgiving and suffered another home defeat this past weekend at hands of the Arizona Cardinals, an opponent the Cowboys could reasonably see again in the postseason.
The Cowboys were favored by a touchdown in both of those home losses, showing this team could be ripe for a playoff upset.
Both the Raiders and Cardinals deployed a balanced offensive attack and a defensive gameplan that minimized Dallas' rushing attack, meaning the blueprint is out there for beating the Cowboys in Arlington.
Because of that, Dallas could be out as early as Wild Card Weekend if it draws an unfortunate matchup and fails to rise to the challenge.
Los Angeles Rams (12-4)
Super Bowl Odds: +850
The Rams have one of the league's best records, but all four of their losses came against playoff-bound or still-in-the-hunt opponents.
Los Angeles dropped a pair of games to NFC West rivals—the Cardinals and San Francisco 49ers—and also fell to the Tennessee Titans and Packers, the top teams in their respective conferences.
The Rams have a critical Week 18 clash with the Niners coming up, one they'll need to win to ensure they'll claim the NFC West crown. Even if Los Angeles wins, though, it can't earn a first-round bye as Green Bay has already secured the NFC's top seed.
Already scheduled for Wild Card Weekend, the Rams could have their title hopes dashed early in the 2022 playoffs.
Veteran Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford—their big-splash addition this past offseason—could be a liability because of his limited postseason experience. He made three prior playoff appearances over his first 12 seasons with the Detroit Lions, losing in the first round on all three occasions.
Stafford averaged over 300 yards passing in those contests, but has only thrown four touchdowns against three interceptions and has been sacked six times in postseason play.
While the Rams feature a quality supporting cast around their quarterback and employ arguably the best defense Stafford has ever played with, it remains to be seen if the 33-year-old is capable of winning playoff games.
Given the quarterback averaged 280 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions and two sacks per game in L.A.'s four losses this year—similar to his career playoff averages—the Rams could be in trouble when the pressure turns up.
Buffalo Bills (10-6)
Super Bowl Odds: +750
After three consecutive victories, the Bills have retaken control of the AFC East and have a chance to claim their second successive divisional title by simply beating the New York Jets in Week 18.
While thwarting the New England Patriots' attempt at usurping the AFC East crown will be a cause for celebration, Buffalo's joy will be short lived if the team can't get its quarterback on track for the postseason.
Josh Allen was wildly ineffective against the Atlanta Falcons—a team that ranked in the bottom half of the league in pass defense and had only nine interceptions coming into Week 17—completing a meager 11-of-26 passes for 120 yards and zero touchdowns with three picks.
While the running game was able to bail Allen out and carry Buffalo to a double-digit win, the Bills aren't likely to be so lucky if Allen slumps in the playoffs.
Allen's poor performance wasn't an anomaly either.
The quarterback struggled against the Jacksonville Jaguars earlier in the year, failing to connect on a single touchdown, coughing up two interceptions and getting sacked four times in a stunning 9-6 defeat.
Buffalo doesn't have the strongest track record against quality opponents either. The squad suffered a string of losses against the Titans, Colts, Patriots and Buccaneers between mid-November and mid-December.
If Allen isn't on his game and their defenses can swallow up the run, it will leave fans in Buffalo wondering what happened to their team after it was the Super Bowl favorite not long ago.
Kansas City Chiefs (11-5)
Super Bowl Odds: +500
The Chiefs blew their chance at a second successive championship last year with a collapse in the Super Bowl. After squandering Week 17's game away against the Cincinnati Bengals, Kansas City may have just lost its best chance at getting back to the big game for a third straight year.
Kansas City let Cincinnati come back from three 14-point deficits on Sunday in a 34-31 loss that probably ruined the Chiefs' chances of claiming a first-round bye.
With Tennessee only needing to best the lowly Houston Texans in Week 18 to claim the AFC's No. 1 seed, it's likely the Chiefs will be participating in Wild Card Weekend for the first time since 2018.
The Chiefs are in line to match up with one of the five contenders vying for the last two spots in the AFC bracket, a group that includes the Colts, Chargers, Raiders, Steelers and Ravens.
Even if Kansas City can get through the wild-card round unscathed—which is far from guaranteed—the road back to the Super Bowl only gets more arduous, including a possible stop in Nashville for the AFC Championship Game.
When the Chiefs visited Nashville in October, the Titans became the first team in the Patrick Mahomes era to own a 27-point lead on Kansas City before halftime and ultimately claimed a 27-3 win. The three points were the fewest by the Chiefs since 2012.
Until their Week 17 collapse in Cincinnati, the Chiefs were in the driver's seat to host a postseason rematch with the Titans. Now, they're in a more precarious situation, one that could subvert their chances for a third straight trip to the Super Bowl.
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