The NFL season always takes a few weeks to begin to figure itself out, and the 2018 season has been no exception. In Week 1 we saw a Buccaneers team put up 48 points against a Saints team that now looks like a Super Bowl contender; in Week 2 the Jaguars beat the Patriots in fairly convincing fashion, prompting the latest early-season overreaction about the demise of the New England empire; and it was just in Week 3 that the Bills – a team that looks like it might struggle against the University of Alabama – thrashed the Vikings for the biggest upset in 23 years, with many having tabbed Minnesota as a possible playoff threat. Altogether, it was the same picture we usually get early on: a little bit of chaos and some unexpected results.
Now that we’re roughly a third of the way through the season though, we’re starting to get a clearer picture. You’d better believe that Super Bowl speculation is already open in betting markets, and slowly but surely the odds are starting to reflect 2018 performance, as opposed to projection and theory. And the following teams are the ones that are being given the best shot at winning Super Bowl LIII, in order.
1. Los Angeles Rams
It’s always a risk to paint the picture of a dominant team just six weeks into a season. But the Los Angeles Rams look awfully difficult to beat. The offense, led by young quarterback Jared Goff, MVP candidate running back Todd Gurley, and a host of talented receivers, has been about as dominant as any we’ve seen in recent years. And while the Rams’ expensively upgraded defense has been somewhat disappointing, there are a few injured players making they way back. That’s a concern for the league, because if the Rams’ defense gets even marginally better, there may not be a team in the NFL that can keep up with their scoring pace.
2. New England Patriots
It more or less goes without saying that the Patriots are a contender. The team got off to a rocky start this year and actually looked vulnerable. Tom Brady hasn’t been quite as incredible as usual, the team clearly misses last year’s lead wideout Brandin Cooks (who’s now with the Rams), and until this past weekend Rob Gronkowski looked like a shell of himself. With all that said though the Patriots are winning games and look poised to churn through their division en route to another deep playoff run.
3. Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs are a fascinating case, with an offense about as good as that of the Rams but hardly any defense against strong opponents. Second-year quarterback Patrick Mahomes has been the biggest story in the league this season, and interestingly enough he specifically noted that a Super Bowl was the next step for this team back in May. What’s shocking is that he may actually be able to get the team that far. Under Andy Reid, Mahomes, running back Kareem Hunt, and wide receiver Tyreek Hill have become a stunningly effective three-headed monster. The Patriots did just knock off the Chiefs – but it was in Foxboro on a last-minute drive. Many would tab the Chiefs ahead of the Pats as AFC favorites.
4. New Orleans Saints
It’s more of the same for the New Orleans Saints. Drew Brees is excellent, Alvin Kamara is one of the best running backs in the league, and they’re always going to be in the game. Throw in division competition that looks at least marginally weaker than expected in the NFC South and the Saints could be best positioned to take on the Rams in an NFC Championship.
5. Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings are an interesting team here because they’ve actually been somewhat disappointing so far. While the defense remains talented and Kirk Cousins has established himself nicely as the new quarterback, the team has had its ups and downs, highlighted by the aforementioned beatdown at the hands of the Bills. Minnesota still has all the tools to go on a nice run here and be a tough out in the playoffs. However, don’t be surprised if in the coming weeks the Philadelphia Eagles work their way back into the conversation ahead of the Vikings.