According to CBS Sports, the New Orleans Saints are currently the favorites to win Super Bowl 53. Just behind them are the Kansas City Chiefs, New England Patriots, and Los Angeles Rams. But despite the odds, there are several other teams that have a legitimate chance to hoist the Lombardi Trophy in February.
The Los Angeles Chargers presently have the fifth-best odds to win Super Bowl 53. At 9-3 overall and with wins in eight of their past nine games, the Chargers are one of the hottest teams in the NFL, but they still seem to be flying under the radar in a stacked AFC.
Speaking of hot teams, there may be none hotter than the Houston Texans, who have won nine consecutive games after losing their first three. Las Vegas gives them 20/1 odds to win Super Bowl 53, the same as the Chargers.
In the NFC, the Chicago Bears are coming off a disappointing loss to the New York Giants, but are still in control of the NFC North. They will have their work cut out for them against the likes of the Rams and Saints, but stranger things have happened in the NFL.
There are three sleeper teams that could shockingly win Super Bowl 53. Each of them has what it takes to go all the way.
Here they are ranked in order from least likely to most likely.
3. Houston Texans
The Texans lost their first three games by a combined 15 points. However, they have won each of their past nine contests to completely turn things around.
Houston has faced one of the league’s easiest schedules in 2018, but any win in the NFL is huge. The fact that the Texans own the longest active winning streak in football should not go unnoticed.
Something else that should not go unnoticed is the play of the Texans’ defense, which remains one of the league’s strongest units on that side of the ball. According to Football Outsiders, Houston has the NFL’s fourth-ranked defense and is ranked second against the run.
The return of defensive end J.J. Watt after playing in just eight games over the past two seasons has been key for the Texans. He is currently tied for fourth in the NFL in sacks with 11.5, while his five forced fumbles are tied for second.
Another return has propelled the Texans on offense, as second-year quarterback Deshaun Watson has shaken off a slow start to the season to post strong numbers. After tearing his right ACL midway through the 2017 season, the 23-year-old has bounced back with 3,406 yards from scrimmage (3,031 passing, 375 rushing) and 23 total touchdowns (21 passing, two rushing) to go with a 66.5 completion percentage and a 101.1 passer rating.
The returns of their two best players have resulted in improved play from the Texans on both sides of the ball, making them a dangerous matchup for any team they may come up against. And that includes all the way up until the first Sunday in February.
2. Chicago Bears
Clutch Points recently wrote a story highlighting the Bears’ three x-factors for a run at Super Bowl 53, and Chicago is the next team on the list. Like the Texans, they have a talented second-year signal caller who has established himself as one of the premier dual-threat QB’s in the NFL.
Mitchell Trubisky is the leader of the Bears’ offense, and although he has missed the past two games due to a right shoulder injury, his numbers are very similar to Watson’s. The 24-year-old has completed 65.4 percent of his passes for 2,469 yards and 20 touchdowns, and he also has 363 yards and three scores on the ground.
In addition to Trubisky, Chicago also has major weapons at running back, wide receiver, and tight end. The Bears possess a balanced offense with a number of players who can punish opposing defenses, so they are far more than just a one or two-man show.
As for their defense, the Bears are at the very top of the NFL, according to Football Outsiders. And linebacker Khalil Mack is to Chicago what Watt is to Houston: the unquestioned leader of the defensive unit.
Thus far this season, Mack has nine sacks, five forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, one interception, four passes defended, and 33 total tackles (27 solo) in 10 games. So he’s a true game-changer.
But the Bears have several other game-changers on their team as well, including one of the game’s best secondaries. Cornerback Kyle Fuller leads the league in interceptions with six, while safety Eddie Jackson has four picks and three defensive touchdowns, the latter of which leads the NFL.
Trubisky’s return is necessary for the Bears to contend for a Super Bowl, and all signs point toward him coming back soon. If he can return and play as well as he has this season, Chicago has all the tools around him to win Super Bowl 53.
1. Los Angeles Chargers
Philip Rivers is one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history to never win a Super Bowl, but that could change this season. The Chargers haven’t reached the playoffs since 2013, but a huge collapse would have to take place for them to miss postseason play this year.
Rivers isn’t likely to win the league’s MVP award because of the competition he faces even at his own position, but he certainly deserves to be in the conversation. Through 12 games, the 15-year pro has 28 touchdown passes against just six interceptions, while his 69.7 completion percentage and 115.7 passer rating are career-best marks.
Los Angeles has a balanced offense around Rivers, which further helps their cause. Wide receiver Keenan Allen is the team’s leading receiver with 83 catches for 996 yards and five touchdowns, while running back Melvin Gordon has 153 carries for 802 yards and nine touchdowns to go with 44 receptions for 453 yards and four scores.
The Chargers also have a top-10 defense, according to Football Outsiders. They are even better against the pass, as evidenced by their sixth-ranked pass defense and their 12 interceptions, which is tied for sixth in the NFL.
Leading the way for Los Angeles’ secondary is the duo of safety Derwin James (three interceptions, 81 total tackles, 56 solo tackles) and cornerback Desmond King (three interceptions, 43 total tackles, 34 solo tackles). And with defensive ends like Melvin Ingram and Isaac Rochell, who have combined for 10 of the Chargers’ 29 sacks, they aren’t too shabby up front either.
The Chargers’ defense isn’t quite on the level of the other two teams on this list, but their offense is the best of the bunch and their defensive unit is still solid enough to make a run at the team’s first Lombardi Trophy. Their latest win — a 33-30 come-from-behind victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday night — was perhaps their most impressive of the season. Plus, they’re only a game behind the Chiefs in the AFC West, so a first-round bye isn’t out of the question just yet.