In the preseason, the New England Patriots were the Super Bowl favorites, at odds of +400.
Today, the New England Patriots are the Super Bowl favorites, at odds of +265.
While the yearly tradition of Patriot world-beating has remained unshaken, the same cannot be said for the rest of the 2019 preseason Super Bowl favorites -- Baltimore and San Francisco didn't sniff the Top-12 at the time, and now sit in the Top-4. Such preseason powerhouses as Chicago, Los Angeles (both), and Cleveland have faded into mediocrity, or worse, in current playoff projections.
But how concerned should fans of these teams be, in the long-term? Are the issues that led to their Super Bowl chances fading just short-term blips, or do more concerning, lasting problems fester beneath the surface? I ranked eight teams who were among the Top-10 in Super Bowl odds before Week 1 kicked off in terms of their concern levels moving forward.
- KC: +600 (2nd)
- PHI: +1200 (T-4th)
- CHI: +1200 (T-4th)
- LAR: +1400 (6th)
- PIT: +1800 (7th)
- LAC: +2000 (T-8th)
- DAL: +2000 (T-8th)
- CLE: +2000 (T-8th)
Chicago Bears: There's A Werewolf In Your Foyer
And you don't have the number for Wolfhunters INC!
The Bears' head coach is Matt Nagy, who last season, was the Coach of the Year for his super spread offense and Vic Fangio's scratchy-turtleneck defense -- now, he's on the hot seat as his offense can't find an identity, a rhythm, or a consistent target distribution to its bevy of playmakers. The Bears' general manager is Ryan Pace, who last season, was a savant for the Khalil Mack trade and a sharpshooter for finding Day 3 value in Eddie Jackson and Tarik Cohen, has struggled to ID workable talent in the last couple of drafts.
And QB Mitchell Trubisky? He needs to be replaced -- but the Bears don't have a first round pick to work with. If this team trots out Chase Daniel next season, there's gonna be a dragon in the chimney and a bogart in the cupboard -- it's scary season in Chicago.
Los Angeles Chargers: Oh Wow, My Car Has Never Made That Sound Before
The Chargers underperforming expectations: equally bad and predictable. Philip Rivers either looking elite for the first three quarters and retirement-ready by quarter four, or vice versa? Couldn't be less surprised. What was that? The defense can't say healthy? Let me pick my jaw up off the floor.
But the Chargers' offensive line play has gotten measurable worse than it's been over the last few seasons, and the young players they've drafted to solve the issue...aren't (though Trey Pipkins looked not awful against Oakland, huh?!). Rivers' arm has never failed him more down the field, and the receiving corps outside of target-hog Keenan Allen doesn't look promising for the future. While we've existed with a questionable Chargers team for the last three decades or so, things look more dire now than they have before.
Los Angeles Rams: This Is Fine Meme
It is fine in Los Angeles, right? They've got the genius head coach, they've got ninety-billion dollars in cap space to spend on all of the young talent they traded for (?!), they drafted offensive linemen to stem the bleeding of retirement/free agent departures (?!?!), and of course, they have Jared Goff, a $134M quarterback who is worth every penny (?!?!?!?)
It might be collapsing into fiery ruins in LA, but it also might not be -- there's no doubt that the team has plus talent at almost every position on the field, they're only nine months removed from playing in a Super Bowl, and they're one of the most attractive landing spots for free agents on a yearly basis: location, coach, and willingness to spend are the holy trinity.
So they're fine. Right?
Philadelphia Eagles: Not Remembering Where You Last Put Your Keys
Is floundering between the couch cushions for your Ford Fusion's fob that concerning? Not really. As is the case with most of the teams down around this area, if you've got the QB and you've got the offensive designer, you'll probably be fine: the Eagles have a good young QB in Carson Wentz and a great head coach in Doug Pederson, and that's not going away anytime soon.
But failing to find your keys is irritating, and gets more irritating the longer it goes on. Philadelphia continues to mishandle injured players, internally promote poor position coaches, and limited draft capital due to a trade-heavy approach from GM Howie Roseman has kept the cupboards a bit bare. Philadelphia isn't in a bad spot, but they've got ancillary issues that keep their ceiling capped.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Lost In Vermont
Phone is dead; you don't have a map in your glove compartment because you're not 95 years old; you can't stop an ask someone for directions because, well, you're not 65 years old. So you don't really know where you're going, nor does your decision-making have any coherency: you're turning east, then west, then east again.
But it's kinda fun to watch! It's beautiful outside: fall foliage, a hint of snow on the tops of the mountains, a crystal clear sky with a piercing sun. You've got a good driving playlist and three-quarters of a bag of Flaming Hot Cheetos. Wherever this road is taking you, it's good enough.
Pittsburgh's QB of the future isn't on the roster -- Mason Rudolph has played well enough to make a career as a backup in this league, whether in Pittsburgh or elsewhere, but he's not the starter, and neither is Devlin Hodges. That said, Pittsburgh's suddenly 5-4 after an 0-3 start, has seen surprising player development (Bud Dupree), inspired veteran play (Joe Haden), sneaky good acquisitions (Steven Nelson), and promising youth (Diontae Johnson, Devin Bush, T.J. Watt, James Washington, MINKAH).
So it may not make sense right now. Eventually, we have to turn the tunes down and get to where we're going, which is a hard truth of Ben Roethlisberger's longevity versus a wildly talented QB class. But for now, let's enjoy the ride.
Dallas Cowboys: Oh Wow, My Car Has Made That Sound Before
Stop me if you've heard this one before: Jason Garrett's gonna lead the Cowboys to 8-8.
Okay, not really -- they're likely looking at 9-7 as a floor, though if things really get ugly, games that they should win -- the Lions, Bills, Bears, Eagles -- could really make this thing spiral.
The sad reality is that the Cowboys finally looked different: they were passing the ball a ton, working the play-action game, letting Dak sit and rip as he's so wonderful at doing. But after a three-game heater to kick off the season, Dallas has tripped over its own feet into multiple bad losses, as a product of a run-heavy approach, some cowardly situational coaching, and a bit of a banged-up defense.
For as long as Garrett leads this team, they'll feel like a poser -- in the key moments, he takes the ball out of his best players' hands and fails to get his team up for big-time games. Whether or not that should elicit any more concern than Dallas fans have already experienced over the last decade of Garretism, I dunno. Kellen Moore is fun!
Kansas City Chiefs: A Lavender-Scented Bubble Bath
As the losers of four of their last five, the Chiefs might seem close to the panic button -- they are not. The defense has struggled of late, but it's also struggled for a few seasons now, and the Dee Ford for Frank Clark swap hasn't gone the way the Chiefs hoped.
But injury is the main culprit here of an unprecedented slide for Kansas City under Andy Reid; and while injury can be damaging to players long-term, many make full recoveries; and you expect to be healthier next year. For as long as you have a pass-heavy and creative head coach coordinating an offense captained by Mahomes, you'll be an AFC competitor.
Cleveland Browns: You Merely Adopted The Dark
Cleveland fans have absolutely no reason to be concerned -- this is the best your team has been in years, and they're under-achieving. Y'all are gonna be fine.