We’re just over a month removed from Super Bowl LI so that means it’s already time to start looking ahead to Super Bowl LII! The Big Game will take place in Minnesota and there are 32 fan bases that are hoping and praying that their favorite team wins it all. However, as all NFL fans know, there are really only a handful of teams who have a chance each season while there are many, many more teams that have no chance at all.
But instead of just narrowing down the teams’ Super Bowl chances to one year, we will look at the next three NFL seasons. Why? Because teams usually operate on three year plans. New coaches tend to get three years to install their systems and methods into an organization before management decides if they should go in another direction. Also, highly-drafted rookies usually get three years to prove themselves before being labeled a bust.
Thus, our three year outlook will look at the Super Bowl chances of various teams. There have been many moves this offseason from unexpected free agent signings to shocking releases. With the draft coming up there will be even more surprises in store and some rosters may be overhauled. Will all these moves move teams in the right direction or set them back? Only time will tell but here is our look at the top 7 teams who could win the Super Bowl in the next 3 years and 8 who won’t win.
15 Won’t Win: Carolina Panthers
It was just over one year ago that the Panthers had the NFL’s best record (15-1) and were playing in the franchise’s second ever Super Bowl. But since the coin flip of that game, it’s been all downhill since then. The Panthers lost to a quarterback who couldn’t throw, run, or even turn his neck to the side and followed that up with a 6-10 season and a last place finish in their division.
Looking ahead, the Panthers are already off to a bad start. Cam Newton just underwent shoulder surgery and their other franchise player, Luke Kuechly, has had concussion problems throughout his career. The Panthers’ motto of “Keep Pounding” is inspiring, but when it comes to the team winning a Super Bowl over the next three years, their fans will be “Still Waiting.”
14 Could Win: Oakland Raiders
Jack Del Rio reversed the curse that hung over the Raiders franchise and won the most games in franchise history (12) in 40 years. The Raiders are led by young playmakers on both sides of the ball with Derek Carr, Amari Cooper, and Khalil Mack. With their road-grating offensive line, whomever the team plugs in at running back is a virtual lock for 1,000 yards. The one question looming over the Raiders is their eventual move to Las Vegas. The earliest the team would move would be for the 2020 season which means the next three seasons will all be in Oakland. That should give the team even more motivation to win a title for the Bay Area crowd that has supported them since 1960.
If they do happen to win a Super Bowl in 2019, they would possibly become the first sports franchise in history to relocate the year after winning a championship!
13 Won’t Win: Washington Redskins
The Redskins should thank the Browns and 49ers every day because if it wasn’t for those two teams, then the whole world would realize how much of a disaster of a franchise the Redskins are. Their “franchise” QB requested a trade and then said he didn’t request a trade. Their GM was a no-show at the NFL Combine, may or may not have a drinking problem, and was fired earlier this month. Oh, and then there is the controversial team name. Teams with this much drama simply don’t reach the heights that they want to reach and it’s even tougher when the drama surrounds the team’s best players and leaders.
For as long as owner Dan Snyder treats the Redskins the same way as a fan treats their franchise in Madden, the Redskins will never hoist the Lombardi Trophy.
12 Could Win: Houston Texans
The Texans won their division and a playoff game despite the fact that their best player was injured and they had the worst starting QB in the NFL. J.J. Watt is back and whatever contributions the team gets from its QB position will be a boost over last year. Whether it’s Tony Romo, Tom Savage, or someone else; things can’t possibly be any worse than they were in 2016. With five winning seasons out of the past six years, the Texans have moved into the upper echelon of teams and the culture implemented by Bill O’Brien is exactly what the franchise needed.
With the city of Houston hosting the most recent Super Bowl, lots of Texans players got an up close look at what it takes to win one and that added motivation should vault them to a title soon.
11 Won’t Win: New Orleans Saints
Has any coach seemingly had one foot out of the door and looking for his next job more so than Sean Payton has? Just this offseason he flirted with the Rams opening before deciding to stay in New Orleans. The team’s lack of success recently certainly isn’t Payton’s fault, according to him, as he just fired five assistant coaches. Drew Brees will keep the team competitive as long as he’s under center, but the man is nearing 40 and can no longer compensate for a bad defense and special teams unit. He just lost his favorite weapon in Brandin Cooks and the team seems to be more content with saving money than building a competitive roster. The next three years will look a lot like the last three years for the Saints: lots of 45-35 games (with great fantasy stats) but no playoff appearances.
10 Could Win: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
In high school Jameis Winston won a state championship. In college Jameis Winston won a national championship. It’s just a matter of time until Jameis Winston and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers win a Super Bowl championship. Winston has made great strides in his first two seasons and the Bucs just missed the playoffs last year despite being the 3rd youngest team in the NFC. They improved a missing component on offense of a downfield threat by subbing out one Jackson (Vincent) for another (DeSean) and nabbed the third best free agent defensive lineman in Chris Baker.
Every year it seems that a different team ascends to the top of the NFC South and the Bucs appear to be next in line for the division crown. As long as Jameis keeps his head on straight, Tampa should become Title Town once again.
9 Won’t Win: Kansas City Chiefs
The NBA had Jerry Sloan and the NFL has Andy Reid…By the end of the 2017 season, Reid could be in the top 10 all-time for coaching wins. But by the end of the 2019 season, Reid will still have zero Super Bowl wins. The Chiefs have averaged nearly 11 wins a season under Reid but the team is simply not built for a sustained postseason run. Their offense is innovative but lacks playmakers at key positions including the QB position. Tight end seam routes and end-arounds can only take you so far; the team needs someone who can get the ball downfield and Alex Smith is not, has not, and will never be the guy to do that. Unless the team moves on from Smith, or he undergoes a Henry Rowengartner-like transformation, Arrowhead will only be Home of the Chiefs and not Home of the Champs.
8 Could Win: Baltimore Ravens
They have just one playoff win since Super Bowl XLVII and have the second-best coaching Harbaugh; but the Ravens will fly to the franchise’s 3rd title in the near future. Why? Because it’s all about culture. The Ravens are like the Dallas Mavericks of the NBA; they may not contend for a title every year, but they are always competitive thanks to a strong foundation. Baltimore quietly finished in the top 10 in scoring defense, top 4 in special teams efficiency, and Joe Flacco bounced back from his ACL tear. Losing Steve Smith Sr. hurts but it also forces the team to go younger at a position in which it has historically relied on older players (Smith, A. Boldin, D. Mason). How many people saw the Ravens winning the Super Bowl in 2012? (The answer is zero because the lights went out). But seriously, no one picked Baltimore to win it all that year so they may just very well sneak in another title.
7 Won’t Win: Green Bay Packers
I wonder if Aaron Rodgers ever flips on a Cleveland Cavaliers game from the mid 2000s, sees LeBron James out there, and thinks to himself; “Hey that looks like me out there!” The man needs some help. He’s the best player in the world but can only do so much. The Packers’ philosophy on not signing outside free agents is really holding the team back. GM Ted Thompson has too much faith in the organization’s ability to develop players from within and they are wasting away the prime of Rodgers. Jordy Nelson is aging, Randall Cobb is regressing, and the team lacks a true running back. Rodgers may pass many of Brett Favre’s franchise records, but it’s looking more and more unlikely that he’ll pass Favre in Super Bowl wins. Unfortunately for Packers fans, Rodgers’ next ring will be the one he slides onto the finger of Olivia Munn.
6 Could Win: Seattle Seahawks
After four straight years of leading the NFL in scoring defense, the 2016 Seahawks really slipped on that end as they dropped ALL the way to third in scoring defense. But seriously, the defense is still elite (though aging), Pete Caroll is still the youngest 60-something I’ve ever seen, and there is no QB I’d rather have with the game on the line than Russell Wilson. The Seahawks benefit from being in a division in which one team is too old (Cardinals) and the others are too young (Rams, 49ers) to pose real competition over the next few years. Their weak division makes their schedule not quite Patriots-level soft, but still a cupcake nonetheless and that easy path will serve as a valet to another Super Bowl.
5 Won’t Win: New York Giants
Whenever you lose a good player, but perform better, it’s labeled an “addition by subtraction.” So if you add a good player, but get worse, then is it a subtraction by addition? That’s what the Giants will have to find out with the addition of Brandon Marshall. He’s undoubtedly an upgrade over Victor Cruz whose salsa went stale last season, but Marshall has never even made the playoffs in his entire 11 year career. It can’t all be the fault of his teammates as there is one underlying on theme on all of Brandon Marshall’s non-playoff teams; and that is Brandon Marshall.
The Giants won their most recent Super Bowls when they got rid of the likes of Tiki Barber and Jeremy Shockey. But now with Marshall and Odell Beckham both in the NYG huddle, it seems as if they’ve reverted back to the theatrical players. They may be Instagram champions, but they won’t be Super Bowl champions.
4 Could Win: Dallas Cowboys
There is somewhat of an analogy that can be made between the Cowboys and the WWE: Jerry Jones is like Vince McMahon while Stephen Jones is like Triple H. In other words, the Cowboys are becoming more modernized with someone younger in charge. Don’t get me wrong; good ol’ Jerry Jones is still calling the shots; but he’s starting to yield some of his power over to his son. The optimism that fans have for the Cowboys’ front office is finally starting to creep up to the confidence they have on the players.
Dak and Zeke were the most successful rookie QB-RB duo in NFL history and their play will only get better with experience. Dak’s contract is a huge advantage for the Cowboys just as Russell Wilson’s rookie contract was for the Seahawks. He is just the 64th highest paid QB in the league which allows the Cowboys to invest money at other positions. It’s just a matter of time until the 20+ year Super Bowl drought finally ends for Big D.
3 Won’t Win: Atlanta Falcons
You know how Super Bowl hangovers often spill into the following season for the team that comes up short? Well this one may spill over into the next decade for the Falcons. The biggest collapse in Super Bowl history isn’t something that will be easily forgotten. Just think: the Falcons had the 8th highest scoring team in NFL history and still couldn’t win The Big Game. What’s more likely to happen next: they post an even better offensive year or they regress? They also have to deal with the loss of the man who spearheaded that record-setting offense, OC Kyle Shanahan, as he takes his Super Bowl nightmares with him to San Francisco. The 2017 Falcons have the look of the 2016 Panthers written all over them and who knows how long it will take them to get out of this funk.
2 Could Win: New England Patriots
Sorry, Pats haters but I couldn’t even dream up a reason that will keep the Patriots from winning another Super Bowl in the coming years. Very often, the teams that win free agency don’t end up winning anything once the actual games are played. But how often does the team who wins free agency happen to be the team that just won the Super Bowl? Stephon Gilmore, Brandin Cooks, Dwayne Allen and more; the Pats aren’t plugging holes, but rather adding talent to already-deep positional groups.
Even with these additions, talent alone isn’t what makes the Patriots great. They excel in all aspects of a football organization from football operations to scouting to player personnel; everyone within the organization follows Belichick’s mantra of “Do Your Job.” As long as Belichick and Brady are still in the fold, the Patriots will be the Super Bowl favorites every year and even beyond just the next three.
1 Won’t Win: Pittsburgh Steelers
Surprised? The Steelers may very well be the greatest franchise in NFL history, but I don’t see them winning ring no.7 anytime soon. Why not? Well because over the past five years or so, the franchise has had a shift in philosophy from defense-first to offense-first. Pittsburgh has made three Super Bowls (winning two) over the last dozen years and here were their rankings in terms of scoring defense in those three seasons: 1st, 1st, 3rd. But for some reason, the organization then decided to invest most of its money on the offensive side of the ball and it has resulted in early playoff exits since then.
I love the Killer B’s (when they aren’t getting suspended or streaming Facebook Live), but I loved the Steel Curtain and Blitzburgh even more. Those teams won titles and until the Steelers shift back to that mentality; those will be the last Super Bowl rings the franchise wins.