QBList Super Bowl Predictor

Group 1b: Runners up

 

Baltimore Ravens

 

Before I try to convince you why the Ravens are only my number-three team, realize that it’s partially a hunch. I don’t even completely believe the Ravens will fail. I know they could smash through the AFC, win the Super Bowl, and that would be that. Let’s play devil’s advocate for a moment though–is their historical reason to doubt Baltimore? There is. It’s not the most conclusive evidence, but there are some cracks in this castle. First, the Ravens have a lousy passing offense. They would be the worst passing offense to win the Super Bowl since 2008. Outside of that, though, there are no more statistical weaknesses. So why do I doubt? Three reasons: the MVP ‘curse’, the fate of mega-offenses, and the easy road to the playoffs.

First up is the MVP curse. No MVP has won the Super Bowl since the 1999-00 season. A lot of great players–and their teams–have come and gone. There were the Rams, who accounted for three MVP awards in a row between Marshall Faulk and Kurt Warner. They won one championship. There were the five Peyton Manning MVP seasons. He never won a Super Bowl in any of those years. The Ladainian Tomlinson Chargers failed. The undefeated Patriots, as well as the other two Tom Brady MVP seasons, dropped the ball as well. Aaron Rodgers, Cam Newton, Adrian Peterson, and Patrick Mahomes couldn’t do it. What’s the reason? I blame the pressure of a team putting so much on the back of one player. I think that if enough defensive coordinators plan for you specifically, you will eventually be figured out. I think someone will figure out this offense and stop it.

The second reason is the fate of mega-potent offenses, like the one in Baltimore. If we look at every team that ever averaged 400 yards per game (6,400 for the season), only one has ever won the Super Bowl. It was the 2009 Saints. I know what you might be thinking: the Ravens also have an awesome defense. That’s true. However, six teams have put up a 6,400-yard offense and a top-5 defense in the same season. All failed to win the Super Bowl. Eight teams have had a top-10 defense. All eight failed. Twelve teams had 6,400 yards and a top-16 defense. Yet again, all failed. What do I blame? It could be the bye week before the Super Bowl and the trouble teams have maintaining their momentum. It could also be the media pressure. Whatever it is, mega-offenses aren’t as successful as we would assume.

Finally, we have the easy road to the playoffs. As a coach, you want your team to face challenges. You want them to be sharp, and they will only be sharp if they face difficult situations. This is why Gonzaga (college basketball) works so hard to schedule a tough out-of-conference schedule: they need it if they want to have a chance when March rolls around. The Ravens are the eleventh team since 2000 who will enter the playoffs with an average margin of victory of 12 or greater (a point differential of 192 or more). Of the previous ten, four made the Super Bowl and none have won it. I know this may sound odd, but you don’t want to coast into the playoffs too easily. I think it makes teams soft. The Ravens have only had two close games in their last ten outings. They have been coasting for almost three months.

I’ll finish with this: you could easily ignore those last three pieces of evidence. I’m not saying the Ravens are bad–I readily admit they should make the Super Bowl this year. What happens, though, if someone figures out that offense? If just one opponent can figure out a strategy to slow Lamar Jackson down, I think the Ravens are in huge trouble. I’m betting the Ravens stumble somewhere–even if it takes an amazing team to knock them off.

Essential Stats:

  • The Ravens have a worse passing offense than every Super Bowl champ since 2008
  • The Ravens would be the best rushing offense and the best overall offense to ever win the Super Bowl
  • The Ravens are top-6 in five of the six yardage categories.
  • Lamar Jackson would be the first MVP to win the Super Bowl since 2000.

Reason to doubt: bad passing offense, too much pressure on the shoulders of one man

Reason for optimism: best rushing attack in NFL history, Lamar Jackson’s legs, the strong defense

Super Bowl doppelganger: 2014 Seattle Seahawks, 2018 Eagles

My prediction: win against Bills, win against Chiefs, loss in Super Bowl

 

San Francisco 49ers

 

The San Francisco 49ers are everything you could want in a contender this year. They have an excellent rushing attack…one that is overlooked thanks to the ridiculous things happening in Baltimore. In fact, they would be the best rushing attack to win the Super Bowl since at least 2000. They have an excellent defense and they are elite at stopping the pass. They match up well against almost anyone in the league. So why not the Niners? Good question. At this point, it’s nit-picking. I could give you reasons to prefer San Francisco or New Orleans, and you could easily counter with other stats. The truth is that any of my top five teams wouldn’t be surprising champions. However, the goal is to pick one, right?

San Francisco’s biggest weakness, in my opinion, is the lack of elite playmakers in the offense. This attack leans on George Kittle in the passing game, and then a hot-hand approach in the running game. This is an approach that ultimately worries me. What happens if Kittle gets shut down? Can Deebo Samuel be the guy on a regular basis? Can Emmanuel Sanders return to relevance? Maybe. I just don’t want to count on either of those receivers with a championship on the line. I could see a week where this attack is stifled, and that could be it.

How about the rushing attack? Matt Brieda looked good early until he got hurt. Tevin Coleman looked like the guy after that, but then he faded away just as quickly. Raheem Mostert has been strong in these last six games. Still, it has been a mix-and-match situation. The 49ers look for the hot hand each week and then ride him. What if they don’t find one? What if someone is able to shut down this rushing attack? I think that would spell disaster for the Niners.

Here’s my last reason for hesitation: Jimmy Garropolo. I want to finish off my Super Bowl contender with an excellent quarterback. I want someone who I can trust to lead the game-winning drive in the final two minutes of a do-or-die moment with millions watching and a place in history on the line. Jimmy G isn’t bad in this area: he has four 4th-quarter comebacks this year. He simply isn’t elite in my opinion. Here are the guys who have won a Super Bowl since 2004: Tom Brady, Nick Foles, Peyton Manning, Russell Wilson, Eli Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, and Ben Roethlisberger. That’s it. This is an extremely difficult club to join. I don’t doubt Garropolo could get there. I just don’t think it happens yet. If someone knocks off the Saints, the 49ers would be my new favorite. I just think it’s the Saints’ year…

Essential Stats:

  • The San Francisco 49ers have a better rushing attack than every Super Bowl winner since 2000.
  • The 49ers are top-17 in every yardage category.
  • They also finished top-4 in four of the yardage categories…the only team to accomplish the feat.

Reason to doubt: mediocre passing offense, lack of star-power in the offense after George Kittle

Reason for optimism: excellent pass defense, excellent rushing attack, a handful of impressive wins

Super Bowl doppelganger: 2014 Seattle Seahawks

My prediction: win against Seahawks, loss to Saints

Michael Miklius

Mike is a lifelong Bears fan who is just about ready to give up on Mitch Trubisky for good... Twitter: @SIRL0INofBEEF

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