Last season the New England Patriots had the best odds to win Super Bowl LII while the Philadelphia Eagles only had the 18th best odds, and we all saw how that one turned out. After the Pats and Eagles both went 13-3 on the season and undefeated in the playoffs, they finally met up in Minneapolis’ U.S. Bank Stadium (with its fancy giant glass wall) in February and the underdogs from Philly became the 2017-18 NFL Champions over New England 41-33.
It says a lot about the Patriots that despite their title loss last season, and especially given the Super Bowl Curse (the one that says participants will stink the following season), odds makers still favor them to win it all in 2019. That snub to Philadelphia, of course, infuriates Eagles players and fans alike. They feel that despite their legitimate, well-earned Super Bowl win, the world still considers them the underdog who somehow got their Champion Rings through sheer luck or divine intervention.
Here’s a breakdown of the two teams’ chances of returning to the Big Game next season presented with as little prejudice as possible. At the end, though, the question will be answered and then the debate will begin. Feel free to participate with your answer in the comment section below.
The 2018-19 Philadelphia Eagles
Out of respect for their Championship status, let’s take a look at the Philadelphia Eagles first. With all due respect and to their definite credit, they truly were underdogs to get to the Super Bowl last season.
And though that’s still technically true this year (at least according to the oddsmakers), the chances of the Eagles returning to the Super Bowl in 2019 are a whole lot greater than they were this time last year.
Because, unlike a lot of champions, the Eagles weren’t a team of one-year deals that came together for just one big run. In fact, in 2018 the Eagles will field 19 of their 22 starters. Despite that, executive vice president of football operations and general manager Howie Roseman spent the entire 2018 offseason actually helping his already excellent team improve.
The Eagles won the Super Bowl largely because of their defense, and now it’s even better.
The Eagles fourth ranked defense returns improved
First off, Roseman scored big and signed Pro Bowl defensive End Michael Bennett. Bennett, the 32-year-old with what’s been called a “disruptive skill set,” comes over from Seattle where he had 8.5 sacks last season and a pass defended. Imagine how he’ll add to a returning defensive front line that kept opponents to a league best 79.2 rushing yards per game and had 38 total sacks. That line includes Second-Team All Pro tackle Fletcher Cox (5.5 sacks last season) and defensive end Brandon Graham who stripped the ball from Tom Brady and forced a fumble with two minutes left in the Super Bowl.
Outside linebacker Nigel Bradham, who had 88 tackles, a sack and a forced and recovered fumble last season, was re-signed. Broncos’ free agent linebacker Corey Nelson was signed to replace the released Mychal Kendricks, who has signed a one-year deal with the Cleveland Browns.
With these moves, this already terrific defense that prevented Tom Brady from making one of his miraculous fourth period comebacks in the Super Bowl now looks even better. To get back to the Super Bowl, though, the Eagles will have to beat some top-tier NFC quarterbacks next regular season – Kirk Cousins, Cam Newton, Drew Brees – and probably a healthy Aaron Rodgers in the playoffs, so having a defense return that kept opponents to an average of 18.4 points per game is essential.
Both quarterbacks returning, one healthy but rusty
Unlike most teams, the Eagles have two outstanding quarterbacks, MVP candidate Carson Wentz and superstar backup and Super Bowl winner Nick Foles. The Eagles showed the world how the ‘next man up’ concept executed to perfection can actually win an NFL championship.
Wentz tore his ACL in Week 14 against the Rams last season after throwing 3,296 yards, 33 TDs and only 7 interceptions. So Foles did his job and threw 57 completions for 537 yards and 5 TDs with only two picks in the regular season, and 77 completions for 971 yards and 6 TDs with only one pick to win the Super Bowl.
The good news is Wentz says he’s “very confident” about playing in Week 1 next season, and it’s been made clear that Foles will continue as backup. The even better news is the Eagles re-worked Foles’ contract to include a $2 million raise for the 2018 season and the potential to earn up to $23 million via incentives.
The combined Wentz/Foles Eagles offense was ranked 7th last season but their passing yards per game average, 233.6 yards per game, was 13th, a statistic that’s bound to improve with a healthy Wentz returning. He hasn’t played since last December, but that’s what’s great about having Foles around – he can fill in as long as it takes for Wentz to blow off the rust.
The offensive weapons are still there, mostly
The majority of the Eagles’offensive weapons will also return, with the exception of running back LeGarrette Blount, who signed with the Detroit Lions, and wide Receiver Torrey Smith, who signed with the Carolina Panthers and Alshon Jeffery, who is questionable for Week 1 after having rotator cuff surgery in the offseason.
Roseman addressed the wide receiver hole by signing Ravens free agent Mike Wallace, who’s 31-years-old but still considered a deep threat speedster. He’ll line up along with Nelson Agholor, who had 62 receptions for 768 yards and 8 TDs last season and probably Mack Hollins or free agent Markus Wheaton (CHI) until Jeffery is healed.
Running back Jay Ajayi will have to step up and be a legitimate or better replacement for Blount because Darren Sproles’ knee is still questionable for Week 1.
Bottom Line: Whatever ‘luck’ the Eagles had last season looks to be entirely repeatable in 2019. With a young team on either side of the ball and an MVP caliber quarterback returning, the Eagles actually have a better chance of playing in the Super Bowl at the end of this season than they did last year at this time. But of course, odds are that’s no guarantee, especially in an NFC that’s been tougher than the AFC for going on a decade now.
The 2018-19 New England Patriots
The fact of the matter is, until quarterback Tom Brady and head coach Bill Belichick retire, putting your money on the New England Patriots to appear in the Super Bowl has been a fairly safe bet. The last time the Patriots didn’t get to the divisional title game was way back in 2010.
Last season ended with the Patriot’s third Super Bowl appearance in four years, their 10th overall, and eight of those have been under the leadership of super-duo Brady-Belichick. The question is whether the 2018 season is the one where their long-lasting magic finally gives way to the realities of aging.
Those old Patriot offensive bones be rattling
At 40 years of age, Brady should be retired, lying on the beach counting fat stacks of cash and Super Bowl rings, but he’s still very much in the mood to compete. And because of his unique lifestyle, so is his body. Brady’s healthy way of living has become as impressive as his numbers, and last season (his eighteenth in the league) was no exception. The agile middle-aged Pro Bowler threw for 4,577 yards and 32 TDs with only 8 interceptions for a passer rating of 102.8.
Can he do it again? He wouldn’t return if he didn’t think so and most likely has no problem if anyone chooses to doubt him. For old man Brady, that just makes winning and proving them wrong all the more satisfying.
The real problem is that he’s not the only elderly Patriot. One of the most important pieces of the Brady-Belichick offense is the slot receiver, and theirs is getting older. Talented Julian Edelman is 32-years-old and has just recovered from a 2017-season-ending-before-it-ever-started ACL tear. Does he still have the speed and durability to put up the big numbers after a whole year off without re-injuring his knee? Especially without his slot-counterpart Danny Amendola, who’s gone to the Dolphins in the offseason?
Another important brilliant offensive weapon, tight end Rob Gronkowski, is 29-years-old, often-concussed and surgically rebuilt. Can he put up another 1,000+ yards and 8 touchdowns again like last year, or will 2018 be the season his banged-up body starts coming up short and injured?
And why is it so important for the Patriots’ offense to be so good?
Mostly because their 29th ranked defense isn’t. Without Brady’s O putting up a league leading average of 28.6 points per game, the flaws of the Patriots’ defense would be much more apparent. The coordinator responsible for such a low-ranked defense was Matt Patricia, who left to head coach the Detroit Lions.
So who gets the job instead?
Defensive mastermind head coach Bill Belichick, of course. So since the defense couldn’t get much worse, the question for 2018 is can Belichick make it a whole lot better? Because if he can, then that takes a lot of scoring pressure off Brady and his crew. But if Belichick can’t, then that means the offense has to continue to produce huge numbers, something ol’ Tom Brady is usually able to do, until...
There’s the off-the-field unhappiness to contend with
Apparently, there’s been a lot of offseason grumbling about how Belichick handles his business. Some examples of that include:
- Benching starting cornerback Malcolm Butler in Super Bowl LII, supposedly because Belichick didn’t like how he’d been sulking over Steven Gilmore getting a long term contract instead of him;
- Insinuations by now departed players Danny Amendola and Dion Lewis that they were overworked and underappreciated by Belichick;
- Rumors that the Brady/Belichick relationship is strained.
Can Belichick unite his team before the season begins, or will internal drama be the thing that finally takes down the giant of the AFC East?
Bottom Line: Tom Brady and Bill Belichick have a history of turning mediocre to decent players into stars, and chances are they can do it again. That is if the negativity that comes with old age and bickering doesn’t prevent it.
The final answer, please…
So the question was which team is more likely to return to the Super Bowl, and the answer is the New England Patriots. The Philadelphia Eagles have a great chance to get back there, too, but it’s just not as likely.
The Patriots are in an arguably easier division and conference than the Eagles, and Tom Brady is not coming off a blown knee like Carson Wentz is. The Patriots have such a history of winning that until it finally comes to a full stop, to bet against them is foolhardy.
When you add in the fact that the Eagles’ schedule is tied for 19th toughest and the Patriots’ is tied for 22nd, the easy answer is that it’s more likely that the Patriots will return to the Super Bowl on Sunday, Feb. 3, 2019 in Atlanta, GA at the beautiful Mercedes-Benz Stadium with its fancy giant glass wall.
The Odds have it:
Says sportsbook 5Dimes, the Patriots are favored to win the Super Bowl next season at +300, followed by the Packers (+800), Eagles (+850), Steelers (+1000) and Vikings (+1200).
BetDSI sportsbook has the Patriots favored as champions in 2019 with +400 odds. Philadelphia is the second favorite at +800.
The New York Jets and Cleveland Browns once again carry the longest odds on the board.