We are now in June, which means that Training Camp is just around the corner. With that being said, there are many NFL teams from the 2017 season that were just a game or two away from a playoff berth. Most of the time a well-rounded roster is what helps NFL franchises win Championships. Out of all 32 teams, there were five in particular that I believe hold the necessary firepower on both sides of the ball to reach Super Bowl 53, let’s take a look at those teams.
Los Angeles Chargers
The Los Angeles Chargers are a very underrated team, as they possess elite and talented players on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball. For starters, Joey Boas and Melvin Ingram could easily be considered one of the leagues best pass-rushing duos. Not only does this Charger team know how to get after the quarterback, but in 2017, their defense ranked 3rd in points allowed per game with 17.0 and 3rd in passing yards allowed per game with 197.2.
Their offense was just as impressive, as it ranked 1st in passing yards accumulated per game with 276.9. Phillip Rivers is no slouch either, as he threw for 4,515 yards and 28 touchdowns, all while only throwing 10 interceptions. Speaking of studs, Melvin Gordon complemented Rivers nicely while rushing for 1,105 yards and scoring 8 total touchdowns.
In an AFC West division where the Chiefs, Broncos, and Raiders seem to be “figuring things out” or “starting fresh” with one particular position of their team, I could easily see the Chargers winning 11 to 12 games and making a legit Super Bowl 53 run in 2018, even without their star tight end Hunter Henry.
The Titans are another intriguing team that could also potentially make a run for Super Bowl 53. Here’s why, Tennessee arguably behind the Dallas Cowboys, has one of the best offensive lines in the entire league. Also, Marcus Mariota is beginning to find his touch when it comes to being an elite, franchise-shifting NFL quarterback. Derek Henry is sort of following suit and has a chance to be the Titans’ No.1 back for the 2018 season.
However, if the Titans truly want to compete in the AFC South with the likes of Andrew Luck, Deshaun Watson, and an ever-so aggressive “Sacksonville” defense, Mariota has to cut down on the turnovers. His touchdown to interception ratio was a measly 13 to 15 with an overall quarterback rating of 79.3, which is not going to cut it. Their defense is starting to become well-known as well.
Kevin Byard tied with Detroit Lions’ cornerback Darius Slay Jr. for the most interceptions last season with 8. However, the rest of the Titans defense must show significant improvement if they wish to make a strong Super Bowl push for the 2018 season. New head coach Mike Vrabel went out and acquired former Patriots corner Malcolm Butler, who should help second-year corner Adoree’ Jackson improve his game in more ways than one.
The AFC South is going to be a lot tougher than it has been in recent years with the anticipated returns of Andrew Luck and Deshaun Watson. The Jags defense isn’t something to tamper with either, as they are considered to be one of the leagues best units. If Mariota can improve his game and the new acquisitions can be just as dominant as they have been in recent seasons, then Tennessee has a legitimate shot, in my opinion, to make a run for Super Bowl 53.
Dallas has a lot of talented players on both sides of the ball. They have great linebackers in Sean Lee, Jaylon Smith, and rookie Leighton Vander Esch, and their offensive line is arguably the best in pro football. Even though Dak Prescott had sort of a down year, with him having Ezekiel Elliott back for this upcoming season, I could see Prescott’s numbers increasing quite a bit.
What I really like more than their skilled offensive unit though, is their front four on defense. Demarcus Lawrence is one of the leagues best pass-rushers, Taco Charlton played well in 2017, and defensive tackles Maliek Collins and Tyrone Crawford have unique abilities of their own. Overall, this up-front unit is young, and when everyone is healthy, they play very well together and it shows on the field.
However, my only issue for the Boys’ is their wide receiving corps. Dallas did go out during free agency and sign former Jaguars wide receiver Allen Hurns, who should help complement Terrence Williams and Cole Beasley nicely with his 6-3 frame and excellent receiving skills. These receivers, along with Dallas’ secondary which is filled with young, promising corners and safeties, must step up in 2018 if they wish to make a run for Super Bowl 53.
San Francisco 49ers
I know, before you start bashing me, allow me to explain my thought process on this one. For starters, Jimmy G is an absolute stud, I don’t care if he has only started 7 total games in his career, his overall performance in each of those games was nothing short of fantastic. Also, John Lynch has done his part to make sure the 49ers have the necessary pieces on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball since he has arrived.
Lynch went out and signed former Giants center Weston Richburg, who is one of the best at his position. The offensive line seemed to be a top priority this offseason when Lynch and crew selected former Notre Dame tackle Mike McGlinchey with the No. 9 overall pick. We can’t forget about adding former Rival Seahawks corner Richard Sherman, who should be able to come in and bring a veteran presence to this young defensive unit for San Francisco.
Overall, I like what the 49ers are building and it may not be perfect at the moment, but things seem to be falling into place. However, even though the defense for San Francisco played decently last season, it is still very young and they must improve as an overall unit during 2018 in order to help Garoppolo and crew make a run for Super Bowl 53.
I know what you’re thinking, “Minnesota made it all the way to the NFC Championship last season, how exactly are they a sleeper team for this year’s Super Bowl?” Well, allow me to explain. Yes, the Vikings made it to the NFC Championship game last season. Yet, they couldn’t get past the Eagles, why? Simply because, in my opinion, Case Keenum didn’t play well enough.
However, that is not to discredit his miraculous 2017 season, but in the NFL you have to be able to show up when it counts the most, especially when you have the No.1 ranked defense to back you up. With that being said, Keenum is now in Denver and enter Kirk Cousins who is major upgrade from Keenum. Cousins put on an array of spectacular seasons while in Washington, throwing for over 4,000 yards in each of his last three.
That’s not all though, Cousins also threw a combined 81 touchdowns to only 36 interceptions during those three seasons as well. Will Kirk Cousins be able to have the same production in Minnesota as he did in Washington? No one knows for sure, but chances are with a better defensive unit, running game, and receiving corps, it would shock no one to see Captain Kirk have similar, if not greater success in 2018. After all, he just might be enough to help guide Minnesota to Super Bowl 53.
Bottom line is this, all five of these teams exemplify strong, young, and very competitive rosters in one way or another. That is why they are on this list, with some adjusting at certain positions, and if these ball clubs can work together as an entire unit, I see no reason as to why they cannot reach Super Bowl 53.