Who wins Super Bowl LV? Our writers give their picks at the midway point of the 2020 NFL season
With Week 8 coming to a close, we are now pretty much halfway through the 2020 NFL season. There have been some surprise packages so far–such as the 7-0 Pittsburgh Steelers–while it has been business as usual for the 7-1 Kansas City Chiefs.
The Chiefs remain favorites to become the first team since the 2004-05 Patriots to win back-to-back Vince Lombardi Trophies. But hot on their tail are the aforementioned Steelers, as well as the Tom Brady-led Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Seattle Seahawks.
So, based on what we’ve seen so far, who has the edge in the race to win football’s grandest prize? Three of our Pickswise NFL writers give their verdicts on which teams they expect to see standing tall on the first Sunday in February of 2021.
Chiefs are still atop the throne
The Chiefs, of course, are the defending champions–and I currently don’t see any reason why they won’t repeat. Kansas City is a nearly flawless 7-1 at the halfway point, and that’s even with Patrick Mahomes playing far from his best ball. Even without Mahomes performing at quite the level we’re accustomed to, this offense has still looked like a juggernaut–and its floor is higher than most teams’ ceilings.
That’s incredibly important come playoff time, because the Chiefs have shown time and time again that they can put up 35+ points even when their superstar quarterback isn’t at his sharpest. This offense is going to be unstoppable in the playoffs; that much isn’t really in question.
This will most likely be the last time Mahomes is ever an underdog 💰
Counting those touchdowns ✅
— Pickswise (@Pickswise) September 29, 2020
What makes me especially bullish on the Chiefs’ chances for a second straight Super Bowl is the major strides they’ve made on defense, particularly in the secondary. The back half of their defense has quietly been one of the best in the league, allowing only 6.6 yards per pass attempt and 201.3 passing yards per game–figures which rank fourth and third in the league, respectively.
Even more impressively, they’ve done it while missing starting cornerbacks L’Jarius Sneed and Bashaud Breeland for good chunks of the season. The rookie Sneed was playing at a very high level before going down, and when he returns from his broken collarbone the sky is the limit for this already stingy group.
They also always show up for big games, smoking the Ravens in their biggest test of the season in primetime. With Mahomes, Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, and Le’Veon Bell, plus Andy Reid scheming things up, their offense is going to be the most consistent throughout the playoffs. With the way Steve Spagnuolo’s unit is playing, their defense isn’t going to be far behind.
Steelers are undefeated for a reason
The Steelers were already the last undefeated team in the NFL even before Week 8, and they remained as such with their most impressive statement to date. In an AFC North showdown against Baltimore, Pittsburgh went on the road and prevailed 28-24.
It’s time to start putting some respect on this team’s name. Sure it beat up on relatively unimpressive opponents through the first four weeks of the season, but their three most recent foes have a combined record of 15-7. That means those three teams (Baltimore, Tennessee, and Cleveland) are 15-4 when they don’t play against Pittsburgh. The Ravens are without question one of the best teams in the league, so the Steelers’ victory this past Sunday was extremely impressive.
Some of the best 📸 from the win over Baltimore 💪
— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) November 3, 2020
With that, the Steelers have the inside track on the AFC’s No. 1 seed. It is true that home-field advantage may not mean as much in 2020-21 as it has in previous seasons because there are little to no fans in attendance at games. But keep in mind that only the top seed in each conference–not the top two–gets a first-round bye. The importance of that cannot be underestimated, especially for a team led by a relatively old, injury-prone quarterback like Ben Roethlisberger. If Big Ben and company can get a bye and then play at the friendly confines of Heinz Field for their first two playoff games, a spot in Super Bowl LV is likely.
Pittsburgh is cleaning up in the regular season right now and it is built for the playoffs, as well. It can run the ball (James Conner), stop the run (fifth in the NFL), has a two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback, and a Super-Bowl winning coach (Mike Tomlin) who is one of the best in the business. It’s time to get on the bandwagon.
Seahawks can soar above all else
Given how much of a juggernaut they have been on offense, I am amazed that the Seahawks are still available at +800 to win the Super Bowl. Sure, they’ve had problems on defense, but Russell Wilson has proven time after time that he has what it takes to make up for their slack. I’m also very confident that their issues against the pass will be remedied by the eventual return of Jamal Adams. Lord knows he improved that Jets defense exponentially.
People like to point to the fact that they’ve been winning close games, but the fact is that they have been winning and are 6-1. They clearly have that champion mentality, which was on full display when Wilson led the Seahawks on a game-winning drive against the Vikings last month. And right now I’m not sure there’s a defense in the league that can stop the threat of Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf at wideout.
HOLY DK 🔥
— Pickswise (@Pickswise) November 1, 2020
Seattle’s mindset of “we’ll score more than you” has been working out so far, and this team would be 7-0 right now had Metcalf’s game-winning touchdown in overtime against Arizona not been called back.
The Seahawks remind me a lot of the 2013 Broncos, who were on another planet offensively with Peyton Manning under center. That Denver squad team finished the season with 606 points scored; the second-highest scoring team was the Bears with 445 points. But the Broncos that season also allowed 399 points, which was the fourth-most in the AFC. They still finished the season 13-3 and reached the Super Bowl, before losing to…you guessed it…Seattle.
If the Seahawks can improve even just a bit on defense, then they will have what it takes to go all the way.