Today we break down the NFC Super Bowl bubble. Which teams are in, out, and right on the edge?
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There are two NFC teams obviously in-the-bubble -- they played in the NFC Championship game last season.
Tampa Bay brings back all 22 starters, who make up the best roster in the NFL. There is not a hole on this team. Not anywhere.
Tom Brady is still one of the five best QBs in the NFL and is surrounded by the best receiving depth chart of his career. What's more, Ronald Jones and Leonard Fournette can win games on the ground. And most importantly, Tampa has assembled the NFL's deepest defense led by Devin White. The Bucs have the pass rush to wreck any prolific offense -- ask the Chiefs.
As long as 44 doesn't hit Tom Brady much harder than 43, Tampa Bay is a solid bet to repeat as Super Bowl Champions. FanDuel lists the Bucs at +650, trailing only the Chiefs.
As for the Packers, ignore the offseason. Green Bay was the best team in the NFL throughout the second half of 2020. Much like the Bucs, the Packers have few derailing weaknesses. In addition, Green Bay's top-level players may exceed Tampa's.
Aaron Rodgers, Davante Adams, David Bakhtiari, and Jaire Alexander are all top two players at their respective positions. No other team in the NFL has four players in that discussion.
Because Green Bay is at +1200, the Packers are a slightly better bet than the Bucs.
Now for the challengers. After the Bucs and Packers, there's a drop in the NFC, a steep fall. Let's run through them:
Neither Green Bay nor Tampa expects to face much competition in division. While the Vikings, Panthers, Saints, Falcons, and Bears can pull upsets throughout the season, none of the five have the rosters to compete regularly with top teams. Meaning, they all sit well outside the Super Bowl bubble. (I left the Lions out. The only question in Detroit is whether they secure the first overall pick in the draft?)
The NFC East does not have a Super Bowl-caliber roster in its division. Dallas has the most upside but does not have the defense or coach to win three playoff games. Furthermore, Mike McCarthy should be on the hot seat already. He's that bad. Move on.
Arizona is also outside looking in. Is Kliff Kingsbury an NFL coach? If so, there was no evidence in 2020.
That leaves three NFC West teams vying for the Super Bowl bubble.
The Rams, +1500, are in. Now, for the Rams to return to the Super Bowl, nearly everything has to fall in their lap. The Rams are top-heavy with little room for injuries. Without the proper depth, the Rams cannot afford a single complicating injury. If Matt Stafford, Aaron Donald, and Jalen Ramsey are not 100% healthy at the end of the season, the Rams cannot compete for the conference. However, on paper, the Rams are the best bet to upset both the Packers and Bucs in the playoffs.
San Francisco is also in the bubble. How do I know this 49ers team can make the Super Bowl? Because it just did in 2019. With Nick Bosa and George Kittle back healthy, the 2021 49ers will mirror that 2019 team, which ran opponents off the field.
Though there is a question at QB. If the 49ers stick with Jimmy Garoppolo, they can hide his struggles in a win by running the ball and suffocating opposing offenses. By contrast, Trey Lance gives San Francisco more upside and downside.
As a result, the 49ers are in the bubble but closer to the edge than the center.
Seattle is the final team in the NFC bubble. Wilson gives the Seahawks a puncher's chance. He is the only QB in the NFC who can go toe-to-toe with Rodgers and Brady. That alone inserts the Seahawks into the discussion. In addition, Seattle has playmakers on defense and a home-field crowd that could make the difference in key games.
So here you have it: the NFC Super Bowl bubble: