Before the AFC and NFC Championship Games take center stage this weekend, more pressing topics need to be addressed.
Last Sunday’s Minnesota Miracle has the Vikings looking like the latest “team of destiny,” and they’re now road favorites in Philadelphia in the NFC title game as they try to become the first team to play in the Super Bowl in their home stadium. It would be a novel situation for the league, and it’s not clear whether the Vikings would actually get to enjoy all the comforts of home since the NFC is the designated “away” team for Super Bowl 52.
Also unclear is how the team they just vanquished, the New Orleans Saints, will bounce back next season. Will future Hall-of-Famer Drew Brees re-up for one more kick at a title? The same question surrounds the younger, but considerably more beat-up, Ben Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh. Before diving into the realities of the Vikings nominally playing a home Super Bowl, it’s time to eulogize the fallen, in a way, by looking at the future of the four teams that were ousted in the Divisional Round and whether they will pull a Lazarus in 2018.
There will be ample time to talk about the four teams that won their Divisional Round games. Time is of the essence for the losers, or rather, their relevance. What does the future look like for the Saints, Steelers, Titans, and Falcons?
ODDS TO RETURN AS COACH IN 2018
- Dan Quinn (Falcons): 1/19
- Sean Payton (Saints): 1/5
- Mike Tomlin (Steelers): 7/13
- Mike Mularkey (Titans): OFF (no longer with team)
Mike Mularkey and the Titans “mutually agreed” to part ways after the Titans were demolished by the Patriots. Now rumors are swirling that Steelers ownership wants Tomlin gone. The money men tend to get their way, and Tomlin made some extremely poor coaching decisions in Pittsburgh’s loss to the Jaguars. But he also has a Super Bowl ring on this finger, a 116-60 regular-season record, and eight playoff appearances in 11 years the helm. He’s certainly not a perfect coach, but could they get anyone better at this point? The cooler head of Art Modell should prevail.
ODDS TO RETURN AS STARTING QB IN 2018
- Matt Ryan (Falcons): 1/19
- Marcus Mariota (Titans): 1/15
- Drew Brees (Saints): 1/4
- Ben Roethlisberger (Steelers): 1/3
Two QBs (Brees, Roethlisberger) are edging towards retirement age, are coming to the end of their contracts, and already have Super Bowl rings. Big Ben pretty openly flirts with retirement every offseason, and Brees can become an unrestricted free agent in 2018. There have long been rumours about Brees leaving for a more Super Bowl-ready team (or just a bigger payday), but after this playoff run, it’s likely that he’ll move on. The 2018 Saints will be a Super Bowl-ready team, and ownership will open its checkbook nice and wide.
Marcus Mariota is coming to the end of his rookie contract, but it’s unlikely that he is going anywhere. Mariota is central to the Titans’ project, and is cheaper than anyone the Titans could conceivably get to replace him. If the Titans don’t pick up his fifth-year option, it will be because they’ve already signed a new multi-year contract. If he doesn’t start in Week 1, it will be because the injury-prone QB got hurt in the preseason. Not outlandish.
Matt Ryan will be entering the last season of his contract with the Falcons, and is absolutely central to Atlanta’s offensive identity. Again, he’s the Week 1 starter barring injury.
ODDS TO MAKE 2018 PLAYOFFS
- Saints: 2/3
- Steelers: 1/1
- Falcons: 13/7
- Titans: 7/3
These teams are all set up pretty well for a playoff run next year. Obviously, if the Saints lose Brees, they’ll have to start from scratch with someone less capable, but they will have a good run game and an improving young defense regardless. If Big Ben retires, the Steelers will have to get someone in the draft or free agency, but again: good run game, good defense. The Falcons are an anomaly and are the most difficult to predict: they could be Super Bowl contenders; they could be thoroughly mediocre. The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle. In a division as tough as the NFC South, that’s a tough gamble. The Titans have the toughest path back to the playoffs. They will be in their first year under a new head coach and share a division with the suddenly scary Jaguars, a healthy Houston team led by Deshaun Watson, and (God willing) Andrew Luck and the Colts.
ODDS TO WIN SUPER BOWL 53
- Saints: 9/1
- Steelers: 13/1
- Falcons: 19/1
- Titans: 30/1
Two of these teams are firmly in the competitive phase of their life-cycle, in which their aging quarterback is surrounded by talented youngsters, and their odds of winning decrease slightly every year. The third team, the Titans, was happy to record a playoff win, and then fired its head coach. We don’t know who they’re going to hire, and we can’t give short odds that he’ll be the fourth coach to win a Super Bowl in his first year. The Falcons are hard to evaluate, because we’ve all seen their ceiling and their floor; the former makes winning seem like an inevitability, the latter an impossibility.
VIKINGS SUPER BOWL 52 ODDS & PROPS
I said it out loud, so I’ve already jinxed it. But just in case the Vikings’ traditional playoff heartbreak abates for one more week and they parlay the Minnesota Miracle into a Super Bowl berth, here are the odds on the logistics of Minny playing a home Super Bowl as the “away” team.
ODDS THE VIKINGS MAKE SB52: 3/2
The Vikings are laying 3.5 points on the road in Philly this weekend. They’re worthy favorites, but that line slightly underestimates the Eagles and how dominant their defense can be/has been at home, especially recently, when everyone on the unit knows Nick Foles and offense will be lucky to score 20 points. The offense is averaging 17 PPG in four Foles starts this season, while the defense is surrendering a miniscule 13.75.
ODDS ON THE VIKINGS’ SB52 JERSEY COLOR
- Purple: 1/3
- White: 3/1
ODDS THE VIKINGS GET TO USE THEIR OWN LOCKER ROOM AT SB52: 7/1
ODDS THE EFFECTS & FIREWORKS AT US BANK STADIUM ARE NEUTRAL FOR SB52: 1/9
PROJECTED SB52 POINT SPREADS
- Patriots vs Vikings: Patriots -2.0
- Patriots vs Eagles: Patriots -8.5
- Jaguars vs Vikings: Vikings -4.5
- Jaguars vs Eagles: Jaguars -2.0
One question on the collective mind of MTS’ betting-focused team is how the flip from the Vikings to the Eagles would impact the point spread. Traditionally, home-field advantage is worth three points in Vegas. But the Vikings are also (perceived to be) the stronger team, as evidenced by the fact that they are laying 3.5 on the road in Philly in the NFC Championship. It’s likely that the spread would shift by about 6.5 points when setting the line for Vikings-vs-AFC and Eagles-vs-AFC.
ODDS TO PLAY A HOME SUPER BOWL IN THE NEXT FOUR YEARS
- Falcons (2019): 9/1
- Dolphins (2020): 40/1
- Buccaneers (2021): 18/1
- Rams (2022): 11/1
The Falcons’ Super Bowl 53 odds have already been discussed above. Multiply by two, essentially, to get their odds of winning the NFC. The 2020 Dolphins may finally be free of Tom Brady’s dominance over the AFC East, but it’s still a couple years too early to be thinking Super Bowl. They don’t have a franchise pivot or a dominant defense, and they won’t in two years, either, in all likelihood. The 2022 Rams, however, could be dominant, even though Aaron Donald will be on the wrong side of 30. Sean McVay has the look of the next truly great coach.