Are the Houston Texans a Super Bowl Sleeper?
We are now heading into the 11th week of the NFL’s regular season. That’s hard to believe considering it still feels like the season only just started. A number of storylines have come and gone already. The poor Buffalo Bills have been cycling through quarterbacks on what seems like a weekly basis. Le’Veon Bell ultimately decided he’d rather miss an entire season than settle for the $14.5 million the Pittsburgh Steelers could pay him had he signed his franchise tender. The Cleveland Browns, at long last, won a football game. Then, they fired their head coach.
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It’s also fair to say that some Super Bowl favorites have emerged. The Los Angeles Rams and New Orleans Saints have looked like the cream of the crop so far in the NFC, while the surprising Kansas City Chiefs have risen to the top spot in the AFC. We are still waiting on familiar contenders like the New England Patriots and Steelers to fully hit their strides, though there is still plenty of time for both.
You know the contenders. Are the Rams or Saints on a Super Bowl collision course with the Chiefs? Will the Patriots make it to the big game for an incredible ninth time during the Tom Brady/Bill Belichick era? Or will some sleepers emerge and steal the show?
The updated betting odds to win Super Bowl LIII (via BetOnline) through Week 10 are listed below:
- Los Angeles Rams +400
- New Orleans Saints +400
- Kansas City Chiefs +475
- New England Patriots +800
- Pittsburgh Steelers +900
- Los Angeles Chargers +1400
- Minnesota Vikings +2000
- Chicago Bears +2200
- Houston Texans +2500
- Carolina Panthers +3300
- Green Bay Packers +3300
- Philadelphia Eagles +3300
- Washington Redskins +4000
These are the 13 teams I’m comfortable suggesting could win the Super Bowl this season. I was hemming and hawing regarding including the Redskins here, but they’re currently 6-3 and at the top of the NFC East. I don’t really think they’re a viable contender, but stranger things have happened. As you can see, the Rams, Saints and Chiefs have the best odds to win it all by a mile, to the surprise of nobody.
What About Houston?
The Texans were a trendy pick to win it all prior to the beginning of the season. Houston struggled down the stretch last season after season-ending injuries to the likes of Deshaun Watson and J.J. Watt, but with a full complement of players ready to roll into this season, many believed Houston would be a team to make a leap in the AFC.
Those predictions were looking pretty shaky early on. The Texans flopped their way to an 0-3 start that included a miserable loss at home at the hands of the New York Giants. Some were wondering whether head coach Bill O’Brien would be long for the job, and fairly so. Losing to the Giants at home is a fireable offense. New York has won just one other game all season.
Then, things quickly turned around. The Texans picked up their first win of the season in a hard-fought overtime victory at Indianapolis in Week 4, which was the beginning of a 6-game winning streak. The Texans entered their Week 10 bye with a record of 6-3, which is good for the top spot in the AFC South.
Houston lost big play wideout Will Fuller to a season-ending injury, but he was replaced with former Pro Bowler Demaryius Thomas, who came over from the Denver Broncos just ahead of the trade deadline. Assuming Houston is able to stay relatively healthy heading into the season’s final weeks, the Texans are heavily favored to win the division. As of this writing, Houston is listed at -175 to take the AFC South.
The Texans have made the playoffs before, but they have never gotten as far as the AFC Championship Game since their inception in 2002. Houston has won the division 4 times in its history, and they have gone on to win their Wild Card round playoff game in 3 of those 4 instances. They’ve lost in the divisional round at the hands of the Patriots twice, and to the Ravens once (2011).
We know Watson and the offense are capable of putting points on the board, but it remains to be seen whether the defense will be strong enough to fend off the high-octane attacks of teams like the Chiefs and Patriots in the AFC playoffs. The Chiefs have looked unstoppable to this point, but it’s not like the team is comprised of a bunch of seasoned veterans. Guys like Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill and Kareem Hunt haven’t been there before. Kansas City is far from unbeatable. The same can be said for the Patriots given their diminished offense this season.
I think the Texans are a viable betting option here to at least represent the AFC in the Super Bowl. You can bet on Houston at +1200 to make it to the big game out of the AFC, which is obviously excellent value. I’m a fan of that more than I am of the +2500 price to win the Super Bowl. The Texans are a fairly young team in their own right, so they may be a year or two away from actually winning it all. Still, there is reason for optimism here. I love the value on the Texans to at least participate in Super Bowl LIII.
A couple of years ago there were zero NFL teams in Los Angeles. Now there are 2, and both look like legitimate Super Bowl contenders. This is the third season for the Rams in Los Angeles since moving from St. Louis, while the Chargers are in their second campaign back in L.A. after spending 50-plus years in San Diego.
The Rams have garnered the vast majority of the headlines, both nationally and locally. However, don’t sleep on the Chargers. Philip Rivers has long had a reputation as a quarterback that “can’t win the big one,” but I’ve always thought that’s a bit unfair. Rivers has been an elite quarterback for the entirety of his career, yet some rank him behind the likes of Ben Roethlisberger and Eli Manning simply because his team has never won it all.
The Chargers have gone 7-2 through the first 10 weeks of the season, which has them in second place in the AFC West behind the high-flying Chiefs. Kansas City looks like a runaway train, but it’s not infeasible to suggest that the Chargers may be able to catch them. L.A. lost their season opener at the hands of the Chiefs, 38-28, and the two teams will square off again at Arrowhead Stadium in K.C. in Week 15.
Even if the Chargers have to settle for a Wild Card spot I think they’re a legitimate Super Bowl contender out of the AFC. The Chargers have rattled off 6 straight wins of their own following a shaky 1-2 start. Sure, they have taken advantage of a cushy schedule over that stretch, but you can’t fault the Chargers for winning the games on their schedule. Their only 2 losses have come against the Chiefs and Rams, who may well be the 2 best teams in football.
I don’t need to make the case for the Rams. The other L.A. team has arguably the league’s most well-oiled offense, though it figures to take a hit with Cooper Kupp having been lost for the year with a torn ACL. Getting through the NFC playoffs figures to be tougher than doing so in the AFC, but there is no reason to believe the Rams don’t have what it takes. This is the most talented roster in football.
BetOnline has a number of Super Bowl matchup prop bets posted. One of which is whether the Rams and Chargers will square off in an all-L.A. Super Bowl in Atlanta. You can get the Rams and Chargers to meet up in the big game at +1800. I obviously feel more confident that the Rams will hold up their end of the bargain, but there is reason to believe the Chargers can get it done. There aren’t many weaknesses on this roster. The Chargers are a viable sleeper to win it all at +1400, but the betting price of +550 for the Chargers just to make it to the Super Bowl is also profitable.
Before the season I would not have thought that the Bears would even be in the Super Bowl conversation, but here we are. Chicago swung the huge trade prior to the season to bring Khalil Mack over from the Raiders. All Mack has done is help transform the Bears’ defense into one of the most fearsome in the league. Mack has racked up 7 sacks with 4 forced fumbles, a fumble recovery and an interception returned for a touchdown through his first 9 games as a Bear.
New head coach Matt Nagy has also helped second-year quarterback Mitchell Trubisky take the next step. Trubisky has rather quietly looked excellent for most of the season. The North Carolina product has completed 65.5 percent of his throws for 2,304 yards with 19 touchdowns and 7 interceptions thus far. He has also been a threat on the ground, as evidenced by his 320 rushing yards on 41 attempts with another 3 scores.
Few would have expected this prior to the season, but the Bears currently find themselves in the driver’s seat in the NFC North through 10 weeks. Chicago’s 6-3 record puts them ahead of both the Vikings (5-3-1) and Packers (4-4-1) in the division. Even so, Chicago has slightly worse Super Bowl odds (+2200) than the Vikings (+2000). I think this has more to do with preseason expectations than anything else. The Bears have looked like the better team of the 2 for most of the season, so I’d much rather take a bet on Chicago at +2200 than Minnesota at +2000. Things can always change, but I’m a believer in what the Bears are doing right now. The jury is still out on the Vikes and Pack.
As is the case with the Texans, maybe the Bears are still a year or 2 away from being full-on legit Super Bowl contenders. It’s hard not to like what we have seen so far, though. I don’t hate the idea of throwing a few bucks down on the Bears to win Super Bowl LIII here with a price as favorable as +2200.
Eagles a Sleeper?
The Eagles won Super Bowl LII last year with a thrilling 41-33 win over the Patriots. In spite of it all, the Eagles are now an elite value to repeat as champions. Yes, going back-to-back in the Super Bowl is an incredibly rare and difficult feat, but I would be all over Philadelphia at +3300 here.
The Eagles managed to win the Super Bowl last year behind a backup quarterback. Now, Carson Wentz is back and healthy. The team’s running back situation is in shambles, but this is a team with more talent than it has shown for the majority of the season. Wentz has quietly played very well since returning from his ACL tear, and the coaching staff is creative enough to make things work. I think the Eagles will eventually surpass the Redskins in the NFC East. As we saw last year, anything can happen once the playoffs start. The Eagles are a legit sleeper at this point, which is weird to say considering they’re defending champions.
Another team I’ll mention is the Carolina Panthers. Cam Newton has been putting together an MVP-caliber season, and we’re seeing in Year 2 why the Panthers were so high on Christian McCaffrey coming out of Stanford. There are more question marks on the defensive side of the football, but if Carolina can find their way into a playoff spot out of the tough NFC South I think they make for a reasonable value bet to win it all at +3300, as well.
People have been quick to write off the Patriots at the first sign of any trouble for the last several years. Considering this team has been in the Super Bowl conversation for the better part of 2 decades, it’s fair to suggest that things have to be coming to a close sooner or later. Brady is now over 40. Most quarterbacks are seasoned television analysts at his age.
However, I think there is merit to the notion that the Pats could be done as a Super Bowl favorite. You can bet them at +800 to win it all at this very moment, but it’s not a bet I would take. Sure, the AFC isn’t necessarily as deep as the NFC, but I do think the Pats have been benefiting from the weak AFC East for years. When your chief competition is the Bills, Jets and Dolphins, there isn’t a whole lot standing in your way.
The Patriots have battled injuries and inconsistency this season. Both Rob Gronkowski and Sony Michel have been inconsistently available, which has hampered the offense around Brady. It’s fair to wonder whether such things have caused Brady’s dip in performance, or if he’s just finally starting to show his age. Brady is on pace to throw double digit interceptions for the first time since 2013 this year. He has also thrown just 17 touchdowns through the first 10 games, and at this point cracking 4,000 yards is far from a certainty.
I think we are finally starting to see some chinks in the armor here for New England. Can they still rise up and steamroll their way through the playoffs? Of course. I just don’t think it’s all that likely. I think this is a year we finally see another team representing the AFC in the Super Bowl, which is why I much prefer the betting prices on teams like the Chiefs (+225), Steelers (+450), Chargers (+550) and Texans (+1200) to represent in the AFC in the Super Bowl.
I’ll rank my favorite Super Bowl betting sleepers as follows:
- Houston Texans +2500 to win Super Bowl LIII
- Los Angeles Chargers +1400
- Chicago Bears +2200
- Philadelphia Eagles +3300
- Carolina Panthers +3300