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Wednesday, February 28, 2024

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Why Bills aren’t No. 1

Which out of the 12 teams to never make a Super Bowl could win Super Bowl 59 next season?

Now that Super Bowl 58 is over and another NFL season is in the books, it is never too early to start thinking about next season, starting with who could be in the next year’s big game in New Orleans, LA.

Yeah, the easy answers are this year’s winners, the Kansas City Chiefs, who could do the unthinkable and make it a three-peat, which would be an NFL record. Also, their opponent in the San Francisco 49ers is another good option for the NFC side. But what about those teams that have never won a Super Bowl in their franchise history? Do any of them have a realistic shot of winning it all next season?

There are currently 12 teams that have never won on Super Bowl Sunday. Moreover, within those 12 are four teams who have never even made the game at all, which are the Cleveland Browns, Houston Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars, and Detroit Lions. The Los Angeles Chargers and Arizona Cardinals have all made one appearance, with the Atlanta Falcons (2), Carolina Panthers (2), Cincinnati Bengals (2), Buffalo Bills (4), and Minnesota Vikings (4) with multiple.

Four of those teams made the 2023 NFL playoffs. Do one of those teams have the best shot of winning Super Bowl 59? We’re going to rank below every team that has yet to claim a Super Bowl title in their franchise history and their chances of winning their first NFL championship next season.

1. Detroit Lions

Lions head coach Dan Campbell

It’s unlikely that the Lions have ever been high on many lists of teams to make the Super Bowl. But after an impressive third season under head coach Dan Campbell, who led the Lions to only their second NFC Championship appearance in 2023, this puts them at the top.

But really what sets them apart from the other teams is what they’re bringing back next season. They are virtually losing no one, especially on offense, and that even includes their offensive coordinator Ben Johnson. Johnson was once again highly coveted for many of the head coaching vacancies this season but eventually took his name out of the running and came back to Detroit next season.

Now with a year of playoff experience under their belt, they now know they have what it takes to win big games in the postseason. That makes the Lions dangerous in 2024.

2. Buffalo Bills

The Bills’ Super Bowl history has been well-documented, with the team going to four consecutive games and coming out without a victory in any of them, with most in heartbreaking fashion. The Bills and their talented quarterback Josh Allen have once again felt as if they have been good enough to get Buffalo back to the Super Bowl over the last several years, yet they continue to fall short, mostly thanks to Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs, who seem to have Buffalo’s number at this point.

This Bills team has been too good over the last several seasons not to be playing for an NFL Championship. Their window is starting to slowly close, though. It’s only because of Allen they are near the top to win their first Super Bowl title.

3. Los Angeles Chargers

Chargers head coach Jim Harbaugh

The Chargers are likely moving up a lot of people’s Super Bowl lists for next season after they hired former University of Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh. The Chargers have had just about everything imaginable in place to win a Super Bowl title prior to Harbaugh. They’ve had the franchise quarterback in Justin Herbert, the most important piece to any roster puzzle when wanting to compete for championships. Now, they should have the head coach, who just came off a national championship at Michigan and has taken his former NFL team, the 49ers, to the Super Bowl nearly a decade ago.

But again, they have to reside in a division with the Chiefs and Patrick Mahomes, now the repeat Super Bowl winners. The only reason the Chargers aren’t at the tippy-top of this list is that it will just be Year 1 under Harbaugh.

4. Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals almost removed themselves from this list two seasons ago but fell to the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl 56. Who knows what could have been of the 2023 season had Joe Burrow not been taken out with a season-ending wrist injury.

The Bengals will potentially be losing some big pieces from their team next season, with DT DJ Reader, WR Tee Higgins, and CB Chidobe Awuzie all set to hit the free agent market, among others. The Bengals also have to worry about the rest of the AFC Central, which is one of the tougher divisions in the NFL, with all teams last season finishing the year with a winning record.

Keeping Burrow healthy is the first priority for this Bengals team. Then it’s about possibly replacing one of his favorite weapons in Higgins. Regardless, the Bengals should still find themselves as one of the favorites to win the Super Bowl.

5. Houston Texans

Not sure how many bettors had the Texans on their bets to win the AFC South Division while under a rookie quarterback and rookie head coach in 2023, but that’s exactly what happened. With CJ Stroud under center in just his first season, he quickly denounced any of those pundits who argued against him merely for his status as an Ohio State quarterback and the stigma that comes with it.

Stroud and head coach DeMeco Ryans had to also enjoy in their first year together – and in new positions – getting NFL playoff experience, going all the way to the Divisional Round. Both guys also have to be grateful that offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik is coming back next season to give continuity and help groom Stroud.

6. Jacksonville Jaguars

The 2023 Jaguars fell way short of expectations, where many thought they would outright win the AFC South division. But past the midway point of the season, the Jaguars were severely beaten up, losing several starters by the week it seemed. Starting quarterback Trevor Lawrence was one of those players. A healthy Lawrence should have the Jaguars right back in the thick of things next season.

They still have Super Bowl-winning head coach Doug Pederson, but they’ll have to make some notable decisions on a number of pivotal players set to free agency, like EDGE Josh Allen, WR Calvin Ridley, and Darious Williams.

The competition will get a bit stiffer now with the Houston Texans, last year’s division winner, and even the Indianapolis Colts, who just missed the postseason. However, it’s still very much a winnable division with the Jaguars’ talent.

7. Cleveland Browns

The Super Bowl era has not been too kind to the Browns, where they’ve only reached the AFC Championship three times, all in the late 1980s. This has been a saddening franchise to watch over the decades, often finding themselves as the laughingstock of the league. They still have yet to find a franchise quarterback, which undoubtedly has a curse to finding their success.

Joe Flacco, who the Browns found in replacement of DeShaun Watson this season after going down with a shoulder injury, brought injury and rejuvenation back to the Browns and the city of Cleveland, leading the Browns back to the playoffs for the first time since 2020. But Flacco won’t be back next season, and who knows if he could last a whole season if he did return.

One of the best things about the team in 2023 was their impressive defense that ranked No. 1 in total defense in the NFL. They also had Coach of the Year Kevin Stefanski, hopefully meaning for Browns fans that at least maybe the head coach is right. Still, this is the Browns and to expect them in the Super Bowl would just feel weird. They still have a lot left to prove.

8. Atlanta Falcons

It will be a whole new regime for the Falcons next season as they replaced Arthur Smith with Raheem Morris as head coach next season. That makes it hard to say what to truly expect from Atlanta next year, but there is definitely talent on this team.

Atlanta made drastic improvements to their defense and continued to upgrade their roster offensively through the draft last year. The problem is they don’t have a reliable starting quarterback. If they can go get a guy like Kirk Cousins or even one of the talented quarterbacks in the draft, who knows where this team could go.

The Falcons also had a chance like no other to remove themselves from the list going back to Super Bowl 51. All that needs to be said on that one is give a score: 28-3. The Falcons have since only made the playoffs one since (2017) after that fateful Super Bowl loss, the year after the big game.

9. Minnesota Vikings

After Kirk Cousins went down, so did the Vikings’ chances of having a playoff-caliber team last season. Sure, Joshua Dobbs came in for a few games and added some spark, but that quickly faded after a couple of games. Entering 2024, the Vikings could now be upwards of without 20 players from the 2023 roster, including Cousins. Another major loss could be edge rusher Danielle Hunter.

Losing a veteran starting quarterback and talented young edge rusher would be significant losses. At least they’ll welcome back wide receiver Jordan Addison back and Justin Jefferson, who they will attempt to most likely sign a long-term deal with. But again, who will throw to either talented receiver? Vikings are not a bad team by any means but with no certainty as of now at the quarterback position, not to mention maybe losing their most important player on defense, plus being in the same division with the Packers and Lions, it doesn’t look great for Minnesota to be having Super Bowl aspirations.

10. Arizona Cardinals

Two 4-13 seasons have kept the Cardinals out of the playoffs, although a lot of that has been without quarterback Kyler Murray due to injury. Murray returned midway through the 2023 season and had his moments as he learned under new head coach Jonathan Gannon, but the Cardinals needed more than just a new head coach and their starting quarterback.

Don’t expect too much again from the Cardinals, minus maybe a few more games toward improvement. This offseason will be paramount finding Murray some help through the free agency or the draft, whether that’s on the offensive line or wide receiver. Luckily, Arizona is top-10 in cap space with over $44 million, per Spotrac. With that said, it’s probably a couple of seasons before the Cardinals can be thinking about the Super Bowl.

11. Tennessee Titans

It will be a new era in Titans football next season, bringing in new head coach Brian Callahan. But he’s just a piece of what looks to be quite a rebuild in Tennessee. Two offensive pieces in quarterback Ryan Tannehill and running back Derrick Henry are most likely gone, becoming free agents. That leaves the quarterback duties to second-year Will Levis.

The Titans, however, still have a ton of other questions to answer, like who is Levis going to be throwing to? And who is going to be a suitable replacement for Henry? This could be a massive offseason for the Titans, though, having the second-most cap space in the league with almost $74 million. That’s about as much promise the Titans have next season, with little to no Super Bowl expectations given.

12. Carolina Panthers

At no surprise coming in last is the Panthers, who haven’t made the playoffs in six years and only won two games last year, being the worst team in the NFL. Ownership is a disaster under David Tepper, who has proven to be extremely impulsive and unrealistic when it comes to his head coach hirings, having four new coaches in the last five seasons.

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