Through 11 weeks of the season, the Broncos and the Seahawks look like the NFL's two best teams and are prohibitive favorites for the Super Bowl. Near-locks, even. Right?
Ha. No. Not even close. The Broncos and Seahawks have almost zero chance of winning the Super Bowl this year. And you would know that if you knew anything about NFL history.
Each of the past eight Super Bowl champions have been awful for stretches of the second half of the regular season. Each of them have had THEY'RE DONE AND EVERYONE SHOULD BE FIRED columns penned about them.
Last year's Ravens? They lost four of five in December and fired their offensive coordinator. The 2011 New York Giants lost five of six in November and December. The 2010 Super Bowl champion Packers lost three of four in November and December. The 2009 Saints lost their last three games. The 2008 Steelers lost two of three in late October and early November. The 2007 Giants -- the team that created the 18-1 New England Patriots -- finished the regular season 4-4. The 2006 Colts lost four of six in November and December. And the 2005 Steelers lost three in a row from late November into December.
History proves that if you want to be great in January and February, you'd better not be in November and December. The formula is: start well, then stink, then ... profit!
With that in mind -- and with the 9-1 Broncos and 10-1 Seahawks essentially eliminated -- who are the best Super Bowl bets?
San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers have lost two in a row and, at 6-4, are on the verge of falling out of the final wild-card spot in the NFC. The offense continues to struggle to put up points and Colin Kaepernick doubters are flourishing (giving Kaepernick many tweets to favorite). The 49ers' stock is way down. That's why it could never be higher.
Green Bay Packers
The Packers are 5-5 after losing three in a row and Aaron Rodgers to injury. It's easy to make the argument that Mike McCarthy has just been riding Rodgers' coattails since arriving in Green Bay. All hope appears to be lost. It might be time to plan the parade route.
Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs lost their first game of the season and all of their critics are yelling about their easy schedule and how they've been feasting on backup quarterbacks. Plus, what has Andy Reid ever won? Next week the Chiefs face Philip Rivers and the week after that the Broncos and Peyton Manning again. Not exactly Jeff Tuel and Jason Campbell. If Kansas City can lose those two games to make it three in a row, they're as strong a Super Bowl lock as you'll ever see.
That's it. Those are the three and only three Super Bowl favorites. Sure, fans of the Cowboys, Jets and Lions might say: "What about us? We're in playoff contention and people are writing us off! We're losing! Don't we have the Super Bowl formula?" No. You don't. Sorry. If we're using recent history as a guide to pick the Super Bowl favorites, we can't ignore history as a guide to pick the Super Bowl favorites: the Cowboys, Jets and Lions aren't getting anywhere near a Super Bowl.
But nothing is set in stone. Sports are unpredictable. That's part of what makes them so great. Maybe the Broncos and Seahawks still have a shot at hoisting the Lombardi Trophy in February. But they need to start losing. And fast.
Quote of the Week
"It was disappointing because we had to go to our silent count at home." -- Wade Smith, Houston Texans guard, on Texans fans booing quarterback Matt Schaub
Whoa. Whoa. Let's not just assume Texans fans were booing Matt Schaub. I mean, there's a time and place for booing. But what kind of supposed fans would make it harder for their own supposed favorite team to succeed? Then they're just part of the problem. Maybe Texans fans weren't booing Schaub. Maybe they were just booing themselves for being awful at being fans.
Stat of the Week
Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton had a 3.7 QBR in Cincinnati's win over the Browns, the lowest QBR by a winning quarterback in the last three seasons. That's a major problem. If Dalton wants to win a Super Bowl, he needs to put up lousy statistics AND lose games. What does he not understand about the Super Bowl formula laid out above? This guy might truly be hopeless.
This Week's Horrible Fantasy Team That Crushed Your Team
Matt McGloin, QB, Raiders -- 18-for-32, 197 yards, 3 TDs
Bobby Rainey, RB, Buccaneers -- 30 carries, 163 yards, 2 TDs
Donald Brown, RB, Colts -- 94 total yards, 2 TDs
Michael Floyd, WR, Cardinals -- 6 catches, 193 yards, TD
Jarius Wright, WR, Vikings -- 3 catches, 69 yards, 2 TDs
Garrett Graham, TE, Texans -- 7 catches, 136 yards, TD
Photos of the Week
News Conference Questions Someone Should Have Asked
Doug Marrone: "What are you doing here? Shouldn't you be at home petting your dog? She's had a rough few weeks."
Mike Shanahan: "As a coach who has won two Super Bowls, what's it like to have your game plan questioned publicly by a 23-year-old, second-year, injury-prone quarterback who is the 18th-rated passer -- 24th using QBR -- in the league?"
Andy Reid: "Why did you guys put the Broncos twice on your easy schedule?"
Reader Twitter Question of the Week
— The Best Smart (@The_Best_Smart) November 17, 2013
Well, he's probably disappointed. But he's disappointed by everything. A beautiful sunset, for example. Where are you going, sun? You're a quitter.
Let me say, though, that the reports of Steelers fans leaving Heinz Field at halftime, even though Pittsburgh was only down a score, are being greatly misinterpreted. Have we learned nothing from watching national broadcasts of Steelers games? Steelers fans travel well. We hear it all the time. Often they travel to road games. Other times some of them travel to the parking lot to beat traffic when their team is losing by a touchdown at halftime and they think the season is over and they can't bear to subject themselves to a team that hasn't been to a Super Bowl in three years or won one in five. We're talking semantics here.
Forced Sports/Pop-Culture Reference in Hopes of Sounding Cool
"Eastbound and Down" ended Sunday. (This is especially relevant to a sports column because the show's protagonist, Kenny Powers, is a former baseball player.) Something else that may have ended Sunday? The Baltimore Ravens' season. They're brash like Powers, but in the end, the 2013 team has a weak chin ... much like Powers' close friend, Stevie. Amazingly, the Ravens team owner is named Steve Bisciotti -- Steve, Stevie -- so this pop-culture reference is hardly forced.
Weak Sports Take of the Week
Washington left tackle Trent Williams said after Sunday's game that umpire Roy Ellison cussed him out, calling him a "garbage-ass, disrespectful m-----f-----." If true -- and several teammates backed Williams' claim -- that is unprofessional behavior by Ellison. However, it's unlikely he just called Williams that out of the blue. Something had to have prompted it. Both men likely share some of the blame, but none of us were there, so there's really no point in speculating. Oh, well.
Five Things I Thought to Think While Thinking Thoughts
1. Remember a few weeks ago when the New York Post ran that "A STAR IS BORN" headline about Geno Smith? (The same headline it once ran for Mark Sanchez?) Smith now has a lower quarterback rating and a lower QBR than the career marks for Tim Tebow and Sanchez (including a lower quarterback rating than Sanchez's disastrous 2012 season), and he has more turnovers this season in 10 games than Tebow had in his entire 35-game NFL career. Go Jets! What headline will we see if the Jets ever get a true star quarterback and not just a guy who has one good game? Probably something like: GRUESOME NEWSROOM SCENE AS HEADS EXPLODE.
2. A man fell out of the upper deck at Sunday's Bills game and landed on a fan. Fortunately, there were no serious injuries. However, the incident raises two major concerns: (1) are the railings at Ralph Wilson Stadium not high enough? and (2) why was former Bills great O.J. Simpson allowed to attend a game?
3. Matt McGloin and Case Keenum faced off in Houston on Sunday. The last time their teams went head-to-head? Jan. 2, 2012, in Dallas in the Ticket City Bowl, when Keenum's Houston Cougars beat Penn State 30-14. But this time McGloin's team won, keeping the 4-6 Raiders in playoff contention. Some people say the current NFL is competitive. Some say there is "parity." Neither of those descriptions work for me. I say the best description is this: In today's NFL, every game feels like the Ticket City Bowl.
4. Andre Johnson was asked after the Texans' latest loss whether he wants to stay with Houston: "I'm under contract, so I have to play my contract out. I can't do anything about that." He seems excited to be a Houston Texan!
In August 2010, when Johnson signed a contract extension that keeps him with the Texans through the 2016 season, he had this to say: "I always said I wanted to play for one team and to be able to play for the Houston Texans for the rest of my career, it's a tremendous honor." A tremendous, contractually obligated honor he can't do anything about.
5. Cardinals running back Andre Ellington had a chunk of his hair torn out Sunday on a tackle by Jaguars defensive end Jason Babin. To me that sounds like Babin was targeting Ellington's head, which is a no-no in today's NFL. Unless Ellington has dreadlocks growing from other parts of his body, in which case that is an even bigger problem.
How They Spent Their Bye Week
Rams: Getting harassed by children.
Cowboys: Rooting against America's teams.