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Double Elimination
by Dennis Ranahan

Teams are starting to arrive for summer training camp and most of them think this is their year, while only a few really have a chance.

I know who is going to win Super Bowl LIII, and it’s not left to chance.

Going in, only one team combines talent, season-to-season flow and coach/quarterback combination that spells a winner.

Only one team is the right team to bet on this year, and it is not the favorite.

This month we have intensified our study of the 32 teams with hope of winning it all. If the team we have selected loses their quarterback things could change, but this team isn’t going to lose their quarterback and I’m as sure of that as I am of them winning the Super Bowl.

A couple teams that many favor aren’t even going to make the playoffs.

The only years the New England Patriots have missed the playoffs during Tom Brady’s Hall of Fame career since he took over for an injured Drew Bledsoe was 2002 and 2008. In 2002, the Patriots were coming off their magical run of 2001 which resulted in their franchise first ever Super Bowl win, a victory gained against the two-touchdown favorite St. Louis Rams.

Bouncing off an incredible year in which you bolt from a losing record the season before to a Super Bowl win almost always leads to a down campaign. It has happened only four times. In addition to the 2001 Patriots, the San Francisco 49ers were the first to do it in 1981, and they missed the playoffs in 1982. In 1999, after a losing campaign the year before, the St. Louis Rams won the Super Bowl and then lost their road Wild Card playoff game the following year.

The Philadelphia Eagles, who won three straight postseason games and the Super Bowl last year while an underdog in each contest, had a losing record in 2016. The Eagles are among the favorites by Vegas odds to win it all again this year, and I’ve got evidence to support they have a less than 38% chance of making the playoffs.

You like the odds on the Eagles?

You like the Eagles chances of winning this season’s Super Bowl?

Based on what? How they played last year?

Bad idea. More money is gained by the books from people wagering on how teams did last year, or last week, instead of how they are going to do this year or today. Factors flow from season-to-season and week-to-week that illuminate teams with legitimate chances and those with slim and none.

The Eagles enter this season with as much of a chance of repeating as Super Bowl champions as those teams with none, squads like the Cleveland Browns and San Francisco 49ers.

But, how about those New England Patriots with Tom Brady and Bill Belichick?

Even in the years the Patriots have missed the playoffs, they had records as good as the teams that won their division that season, the New York Jets in 2002 and Miami Dolphins in 2008. In those two years New England lost on a tiebreaker, and in addition to coming off their miracle run the year before 2002, they played the 2008 season without Brady, who was injured in the season opener against the Kansas City Chiefs.

In other words, the Patriots are looking for a tenth straight division title this year and a third straight Super Bowl appearance.

Not going to happen.

Not because of what they’ve done, but much more importantly what logically follows what they have done.

Returning to the Super Bowl the year after losing it has not been accomplished since the Buffalo Bills did it three straight times after losing their first of four consecutive Super Bowls in 1990. No team has won the Super Bowl the year after losing it since the 1972 Miami Dolphins, who were defeated by the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl VI and completed their perfect season with a win over the Washington Redskins in Roman Numeral Seven.

Even the Patriots have had four chances to return to the Super Bowl after losing it, and have failed in all those attempts.

What we have here is elimination of two of the betting favorites to win next February’s Super Bowl in Atlanta. The Patriots and Eagles are out, which should make your work in identifying this year’s winner a lot easier.

But not quite as easy as reading our column which will deliver this year’s best bet to win Super Bowl LIII on Wednesday, September 5th … the eve of the 2018 NFL regular season.