The National Football League opens their first full week of preseason action this Thursday and about twenty of the 32 teams in the league think they have a legitimate chance at winning Super Bowl LIV next February.
Only a few do, and only one will.
One of the teams that has a real good shot at winning it all this year lost a shot at last year’s Super Bowl by virtue of a coin toss, and another missed the Super Bowl last season greatly influenced by a botched officials call that had the league adjust their replay rules. The two teams we refer to are the Kansas City Chiefs and New Orleans Saints.
The Chiefs scored 24 fourth quarter points to take a lead in the 2018 AFC Championship Game at Arrowhead Stadium. That would have been enough to win, except an inexcusable offside penalty wiped out the game clinching interception and gave Tom Brady a second chance to drive New England to a tying touchdown in the final minute of regulation.
Giving Brady a second chance is certain doom, just ask the Atlanta Falcons who allowed him an opportunity to overcome a 28-3 second half deficit in Super Bowl LI. By the time the Patriots scored their late tying touchdown, the defenses on both sides were already spent. Bill Belichick’s squad had allowed Patrick Mahomes and his Chiefs three touchdowns and a field in the fourth quarter, and if the Chiefs had won the coin toss to open the overtime period, they probably would have run that total to 30 points.
Instead, Brady got to open the 61st minute of action with the ball.
Game over. Patriots win the coin toss and advance to their third straight Super Bowl and second win in three seasons. This year, New England will look to become only the second team to advance to four straight Super Bowls … a feat much more impressive than the first team to accomplish that given the Buffalo Bills advanced four straight times and lost all four quests for the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
In his first season as the Chiefs starting quarterback, Patrick Mahomes revived memories of the accomplishments of Dan Marino in his early career. As they say, worth the price of admission just to watch both of them work. In 1984, Marino was the first NFL quarterback to throw for 5,000 yards in a season, and last year, Mahomes tossed for 5,097, which now ranks eighth on the all-time list.
This year, the Chiefs have a quarterback and coach, Andy Reid, working together for a third straight season … which historically is when they best excel. Dee Ford, who was a member of the Chiefs dominant defense, but also had the horrible off-side that was ultimately responsible for the Chiefs missing the Super Bowl last year, was jettisoned out of town. The Chiefs also made a bold move to demonstrate character matters in their organization when they released star runningback Kareem Hunt midseason last year when videos of him violating a woman surfaced.
Reid ranks seventh all-time in terms of victories for a head coach, but the four men above him that have coached during the Super Bowl era all have multiple Vince Lombardi Trophies to their credit. Bill Belichick leads with six, followed by Chuck Noll’s four and a pair each by Don Shula and Tom Landry. This season, as we open the preseason, I think Reid is in line to win his first.
While many things can happen over the next five weeks, before the league opens regular season play on September 5th, if the Chiefs avoid crippling summer injuries they are good to go. Their opponent next February may well be the team that was robbed last year from advancing to the Super Bowl because an official seemingly had something more important to do than call the game at a critical time.
An obvious pass interference on third down in the red zone went uncalled and the Saints had to settle for a field goal with enough time left on the clock to allow the Los Angeles Rams to come back with a tying kick at the gun. A few minutes later, the Rams made another kick to send them to Super Bowl LIII and the NFL competition committee to the drawing board.
What they came up with was adding pass interference to reviewable status … just a little late to serve the Saints last season.
So, before the preseason unfolds and we see what teams are jelling and what teams suffer critical losses through August injuries, we think the two teams that meet in Super Bowl LIV are the two teams that almost met in Roman Numeral LIII. The Chiefs and Saints.