With just a few days until the 2017 National Football League campaign gets underway, two very important words are already being whispered in certain areas of America: Super Bowl.
In 2016, the New England Patriots produced one of the great Super Bowl comebacks to pip the Atlanta Falcons in the NFL showpiece and Bill Belichick’s men (15/4) are likely to go close again this time around.
However, the Patriots won’t have everything their own way this season and there are plenty of viable contenders in the running for Super Bowl success in Minnesota. Here are just a few franchises that stand out ahead of the upcoming campaign...
Brady And Belichick Still Have Time
As per usual, New England will head into the new campaign as clear favourites to win yet another Super Bowl title. With future first ballot Hall of Famer Tom Brady under center and arguably the greatest head coach in NFL history Bill Belichick guiding him, it is almost unfair and Patriots supporters will expect success in 2017.
At 15/4, they are certainly short enough but a lack of competition in the AFC East could play into New England’s hands. The Patriots are a sure-fire thing to win their division and home advantage throughout the playoffs may see Belichick’s side reach the Super Bowl. The AFC is New England’s playground; they are a class above their rivals.
Tampa Bay Are Looking Dangerous
The Buccaneers are my first dark horse to watch ahead of the new season. Jameis Winston has another year of NFL experience under his belt and Tampa Bay can press on after going 9-7 last year. That was Tampa’s first positive campaign since 2010 and they could nick the NFC South title if they continue to gel and improve further.
With Dirk Koetter as head coach, Tampa have an aggressive, offensive-minded manager and his relationship with Winston is key. Defensively, the Buccaneers have always been blessed with talented play-makers and it wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see this Tampa side go deep into the postseason.
Seattle’s Legion Of Boom To Bounce Back
Everybody has discussed Seattle’s disappointing 2016 campaign but perhaps most are doing Pete Carroll’s side a disservice. First of all, the Seahawks lost just five matches last season – they lost six in 2015. Meanwhile, the emergence of Jimmy Graham as a major threat in the passing game helped Russell Wilson out and that relationship should flourish again.
Defensively, Seattle strengthened in the offseason and the “Legion of Boom” is now scarily good once again. On paper, the Seahawks have the best defensive unit in the NFC by some distance and Carroll will be confident of reaching the playoffs. With an improved offensive effort, 10/1 Seattle could get back to the National Football League summit.
No Running Game, No Problem For Rodgers
You are trailing by six points with 90 seconds remaining and no timeouts, who do you want as your quarterback? Aaron Rodgers of course. He has bailed the Green Bay Packers out on multiple occasions in recent years and his rapport with his talented receiving corps can give Mike McCarthy’s men the edge once again in 2017.
However, the lack of a solid, north-south running game could hinder Green Bay’s chances against the National Football League’s elite defensive units. Ty Montgomery has made the transition from wide receiver to running back but they still lack an Eddie Lacy-like presence out of the backfield. But if anyone can cope, it is A-Rod...
Tennessee: A Force To Be Reckoned With In The South
The AFC South was getting stronger a few years ago but the division looks relatively weak this year and it could be Tennessee’s turn to emerge victorious. With Andrew Luck’s injuries playing havoc with the Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars’ offensive woes and Houston Texans still lacking a quarterback, the Titans are the most complete team in the AFC South.
With Marcus Mariota playing some career-high football in 2016 and a new-look receiving corps around him, Tennessee are built to compete in the postseason. Defensively, they can be found wanting but consistency on both sides of the ball is expected this year and 28/1 for a surprise Super Bowl triumph is decent value considering their talent.