The 2016 NFL regular season officially kicks off on September 8th at the Sports Authority Field at Mile High where the current Super Bowl 50 champions Denver Broncos host the Carolina Panthers. Everyone is rooting for their favorite teams, and it is hard to predict who will win this season. The Broncos are the defending champions, but with the way the NFL is organized, into the AFC (American Football Conference) and the NFC (National Football Conference), it is hard to discount the Carolina Panthers either – they were actually the pre-game favorite by 5.5 points.
The Old and the New
However, this season, the Broncos will be without their quarterback Peyton Manning, who has announced his retirement from the game. Manning, a five-time MVP, played a key role in all their victories last season. Trevor Siemian is now the Broncos’ starting quarterback, but there is also the more experienced Mark Sanchez and rookie Paxton Lynch on their roster. In spite of Danny Trevathan and Malik Jackson leaving the Broncos, their defense remains rock solid. The Carolina Panthers will be counting on their quarterback Cam Newton, the NFL’s Most Valuable Player for 2015. Defensive End Kony Ealy will be stepping up for them in place of the now-retired Jared Allen.
If pre-season games are any indicator, the team to beat is Seattle Seahawks – Kam Chancellor, Russell Wilson, Earl Thomas, Bobby Wagner, Richard Sherman, Jimmy Graham and Michael Bennett are in the prime of their careers, and running back Thomas Rawls would only surprise if he didn’t rush for 1,000 yards this season. Another team that could pip them to the NFC championship and ensure a spot in Super Bowl is the Green Bay Packers. The Packers, the most victorious team in the history of the NFL, have proven themselves to be the best at defense and passing in pre-season this year, and only marginally behind the Seahawks in offensive rushing. Aaron Rodgers continues to remain their star quarterback for this season. Football is a team sport, and if there is anything that history has shown, it is that the most cohesive team always wins. You could have several star players, but if they don’t come together, there is little chance of victory. Looking at NFL teams from this angle, the Arizona Cardinals have the most complete team in the league, and they could very well win the Super Bowl. Coach Bruce Arians has only words of praise for running back David Johnson, the best pass-catching back in whole of the NFL.
The Odds of Victory
The Green Bay Packers are the pre-season favorites, but sharing top spot with them is the New England Patriots. However, the Patriots will be without three-time Super Bowl MVP Tom Brady (under suspension for tampering with the ball) for the first four games of the season. The Seahawks come in third, and the Carolina Panthers behind them. The Broncos don’t round up the top five – they come in only seventh, after the Cardinals who are placed sixth. Sharing joint fourth position with the Panthers is the Pittsburgh Steelers, who undoubtedly have the best offense ever. Tight End Ladarius Green is expected to stand in for Heath Miller, who retired after spending an entire career with the Steelers.
The longest shot
It would be easy to pick the Atlanta Falcons, but offense is only side of the game. Defense is their Achilles’ heel and considering both, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers could go on to win Super Bowl LI in 2017. Their roster is young and full of potential. Quarterback Jameis Winston, NFL Rookie of the Year in 2015, might just prove to the player that wins it for them.
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