Who will be the next NFL champion?
The task facing New England is daunting no matter how talented the Patriots are.
No team has repeated as Super Bowl champion in 12 years. Not the Broncos, Colts, Giants, Packers, Ravens, Saints, Steelers and Seahawks. All were talented. All had the chance. All failed. So did the Patriots – twice, in fact.
That bull’s eye always looms large on the back of the defending champion. So if not the Patriots in 2017, then who? That’s the subject of our weekly Talk of Fame Network poll – who wins the Super Bowl next February in Minneapolis? Do you like the Patriots to beat the odds? How about the Packers? Or the Steelers? Raiders? Falcons? Cowboys? Who?
Here are your options:
Atlanta Falcons. The defending NFC champion. But it’s been 23 years since a Super Bowl loser has returned to the championship game. There’s no better passing combination than QB Matt Ryan and WR Julio Jones. Ryan was the NFL MVP in 2016.
Dallas Cowboys. The defending NFC East champion. The Cowboys still have star power with QB Dak Prescott, HB Ezekiel Elliott, WR Dez Bryant and TE Jason Witten. But when Dallas opens the season, 10 starters will be missing from its playoff lineup of last January.
Green Bay Packers. The defending NFC North champion. With Aaron Rodgers, the Packers are fine on offense. It’s the NFL’s 22nd ranked defense that needs help. So the Packers spent their first four draft picks on defense, including two second-rounders to address the 31st ranked pass defense.
New England Patriots. The defending Super Bowl champion. The Patriots have Tom Brady. The other 31 teams don’t. The Patriots have Bill Belichick. The other 31 teams don’t. The Patriots also have five Lombardi Trophies from that marriage of coach and quarterback.
New York Giants. The Giants finished 11-5 a year ago for an NFC wild card. The more offensive weapons you have in today’s NFL, the better your chances. Eli Manning already has Odell Beckham Jr. and Sterling Shepard as targets. Now the Giants have added WR Brandon Marshall and TE Evan Engram to his mix.
Oakland Raiders. The Raiders finished 12-4 a year ago for an AFC wild card. The two key elements for any Super Bowl contender are quarterback and pass rush. The Raiders have both with Derek Carr taking the snaps and Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin pressuring the quarterback off the edge.
Pittsburgh Steelers. The defending AFC North champion. The Steelers can throw it with Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown and run it with Le’Veon Bell. The addition of OLB T.J. Watt through the draft and CB Joe Haden in free agency will add addition steel to the curtain.
Seattle Seahawks. The defending NFC West champion. The Seahawks have the best returning defense of any of these eight teams, allowing the fifth fewest yards and third fewest points. And that defense has a bit more teeth this season with the addition of DT Sheldon Richardson from the Jets.