The Denver Broncos defeated the Carolina Panthers 24-10 to win Super Bowl 50. Now is the time to look forward to the 2016 NFL season and Super Bowl LI at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas on February 5, 2017. There are five teams right now that are the favorites to reach and even win Super Bowl LI.
Five Teams That Will Compete for Super Bowl LI
The Seahawks have been in contention for the Super Bowl ever since they drafted their quarterback, Russell Wilson in the third round of the 2012 NFL Draft. They were three points away from an NFC Championship game appearance in 2013, followed by two straight Super Bowl appearances. The team won their first appearance in Super Bowl XLVIII in 2014. They would lose to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLIX in 2015, when a Russell Wilson pass to the end zone was intercepted at the one-yard line in the final seconds.
Last season, the Seahawks almost overcame a 31-point deficit, but ultimately lost by three points to the Panthers in the NFC Divisional Round. Some would say the Seahawks are on the decline because running back Marshawn Lynch officially retired.
The Steelers were one of the top offensive teams in the NFL in 2015, and that was while injuries plagued the team. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger missed seven games due to a knee injury. Landry Jones replaced him and did a fair job. The team also lost their two star running backs for the season, Le’Veon Bell and DeAngelo Williams, due to injury. Despite all of this, the Steelers were just a few turnovers and missed penalties from traveling to New England to take on the Patriots in the AFC Championship game. Speaking of the Patriots.
New England Patriots
The Patriots have been in the playoffs in every season that Tom Brady was the starting quarterback since he was drafted in 2000 (the team finished 11-5 in 2008 with Matt Cassel, but missed the playoffs because the Miami Dolphins won the AFC East.)
2015 was no different at all. The Pats were just one two-point conversion from tying the Broncos in the AFC Championship game. Like the Steelers, the Patriots were bitten by the injury bug. Running back Dion Lewis was lost for the season to a torn ACL. Their other running back, LeGarrette Blount was knocked out for the season due to a hip injury. Wide receiver Julian Edelman missed seven games with a broken foot. With all of these players eventually coming back healthy, the Patriots will no doubt be in contention for their fifth Super Bowl title.
The Panthers finished 15-1 in 2015 and lost Super Bowl 50 to the Broncos. Quarterback Cam Newton was unstoppable all throughout the season except for their one loss to the Atlanta Falcons.
The Panthers went accomplished all of this without their biggest wide receiver in Kelvin Benjamin. He tore his ACL during training camp, ending his season before it could even begin. With him coming back, alongside second-year wide receiver Devin Funchess, veteran wideout Ted Ginn, Jr. and a dominant linebacking core, the Panthers will look to head back to the Super Bowl.
Green Bay Packers
The Packers got off to a 6-0 start last season. They finished 4-6 in their final ten games of the regular season (they would have been 3-7 without the successful Hail Mary in Detroit). They ultimately fell to the Arizona Cardinals in the NFC Divisional Round in a classic game.
The Packers offense still did pretty well last season, despite falling off the rocker during the second half of the season. They completed another ten win season without Aaron Rodgers‘ biggest target in wide receiver Jordy Nelson, who suffered a torn ACL in a preseason game against the Steelers last August. With him coming back, the Packers offense will be that much better. They’ll also have a better chance to compete for Super Bowl LI.