9.8.16

Back To The Gridiron: The top NFL teams this season

The moment you have been waiting for all year is finally here: it’s football season! Diehard fans and fantasy fanatics, as you await kick off, take a look at our break down of the top 5 teams favored to contend for a Super Bowl this season (in no particular order).

Carolina Panthers

Carolina Panthers

The Panthers made it look easy last season. They lost only one game during the regular season, and Cam Newton became the coveted star quarterback Panther fans hoped he would. Many people also seem to forget they were missing their No. 1 receiver in Kelvin Benjamin the entire season due to an injury. The 6-foot-5 Benjamin broke out during his rookie campaign in 2014, with 73 catches for over 1000 yards and nine touchdowns. With a healthy Benjamin joining a 15-1 team from last season that didn’t lose many players to free agency, the odds for another strong season in Carolina are high.

Seattle Seahawks

Seattle Seahawks

Year in and year out, the Seahawks boast one of the toughest defenses in the NFL. Add that to one of the best dual threat quarterbacks in the league in Russell Wilson, an aggressive but successful coach in Pete Carroll, and one of the toughest home venues to play at in the league, and you have a recipe for success. If the young running backs can step up to fill the void of the loss of Marshawn Lynch, and Wilson continues to improve his young receiving core, expect the Seahawks to once again be playing ball late in the postseason.

Arizona Cardinals

Arizona Cardinals

Despite continuing to get older offensively, with Carson Palmer turning 37 in December and Larry Fitzgerald recently turning 33, the Cardinals continue to be a powerhouse in the NFC. Boasting one of the quickest and hardest hitting defenses, led by safety Tyrann Mathieu, and an offense that likes to score via the big play, the Cardinals were an easy pick. As long as Palmer can stay healthy and gets the ball to his strong receiving core—including Fitzgerald, John Brown, Michael Floyd—as well as his young and talented running back, David Johnson, you can pencil in the Cardinals as a contender once again.

New England Patriots

New England Patriots

Yes, Tom Brady is suspended for the first four games of the season. But life will go on in New England as long as Bill Belichick is at the helm, and that’s for sure. The Patriots defensive and offensive lines once again are rock solid, and Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman continue to put up big numbers year after year as pesky slot receivers for Brady to throw to. Along with this, If Rob Gronkowski can avoid injury for another season, he is just another huge asset for Brady on offense. Look at it how you want, but the Patriots haven’t won less than 12 regular-season games in seven years, so don’t expect that to change this year with the AFC wide-open.

Green Bay Packers

Green Bay Packers

One of the best pitch-and-catch combinations in football, Jordy Nelson and Aaron Rodgers, will be reunited in 2016 after Nelson tore his ACL in 2015. The injury allowed defenses to focus on the rest of the Packers’ targets and slow Rodgers and the passing attack down. With a healthy Nelson back as a No. 1 receiver, and a slimmed down Eddie Lacy in the backfield, Rodgers should have no shortage of weapons. In addition to the offense, the defense also looks poised to have a strong season as Clay Matthews moves back to his natural outside linebacker position with more opportunities to rush the quarterback. To add on to the other positives, a young defensive secondary returning with more experience should only help put the Packers in position for a playoff run once again.

As the 2016 season gets underway, there is no way to truly know what will happen. Maybe a sleeper team steps up and makes a playoff run, or maybe the teams you expect to be there in the end will be there after all. No matter who you are cheering for this season, make sure to rep them the right way all season long with our biggest and best selection of fan gear at eastbay.com.

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