20 Teams That Legitimately Have A Shot At SB51 Next Year

Leading into 2015 the common consensus in NFL circles had the Patriots and Seahawks as red hot favorites to go back-to-back as Super Bowl combatants. Fast forward to February and all of a sudden Tom Brady and Russell Wilson will be watching the game on their couch contemplating what is to come. This is the beauty of football – regardless of past history and talent comes the pressure of expectation. Nothing is guaranteed in this game.

A lot can change between seasons within the National Football League. Drafting rookies, trade deals and coaching shake ups alter the landscape drastically. It can turn an unfancied team into a playoff contender, a good team into a great team, or vice versa. One look at the Philadelphia Eagles under Chip Kelly

and it’s clear to see how a handful of bad decisions can be the difference between post season football and being shown the back door.

Unlike other campaigns where an elite collection of franchises had a monopoly over the league’s fortunes, the generational tide is turning. No longer is the class of Brady, Peyton and Eli Manning the dominant force they once were. Time waits for no man as the contenders for 2017 and beyond are looking generally more towards quarterbacks who are younger and offer something a little bit different than what we’ve seen before. No country for old men and all that …

Of course the big hitters of the 2016 playoffs will stay in the fold, change doesn’t occur overnight. But some are poised to pounce next season having laid the groundwork and biding their time in the shadows. Season 2016 leading into Super Bowl 51 is looking to be the most competitive in years and it that spirit, here are the 20 teams who could face off in 12 months from now.

20 20. Oakland Raiders

Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

19 19. Buffalo Bills

Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

18 18. Dallas Cowboys

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

17 17. Detroit Lions

Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

16 16. Houston Texans

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

15 15. New York Giants

Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

14 14. Minnesota Vikings

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

13 13. New York Jets

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

12 12. New Orleans Saints

Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

11 11. Washington Redskins

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

10 10. Green Bay Packers

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

9 9. Pittsburgh Steelers

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

8 8. Cincinnati Bengals

Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

7 7. Indianapolis Colts

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

6 6. Denver Broncos

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

5 5. Arizona Cardinals

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

4 4. Kansas City Chiefs

Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports

3 3. Seattle Seahawks

Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

2 2. New England Patriots

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

1 1. Carolina Panthers

Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

With the Patriots seemingly pulled back to the pack a little bit, the Carolina Panthers seem best placed not only to fight for next seasons Super Bowl, but become a regular fixture at the pointy end. Only a freak loss to the Atlanta Falcons of all teams ended their perfect record, quite something when you consider how dominant they have been in all facets of their football. Only a handful of teams had a better defense but nobody had an offense like them. Cam Newton is the MVP in waiting and right now he is the greatest commodity in football. This is a team on the rise and of all the NFL teams who could make SB51, the Panthers are easily the favorites.

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20 Teams That Legitimately Have A Shot At SB51 Next Year