Anticipation seems to increase every year for the NFL to start, and this season holds true to form.  Coming off a summer that saw Commissioner Goodell and the Patriots go after each other over deflated footballs and an ongoing race to the L.A. market, the Roman numerals are off for Super Bowl 50.  Since we’re going back to actual football, it’s time to take a look at which teams have the best chance to hoist the Lombardi Trophy in 2016.

New England Patriots-No matter the cast that Coach Belichick throws out there with QB Tom Brady, the Patriots keep winning championships.  Some counted them out just last season because of a slow start.  Proven cheaters in the past, these guys just do whatever it takes to win trophies. Who Brady throws too is always a question, so keep an eye on rookie WR Chris Harper. Undrafted out of Cal, he has taken advantage of injuries at his position and shown that he can catch the ball.

Seattle Seahawks– Seattle still has the major pieces intact from their Super Bowl season two years ago, plus the addition of TE/WR Jimmy Graham.  Graham on the Seahawks must make the rest of the league weary.  Seattle thrives on play-action passing and I see them lining the big fella up at WR and sending him down the field after a fake run to All-Pro RB Marshawn Lynch.  Throw in their home field advantage and playmaker Richard Sherman on defense, and watch out.

Green Bay Packers– QB Aaron Rogers is the best in the game right now, but they just lost their number one WR Jordy Nelson to injury.  Randall Cobb is still there to catch the ball, and RB’s Eddie Lacy and James Starks combine to help move the chains.  Keeping the pass rush off of Rogers is paramount. Watch for the health of LT David Bakhtiari.  A vital piece, he missed the last pre-season game with injury.

Indianapolis Colts– Knocking on the door last year, the Colts are primed for a big season.  Struggling to find a running game for years, they acquired Frank Gore to tote the rock.  QB Andrew Luck has the ability to put the whole team on his back and win games.  But can he carry the Offensive Line when they really need a yard?  The Colts have cycled through 54 Lineman since 2012 and it’s still a huge question mark.

Pittsburg Steelers– Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is still there and looking good.  He has Antonio Brown in his prime at WR and a young, good RB in Le’Veon Bell.  The defense is going through transition with legend coordinator Dick Lebeau retiring.  New DC Keith Butler will play more cover 2 and even some 4-3. That puts the pressure on LB Arthur Moats and rookie Bud Dupree to produce QB sacks.

N.Y. Giants– Keep the game close, and Eli Manning has a shot. A healthy Rashad Jennings at RB would help tremendously.

New Orleans Saints– QB Drew Brees is still spectacular.  Can he help new addition C.J. Spiller in reaching his potential at RB?

Baltimore Ravens– Steady play from QB Joe Flacco and tenacious defense led by Elvis Dumervil and Terrell Suggs is their formula.

Have QB, will have chance-Denver Broncos, San Diego Chargers, Detroit Lions, Dallas Cowboys

There but not quite– Cincinnati Bengals, Carolina Panthers, Arizona Cardinals, Kansas City Chiefs.

Super Bowl Prediction: Seattle Seahawks over the Pittsburg Steelers 29-16

The story of this year on the field will be the Seahawks.  They are lean and hungry and out for redemption after losing last year’s Super Bowl.  But hey, anything could happen, and that’s why we watch.  So get your popcorn ready, and enjoy the show.

Luke Straub

Spark Sports NFL Analyst