Ticket Score – NFL’s Best Teams for Super Bowl Glory
The Philadelphia Eagles rebounded from a subpar 7-9 record in 2016 to capture their first Vince Lombardi Trophy in franchise history with a thrilling victory over the New England Patriots in Super Bowl 52. With the win, the Eagles also became the eighth team to win an NFL title a year after finishing .500 or worse.
A combination of free agency and the league salary cap has enabled teams to rebuild a lackluster roster into a contender in rapid fashion. The St. Louis Rams stumbled to a 4-12 record in 1998 but knocked off the Tennesse Titans the following season in Super Bowl 34 to reach the top of the NFL Mountain. The Baltimore Ravens (8-8) and the New England Patriots (5-11) pulled off similar rags-to-riches stories in the next two title games.
The upcoming 2018 season features several talented squads that will be looking to regroup after disastrous campaigns a year ago. Here are three teams capable of making their own unconventional paths to Super Bowl glory.
Green Bay Packers
It does not seem fair to have a team that has Aaron Rodgers under center on this list, but the Packers did finish last season with an ugly 7-9 record. But, a healthy Rodgers and some new additions make this team a logical candidate to bounce back in a big way this year.
The Packers added a pair of veterans with the signing of tight end Jimmy Graham and former New York Jets defensive tackle Muhammad Wilkerson. The team also reinforced a porous secondary by using its top two draft picks on cornerbacks Jaire Alexander and Josh Jackson. However, in a surprising move, Green Bay released the veteran receiver, Jordy Nelson.
It’s no secret that the Packers will go as far as their future Hall of Fame quarterback takes them. With their best running back, Aaron Jones, opening the season on the suspension list, Rodgers will be slinging the ball to Graham, Davanta Adams, Randall Cobb, and rookie wideouts J’Mon Moore and Marquez Valdes-Scantling. Unfortunately for teams residing in the NFC North Division, Green Bay’s high-flying aerial show is back.
The Texans endured a nightmarish 4-12 season a year ago, but the future is bright for the franchise after rookie signal-caller Deshaun Watson quickly established himself as a franchise player. The former Clemson standout season ended prematurely with an ACL injury in practice after a Week 8 loss, and Houston won only one time over their final nine games.
With Watson back at the helm of the offense this season, the Texans should be a high scoring bunch with a gifted receiving corp that includes Pro Bowler DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller, Braxton Miller and KekeCoutee. However, an offensive line that ranks at the bottom of the league remains a huge question mark.
The return of three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt bodes well for a defensive unit that features an array of talent. The only player in NFL history to register a pair of 20-plus sack seasons, Watt joins an elite defensive unit that boasts play-makers Jadeveon Clowney, Whitney Mercilus and Tyrann Mathieu.
The Texans should challenge for a playoff spot this season if their key players can remain healthy. The offensive passing game will be fun to watch and the defense has a chance to be special. The running game will not be much of a factor with a terrible offensive line, but this team is built to throw the ball.
Los Angeles Raiders
The Raiders are a much better team than their 6-10 record last season indicates. New Head Coach Jon Gruden should improve an offense that underachieved in several areas a year ago, but the absence of 2016 NFL defensive player of the year Khalil Mack is worrisome. Still, this is a team that could make a postseason run if the chips fall right.
Derek Carr is a franchise quarterback when healthy, and has a trio of talented receivers in Amari Cooper, Jordy Nelson, and former Pittsburgh Steeler Martavis Bryant. The ageless wonder Marshawn Lynch continues to be a beast in short yardage situations, but the productivity of free agent acquisition Doug Martin will be crucial to the success of the Raiders this season.
New Defensive Coordinator Paul Guenther is a major upgrade over Ken Norton, but without Mack, this group will struggle to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Gruden has assembled a veteran squad that will surprise more than a few teams if they can stay healthy. Look for the Raiders to make the playoffs where anything can happen.
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