The New England Patriots rule the NFL. They’re the alpha team in the most alpha sport of them all. Not only did the Patriots win their fifth Super Bowl of the millennium last year, they did it despite Tom Brady’s four-game Deflategate suspension. Shortly after beating the Atlanta Falcons (+3) 34-28 at Super Bowl LI in one of the most improbable comebacks in sports history, defensive co-ordinator Matt Patricia stepped off the team plane wearing a T-shirt showing league commissioner Roger Goodell with a clown nose and makeup.

The Pats remain the favorite to win Super Bowl LII. The futures odds at press time have New England favored at +375, followed by the Green Bay Packers at +900 and the Dallas Cowboys at +1000. The Patriots have proved they’re willing to go that extra mile to win it all. Do any of the other contenders have what it takes to compete?

 

Protect Your Quarterback

The Patriots (14-2 SU, 13-3 ATS last year) aren’t waiting to find out. After crushing the NFL odds last year, they spent the offseason making upgrades around Brady, trading for WR Brandin Cooks and TE Dwayne Allen. New England also added to their defense with DL Kony Ealy and CB Stephon Gilmore. Brady will turn 40 before the season starts, so there’s a chance he could suffer a sudden drop-off in productivity – think Peyton Manning’s last season in Denver. Otherwise, the Pats are set up better than anyone for Super Bowl success.

Green Bay (10-6 SU, 9-6-1 ATS last year) made their share of comebacks last season, too. They’ve got a beloved quarterback of their own in Aaron Rodgers, who led the team to victory at Super Bowl XLV, but their mediocre offensive line got even worse with the departures of Pro Bowl guard TJ Lang (now with Detroit) and center JC Tretter (now with Cleveland). The Packers didn’t address this weakness at the Draft, either. Rodgers has taken a lot of sacks in his career; his health should be a concern to anyone betting on Green Bay this season.

The Cowboys (13-3 SU, 10-6 ATS last year) could be the NFC’s top threat to usurp New England’s throne. They still haven’t won a playoff game since Super Bowl XXX in 1995, but Dallas made huge strides last year behind a pair of rookies: QB Dak Prescott and RB Ezekiel Elliott. Unfortunately for those blue-chippers, the Cowboys have also lost a pair of stalwarts from their O-line (LG Ronald Leary and RT Doug Free), and again, Dallas didn’t add any reinforcements in the draft. In a league that grows more violent every season, these teams are taking big risks with their most important players.

 

*Odds as of June 1, 2017