With the conference championship games set and four teams left in the playoff field, it is time to rank the Super Bowl contenders.
1. New England Patriots: The defending Super Bowl champions are the strongest team in football. Led by future Hall of Famer Tom Brady, who is well on his way to a third MVP award, the Patriots are looking to become the first team to win back-to-back championships since doing it in 2004-2005. Rob Gronkowski headlines a strong assortment of weapons for Brady. Wide receiver Brandin Cooks, who amassed 1,062 yards in his first year in New England, has not missed a beat since taking the lead receiver role in Julian Edelman’s absence. With a variety of weapons at the running back position, this is one of Bill Belichick’s most balanced attacks in recent years. The question mark was the team’s suspect defense, but since its Week 9 bye, Matt Patricia’s unit has allowed just 14.5 ppg in nine contests. The Patriots are primed to win a sixth Super Bowl title even with reported dissension between its leading men.
2. Minnesota Vikings: Following a walk-off touchdown against the New Orleans Saints in the NFC divisional round, Minnesota seems to have exorcised its postseason demons. Next up? A trip to Philadelphia to face backup quarterback Nick Foles. Led by a tenacious front seven, and First-team All-Pro cornerback Xavier Rhodes, the Vikings defense will give the Eagles headaches. Meanwhile, Case Keenum will continue his dream season with the help of Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs, two stud receivers who have combined for over 2,000 yards on the year. With a rushing attack that has averaged 118 yards in the last three games, the Vikings are the most balanced team in football and are well on the way to becoming the first team to ever host the Super Bowl.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Calais Campbell, Jalen Ramsey, A.J. Bouye, Leonard Fournette, and company shut up an arrogant Pittsburgh Steelers squad on Sunday. Now the club must prove its mettle by facing the defending Super Bowl champions in Foxboro. ‘Sacksonville’ has the right formula to beat the Patriots with a strong blitz package and two Pro Bowl cornerbacks, but the club has no one to stop ‘Gronk’. Quarterback Blake Bortles is simply not good enough to orchestrate a come-from-behind victory and the Jaguars Cinderella story will end this weekend. However, with a young core, Doug Marrone’s team will be a squad to fear for years to come.
4. Philadelphia Eagles: No one gave the Eagles a chance against the Atlanta Falcons on Saturday, and look what happened. Like the Vikings and Jaguars, the Eagles have one of the best defensive units in football. Even without Pro Bowl quarterback Carson Wentz, the Philly offense is no slouch with the two-headed monster at running back. LeGarrette Blount and Jay Ajayi will get plenty of touches, but Foles does not have the arm to beat the Vikings. The Eagles will have to wait at least another year to claim the team’s first Super Bowl.
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