With the Super Bowl less than two months away, it’s time to take a look at the possible match-ups and perennial favorites to take home the trophy as the NFL celebrates its 50th installment.
According to Bleacher Report, Vegas is going chalk, picking the once unbeaten New England Patriots and the still unbeaten Carolina Panthers as the top two teams to represent the AFC and NFC come February in the Super Bowl.
The Panthers stayed perfect Sunday, fending off the pesky New York Giants to remain unbeaten, improving their record to 14-0. Cam Newton and company jumped out to a seemingly insurmountable lead of 35-14 and at one point were poised to take a 38-21 lead at the onset of the third quarter as the field goal unit attempted a makeable kick. But Giants cornerback Dominic Rodgers-Cromartie penetrated the Carolina line to make the block, giving the Giants new hope.
Eli Manning, who finished with four touchdowns and only one interception, brought the Giants all the way back to tie Carolina 35-35 with less than two minutes to go in the fourth. The Panthers and Cam Newton however, stayed unbeaten by driving the length of the football field for a last second field goal attempt. This time, Graham Gano’s 43-yard kick went untouched, and the Panthers upped their record to 14-0. With winnable games remaining against the Atlanta Falcons and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Carolina could become only the second team to finish 16-0 heading into the NFL playoffs.
The last team to accomplish that impressive feat? The 2007 New England Patriots, who went 16-0 before eventually losing to Eli Manning and the Giants in the 2008 Super Bowl. New England, the defending champs from a year ago, easily took care of business against the hapless Tennessee Titans Sunday to improve their record to 12-2. Tom Brady finished 23-35 with two touchdown passes while the New England defense wreaked havoc on backup quarterback Zach Mettenberger all day.
A team Las Vegas gives as good a chance to win the 2016 Super Bowl as any, the Pittsburgh Steelers, may not even crack the NFL Playoffs. At 8-5, and hosting the dangerous Denver Broncos on Sunday, the Steelers are contending not only with division leading Cincinnati, but also the red-hot New York Jets and Kansas City Chiefs for the final two playoff spots in the AFC. The Jets improved to 9-5 with a gritty victory over the Dallas Cowboys, 19-16 late Saturday Night while the Kansas City beat up on the injury plagued Baltimore Ravens 34-14. Both the Jets and the Chiefs are riding win streaks of four and eight respectively.
Should they get in, the Steelers are dangerous enough to do damage in the NFL playoffs. According to The Morning Call, Pittsburgh has all the ingredients, statistically speaking, to make it all the way to the Super Bowl despite no guarantees they’ll make it.
“With a fifth-ranked scoring offense and 11th-rated scoring defense, the Steelers are in line with 34 Super Bowl champions whose scoring rankings were within six slots of one another. That group includes three of the four Steelers and Patriots teams coached to titles by Chuck Noll and Bill Belichick, respectively, and each of Bill Walsh’s three San Francisco squads.”
Further, the Steeler’s deadly combination of offense and defensive playmakers is why Vegas Insider has them at 14-1 odds to win the Super Bowl.
“It’s not about getting hot at the right time or defense winning championships. It’s mostly about the offense and defense not being at opposite ends of the NFL universe.”
Only the Panthers, Patriots, Arizona Cardinals and last year’s runner-up Seattle Seahawks have greater odds than Pittsburgh to win the 2016 Super Bowl.
[Photo by Michael Reaves / Getty Images]