With the dust having barely settled on the New England Patriots' improbable comeback victory in Super Bowl LI, there's little surprise that oddsmakers have pegged the newly-crowned champions as the favorites to win Super Bowl LII (52) next year.
With each of them securing their fifth Super Bowl win in the last sixteen years, as long as the Patriots have head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady, they will be the team that others have to beat, if they want to claim a spot on the mountain top.
In a year where he lost his starting quarterback for the first quarter of the season, Belichick still managed to lead the Patriots to an NFL-best 14-2 record; they only lost one game when Brady returned from his suspension. And once he did get back, Brady threw 28 touchdown passes in only 12 games this year, averaging almost 300 yards passing per game (ranking fourth in the NFL in that statistic). In Super Bowl LI, Brady finished the game completing 43 of 62 passing attempts for 466 yards, which were all new Super Bowl records.
With over $67 million in salary cap space heading into the 2017 offseason, which is the fifth most cap room in the NFL, the Patriots will be able to retain several of their key players that are free agents this offseason, including linebacker Dont'a HIghtower, tight end Martellus Bennett, and cornerback Logan Ryan.
Point being: the champs aren't going down without a fight next year. But, who are some of the teams who can take the fight to them?
That list has to start with the Dallas Cowboys, who finished with the second best record in the NFL last season (13-3), and currently hold the second-highest odds to win Super Bowl LII. While the Atlanta Falcons proved to be a more-than-worthy representative of the NFC in Super Bowl LI, many people felt that Dallas was still the best team in the conference. With another year of experience for their two young phenoms in quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott, it's very likely they'll have much drop-off from their performance this season. They bring back a majority of their core players on offense and defense, and, will likely spend the offseason making additions to a defense that proved to be a liability in their playoff loss against Green Bay.
If you're looking for a dark horse team that could emerge, how about the New York Giants? At 29-to-1, they could prove to be a great team to wager on next year. They not only have a quarterback in Eli Manning who has two Super Bowl rings of his own, but also a wide receiver in Odell Beckham Jr. who became the most spectacular offensive players in the league last year, when he has the ball in his hands. After the major investments they made during the past offseason, their defense finished among the top 10 in the league in yards allowed and rushing yards allowed per game. This offseason, they'll likely add even more playmakers to their offense, making them even more formidable next year.
And finally, you can't forget about the team that once held a 28-3 lead against the Patriots, with less than one-and-a-half quarters left in Super Bowl LI. The Falcons were easily the toughest adversary that the Patriots faced during the 2016-2017 season, and with quarterback Matt Ryan -- the reigning league MVP -- leading their team, they're a great bet at 15-to-1 odds to avenge their Super Bowl loss.