The NFL season gets underway next week and defending Super Bowl champions New England Patriots will feature in the curtain raiser against Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday evening. The hosts will be without star quarterback Tom Brady and running back LeGarrette Blount while the visitors will line up without the influential Le’Veon Bell.
Both sides will be confident of reaching the latter stages of the playoffs this year but so will a number of other teams throughout the AFC Conference. Here are five potential contenders for the Super Bowl from the AFC this season:
In what could be Peyton Manning’s last NFL season, Denver will be full of confidence and could challenge New England’superiority in 2015. Although Manning struggled throughout the majority of last season, he may be able to raise his game for one last shot at a second Super Bowl title.
Running back C.J. Anderson will continue where he left off on the ground and will try to lead his team in the rushing game, while Demaryius Thomas remains a potent threat in the air. They are currently 12/1 to win the Super Bowl.
New England Patriots
Even without Tom Brady, the Patriots are a strong side and will be difficult to beat – in fact, they are priced at 7/10 to win the AFC East. While they have lost numerous key players on defence, Bill Belichick is a wily old fox and knows how to get the job done on both sides of the ball, even with limited resources.
Without a doubt, Rob Gronkowski is the best tight-end in the NFL. “Gronk” is capable of producing world class catches and holds a number of season-long records for his position. Meanwhile, Blount and Edelman also provide further threats in attack.
Baltimore are a funny one. Despite their regular season flaws, they consistently reach the playoffs and that is when Joe Flacco becomes an unplayable quarterback. On their day, the Ravens are capable of beating anybody and their tough division will only prepare them well for a Super Bowl push.
With star running back Justin Forsett as their main threat, Baltimore are a rush-heavy team. Their strong offensive line allows space for the likes of Forsett out of the backfield and they are expected to maintain that approach this season. As always, they will be there or thereabouts and are 3/4 to reach the playoffs.
Pittsburgh are Baltimore’s divisional rivals and could spring a surprise this season. Many have dismissed their chances after losing key parts of their defensive unit but Ben Roethlisberger has the NFL’s best offense and could finish as the quarterback with the most passing yards this season. At the time of writing, he’s valued at 6/1 to achieve this.
The evergreen Heath Miller will form part of Pittsburgh’s lethal attack but their two main components are Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown. While the former is suspended for the opening two matches of the campaign, the former finished as the leading wide receiver last season and will look to play a key role in their success this term.
Last year’s AFC Conference finalists will be hungry to go one step further and reach the Super Bowl for the first time since losing to New Orleans back in 2010. Andrew Luck is one of the best quarterbacks in the game and he will be hoping for another incredible performance in 2015.
With veterans Frank Gore and Andre Johnson now at Lucas Oil Stadium, the Colts stand a great chance of going all the way this season. With an improved defensive unit and a bit of luck, Indianapolis could be the team to watch in 2015. They are currently 9/1 to win the Super Bowl this season.