It’s almost Fall; which means football is about to return.
The offseason was active; which means some teams improved but others got a whole lot worse.
And these seven teams are poised for a Super Bowl appearance. Did yours make the list?
7) Green Bay Packers
Two words – Aaron Rodgers.
Rodgers might be one of the most gifted pure passers the league has ever seen, and as long as he’s playing, it’s difficult to look at the Packers as anything other than a dominant team.
And The Packers have added tight end Martellus Bennett, offensive guard Jahri Evans, and cornerback Davon House through free agency, and they selected cornerback Kevin King and safety Josh Jones with their two second-round picks.
They came up short last season in the NFC Championship to the Atlanta Falcons, but they’ll be ready to go now and looked to be in prime position to get back once again.
6) Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers have arguably the best running back and wide receiver in the league with Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell. But the problem is that the wildly underpaid Bell is holding out right now for a better contract.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger seriously considered retirement after last season but is back for now. He is injury-prone, but he seems to shake it off better than anybody else in the league.
Their secondary, however, has serious issues at pass coverage that they didn’t address in the offseason.
The Steelers ran into some unfortunate luck last year when Le’Veon Bell was injured in the AFC Championship, but barring any catastrophic season-ending injury to their key players, they should be able to challenge anybody for a Super Bowl spot.
5) Dallas Cowboys
2016 4th round pick Dak Prescott had the best season by a rookie quarterback ever. Taking over always-injured Tony Romo, Prescott shocked the league with his impressive poise in the pocket.
But Prescott was assisted by the league’s best offensive-line. And when you add rookie sensation Ezekiel Elliot to that combination, every opposing team has big problems.
The only problem with that is Elliot was just suspended by the NFL for 6 games from a domestic violence incident.
That’s a huge blow to the team, but all indicators suggest his punishment was the right decision by the NFL.
But he will be back week 7 and that’s when they’ll be especially dangerous.
4) New York Giants
The Dallas Cowboys may have won the NFC West last year, but the New York Giants beat them in 2016. Twice.
The Giants have high expectations this year with one of the best defenses in the league, a veteran quarterback, and one of the top receivers in Odell Beckham Jr.
In the offseason, they wisely signed veteran Brandon Marshall who will probably take over Sterling Shephard’s spot as the number-two receiver.
But the two biggest questions remain: Can the offensive-line protect Eli Manning and can the veteran quarterback stay consistent?
3) Oakland Raiders
The Raiders were considered the favorites to upset the Patriots in the playoffs, but quarterback Derek Carr broke his fibula in week 16 and the whole team fell apart. But the MVP candidate is healthy now and he’s protected by the 2nd best offensive-line in football that gave up a grand total of 18 sacks last season.
Then they added Oakland native Marshawn Lynch “Beast Mode” to an already good running game with Jalen Richard and Deandre Washington.
Many skeptics believe the 31-year-old is getting too old and won’t be effective as his Seattle days, but what they fail to recognize is that Lynch has never had an offensive-line this good in his entire career.
Not to mention, the Raiders pretty much have two number-one receivers in Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper, and they added former Packers tight-end Jared Cook.
Oh, and they have the reigning Defensive Player of the Year in Khalil Mack.
But their defensive secondary was abysmal last season and we won’t know if they’ve really upgraded with 1st round pick Gareon Conley.
2) Atlanta Falcons
How do you blow a 28-3 lead in the Super Bowl? All indicators in the first half suggested that the Falcons were going to embarrass the New England Patriots in front of 100 million people.
But things took a surprising turn when they started playing it too safe instead of going for the jugular.
But they have the reigning MVP winner with Matt Ryan who had an incredible year and they have the best running back duos in the league with Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman.
And who could forget Julio Jones – probably the most un-guardable receiver in the NFL?
You can bet the Falcons are going to be on a mission to return next year and hope for a rematch.
1) New England Patriots
Of course they’re in this spot.
Usually Super Bowl winners lose a lot of pieces because they are worth more on the market post-win, but the New England Patriots arguably got better.
While they did lose Martellus Bennett, the Patriots added a lethal deep-threat receiver in Brandon Cooks to go along with Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola.
And what’s even scarier is that star tight-end Rob Gronkowski was injured for the whole playoffs.
The greatest quarterback ever is also returning, but he’s about to reach the age of no return because father time always wins.
But then there’s Bill Belichick who is a wizard in every aspect of the game – from culture to play calling.
Also, the last team to win back-to-back championships was the Patriots in 03-04.