When you think about it, there’s a great deal of parity in the NFL. Sure, there are a couple teams that tend to be powerhouses year in and year out, and there are a few franchises that rebound from down years more quickly than others. It’s hard to imagine anything quite so crazy as the Las Vegas Knights reaching the Stanley Cup finals happening in the NFL. But in terms of teams that make the playoffs or contend for the Super Bowl, there’s a fair amount of turnover from year to year.
That actually makes it pretty interesting to look back, now and then, on recent champions, to see how well they’re positioned just a year or a few years after winning football’s biggest prize. So for this offseason post, we’re looking at the 2018 outlook for our five most recent champions (though really, thanks to the Pats, it’s only four teams).
Philadelphia Eagles (Super Bowl 52 Winner)
The Eagles are still coming off their Super Bowl 52 high, and right now it feels like they were clearly the best team in 2017 and the most recent playoffs. A recent article took a look back at Super Bowl winners from recent years, however, and reminded us that the Eagles had the longest odds to win (2/1) of any of the past four champions. They were probably the best team throughout 2017, but a combination of an injured starting QB and a matchup with the mighty Patriots still made them an unlikely champion.
Now the Eagles look the part of a legitimate powerhouse. With Carson Wentz back at QB, Mike Wallace added as a new deep threat, and a host of new rookies bolstering the depth, Philadelphia will be among the favorites in 2018.
New England Patriots (Super Bowls 51 & 49 Winner)
We don’t need to say too much about the Pats, really. Though there is something strange going on with Rob Gronkowski (he’s out playing field hockey while his long-term future in New England appears to be in doubt), and Tom Brady briefly seemed to be weighing his options, the core of this team should be back. Georgia running back Sony Michel has been drafted and will be the team’s most talented back from day one, and there’s some excitement about new wide receiver Braxton Berrios as well.
Basically, the Pats have retooled (though they did lose Brandin Cooks) and should be in contention again.
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Denver Broncos (Super Bowl 50 Winner)
The Broncos have fallen off fairly dramatically since winning Super Bowl 50 over the Panthers just a few years ago. But this speaks to the parity and turnover referenced previously. Denver rarely finishes below .500 these days, but after doing so in 2017, expect at least a slight bounce-back this year.
Case Keenum will provide some experience and stability at the QB position after turning in a fairly incredible year in Minnesota in 2017. And there are also some who believe Royce Freeman, a rookie running back out of Oregon, could seize the starting job and provide a spark for the Denver backfield. We know the defense will be tough, if not quite what it was a couple of seasons ago, so altogether this team should be on its way back up.
Seattle Seahawks (Super Bowl 48 Winner)
The “Legion of Boom” era in Seattle has ended, though people have also taken this ending a bit too dramatically. Earl Thomas still anchors the Seattle defense and is still one of the toughest players in the game, and the Seahawks continue to add to their defensive depth in the draft.
It’s an uphill climb at this point for Seattle, particularly with the LA Rams looking like a new powerhouse in the division. But as long as Russell Wilson is healthy they have a fighting chance in just about every game. And as with Denver, there’s some thinking that the backfield may finally have some stability. The Seahawks used what felt like 20 different underwhelming players as running backs in 2017, but first-round pick Rashaad Penny out of San Diego State has a cache to grab the job.