The NFL playoffs are still a month away, but the Super Bowl contenders are coming into focus now. Four teams have already secured playoff berths while a second quartet would need to collapse to fall out of the postseason.
Taking a formula from the last three seasons we can narrow the Lombardi Trophy possibilities to three likely candidates. For 29 other teams: watch the bowl games closely, the draft begins April 25.
The common thread among the last three Super Bowl champions has been great quarterback play. Eli Manning, Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees not only won titles but earned Super Bowl MVP honors in the process. During their super seasons, Manning, Rodgers, and Brees ranked among the top seven in the league in QB Rating and TD's thrown.
This year three signal callers fit that mold.
Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, and Rodgers are securely among the top seven in the NFL in both QB Rating and TD passes. So thanks but no thanks to the 11-1 Falcons and Texans. Your quarterbacks are on the brink of the list, but without big numbers during the final four weeks, it will be somebody else who hoists the Lombardi trophy.
Among our three likely contenders, Green Bay is the most vulnerable. Each of the last three champs have ranked among the top 10 in the NFL in total yards. The Packers average 351 yards a game, 16th best in the league.
Another key category is turnover margin. The last three Super Bowl winners have all forced significantly more turnovers than they have given away. This is bad news for the Broncos. Denver's minus-three turnover margin must be turned around
And that makes the Patriots our favorite.
New England leads the NFL in total yards and turnover margin. Brady has won three championships and two Super Bowl MVP's. Yes, the Pats are only 26th in total defense. Last year the Giants ranked 27th, and Eli still got to visit Disneyland.