A case for all 32 teams to play in Super Bowl LII

What's the key to winning the Super Bowl? (2:17)

Dan Graziano, Darren Woodson and Dianna Russini break down the keys to the Steelers, Seahawks and Packers' seasons that could potentially lead these powerhouses to the Super Bowl. (2:17)

This time last year, the Bovada sportsbook listed the Atlanta Falcons and New York Jets with identical odds of winning the Super Bowl. After removing the sportsbook's vig, both the Falcons and Jets were given a 1.2 percent chance of winning Super Bowl LI. By the end of the year, the 5-11 Jets were in disarray and rebuilding, while the 11-5 Falcons came within a poorly timed holding penalty and a circus catch of winning their first Super Bowl.

Nobody without a Dirty Bird tattoo would have predicted that a stagnant, oft-disappointing Falcons team would have challenged for the Super Bowl before the 2016 season, but that's exactly the problem with season previews and predictions. Suggesting what's most likely to happen doesn't offer much help given the utter randomness and variance inherent in a 16-game season. Every team's best-case scenario is worth considering.

So, for the second year in a row, I'm going to offer up a different sort of preview. I'm going to make a case for what would have to happen for each of the 32 NFL teams to make the playoffs and compete for a Super Bowl trophy. As recent championship runs from the Giants and Ravens should remind us, just about anything can happen once a team gets into the postseason.

I've split up the teams into six groups, each of which are roughly representative of or similar to a Super Bowl champion from the past. The odds listed for each team come from the Bovada sportsbook and are adjusted for the sportsbook's cut, so they add up to 100 percent. Let's start with the unlikeliest Super Bowl champions of all time:

Tier 1: The 1999 St. Louis Rams

The Rams were 300-1 underdogs to win the title before their fateful season. Anybody suggesting the Rams were about to produce one of the most dominant seasons in league history would have been written off as nuts. St. Louis had gone 4-12 during Dick Vermeil's season in 1998, including a 1-6 record in games decided by seven points or fewer. They had added weapons during the offseason in Colts running back Marshall Faulk and first-round pick Torry Holt, but quarterback Trent Green tore his ACL during the preseason, turning things over to backup Kurt Warner, who had thrown 11 career passes and been left unprotected (and unselected) during the offseason expansion draft.

The Rams promptly went 13-3 and scored 526 points en route to Super Bowl XXXIV. Warner won league MVP. Faulk had one of the most productive seasons in league history.

Bovada lists three teams in the league with 300-1 odds to win the Super Bowl this season, but there's a handful of teams that would qualify as utterly out-of-nowhere Super Bowl winners and need to look toward the Greatest Show on Turf for hope.

Cleveland Browns

Super Bowl odds: 0.3 percent (tied for 30th)

The Browns will almost certainly be better than they were a year ago, when they went 1-15 in a relatively transparent attempt to bottom out and amass draft picks. They invested in veterans via trade and free agency, which should reduce the number of snaps Hue Jackson has to give replacement-level talent. And they should be luckier.

That should be enough to push the Browns back toward mediocrity, but to be great, they'll need to improve exponentially. They could run out one of the best offensive lines in the league, which would allow them to hold onto leads late and make things easier for rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer, who will need to do his best Dak Prescott impersonation and bloom into a star overnight. If Myles Garrett and coordinator Gregg Williams are able to transform the defense, the Browns could be in business, although a division title would still probably require a serious injury to Ben Roethlisberger.

San Francisco 49ers

Super Bowl odds: 0.3 percent (tied for 30th)

The Niners look buried in the NFC West, but like the Browns, they stand as statistically likely to improve and might have upgraded at several key positions after finally investing in free agents. New coach Kyle Shanahan has done great work with offenses in the past, and while his scheme usually takes a year to fully grasp, both Brian Hoyer and Pierre Garcon have played under Shanahan in the past. The defense could start as many as six first-round picks on rookie deals, so there's plenty of (admittedly as-yet-unrealized) growth potential on that side of the ball. If the Niners can control both lines of scrimmage, there could be something here.

New York Jets

Super Bowl odds: 0.3 percent (tied for 30th)

Even after trading Sheldon Richardson to the Seahawks, the Jets could plausibly be good on defense in 2017. They were the league's top defense by DVOA against the run in 2016 and overhauled an aging, porous secondary with three new starters. With some better luck in the red zone, the Jets could produce a top-10 defense.

The offense ... well, it's hard to even dream up a world in which the offense is functional, let alone good. Josh McCown is 38 and fragile, but he put up MVP-caliber numbers for the Bears over half of a season in 2013. He'd have to do something like that over 16 games to push the Jets into the postseason. If McCown managed to pull it off once, though ...

Los Angeles Rams

Super Bowl odds: 0.5 percent (tied for 27th)

Wade Phillips doesn't do bad defenses, and if Aaron Donald comes back from his holdout, the legendary coordinator will have plenty of raw talent to work with in his first season in Los Angeles. A defense with Donald, Robert Quinn, Connor Barwin, Alec Ogletree and Trumaine Johnson should be good, right?

New head coach Sean McVay has his work cut out on offense given how bad Jared Goff was last season, but there's a reason Goff was regarded as a top-two pick heading into the 2016 draft. McVay did wonders with Kirk Cousins in Washington, and Goff has new Pro Bowl-caliber talent to work with at left tackle (Andrew Whitworth) and wide receiver (Sammy Watkins). The Rams will likely build around an excellent defense and an offense that emphasizes Todd Gurley and safe throws for Goff. It's difficult to imagine them beating out the Seahawks for the division title, but if they can sneak in as a wild-card team and the defense plays up in January, the Rams could genuinely be a tough out.

Chicago Bears

Super Bowl odds: 0.5 percent (tied for 27th)

This is a must-win season for John Fox as the former Broncos coach enters his third season in charge of the Bears, and it's entirely likely that the Bears will improve, given their 1-6 record in games decided by seven points or fewer and league-worst minus-20 turnover differential last season. Both of those marks are likely to regress toward the mean.

Fox and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio were able to coax some improvement out of the defense last season, as the Bears jumped from 31st to 23rd in DVOA despite losing key players such as Pernell McPhee, Eddie Goldman and Danny Trevathan to injuries. The defense should be healthier, and the front seven could sneak up on people as a quietly impactful unit. Chicago's offensive line is solid, which should provide a solid infrastructure regardless of who plays quarterback. The highest-ceiling Bears team obviously involves Mitchell Trubisky, and if the Bears guessed right on the North Carolina quarterback at No. 2 overall in the draft, they could get better faster than anybody expects.

Buffalo Bills

Super Bowl odds: 0.5 percent (tied for 27th)

While they don't want to admit it, the Bills appear to be entering a rebuilding period, if not outright tanking for a quarterback in the 2018 draft. Buffalo has extra picks in each of the first three rounds and could very well be transitioning from Tyrod Taylor, who's in the concussion protocol and could miss Week 1, to rookie fifth-round pick Nathan Peterman at quarterback. As they try to move away from the dismal decisions and brutal contracts of the Doug Whaley era, the Bills don't appear especially interested in competing for a Super Bowl this season.

If Warner can emerge as an MVP candidate overnight, though, anything is possible. The Bills should continue to impress as a running team behind their expensively assembled offensive line and LeSean McCoy, taking pressure off the quarterback, whoever he might be. Coordinator Leslie Frazier has a great defensive line with which to work, and the Bills should get after opposing quarterbacks while giving a secondary with four new starters time to settle in. If Peterman is competent and has to throw the ball fewer than 30 times a game, the Bills could sneak their way into January.

Tier 2: The 2001 Patriots

Bill Belichick's first year as coach in New England was hardly a success. He took over a team that had gone 8-8 during Pete Carroll's final year in charge and led the Pats to a 5-11 record, in part because they went 3-6 in games decided by one score or less. It didn't look much better in 2001, as star receiver Terry Glenn was suspended by the NFL and then by the team in August. Quarterback Drew Bledsoe then suffered a sheared blood vessel in his chest in Week 2 in a loss that dropped the Patriots to 0-2 and turned things over to unheralded 2000 sixth-round pick Tom Brady, who had thrown just three passes as a rookie.

It worked out just fine. The Patriots went 11-3 the rest of the way to win the AFC East, rode their luck and a fill-in performance from Bledsoe to make it through the conference playoffs, and then stunningly upset the Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI. Brady and Belichick have been back a few times since then, too.

The teams in this tier have their own adversity to deal with, too. They're either missing a quarterback or embroiled in turmoil as the season begins. It's difficult to imagine them winning the Super Bowl, but it was difficult to believe that a guy who every team in the league passed on more than once in the 2000 draft might turn into one of the best players in NFL history, too.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Super Bowl odds: 0.8 percent (26th)

The 2000 Patriots had a Pythagorean expectation of 6.1 wins. The 2016 Jaguars had a Pythagorean expectation of 5.9 wins. Basically identical. There's more to it than that, of course, but the Jags could easily sneak into the playoffs with some modest improvements. Given that they had the league's third-youngest roster last season and upgraded with two key defensive contributors in free-agent signings Calais Campbell and A.J. Bouye, it's entirely plausible the team could take a step forward as a whole.

As for that turmoil at quarterback? It looks like Blake Bortles will start, and there's little evidence he's going to be very good. (A preseason game against backups shouldn't convince you Bortles has turned things around.) Chad Henne isn't much better. The Jaguars had a sixth-round compensatory pick in his second season on the roster in Brandon Allen, but they released the former Arkansas signal-caller on Sunday, and the Rams picked him up. Maybe Allen isn't Tom Brady after all. The Jags will need to hope they can run the ball and play great defense to win the AFC South.

Miami Dolphins

Super Bowl odds: 1.1 percent (25th)

The powers of Adam Gase are being tested by a series of injuries, most notably the season-ending torn ACL suffered by Ryan Tannehill in August. Bring on Jay Cutler, who was benched in Chicago two of the past three seasons and couldn't find a starting job before Tannehill went down.

If Gase can coax another above-average season out of Cutler and the interior of the offensive line coalesces around the returning Mike Pouncey at center, the Dolphins could be this year's version of the Falcons on offense. A top-heavy defense built around genuine stars like Cameron Wake and Ndamukong Suh already has struggled with injuries, but if the critical components stay healthy and productive, the Dolphins have the offense and the pass rush to even give the Patriots a scare.


Super Bowl odds: 1.6 percent (tied for 18th)

Washington doesn't have a quarterback problem yet, but its offseason has been dominated by controversy with the organization's inability to lock up Kirk Cousins and the departure of general manager Scot McCloughan. The easiest way to quell controversy in the NFL is to win, and there's enough talent on the roster for Washington to succeed if everything breaks right.

The franchise rebuilt its defensive line this offseason and has already quietly pieced together one of the best offensive lines in football. Washington is deep with weapons at receiver even after losing Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson, especially if it can keep star tight end Jordan Reed on the field. An effective offense was brutally bad in the red zone last season, which is essentially a fluke; with some regression toward the mean, Washington could win a lot of shootouts.

Indianapolis Colts

Super Bowl odds: 1.6 percent (tied for 18th)

As bad as the Cousins turmoil might seem, Colts fans might prefer it to what's currently going on with their starting quarterback. Andrew Luck was supposed to be back from shoulder surgery in July, but everyone involved with the Colts organization seems to be disavowing all knowledge of Luck's return timeline. The good news is that the schedule might be weak enough for the Colts to actually stay competitive with Scott Tolzien at quarterback, given that three of Indy's first five games come against the Rams, Browns and 49ers.

If they can keep things competent long enough for Luck to get back before their first divisional game against the Titans in Week 6, the Colts should still be in line to compete in the AFC South. New general manager Chris Ballard flipped the defense during the offseason, and if it clicks (sans the injured Vontae Davis), the Colts could peak just in time for a postseason run. Remember how Luck pushed a team with no running game and an average defense into the AFC Championship Game in 2014?

Tier 3: The 2007 Giants

The Giants were a mess heading into -- and for most of -- the 2007 season. The 2005 Giants surprised everyone by going 11-5, but they were shut out by the Panthers at home in the wild-card round 23-0. The next year, they started 6-2 before losing six of their final eight games and losing to the Eagles in the postseason. During the subsequent offseason, star running back Tiki Barber retired, while future Hall of Famer Michael Strahan held out until September before returning to the team.

There were some false starts in 2007 -- they started 0-2 and then won six straight before squeaking their way into the playoffs at the end of the season -- but things coalesced in the playoffs, and a team that looked to be perennially frustrating in the playoffs broke through its ceiling and won the Super Bowl.

The veteran teams in this tier have also been frustrating, but the Giants show how it would be foolish to assume they can't change their stripes.

New Orleans Saints

Super Bowl odds: 1.6 percent (tied for 18th)

Drew Brees and an ambulatory defense should give any team a puncher's chance of making it into the postseason, which should tell you a lot about how bad the Saints' defenses have been over the past few seasons. They've ranked 31st, 32nd and 31st in DVOA during three consecutive 7-9 seasons, although last season was the best Saints team of the bunch -- they produced an 8.3-win Pythagorean expectation.

The bar is impossibly low. The Saints have given Brees a total of four defenses in 11 years that have even managed to finish in the top 25 of defensive DVOA. Four! Those four teams won an average of 11.3 games. New Orleans made its latest move to rebuild its defense this offseason by using a first-round pick on Marshon Lattimore, although injuries to Nick Fairley and Delvin Breaux have already cost coordinator Dennis Allen two starters. If the Saints can just sniff mediocrity on defense, they'll have a serious shot at getting into the postseason, where nobody's going to want to play Brees and that offense.

Los Angeles Chargers

Super Bowl odds: 1.6 percent (tied for 18th)

The Chargers can't do this thing without staying healthy, given how they lost nearly every key contributor short of Philip Rivers to injury at one point or another last season. Sadly, they are already down their top two draft picks, with Mike Williams out indefinitely and Forrest Lamp done for the year. Inside linebacker Denzel Perryman will be missing until midseason. This can't keep happening, right?

If the Chargers can stem the injury tide and stay (relatively) healthy, they have stars at just about every key position and a division in the AFC West in which each of the three other teams might reasonably be expected to decline in 2017. They should also be luckier after going just 1-8 in one-score games last season. Could it even be possible that their new stadium in Los Angeles, tiny by NFL standards, actually becomes a unique home-field advantage?

Cincinnati Bengals

Super Bowl odds: 1.6 percent (tied for 18th)

Marvin Lewis' team didn't slip quite as much as it seemed last season -- the 6-9-1 Bengals produced a Pythagorean expectation of 8.3 wins. The Bengals also really had only star pass-catchers A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert together in the lineup for three games, and while Eifert remains a perennial injury risk, Andy Dalton should have his two top targets available far more frequently in 2017. The defense should bounce back after its first below-average season by DVOA since 2011, while Randy Bullock should help in close games, given that their 2016 kicking unit was the second-worst in football, thanks primarily to a disastrous season from Mike Nugent. Cincy was 1-5-1 in games decided by seven points or fewer.

It's reasonable to suggest the Bengals could be better across the board. Will that matter if they make the postseason, given that Lewis is a remarkable 0-7 in playoff games during his time in charge? As tempting as it is to assume that the Bengals are automatically doomed come January, I'd be skeptical. The Bengals are actually on an eight-game playoff losing streak going back to 1990, but the Chiefs also lost eight straight between 1993 and 2013 -- including a heartbreaking loss to the Colts for the eighth in that series -- before blowing out the Texans in 2015. It's unusual to see such a streak under one coach, but there was a time when Peyton Manning couldn't beat the Patriots in the playoffs or Joe Flacco couldn't get past the AFC Championship Game. Things change.

Baltimore Ravens

Super Bowl odds: 1.6 percent (tied for 18th)

The Ravens are already snakebit by missing talent. After losing breakout linebacker Zach Orr to a career-ending spinal condition, lineman John Urschel retired and they lost 11 players to injured reserve. That number doesn't even include tight end Dennis Pitta, who dislocated his hip for the third time, or players who have been missing during camp, such as Joe Flacco and Breshad Perriman.

Baltimore obviously has to keep the players it has left on the field or run the risk of a lost season, which is what sunk the team in 2015. The addition of Brandon Carr and Tony Jefferson in the secondary should solidify the Ravens' defensive backfield, which is pretty critical in a division with the Bengals and Steelers. Their young players -- guys like Perriman, Ronnie Stanley, Michael Pierce and Kamalei Correa -- will need to emerge as impact contributors for the Ravens to challenge for a playoff spot. The 2012 team, which won playoff road games against dominant Broncos and Patriots squads, should be a reminder of how a ticket to the playoffs can be all you need.

Arizona Cardinals

Super Bowl odds: 2.3 percent (tied for 13th)

Last year was supposed to be the all-in season for the Cardinals, who fell off thanks to injuries and a 2-5 record in games decided by seven points or fewer. Cap concerns forced them to let five of their top seven defenders in terms of snaps leave in free agency this offseason.

The cupboard isn't exactly bare, though, and it's not difficult to imagine a scenario where the Cardinals are able to restock and keep up on defense thanks to a healthier Tyrann Mathieu, returning veterans like Karlos Dansby, and impact rookies like Haason Reddick and Budda Baker. If the offensive line is healthier and gives Carson Palmer more time to throw, the passing attack could look more like the juggernaut of 2015 than the inconsistent offense of 2016. No team in the league has a wider range of plausible outcomes this season than the Cardinals, which doesn't bode well for their average performance but fits perfectly in a best-case scenario outlook like this one.

Kansas City Chiefs

Super Bowl odds: 2.7 percent (tied for 11th)

The book on the Chiefs and Andy Reid is that they're consistently great in the regular season and come up just short in the postseason, which is one of those logical fallacies where you have to ignore a good chunk of the evidence. Reid, of course, made it to the Super Bowl in 2004 with the Eagles. They blew out a "hot" Texans team in the playoffs in 2015, beating them so badly that the Texans ran Brian Hoyer out of town to sign Brock Osweiler. They came within a holding penalty of tying their game with the Steelers late in the fourth quarter last season. It's not like the Chiefs are terrible in the postseason.

Reid's clock management is ponderous at best, but you could say the same thing about Gary Kubiak, Tom Coughlin and Mike McCarthy, and they've won Super Bowls over the past decade. The Chiefs are bringing back a dominant defense, and while there are question marks at receiver, maybe rookie first-round pick Patrick Mahomes II steps in and revitalizes the offense in the same way that Colin Kaepernick raised the ceiling for the 49ers when he took over for Alex Smith in 2012. This is mostly the same Chiefs team that handed Bill Belichick one of the worst losses in his time with the Patriots in 2014. If they can keep their pass-rushers healthy enough to excel in January ...

Tier 4: The 2002 Buccaneers

Super Bowl teams don't have to be great at everything. Jon Gruden's Bucs weren't in 2002. They had an otherworldly defense that topped the league by such a margin in terms of DVOA that the second-placed Dolphins were closer to the Saints in 19th than they were to the Buccaneers. The offense wasn't quite as great. Brad Johnson & Co. finished 20th in offensive DVOA and 18th in points scored, but the offense clicked by the time the postseason rolled around. It averaged 26 points per game in the playoffs, while the defense chipped in with four return touchdowns across three postseason games.

The teams in this tier are also imperfect. They've got one unit that has No.-1-in-the-league upside and one that might do well to finish around the league average. As that Bucs team showed us, though, that might be enough to do the job.

Detroit Lions

Super Bowl odds: 1.2 percent (24th)

The Lions have spent $111 million on their offense this year after handing Matthew Stafford a record contract, which is nearly $11 million more than any other team in the league. They have a combined four free-agent starters at wide receiver and on the right side of their offensive line, plus a pair of first-round picks in Eric Ebron and Taylor Decker, who will miss time after having shoulder surgery. A third, Laken Tomlinson, was just shipped off to the 49ers. Outside of running back, the Lions have committed serious money and/or draft assets to just about every position on their offense.

The defense, by contrast, is suffering. Rookie Jarrad Davis is one of just two homegrown first-rounders in the starting lineup, and the other is Ezekiel Ansah, who missed all of training camp with an ankle injury. The Lions have question marks at every level of their defense, which finished last in DVOA in 2016. If the Lions can get their defense to take a modest step toward respectability, their offense could carry them into the postseason.

Denver Broncos

Super Bowl odds: 2.7 percent (tied for 11th)

In 2015, the Broncos led the league in defensive DVOA with a pass defense that was nearly 10 percentage points better than any other team. In 2016, the Broncos led the league in defensive DVOA with a pass defense that was nearly 20 percentage points better than any other team. I don't think it would be safe to project that trend to continue -- the Broncos have already lost DeMarcus Ware to retirement, Wade Phillips to the Rams, Shane Ray to injured reserve, and dumped T.J. Ward last week -- but they could regress and still project to be the league's best defense.

When the offense might plausibly be excited that Brock Osweiler is back in town, on the other hand, you have problems. More meaningful than Osweiler will be the offensive line upgrades the Broncos made over the offseason, using their first-round pick on Garett Bolles and signing Ronald Leary (Cowboys) and Menelik Watson (Raiders). Returning offensive coordinator Mike McCoy has a deeper offensive line than Gary Kubiak enjoyed last season, which should reduce the number of times the Broncos have to roll out a lineman with no hope against Khalil Mack or Joey Bosa. The line improvements should push Denver's 28th-ranked offense toward the middle of the pack.

Houston Texans

Super Bowl odds: 3.1 percent (tied for ninth)

Speaking of Osweiler, the Texans might hope to build a competent offense just by replacing their deposed free-agent bust with some combination of Tom Savage and first-round pick Deshaun Watson. They'll also get center Nick Martin into the lineup after the 2016 second-rounder missed his entire rookie season with an injury, although left tackle Duane Brown continues to hold out for a new deal. Houston's offense ranked 30th in DVOA last season, so they really can't get much worse.

The ninth-ranked defense lost a useful contributor in cornerback A.J. Bouye, but it should be able to replace him with 2015 first-rounder Kevin Johnson. The Texans also get back J.J. Watt after the future Hall of Famer missed virtually all of the 2016 season with a back injury. They might be the favorites to finish with the scoring defense crown in 2017.

Dallas Cowboys

Super Bowl odds: 5.3 percent (seventh)

Even if Ezekiel Elliott does miss a chunk of the season under suspension, the Cowboys should rank among the league's best offenses. Remember, the Dallas O was dominant last season despite having Dez Bryant for less than 65 percent of its offensive snaps. The offensive line is retooling, but the three core pieces -- Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick and Zack Martin -- are still around. And Dak Prescott should only get better in his second season.

It's hard to be as hopeful about the defense -- the Cowboys weren't exactly great last season and will be replacing four regular contributors in the secondary. Sean Lee played 15 games, which is his career high, and Jaylon Smith might not be ready for regular snaps as he makes his way back from a major knee injury. This defense could be downright bad, especially early in the season, but if coordinator Rod Marinelli can cajole a pass rush out of Taco Charlton & Co., there's no ceiling on these Cowboys.

Atlanta Falcons

Super Bowl odds: 6.1 percent (tied for fourth)

The Falcons were nearly the offensive version of those 2002 Buccaneers, as the league's best offense carried a defense that ranked 26th in DVOA for most of the season, only for the defense to coalesce in time for the postseason. It excelled against the Seahawks and Packers and whipped the Patriots for most of the Super Bowl, only to eventually gas out while facing the second-most snaps of any defense in playoff history.

With the return of star cornerback Desmond Trufant and a young core that should continue to improve, Dan Quinn's defense should be better this season. And the offense might be worse, given that the line is unlikely to go 80-for-80 in terms of starts and Kyle Shanahan is now in San Francisco. Even if they're more balanced, however, this should still be a team that lives and dies by what Matt Ryan and the offense are doing.

Tier 5: The 1992 Cowboys

Young teams don't grow and improve at a steady, linear rate. Take the 2016 Raiders, who went from good to really good seemingly overnight. The Jimmy Johnson-era Cowboys were somewhere in between, leaping forward in huge gasps over multiple seasons. They went from 1-15 in 1989 to 7-9 in 1990. They made it back to the playoffs with an 11-5 record in 1991, but by 1992, they were good enough to storm through the postseason and blow out the Bills by 35 points in Super Bowl XXVII.

The organizations in this tier aren't quite at the Cowboys' level, but they're all young, talented teams with deep rosters and signs of recent growth. Their path to a Super Bowl is through a bunch of their emerging talent getting better at once.

Philadelphia Eagles

Super Bowl odds: 1.9 percent (tied for 16th)

The obvious path for the Eagles goes through their quarterback, where the hope is that a second-year leap from Carson Wentz will push them forward in a crowded NFC East. The truth is that they might already be there without Wentz playing at a high level, given that they produced 9.0 Pythagorean wins in 2016 despite an uneven season from their high-profile rookie.

The 7-9 Eagles were just 1-6 in one-score games, so with a bit of luck, they might have made it to the postseason as a wild card last season. Given that underlying level of performance, if Wentz and his new group of receivers take off, the Eagles could be a bona fide Super Bowl contender without requiring much luck at all.

Minnesota Vikings

Super Bowl odds: 1.9 percent (tied for 16th)

A trendy Super Bowl pick last season after breaking through with a division title in 2015, Minnesota's season never really got going. Teddy Bridgewater and Adrian Peterson combined to play 84 offensive snaps, and while Sam Bradford played better than anyone might have expected, the Vikings' offense was dead on arrival thanks to the league's worst O-line. The defense kept the team afloat during the first half of the season, but once Harrison Smith went down with a high ankle sprain and their astronomical turnover rate regressed, the Vikings couldn't keep up.

General manager Rick Spielman has invested in the offensive line this offseason, spending big to add a pair of new tackles in Riley Reiff and Mike Remmers. The interior of the line, anchored by rookie third-rounder Pat Elflein at center, might be a bigger concern now. The defense should be great, and if Bradford can stay healthy and one of the young receivers -- most likely Stefon Diggs -- breaks out, the Vikings have both the stars and the depth to challenge any team in the NFC.

Tennessee Titans

Super Bowl odds: 2.3 percent (tied for 13th)

It's hard to think of a team that had a more impressive and promising season without making the playoffs last season than Tennessee, who established a run-first identity and won a league-high five games over playoff teams, only to narrowly miss out on the postseason thanks to a blowout loss to the Jaguars in Week 16. They aggressively upgraded at their two weakest positions this offseason, adding Corey Davis and Eric Decker at wide receiver to go along with Logan Ryan and Adoree' Jackson at cornerback. The great "if" is wondering whether Marcus Mariota and DeMarco Murray can stay healthy, but if they do ...

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Super Bowl odds: 2.3 percent (tied for 13th)

The other team that might qualify for that category are the Bucs, who emerged from years in the near-breakout wilderness with their first winning season since 2010. It's entirely possible that league-worst kicking from Roberto Aguayo cost them a playoff spot last season, and regression toward the mean should take care of that problem.

To follow things up, like Tennessee, Tampa Bay addressed its weaker spots this offseason by going after secondary weapons for Jameis Winston in DeSean Jackson and first-round pick O.J. Howard. Safety, a perennial problem, might actually be fixed after the Bucs signed T.J. Ward this past weekend. If Tampa can control the line of scrimmage, especially on offense, it's going to be a problem for every team in 2017.

Oakland Raiders

Super Bowl odds: 7.2 percent (third)

They're not going to go 8-1 in games decided by seven points or fewer again this season, but the Raiders will likely be a better team. They weren't a particularly young team by snap-adjusted age, in which they ranked 14th, but of the six players they sent to the Pro Bowl in 2016, five were 27 or younger. Having a 25-year-old Pro Bowl quarterback means a lot more than having a 25-year-old Pro Bowl tight end, and Derek Carr has exceeded everyone's expectations for three seasons running.

The defense remains a work in progress, but the Raiders should get a full season out of potential superstar safety Karl Joseph, while third-year defensive lineman Mario Edwards Jr. -- who missed virtually all of 2016 -- profiles as a badly needed run-stopper on the edge up front if healthy and in shape. Even if the Raiders are entirely average in close contests, their true talent level could very well be good enough to win 10 or 11 games.

Tier 6: The 2013 Seahawks

Our final tier, quite simply, comprises those teams that have the best shot at winning with top-10 units on both sides of the ball. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it includes the two Super Bowl favorites and six of the nine teams with the best Super Bowl odds.

Their patron saint is the 2013 Seahawks, who ranked in the top seven in DVOA for offense, defense and special teams and led the league in both overall DVOA and defensive DVOA. They were somehow an underdog in the Super Bowl and blew out the Broncos from start to finish.

Carolina Panthers

Super Bowl odds: 3.1 percent (tied for ninth)

The numbers suggested that Carolina was likely to decline last season, but nobody saw them falling from 15-1 to 6-10 after winning the NFC Championship in 2015. The Panthers went from 6-1 in one-score games in 2015 to 2-6 last season, so while they declined significantly, it wasn't quite as big of a drop-off as their raw win total might indicate. They also lost their two best players for stretches of time when Cam Newton and Luke Kuechly went down with injuries. Ideally, the Panthers won't need to give Derek Anderson two starts.

Since-fired general manager Dave Gettleman built his offseason around protecting Newton, and while I might take issue with the decision to give new left tackle Matt Kalil a five-year contract with $31 million guaranteed, it's at least a new body with some (distant) track record of success. New receiving backs Christian McCaffrey and Curtis Samuel should provide useful intermediate targets, with McCaffrey also helping to shoulder some of the running load that had been thrust upon Newton and Jonathan Stewart. If James Bradberry continues to improve and develops into a No. 1 corner, the Panthers could look more like their 2015 selves.

New York Giants

Super Bowl odds: 4.2 percent (eighth)

Last offseason, general manager Jerry Reese spent the GDP of a small nation on upgrading his defense. It worked; Olivier Vernon, Janoris Jenkins and Damon Harrison played like Pro Bowlers, Jason Pierre-Paul rebuilt his value, and the secondary came together around rookie Eli Apple and second-year safety Landon Collins. This year, he took to fixing the offense. Reese signed Brandon Marshall and blocking tight end Rhett Ellison before using his first-round pick on tight end Evan Engram, giving some secondary weapons to an offense that was often too dependent upon Odell Beckham Jr.

There should be some concern about the lack of resources poured into a frequently frustrating offensive line, but few teams have as much top-level talent on offense and defense as the Giants. If everyone stays healthy and tackles Ereck Flowers and Bobby Hart improve, Big Blue could be an absolute juggernaut.

Seattle Seahawks

Super Bowl odds: 6.1 percent (tied for fourth)

Pete Carroll's team is going to be here every year as long as it has the Legion of Boom and Russell Wilson around. That legendary Seahawks defense declined markedly last season without future Hall of Famer Earl Thomas, who missed 386 snaps. With Thomas on the field, the Seahawks allowed opponents a passer rating of 77.8, which would have been the third-best mark in the league over a full season. With Thomas sidelined, though, Seattle allowed a 99.5 passer rating, which would have nestled it between the Jets and Browns for the third-worst rate in football.

Thomas and Wilson are irreplaceable, so the Seahawks are building around them. They added depth up front by trading for Sheldon Richardson, who will take over after top selection Malik McDowell suffered what appears to be a career-threatening injury over the summer. General manager John Schneider finally invested in his offensive line, locking up Justin Britt and signing Luke Joeckel to play guard on a one-year deal. Left tackle is still a problem with George Fant's torn ACL -- Rees Odhiambo is the replacement -- but if the stars stay healthy, everyone knows the Seahawks are going to be in the discussion come January.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Super Bowl odds: 6.1 percent (tied for fourth)

No team in the league has top-level talent like the Steelers. The Patriots and Packers are deeper, and the Falcons are close, but when everyone's healthy, no team is as scary on offense as Pittsburgh. The defense is a lower-ceiling version of the same discussion, where guys like Cameron Heyward and Ryan Shazier will need to stay healthy for Mike Tomlin's team to topple the Patriots. The late addition of Joe Haden will help, even if it has been three years since Haden played at a consistently high level. Barring an early-season injury to Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh is going to make its fourth consecutive trip to the postseason.

Green Bay Packers

Super Bowl odds: 8.8 percent (second)

Green Bay's biggest weakness a year ago was in the secondary, especially after Sam Shields went down with what ended up as a season-ending concussion in the opener. General manager Ted Thompson loaded up the defensive backfield over the offseason, signing former Packers corner Davon House before using a pair of second-round picks on Kevin King and Josh Jones. An uncharacteristic foray into free agency also delivered tight end Martellus Bennett, who should be an immediate upgrade on Jared Cook & Co.

The looming weakness now was a strength as recently as 2015: the offensive line, which has shed starting guards Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang along with interior lineman JC Tretter, who started seven games at center last season. If the line comes together, this Packers team might be as loaded as any since the 15-1 squad of 2011.

New England Patriots

Super Bowl odds: 18.7 percent (first)

It's telling that the Patriots' odds of winning the Super Bowl are twice that of any other team and virtually identical to that of the bottom 16 teams in the league combined. Even after losing Julian Edelman to a season-ending torn ACL, it's hard to find a place on the Patriots' roster where they would fall apart or otherwise be susceptible to a serious decline in the case of an injury. If the Pats somehow lost Tom Brady and Jimmy Garoppolo to long-term injuries, they might be in trouble, but what's to say Bill Belichick couldn't sign Colin Kaepernick and win a division title? He nearly won one with Matt Cassel in 2008.

There are weaknesses. The Pats are thin at defensive end, where they'll hope Trey Flowers continues to develop into an above-average pass-rusher. There's not much depth along the interior of their offensive line. Everyone has problems, though, and the other 31 teams would kill to have New England's minor issues as their most pressing concerns. The Patriots aren't perfect. They might just be good enough, though, to finish with a perfect record.