Building a Super Bowl case for all 32 teams

Every single NFL team is capable of winning the Super Bowl this season. That fact is no different from any other season, of course, but in light of the hundreds of season previews you're likely reading right now, it's worth reiterating. Nobody is predicting that the Browns or the 49ers are about to win the Super Bowl. And with good reason; it's incredibly unlikely.

And yet, it's also flat-out incorrect to say the Super Bowl chances of a team that appears to be in the doldrums of the league are nil. We know this for a fact. The Browns are 150-1 to win the Super Bowl, which makes them plenty unlikely, but far from unprecedented. To my delight, Leicester City won last year's Premier League with preseason odds as high as 5,000-1. The Cardinals won a World Series in 2011 despite seeing their odds rise at one point to 999-1. One team I'll mention several times in this article won the Super Bowl while overcoming 300-1 odds before the season.

Think about that: A team with odds twice as bad as Cleveland's right now has won a Super Bowl. It has all happened before. It will happen again. And it might happen in 2016.

So this column will fill in the gap between those two realities. Let's go through each franchise and plot their most plausible path to the playoffs, as implausible as that might seem as we stare at 32 0-0 records. (Remember: If a team can get to the playoffs, as the 2007 Giants and 2012 Ravens have recently shown, anything is possible.) To couch it in history, I've worked backward to try to find a Super Bowl winner from the past whose style of play and/or recent performance heading into 2016 resemble the teams we're talking about. I'll also include the estimated odds for each team's chances of winning the Super Bowl per Bovada, adjusting for the vigorish (casino's cut). And inevitably, for some of the lesser teams on this list, their path to success involves players on other teams getting injured. Nobody is rooting for that to happen or suggesting those injuries are likely, but I would be lying if I didn't suggest that it would help their chances of contention.

In ascending order of probability ...

Cleveland Browns

Probability of Super Bowl win: 0.5 percent

The path: The Browns obviously need a lot to go right. They'll need Robert Griffin to stay healthy and play like the superstar he appeared to be in 2012, when an offense, designed in part with concepts from RG III's playbook at Baylor, fit around his unique strengths. It's not implausible that could happen under the creative Hue Jackson. They'll need a defense that will start nine players with 16 career starts or fewer to look competent in a hurry. And then, the Browns will need one of the league's toughest divisions to crumble ahead of them. Even that would probably only get them into the postseason. It would be tough ...

The comparable champion: 1999 Rams. But not even the Browns had it as tough as the Rams. There's a reason they were listed as 300-1 to win the Super Bowl: They were coming off of a 4-12 season in which they finished 24th in both points scored and points allowed. They finished fifth in a division that returned a pair of elite teams in the 14-2 Falcons, who had won the NFC championship, and the perennially excellent 12-4 49ers. And then they lost starting quarterback Trent Green to a torn ACL over the summer, turning things over to a 28-year-old backup named Kurt Warner -- an NFL Europe and AFL refugee who had thrown 11 career NFL passes. If Corey Coleman is Torry Holt, Josh Gordon is Isaac Bruce and Duke Johnson is Marshall Fau ... OK, it's a stretch, but you get the idea. The Rams were in similarly difficult straits and went 13-3 before winning the Super Bowl. I could just list the 1999 Rams for every one of these bad 2016 organizations. It was far more unlikely that they would win the Super Bowl than any one of these teams. But it happened.

San Francisco 49ers

Probability of Super Bowl win: 0.5 percent

The path: Like the Browns, the 49ers would need the two dominant teams in front of them (Arizona and Seattle) to fall apart. If that were to happen and their exceedingly difficult schedule fades out, you can dream about a 49ers resurgence. Chip Kelly has pieced together useful offenses with the Eagles despite possessing mediocre-or-worse quarterbacks, and while the San Francisco defense wasn't very good last year, it was also the league's youngest unit per the Football Outsiders Almanac 2016. If the 49ers take a leap forward on defense and run the football well, they could be competitive.

The comparable champion: 1981 49ers. While Bill Walsh had been a professional coordinator in Cincinnati and San Diego before going back to Stanford, the 49ers were his first NFL head-coaching job, and the West Coast offense was (at least in part) his revolutionary offensive scheme. It hadn't transformed the 49ers during his first two seasons with the team, as San Francisco went 8-24 over that time frame. In 1981, with third-round pick Joe Montana in his second year as a starter, the 49ers went 13-3 and won the Super Bowl. Their defense made an enormous leap, going from 26th in points allowed to second, with one of the youngest starting 11s in football -- eight of Walsh's 11 starters were 25 or younger.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Probability of Super Bowl win: 0.8 percent

The path: Carolina is likely to decline after a dominant 15-1 season in 2015. If they fall off the map in a similar vein to how they performed in 2014, the NFC South is entirely up for grabs. I've been fooled by the Bucs before, so I hesitate to say that this is likely, but you could imagine a world where Jameis Winston takes a big leap forward, and an offense, which improved from dead last in 2014 in DVOA to 17th last year, pushes into the top 10. With an average offense, an average defense (Tampa was 18th in DVOA each of the past two seasons) and improved special teams thanks to Roberto Aguayo, the Bucs could win 10 games and claim the South.

The comparable champion: 1999 Rams. This was one of the toughest teams to find a parallel for, given that they just promoted a new head coach in Dirk Koetter and haven't been good in a while. Let's go with our old standby in the Rams, who were built around a second-year quarterback and a pair of dominant receivers in Bruce and Holt.

Tennessee Titans

Probability of Super Bowl win: 0.8 percent

The path: The Titans might not be any better than the Browns or 49ers, but their chances are better simply by virtue of their division. The AFC South is improving, but there's no juggernaut there, let alone a pair of surefire playoff contenders like there are in the AFC North and NFC West. Their defense wasn't awful last year, finishing 23rd in DVOA, and the dead-last offense could improve if Marcus Mariota stays healthy all year and DeMarco Murray finds the form he showed in 2014. Rookie Derrick Henry also looks ready to help. That might involve finding the Dallas offensive line and fitting them out in Titans jerseys, but let's be positive here. Nine wins might win the South. And once you're in, who knows.

The comparable champion: 1987 Washington. One of Joe Gibbs' three Super Bowl winners, Washington built around a power running game and the efforts of the famous Hogs offensive line. Its quarterback was promising second-year Pro Bowler Jay Schroeder, who went 8-2 while struggling with a shoulder injury before giving way to Doug Williams during the playoffs. To be fair, though, Washington was coming off of a 12-4 season. Tennessee was just slightly behind them last year at 3-13.

San Diego Chargers

Probability of Super Bowl win: 1.1 percent

The path: The AFC West is wide-open, and the Chargers have the division's best quarterback and what should be a much-improved defense, especially if Joey Bosa is in shape after holding out for most of the offseason. Underlying metrics from 2015 suggest that the Chargers are exceedingly likely to improve in 2016, and if San Diego can piece together a healthy offensive line for the first time in several years, they could make a sudden leap up the charts.

The comparable champion: 2009 Saints. Those Saints weren't quite as far gone as the Chargers were at 4-12 last year, but the 2008 Saints finished 8-8 with the league's highest-scoring offense and its 26th-ranked scoring defense. They had the Pythagorean expectation of a 9.5-win team, though, suggesting likely improvement in 2009, and that's exactly what happened. Even though the defense jumped to only 20th in points allowed, the Saints went 13-3 before winning the Super Bowl.

Detroit Lions

Probability of Super Bowl win: 1.1 percent

The path: Now that Teddy Bridgewater is out for the year, if Aaron Rodgers is unavailable for a large chunk of time in 2016 -- maybe he decides to follow his brother in "The Bachelor" -- the NFC North becomes a free-for-all. The Lions went 6-2 in the second half after a brutal (and in some ways unlucky) 1-7 first half. They had just one win over a team with even a .500 record, which isn't promising, but they also came within a few inches of beating the Seahawks and Packers, the latter for a second time. It's not out of the question Detroit looks more like that second-half team in 2016, and that's a pretty good team.

The comparable champion: 2007 Giants. The Lions, of course, will have to try to win in 2016 without the now-retired Calvin Johnson, leaving them without their best offensive weapon. The same was true of the 2007 Giants, who lost Tiki Barber to retirement after a 2006 season in which he ran for 1,662 yards and averaged 5.1 yards per carry. Barber is no Megatron, but he might have been just as hard for that specific Giants team to replace in some ways. The Giants also were led by an interception-prone quarterback, Eli Manning, who had established himself as just good enough in the regular season to lose in the playoffs, where he was 0-2. Matthew Stafford, who has a career interception rate of 2.7 percent, is 0-2 in the playoffs.

Los Angeles Rams

Probability of Super Bowl win: 1.1 percent

The path: The easiest way would have been for Jared Goff to emerge out of the womb fully formed as a franchise quarterback, but if his preseason is any indication, Goff needs time to adapt to the NFL. The Rams will have to hope, at least until they inevitably turn to Goff midseason, that they can combine a dominant running game with a stifling defense. The pieces are there, but the Rams often seem to get less out of the talent they acquire than most would expect.

The comparable champion: 1985 Bears. If you're trying to find a Super Bowl winner who has gone 7-9 or worse in nine consecutive seasons before their triumph, you're going to be disappointed. Let's instead focus on a team that might share Los Angeles' style. The Bears were built around their running game, led by the legendary Walter Payton, and the famously aggressive 46 defense of Buddy Ryan. Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams might as well be an honorary Ryan in terms of blitzing to get after quarterbacks, and he has a potentially special defensive line at his disposal.

Buffalo Bills

Probability of Super Bowl win: 1.1 percent

The path: The Bills want to resemble last year's Panthers, with a run-heavy offense, a mobile quarterback chucking the ball 10 yards in the air on his typical pass attempt and an athletic, suffocating defense. It'll be tough to get the third with Marcell Dareus suspended to start the year and the team's two top draft picks, Shaq Lawson and Reggie Ragland, unavailable because of injury. Rex Ryan's history as a very good defensive coordinator and head coach, though, tells us that last year's disappointing defense was more likely to be an an aberration than a new normal. If the Bills' defense bounces back and the offense continues to run the football effectively, the playoffs are hardly out of the question.

The comparable champion: 2013 Seahawks. It will be tough for the Bills to put together a defense as good as that year's dominant Seattle D, but if they can sneak into the top 10 and get Dareus back and productive, the run-intensive offense and the mobile skills of Tyrod Taylor might do enough to make for a passable Seahawks comparison.

Miami Dolphins

Probability of Super Bowl win: 1.1 percent

The path: After retooling yet again this offseason, the Dolphins are sure they've figured out the best situation for Ryan Tannehill by adding head coach Adam Gase after an impressive run as offensive coordinator with the Broncos and Bears. It's too early to say that Gase will be a good coach -- Josh McDaniels' ill-fated run with the Broncos comes to mind -- but with an above-average offensive line and a pool of young receivers, Miami should be able to build a functional offense. And if that defense can ever stay healthy and avoid turning over snaps to the replacement-level guys lurking in reserve ...

The comparable champion: 1981 49ers. With Gase likely to install run-pass option elements and rely heavily upon getting the ball out quickly, you can make a case that he'll be running a relatively modern offense, just as Bill Walsh was when he was installing the West Coast offense in San Francisco at the turn of the '80s. And like the Dolphins, those 49ers turned around their defense when they managed to stay healthy. By my count, San Francisco's 11 defensive starters that year missed a total of three games.

Philadelphia Eagles

Probability of Super Bowl win: 1.1 percent

The path: I don't think there's a Super Bowl winner to have traded their starting quarterback a week before the season starts, but the Eagles may not actually be any worse at quarterback after dealing Sam Bradford given that Chase Daniel has spent years in the offense and can jump in if rookie starter Carson Wentz can't settle in. Philly's defense is also likely to improve with the arrival of Jim Schwartz as defensive coordinator, given how quickly he turned around the defenses in Detroit and Buffalo in years past. And god knows the NFC East is ripe for the taking ...

The comparable champion: 2007 Giants. I know both Giants and Eagles fans recoil at the horror of being compared to one another, but that Giants team was built around a dominant front four getting pressure on defense, and that's exactly what Schwartz is likely to do with Fletcher Cox & Co. The comparison admittedly worked better when I was comparing quarterbacks who appeared to have stagnated and didn't have "it" -- in Eli Manning to Bradford -- but let's just change the comparison instead to one of passers with low expectations. I guess Plaxico Burress is Jordan Matthews in this scenario?

Chicago Bears

Probability of Super Bowl win: 1.1 percent

The path: If any defense is likely to improve dramatically in 2016, it's that of Chicago, who upgraded mightily at its weakest position by adding inside linebackers Jerrell Freeman and Danny Trevathan and have a great defensive coaching tandem in head coach John Fox and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. And while the offense is always going to be a question mark with Jay Cutler at the helm, they'll get 2015 first-round pick Kevin White into the lineup after he missed all of his rookie season with injuries. The addition of former Packers guard Josh Sitton after he was shockingly cut by Green Bay last weekend makes you think this suddenly looks like an offense with a lot of talent.

The comparable champion: 1980 Raiders. Those Raiders weren't anywhere near as bad on defense as last year's Bears, who were 31st in DVOA, but Oakland improved from 17th to 10th in points allowed and went from fourth in their division at 9-7 to a wild-card berth at 11-5. They did this despite rolling out 33-year-old Jim Plunkett at quarterback, who had washed out of New England and was regarded as an interception-prone bust. Plunkett took over for the injured Dan Pastorini and threw five picks in his first game before settling down and leading the Raiders to 13 wins in his next 14 starts through the playoffs.

New Orleans Saints

Probability of Super Bowl win: 1.1 percent

The path: When you've got Drew Brees under center, you have a chance at winning every single time you step on the field. That's the best argument for the Saints. Their defense also can't be as bad as it was a year ago, when the Bears were second-to-last in DVOA and closer to 12th than they were to the Saints at 32nd. A dead-cat bounce would be a meaningful improvement and could be enough to push New Orleans into the postseason. You can make a case that the 2015 Saints defense was one of the worst in NFL history, and the team still won seven games. Anything is possible.

The comparable champion: 1997 Broncos. I love the idea of an old gunslinger making one last unlikely run for a championship, and you can picture such a run with these Broncos, who had 37-year-old John Elway at the helm for the first of what would be back-to-back titles. Brees already has his, of course, but the more difficult problem in making this comparison is that those Broncos had the league's eighth-best defense by DVOA. If Dennis Allen gets the Saints into the top 10, he should be considered for actual sainthood.

Atlanta Falcons

Probability of Super Bowl win: 1.2 percent

The path: Much like Tampa, Atlanta will have to hope that Carolina regresses well past the mean and has a lost season in the wake of its Super Bowl defeat. If that happens and the South is open for business, Atlanta should be the favorites. The addition of Alex Mack at center should help shore up the pressure that has been plaguing Matt Ryan for years, and if Dan Quinn's defense takes hold in his second season from Seattle -- and they've certainly added speed -- the Falcons could very well win 10 games and return to the top of the division. Remember when the Georgia Dome was a fortress?

The comparable champion: 2012 Ravens. It's always fun to compare Joe Flacco to his draft classmate, Ryan, but this is more about a team that had been written off as settling at a certain level. The Ravens were consistently very good, but they had lost in the divisional round or conference championship four consecutive times before finally breaking through and winning the Super Bowl. The Falcons are a little further removed from their run of frustrating playoff losses, but if they make it to the postseason, all that talk will bubble right back up. (I just want to go watch that Falcons-Seahawks game again now.)

New York Jets

Probability of Super Bowl win: 1.2 percent

The path: A surprising 10-6 team last year in their first season under Todd Bowles, the Jets return the league's oldest offense and its healthiest defense from a year ago in the hopes that the Tom Brady suspension will do just enough to push the AFC East in their direction. It's difficult to imagine Ryan Fitzpatrick will be quite as good as he was in 2015, but if Brandon Marshall continues to play at a high level, and Matt Forte returns to form after leaving Chicago, the offense could be good enough for the defense to carry Gang Green over the threshold.

The comparable champion: 2002 Buccaneers. Brad Johnson was a better quarterback than the Fitzchise, but it's also fair to say that he was hardly regarded as a top-level passer before making his way to Tampa, where he made the Pro Bowl and won the Super Bowl. That was with one of the best defenses of the decade (this Jets team could have a stellar defensive line) and an outspoken No. 1 receiver in former Jets star Keyshawn Johnson, who makes a nice comp for Marshall.


Probability of Super Bowl win: 1.6 percent

The path: The first team in this list to actually make the playoffs, Washington rode an incredible hot streak from quarterback Kirk Cousins and an improving defense to win the NFC East and sneak into the playoffs. Its chances of making it back were buoyed this offseason by adding star cornerback Josh Norman in free agency, shoring up one of the weakest spots on their roster. With general manager Scot McCloughan at the helm, it feels like Washington's steadily making smart, sustainable decisions for the first time in decades.

The comparable champion: 1995 Cowboys. The Cowboys fell to the 49ers in the conference championship during the 1994 season, which was the first year in Barry Switzer's brief reign as head coach. They had the league's second-ranked defense that season, but Jerry Jones took things over the top by signing Deion Sanders away from San Francisco in free agency. The move didn't really work -- Sanders played only nine games while picking off a career-low two passes, and the Cowboys fell to 13th in defensive DVOA -- but they won the Super Bowl anyway.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Probability of Super Bowl win: 1.9 percent

The path: One of the hottest picks in Vegas if you consider how their over/under total has been rising over the summer, the case for the Jags is simple. As one of the youngest teams in the league, it's not crazy to imagine a chunk of their promising core suddenly getting a lot better and turning into the core of a perennial playoff contender overnight in the same way that the Vikings took a leap forward last year. It might be a little too early for the Jags, who were 5-11 last year, but they had the Pythagorean expectation of a 6.4-win team and play in a far weaker division than the Vikings. Given that the Jaguars added two top-five picks and two upper-echelon free agents to their defense, the turnaround could happen quicker than anybody outside of Florida expects.

The comparable champion: 1992 Cowboys. You have to squint on this one for a bit, given that the Cowboys were 11-5 in 1991, but the Dallas dynasty was an example of how quickly things can turn around when young talent piles up. Jimmy Johnson rightfully built his team around amassing draft picks and brought his team down from 3-13 in Tom Landry's last season to 1-15. But things turned around quickly. The Cowboys were 7-9 the following year and 11-5 after that. They lost 38-6 to the Lions in the playoffs that year, but by 1992, they were champions.

Houston Texans

Probability of Super Bowl win: 1.9 percent

The path: They have J.J. Watt, you know? If Watt is healthy enough to make his return from back surgery next weekend against the Bears in Houston's home opener, the Texans appear to be in good shape to deliver on the promise they showed in 2015 by winning the South. The Colts should get more out of Andrew Luck than they did a year ago, but Houston rebuilt its offense on the fly. If the Texans guessed right on Brock Osweiler and Lamar Miller and the rest of the South doesn't improve, this could be a 12-win team.

The comparable champion: 2000 Ravens. Like the Texans, the Ravens were a great defense built around a Hall of Famer in the prime of his career, Ray Lewis. They also changed things up at quarterback, swapping out the combination of Scott Mitchell, Tony Banks and Stoney Case in 1999 for the duo of Banks and Trent Dilfer in 2000. It was Dilfer at the helm when the Ravens made their run through the playoffs, allowing just 23 points over four games to win the Super Bowl.

Baltimore Ravens

Probability of Super Bowl win: 1.9 percent

The path: Everything went wrong for the Ravens in 2015, as injuries shot their offense to pieces and took away key contributors on defense, while other contributors played but never really seemed healthy. It was Baltimore's first sub-.500 season under John Harbaugh in eight seasons, and there's little reason to believe that the Ravens won't bounce back toward the top of the AFC with a healthier campaign this year. Baltimore is transitioning as veterans such as Steve Smith and Terrell Suggs likely finish up their careers, but if they can get positive contributions from some of their many young midround picks, and the injured guys return to form, this could be a very deep football team.

The comparable champion: 1999 San Antonio Spurs. OK, this is really cheating, but there isn't a comparable Super Bowl winner here. The Spurs were a perennially excellent basketball team who had everything fall apart during the 1996-97 season, when David Robinson missed 76 of 82 games and the Spurs promptly went 20-62. The disaster was a blessing in disguise, as it inspired San Antonio to replace Bob Hill with Gregg Popovich and netted the Spurs the first overall pick, which they used on Tim Duncan. Two years later, they were champions.

Oakland Raiders

Probability of Super Bowl win: 3.1 percent

The path: Much like the Jaguars, the Raiders are relying on a young core to take a leap forward and propel a long-struggling franchise into the postseason. It helps that the AFC West is likely to be worse at the top than it was last year, and the Raiders also made smart moves to shore up weaker points in free agency by adding the likes of Kelechi Osemele and Sean Smith. Jack del Rio is going to build around a potentially dominant offensive line and hope that Khalil Mack can create enough chaos for his defense to force a lot of takeaways. There are certainly worse plans.

The comparable champion: 1982 Washington. One of Joe Gibbs' three Super Bowl teams, his offense was led by the legendary Hogs offensive line, which kept Joe Theismann upright and created lanes for John Riggins & Co. in the backfield. Washington got an incredible kicking performance from Mark Moseley, who famously won MVP. It's not crazy to imagine Sebastian Janikowski putting together some freakishly valuable season, even if a kicker is never going to win MVP again. Washington also had the league's best defense, which the Raiders will struggle to match.

Dallas Cowboys

Probability of Super Bowl win: 3.1 percent

The path: With Tony Romo out for half the year, Dallas' best hope is that rookies Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott take the league by storm and their defense starts creating takeaways like it's 2014 again. I have more faith in Elliott than I do in Prescott, at least in the short term, but if Prescott can keep the Cowboys afloat until Romo returns midseason, the Cowboys should still be within striking distance of the division title. After all, it's not as if anybody in the NFC East looks like a juggernaut right now.

The comparable champion: 2001 Patriots. You can probably follow the parallel of an inexperienced late-round quarterback taking over for a longtime veteran who hadn't won a Super Bowl, and indeed, sixth-rounder Tom Brady had thrown just three career passes as a rookie in 2000 before taking over for the injured Drew Bledsoe early in the 2001 campaign. Brady threw just 413 passes that year in 14 games as the Patriots built a conservative attack around the running of Antowain Smith. (People block out a game manager concept of Brady, but it was real.) Things have worked out OK for Brady since. The defense might be a tougher comp to pull off, given how much respect the Patriots have received in hindsight for shutting down the Rams, but they finished 13th in defensive DVOA that year.

Minnesota Vikings

Probability of Super Bowl win: 3.1 percent

The path: As with the Eagles, it's hard to find a Super Bowl contender who swapped out quarterbacks one week before the season started. I'm skeptical of Sam Bradford in Minnesota, but if he can stay healthy and deliver a Teddy Bridgewater-esque performance for the Vikings, there are reasons to think they might be OK. If the talented Vikings defense continues to improve and Adrian Peterson staves off aging by suiting up for another full 16-game season, the Vikings should be right in the mix of the playoff hunt in the NFC.

The comparable champion: 1980 Raiders. I'll go back to the Plunkett Raiders, who were starting a quarterback who had been written off, but had a very good defense and an effective running game built around Mark van Eeghen and Kenny King. I would hesitate to compare the checkdown-intensive style of Bradford to the vertical passing attack of an Al Davis team, but you get the idea.

Indianapolis Colts

Probability of Super Bowl win: 3.1 percent

The path: Remember when the Colts were everybody's hot pick to win the Super Bowl this time last year? Things change. They aren't one of the favorites this year, obviously, but many of the arguments in their favor from last year are still around. They still have Andrew Luck, who should be healthier this year, and they're still in the relatively friendly confines of the AFC South. Remember that Indy doesn't have to be great; they finished 13th in DVOA in 2014 and made it to the conference championship game. Their path isn't difficult to tread.

The comparable champion: 1991 Washington. Gibbs' third and final Super Bowl winner was better in 1990 than the Colts were in 2015, but they weren't great. Washington went 10-6 and finished third in the NFC East, albeit with a fifth-place finish in DVOA and a wild-card round victory. It didn't help that starting quarterback Mark Rypien missed six games and was mediocre in the 10 games he played, producing a disappointing 78.4 passer rating in his third season after making the Pro Bowl in 1989. In 1991, Rypien returned to form with (what was for the time) a monster campaign, averaging a league-high 8.34 adjusted net yards per attempt while throwing 28 touchdowns against 11 picks. Washington started 11-0 and finished 14-2 before outscoring its opposition 105-41 in the playoffs.

Kansas City Chiefs

Probability of Super Bowl win: 4.2 percent

The path: Andy Reid teams are a fountain of regular-season consistency, and there's little reason to think 2016 will be any different. While the Chiefs are missing star outside linebacker Justin Houston early on and let cornerback Sean Smith leave in free agency, there's enough talent to get by with a defense that was as good as any in football for the final three months of the 2015 season. And with Jamaal Charles returning on offense, the Chiefs should have one of the league's best running trios on offense. Their ceiling doesn't feel high, but with an offense that scoffs at giveaways and a defense that takes down opposing passers, they remind me of ...

The comparable champion: 1990 Giants. It's fair to say that the Giants had a limited passing attack. Nobody caught more than 39(!) passes, a figure that Julio Jones might hit in a single game at some point this year. Instead, Bill Parcells' offense was built around running the football and avoiding giveaways, of which the Giants had a league-low 14. The Falcons may hit that in one game, too. The Giants led the league in scoring defense, went 5-2 in one-score games, and knocked Joe Montana out in the postseason en route to a famous Super Bowl victory over the Bills.

New York Giants

Probability of Super Bowl win: 4.2 percent

The path: The NFC East already is down two starting quarterbacks after Romo got hurt and Bradford was traded, which can only help the Giants' chances of winning the division. They've been the most injured team in football per adjusted games lost each of the past three seasons, with the move from Tom Coughlin to Ben McAdoo hopefully doing something to alleviate their woes. After investing heavily on defense this offseason, they should be better on that side of the football. Slight favorites in the division, the Giants' recent playoff past should tell you that anything is possible once they make it into January.

The comparable champion: 2011 Giants. You know, because they're the Giants. (This is going to come up a bunch with recent Super Bowl winners.) Much of that team is gone -- the only players left on the roster who suited up during that Super Bowl win over the Patriots are Eli and Jason Pierre-Paul -- but the Giants will be built around getting pressure with their front four and working the ball to a rotation of running backs.

Cincinnati Bengals

Probability of Super Bowl win: 4.2 percent

The path: From here on out, the path for each of these teams should be pretty obvious: They're each capable of looking like the best team in football if things break right. It was awful close for the Bengals last year. Even after losing Andy Dalton in the middle of a career year, they came within an overtime loss against the Broncos in Week 16 of finishing with the top seed in the AFC. Instead, they finished as the third seed and lost controversially to Pittsburgh in the wild-card round, bringing Marvin Lewis' playoff record as a head coach to 0-7. If Dalton returns and plays at the same impressive level from 2015, the Bengals should be among the best teams in the AFC again.

The comparable champion: 2006 Colts. The book on Indy with Peyton Manning, of course, was that it would dominate in the regular season before losing when it really mattered, often to the Patriots. Then 2006 rolled around and the Colts smacked perception in the face and showed it reality. After starting his playoff career 3-6, Peyton won four consecutive games to claim his first Super Bowl. If somebody tells you that they know a player or coach can't win in the postseason, ignore them.

Denver Broncos

Probability of Super Bowl win: 4.7 percent

The path: The Broncos brought back much of their core, and even with losing Danny Trevathan and Malik Jackson to free agency, you can argue that their offensive line will have improved and be more comfortable in the second year under Gary Kubiak. Trevor Siemian might be a mess at quarterback, but between him and rookie Paxton Lynch, the passing offense could actually be better given how bad Denver's passers were last year; it's a crude measure, but try 31st in passer rating. Even modest signs of life from Lynch would be an upgrade.

The comparable champion: 2015 Broncos. What, you thought I was going to pick the 1975 Steelers? This year's Broncos may be more run-intensive, but if they repeat as champions, they're going to best emulate last year's team.

Arizona Cardinals

Probability of Super Bowl win: 6.7 percent

The path: Bruce Arians' team might be the most talented bunch in football when everybody is healthy, with no obvious weaknesses if Tyrann Mathieu is back to his usual self. Preseason changes also have made their path a little easier. They'll play Jimmy Garoppolo instead of Brady in Week 1, suit up against the Bills without the suspended Dareus in Week 5 and play the Vikings without Bridgewater. The Seahawks, meanwhile, will presumably have to play against Brady and Dareus and don't have the Vikings on their schedule.

The comparable champion: 2005 Steelers. It doesn't hurt to make this comparison given that Arians was on the coaching staff, but this was a deep team with an experienced veteran coach in Bill Cowher who loved to chuck the ball downfield and terrify teams with blitzes on defense. Ben Roethlisberger averaged 8.9 yards per pass attempt, a figure that has been topped only by Nick Foles and Aaron Rodgers since. Carson Palmer led the league at 8.7 yards per attempt last year.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Probability of Super Bowl Win: 6.7 percent

The path: Injuries, injuries, injuries. If the Steelers can stay healthy, there may not be a more talented set of starters in the league, especially on offense. It hurts to lose the suspended Le'Veon Bell for three games and Martavis Bryant for the season. They're already without their top two picks in 2015 with linebacker Bud Dupree on IR and slot corner Senquez Golson out indefinitely, but there's enough talent here to crush the league if everything breaks right. Health and the difficulty of playing in the AFC North are the biggest obstacles standing in their way.

The comparable champion: 2008 Steelers. There are worse rematches you might predict for this year's Super Bowl than the Cardinals-Steelers tilt we saw eight years ago. Roethlisberger, Lawrence Timmons, James Harrison and head coach Mike Tomlin are the only four Steelers still with the team who suited up against the Cardinals in Tampa, but this is another Pittsburgh team built around its quarterback and a bevy of threatening receivers.

Carolina Panthers

Probability of Super Bowl win: 6.7 percent

The path: The Panthers return every one of their offensive starters and their entire front seven from last year's 15-1 team, and that's without considering the return of Kelvin Benjamin from a torn ACL. The secondary is entirely up for grabs after Charles Tillman retired, Roman Harper returned to New Orleans and Josh Norman was allowed to leave for Washington, but Panthers fans might argue that the team was supposed to collapse after losing franchise icon Steve Smith. There might be some growing pains, but the Panthers are the clear favorites to win the South, and if they can get their secondary figured out by the postseason, they should be tough to take down.

The comparable champion: 1972 Dolphins. Only the second team in history to lose in the Super Bowl before returning to win the trophy the following year, the unbeaten 17-0 Dolphins share another similarity to the Panthers: They were built around running the football. Larry Csonka, Mercury Morris, and Jim Kiick each carried the ball 137 times or more, and the Dolphins ran the ball as a whole 613 times against just 280 pass plays (including 21 sacks). Those Dolphins were also second in the league with 46 takeaways, the sort of opportunistic defense that the Panthers and their league-leading 39 takeaways from 2015 would expect to emulate.

Seattle Seahawks

Probability of Super Bowl win: 8.0 percent

The path: If they can make it past the Cardinals, everything else might seem easy. The offensive line remains an obvious point of contention, but we've been saying that for years, and the Seahawks continued to run the ball effectively while allowing Russell Wilson to produce MVP-caliber numbers over the second half of 2015. I don't need to tell you about the defense, right?

The comparable champion: 2013 Seahawks. I want to believe that Marshawn Lynch will somehow show up at media day and work his way back onto the roster for the Super Bowl, but the combination of Thomas Rawls and the newly woke Christine Michael should be just fine.

New England Patriots

Probability of Super Bowl win: 10.6 percent

The path: We all expect Brady to come back in Week 5 and play like a man possessed, right? If Jimmy G can keep the Pats afloat during the first four weeks and the Patriots get Brady and Rob Ninkovich back, things should be just fine in Foxborough. Remember, the last time the Patriots started 2-2 they won a Super Bowl, so a so-so first month isn't much to worry about given what this team tends to do in December.

The comparable champion: 2014 Patriots. Here's that 2-2 team. This version doesn't have quite the same cornerback depth, but Jamie Collins and Dont'a Hightower are better now at linebacker, and they're deeper along the defensive line.

Green Bay Packers

Probability of Super Bowl win: 11.4 percent

The path: Green Bay moved into the lead as the favorites to win Super Bowl LI, thanks in part to the season-ending injury of Bridgewater. I think the North is a tougher division one through four than most people are suggesting, and the Packers curiously let a key player go by cutting star guard Josh Sitton, but this is still one of the deepest rosters in football. If Eddie Lacy is in shape and Jordy Nelson returns to form after missing 2015 with a torn ACL, this offense could be frightening.

The comparable champion: 2010 Packers. Those Packers didn't find their way for a while -- they were 8-6 after losing Rodgers for the better part of two games against the Lions and Patriots -- but once Rodgers came back, they were lights out. They won their last six games, all against teams who finished the year with 10 wins or more, by a combined score of 176-96. Their 2011 season was actually more impressive before the playoffs, given that they went 15-1 and looked untouchable at times, but Packers fans would be happy with a repeat of that 2010 campaign.