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The 2016 NFL season kicks off September 8 with the defending champion Denver Broncos hosting the Carolina Panthers in a Super Bowl rematch. Oddsmakers aren’t expecting to see the two teams get to this year’s Super Bowl and have made the New England Patriots the +600 favourites to win it all.

The season start will be an uphill battle for coach Bill Belichick and the Pats, who’ve got to get through the first four games without star QB Tom Brady. The 4X Super Bowl champ will be serving a suspension for January 2015’s Deflate-Gate scandal. Despite the court battles and Brady’s age (39), he and the Patriots show no signs of slowing down. The Patriots have won 12 or more games in six straight seasons while making it to at least the AFC Championship Game for five straight seasons.

The Green Bay Packers (+850) are next in line on the Super Bowl futures market. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers might be the best in the NFL, and having a healthy Jordy Nelson and a slimmed down Eddie Lacy will help their cause.

The Seattle Seahawks (+1100 to win Super Bowl 51) will be nipping at Green Bay’s heels. They’re moving on without heart-and-soul running back Marshawn Lynch, who retired in the offseason, but their defense is still ferocious. They allowed the fewest points per game last season (17.3). If they can find a way to protect quarterback Russell Wilson, they’ll have as good a chance as anyone.

When it comes to defense, few teams were better than the Panthers last year. Combine that with their league-leading offense, and you’ve got a  +1200 team to win the Super Bowl. They should be even better with the return of receiver Kelvin Benjamin. The Panthers could be one of the most balanced teams in 2016.

Meanwhile, the Cardinals are also a dangerous +1200 team with a prolific offense that was second in the league with 31.3 points. They’re hoping to improve their defense with the addition of former Patriots sack specialist Chandler Jones and first-round pick defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche.

Looking back to the AFC, the Pittsburgh Steelers (+1200) are the only other team from the conference among the top seven Super Bowl favourites. They still have a powerful offense but will miss suspended running back Le’Veon Bell for the first three games. An offense that features Bell, Ben Roethlisberger and the NFL’s leading receiver, Antonio Brown, will always be explosive, but they’ll need more from their pass defense, which ranked 30th last season.

The next tier of Super Bowl favourites include the Indianapolis Colts and Minnesota Vikings (both +1600) and the Denver Broncos (+1800). Needless to say, oddsmakers don’t foresee the Broncos defending their crown. Now that Manning’s retired, all signs point to 2015 seventh-round pick Trevor Siemian opening the season as the starter under centre. If that happens, that would make the Broncos the first team to start the season with a quarterback who’s never thrown a regular-season pass.

 

*Odds as of August 25, 2016