The Broncos upset the Carolina Panthers 24-10 in Super Bowl 50 behind their top-ranked defense, but they are 16-1 to win Super Bowl 51, pending Manning’s decision to return for another year or retire as a champion.
Manning clearly was not at his best during the regular season or the playoffs, which should help him decide his future plans sooner than later. His Super Bowl performance also left a lot to be desired, but Super Bowl 50 MVP Von Miller and his defensive teammates were able to overcome their signal-caller’s shortcomings and carry Denver to the title.
Miller and backup quarterback Brock Osweiler are also free agents, with the former expected to get the team’s franchise tag if needed.
The three co-favorites to win Super Bowl 51 at 9-1 are all familiar names, led by the Panthers, who likely will not win as many games in 2016 but may be a better team.
Carolina quarterback Cam Newton, the reigning NFL MVP, needs to stay healthy and continue growing as a leader. He will have his leading receiver from two years ago back in the lineup too, as Kelvin Benjamin missed all of this past season due to a torn ACL.
The other two co-favorites are the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks, the previous two Super Bowl champions. While the Patriots ultimately fell short of repeating this year, they will learn from their mistakes, the worst of which was losing four of six games down the stretch to surrender home-field advantage to the Broncos.
New England might not have lost the AFC Championship Game at home and will always remain one of the favorites for the Vince Lombardi Trophy as long as Tom Brady is around.
The Seahawks have seemed to be distracted by the status of running back Marshawn Lynch ever since they did not give the ball to him at the end of Super Bowl 49 against the Patriots. With Lynch also reportedly retiring, that could be addition by subtraction and would give Thomas Rawls a chance to shine alongside quarterback Russell Wilson.