Pats and Packers lead Super Bowl race

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The New England Patriots produced one of the greatest comebacks in sporting history to secure a fifth Super Bowl title and are the majority of pundits’ picks to do the business again.

The Atlanta Falcons were starting to picture their victory parade in Houston in February before Tom Brady stepped up to the plate to turn the tide.

The goal this season is to equal the Pittsburgh Steelers’ record of six Vince Lombardi trophies and New England haven’t rested on their laurels, bringing in wide receiver Brandin Cooks, tight-end Dwayne Allen and cornerback Stephon Gilmore, to name just a few.

The loss of Julian Edleman for the season to injury is a major blow given he is one of Brady’s favourite targets, but they have moved quickly to bring in Phillip Dorsett to fill the void.

The Pats lead the outright Super Bowl betting at 7/2, with their main AFC rivals, the Steelers, 10/1 to prevent them equalling their record.

Pittsburgh’s strength is their offence, led by Ben Roethlisberger, with Antonio Brown, Le’Veon Bell and Martavis Bryant all powerful weapons.

They have improved the defence as well, but as usual their hopes rest on the ageing body of Roethlisberger, which too often has failed him in recent seasons. With that in mind, the Oakland Raiders look like the Pats’ main AFC rivals.

The Silver and Black won 12 games last season and were looking good heading into the play-offs before quarter-back Derek Carr went down with an injury.

That derailed the Oakland train although this young team should come back stronger this year and are 8/1 to win the AFC Championship while they are 15/1 to win Super Bowl LII.

From the NFC, the Green Bay Packers are the leading fancies at 9/1, having reached the NFC Championship game last year, only to run into the red-hot Falcons.

Quarter-back Aaron Rodgers had to carry the burden for the Pack for much of last season, but should have ample support this time around, with tight-ends Martellus Bennett and Lance Kendricks adding to his options.

While Green Bay look strong, the NFC is extremely competitive and several teams will fancy their chances.

The Seattle Seahawks (10/1) have potentially the best defence in the NFL, boosted by the acquisition of Sheldon Richardson, while Eddie Lacy strengthens the offence – as long as he stays off the Chinese food.

The NFC East could provide two serious Super Bowl contenders. The Dallas Cowboys (14/1) had been going well last year before running into the Packers. Even if star running back Ezekiel Elliott misses the start of the season, Dallas will go close again.

Their rivals, the New York Giants, cannot be discounted either after finally bringing in some support for Odell Beckham Jr. Brandon Marshall is an excellent  second option for quarter-back Eli Manning although the running game may worry Giants backers, who are a tempting 22/1 to win the Super Bowl.

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