Tom Ackerman, KMOX Sports DirectorBy Tom Ackerman

5) Green Bay Packers

The Seahawks thrashed them in the NFL opener, but Aaron Rodgers, arguably the best quarterback in the league, won’t have to face a defense like that again. The Seahawks swarmed to the ball and Rodgers didn’t even try to throw in the direction of Richard Sherman. Other teams won’t be as fortunate. Unfortunately, the Packers took a hit when running back Eddie Lacy suffered a concussion in the fourth quarter. If Lacy is out for an extended period of time, it could be quite damaging to the Green Bay offense.

4) New Orleans Saints

Sean Payton’s team has plenty of firepower and a distinct home field advantage that could put them in the conversation for the top seed in the NFC. To do that, the defense will certainly have to hold up its end of the bargain. But Drew Brees operates an offensive machine on Sundays, a difficult system to contain when it gets rolling. Laissez les bons temps rouler.

3) New England Patriots

It’s been nearly ten years since Tom Brady last won a Super Bowl. Think about that. February 6, 2005 was date of Super Bowl XXXIX, a 24-21 victory over the Eagles in Jacksonville. Brady’s elusive fourth championship is seemingly always in play, though, and this year’s team is well-equipped. With the right buttons pushed from Bill Belichick, some of the little things that have gone against the Patriots the past several years could eventually swing in their favor. They usually take care of the rest.

2) Denver Broncos

Wes Welker’s suspension might set them back at receiver for a little while and the schedule is brutally tough. But the Broncos are more than capable of fighting back with Peyton Manning — one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time — calling the signals. And they are hardly lacking in receivers, with Demariyus Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders and tight end Julius Thomas helping fill the Welker void. Manning has plenty of targets, a strong offensive line and a good defense that can send him right back to within reach of the Lombardi Trophy.

1) Seattle Seahawks

It’s very difficult to get back to the Super Bowl in consecutive years, but this Seahawks team certainly has the ability. The Seahawks have a swarming, athletic defense that runs to the ball, delivering pain. While we marveled at Lacy’s ability to take a hit from Kam Chancellor in the opening game, it was Lacy who ended up with a concussion. Chancellor isn’t the only one who can lower the “boom.” When we noticed that shutdown cornerback Richard Sherman hadn’t recorded a stat during the win, we realized it was because Rodgers hadn’t throw Sherman’s way the entire game. Add running back Marshawn Lynch’s ability to go “Beast Mode” on opponents and you have a team that simply won’t be intimidated.

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