A look at the early candidates for Super Bowl 50

Five weeks into the National Football League season and six teams – Atlanta, Green Bay, Cincinnati, and Denver with five wins – along with New England and Carolina – four victories – are still to taste defeat. The common denominator within all of those franchises is they all possess a high-calibre quarterback. In recent years, the NFL has transformed into a league driven by quarterbacks and offensive prowess. Gone are the days of ‘smash mouth’ football with stifling defence and a strong running game to win matches, and that makes the importance of having an elite-level QB so vital in the current gridiron climate.

Super Bowl 50 will take place at Levis Stadium – the home of the San Francisco 49ers, and the New England Patriots will be looking to retain their crown from last season, and here we will look at some of the likely contenders to lift aloft the Vince Lombardi Trophy in early February.

Stern tests awaiting

The Green Bay Packers are theNFL’s market leaders to claim the big prize – but have stern tests waiting in the coming weeks. San Diego travel to Lambeau Field in Week Six, but then Green Bay travel to Denver and Carolina after their Week Seven bye. Those two contests will offer many clues on the Packers’ chances of returning to the Super Bowl from a five-year absence. The early signs look very good for Head Coach Mike McCarthy and his team though – currently ranked 10th overall on offense and 7th defensively. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers is having yet another stellar season behind centre, and the Packers look to be very strong candidates for another Super Bowl push.

Ominous form

New England and their evergreen quarterback Tom Brady have started the 2015 campaign in ominous form for the rest of the American Football Conference – and are another team high on the shortlist for glory. The Patriots lost some key components of their 2014 success in the offseason, but Head Coach Bill Belichick has re-tooled his roster – and the signs are good. Running back Dion Lewis has offered a new dimension with some solid play from the backfield, coupled with tight-end Rob Gronkowski having another fantastic season, so it is no surprise that New England currently has the league’s number one offense with Brady creating his usual mismatches. What shouldn’t be underestimated is the Patriots’ defence that has sack potential from several areas. It is highly possible that New England have improved on last season.

Others of note

Another pair of unbeaten teams – Atlanta and Cincinnati are likely play-off contenders this season, if they can maintain their early form. The Bengals have been in promising positions before in recent campaigns, but with three narrow wins already in the books – the Bengals have so far found a steely determination to win to go with their talented roster. Atlanta is another franchise with a high-powered offensive unit under new Head Coach Dan Quinn, who should be in the postseason shake-up for Super Bowl glory. Fantasy stud tail-back Devonta Freeman has been the catalyst for a Falcons offense looking for a running game since the days of Michael Turner. Atlanta has a winnable set of upcoming fixtures that will help in their fight for home advantage in the playoffs.

Wild cards

Philadelphia and Buffalo are worthy of a second look and Philly could be the answer in a competitive NFC East. The Eagles have one of the strongest running back units in the league with DeMarco Murray, Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles, and added with quarterback Sam Bradford looking more comfortable behind centre, Philadelphia might be a dark horse. The Bills do not possess the best offensive unit in the NFL, but have a very strong front seven defensively that can cause problems to any team. Bills quarterback, Tyrod Taylor has already found his feet in the NFL, and Buffalo should not be discounted just yet.

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