Analyst picks for Super Bowl LII

With Super Bowl LI in the books, our analysts make their picks for Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis next season.

| 4 months ago
Khalil Mack

(Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

Analyst picks for Super Bowl LII

With Super Bowl LI now in the books, it’s time to take a way-too-early look at next season’s big game. Here are our analysts’ picks for Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis:

Neil Hornsby, PFF Founder

New England Patriots

It’s a little silly after watching Super Bowl LI to look elsewhere. New England didn’t field the greatest of rosters all season, with no Rob Gronkowski for most of the year, and no Tom Brady for four games—and yet they still win. Sure, at the end, they didn’t so much win as watch the Falcons self-destruct, but the Patriots maintained their cool (except for that far-too-early onside kick) and prevailed in remarkable circumstances as the Atlanta defense just ran out of gas in the 99 plays they defended. The Patriots have some fairly high-profile free agents, but it’s hardly an issue. They just somehow make decent players from the likes of Chris Hogan, Kyle Van Noy and Shea McClellin. I’m not going for another team until Bill Belichick retires.

Sam Monson, Senior Analyst

Oakland Raiders

This was the forgotten team of the 2016 season. The Raiders were one of the best sides in the AFC, and were looking to compete with the Patriots in that conference until one freak play saw them lose their season to a broken bone. Derek Carr was injured on just the second play of pressure against the Indianapolis Colts, and the only sack surrendered by his left tackle, Donald Penn, all season. The Raiders have a quality offensive line, weapons, and a young, talented quarterback to bounce back with. Their defense has talent, but was never able to quite play up to the sum of its parts this season. I think they should be clear contenders in 2017.

Mike Renner, Senior Analyst

New England Patriots

Why would I pick against Tom Brady and Bill Belichick at this point? History may suggest that Brady should slow down, but history has said a lot of things that the Patriots QB has disproved. New England has a ton of cap space, a backup quarterback that could net them multiple high draft picks, and a roster chalked full of young talent. It’s good to be the Pats.

Steve Palazzolo, Senior Analyst

New England Patriots
With no clear competitors to challenge the New England Patriots in the AFC, they appear primed to make their third Super Bowl appearance in four years as quarterback Tom Brady is coming off the best season in PFF history at the age of 39. There are some offseason decisions to make, as key pieces in the secondary are ready to get re-upped (cornerbacks Malcolm Butler and Logan Ryan, as well as safety Duron Harmon), while the offense could lose TE Martellus Bennett and RB LeGarrette Blount. That said, there are enough returning pieces to contend for another championship, especially with Brady showing no signs of slowing down. To stop New England, a top competitor must emerge from the AFC—perhaps a rejuvenated Pittsburgh Steelers team, a healthy Oakland Raiders, or a Denver Broncos squad with an upgrade at quarterback. For now, though, New England is the favorite in the conference, and likely the entire NFL as long as Tom Brady is at the helm and capable of putting the team on his back for another Super Bowl run.

Gordon McGuinness, Lead Special Teams Analyst

Houston Texans

I picked the Texans to go all the way this year, and I’m doubling down again in 2016. What held them back this year was the struggles of Brock Osweiler at quarterback. I think they go out and get a veteran QB this year (Hot-take alert: they should try to trade for the backup quarterback from the cross-state Dallas Cowboys). Fix the QB spot, and the Texans have an offense that can click, with DeAndre Hopkins at wide receiver and Lamar Miller in the backfield. Defensively, they have in trio of pass-rushers that can do serious damage, with Jadeveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus combining to registered 14 sacks, 25 hits and 74 hurries in 2016. Add in a fully healthy J.J. Watt, and they are going to get after opposing quarterbacks all throughout January of next year.

Nathan Jahnke, Director of Analytics

Oakland Raiders

Oakland was already one of the best teams in 2016, but couldn’t reach its potential after quarterback Derek Carr went down with injury. The Raiders’ star players like Carr, WR Amari Cooper and edge defender Khalil Mack should be in their prime of their careers next season. They have a core 12 players who recorded 700 or more snaps in the 2016 season and earned an overall grade above 70.0—none of whom are set to be free agents this offseason. Not only are the Raiders not in danger of losing a key player, there is reason to believe the team will get better. Mario Edwards only played 36 snaps in 2016, but was one of their best players in 2015. OLB Aldon Smith should be reinstated from suspension. Both should make the front-seven even better. Oakland only has a few weaknesses coming into next season, and has the cap space to address some of those needs. That all adds up to a perfect storm for a memorable 2017 campaign.

Jeff Ratcliffe, Director of Fantasy

New England Patriots

The Patriots repeated in the early Brady/Belichick era, and it’s hard not to like them to do so again in the late Brady/Belichick era. Brady is coming off arguably his best season as a pro and the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history. He continues to defy Father Time, and that doesn’t appear to be changing soon. Unlike Atlanta, New England also didn’t lose either coordinator. Josh McDaniels and Matt Patricia are two of the best at their respective jobs, and the continuity is a huge plus for New England. Besides Brady, the Patriots don’t really have a “star” on either side of the ball, but the New England coaching staff has proven over and over that they don’t need elite-level talent to win. And that’s what they’re going to do again next year.

  • rodrell green

    Falcons keep most of their offense with likely upgraded at defense. They also get Trufant back and will likely heavily invest in defense. I think they would have at least gotten a mention but yeah Raiders and Texans. Oh and the usual Patriots blowjob

    • Joe Doe

      I hear what you’re saying, but they lose what I believe is the most important part of their offense, Kyle Shanahan. That’s why I wouldn’t pick them.

      • rodrell green

        Even if Ryan regresses back to the last year he had competent center play (2012) they still have a chance with a good defense. I don’t think Kyle benefits Julio and Ryan as much as the complementary players. Ryan and Julio will deliver regardless, maybe not historically but they’ll deliver.

        • RaiderNation (12-4)

          “good defense” that gave up 31 unanswered points

          • rodrell green

            Hey dumbass, try taking that comment into proper context. I’d stated earlier that they will likely heavily invest in defense.

          • Robert Anasi

            The defense gave up the points; they weren’t responsible for them being ‘unanswered.’ The O forced them to play the equivalent of a game and a half. In OT after plays the defenders were hunched over, gasping, hands on hips.
            Next year that defense will be very good, good enough to pick up the slack from a slight decline in an O that returns all of its studs.

    • JimmyCrackCorn

      Said the Seahawks fan in 2014 and the Panther fan in 2015.

    • ChiTownMike

      Doubtful, The Falcons were super healthy in 2016 compared to teams like the Packers, Vikings and Seahawks. Some of their playmakers will want to get paid after a year like 2016 and they have a really old interior offensive line.

      It’s possible, but the NFC is such a toss up every year, we don’t know if the 49ers will pull an Atlanta/Carolina and go 13-3 for some random reason.

      • rodrell green

        None of their playmakers are free agents. Only important pieces that could be extending have another year left. And the 49ers are nothing like neither the Panthers of last year or the Falcons of this year. Both teams were around .500 the prior year, had playmakers on either offense/defense.

        You commented on their health without elaborating on why it’s relevant. They lost 4 defensive starters actually.

    • Josh Grabow

      Shanahan’s departure will have an impact. Look at how badly Hue Jackson leaving the Bengals affected their offense.

      I’m not saying the offense can’t be good without him but they will take a step back. It usually seems to take a full season or two to get a QB and OC dialed in.

    • Major Bradberry

      Thing is, Panthers come back with an upgraded secondary and a likely upgrade in offensive scheme and play. Not to mention a healthy line. They’ll keep most of their players easy and invest on their offense.

      They’ve had a setback with injuries last year – something the Falcons avoided – but I guarantee you the Panthers WILL be in the playoffs if healthy.

      • rodrell green

        Falcons had plenty of injuries early in the season actually…

  • crosseyedlemon

    Sam has decided to abandon the Buffalo Bills as his pick which means they will probably win just to spite him.

  • Robert Anasi

    Interesting that none of the analyst selected an NFC team. Houston is definitely a good sleeper pick with a healthy Watt and even league average QB play. The defense in the divisional round made me a believer.

    • crosseyedlemon

      The Giants defense is on par or perhaps even better than the Texans and even on his bad days Eli Manning can usually accomplish more than Osweiller.

      • Robert Anasi

        Not so sure about the Giants D although it is quite good but Houston might be historic next season. Of course even aging Eli is far better than BO.

  • Phong Ta

    Surprised the Seahawks weren’t picked by any of them considering their biggest downfall was mainly health issues, as the O-Line did get better as the year progressed. Of course the O-Line was still an issue despite the progress, and the run game has been inconsistent, so it’s not super surprising

    • crosseyedlemon

      The Seahawks didn’t live up to expectations but the Cardinals and Panthers were an even bigger disappointment. Could be some value betting any of those in the futures pool now that they have dropped off the radar of some fans.

      • Major Bradberry

        Panthers arguably didn’t do well in the 2016 season due to having an inconsistent o-line with injuries there since week 3. Not to mention the secondary getting injured, with Bradberry, Worley, and Coleman missing some games, Luke Kuechly out, Cam out, and Mario Addison missing some as well.

        Injuries are the main reason the Panthers didn’t show up as well. Nevertheless, 6/10 losses were by 3 points or less, and 6/10 of them the Panthers led in the 4th quarter.

  • crosseyedlemon

    Guess I’m the only one who thinks the Patriots championship win on Sunday marks the end of an era. Belichick and Brady will soon be in rocking chairs and I see about a 20 year drought about to commence for New England reminiscent of what the Cowboys experienced after their dominance in the early 1990s.

    • JudoPrince

      New England will certainly be competitive yet again next year. There really aren’t too many high caliber teams in the AFC, so they should at least be in the AFC championship yet again.

      • crosseyedlemon

        The Patriots have had a great run but I think the sun is setting on them. The AFC has some excellent young QBs like Carr, Luck and Newton who can all win a title with a little support around them.

        • Teacherman

          The AFC doesn’t have Newton though. There are a few others. Tannehill? I’d say it’s undecided at this point. He needs help. A case could be made for Dalton, but he hasn’t delivered when it counts yet. Flacco, good, but not young and dependent on everything around him clicking. Roethlisberger is in the same category, but not as dependent on the surrounding cast. Or he just has a better cast. I’m not sure. Haven’t seen a lot of him working without the help. Wait to see if Mariota is one of them. Who else? Smith? Rivers? Both good, but not young.

        • Rahn Aquizap

          Another ignorant comment. Dude, you’re completely clueless! Do you even watch football?!

    • Nick_CT

      yeah, you are the only one

    • Joe Smith

      Sounds more like a prayer or wish then common sense. And the comparison with that Cowboys team of the early 90’s. How about that team was only “dominant” for 4 yrs where they won 3 SB’s and lost a Conf Champshp. The Patriots “dominance” has been going on 16 yrs and counting. What happened aftr they won 3 out of 4. Oh, lets see, a Conf Champ loss, an AFC Championship Win/SB appearence, 6 straight Conf Champshp games, including 3 wins and 2 more SB Championships. Somehow, that Cowboys comparison of “dominance” seems to fall short by 10,000 miles or so. But I get it. You’re desperate with hate, envy and jealousy, etc. Brady’s going nowhere, even at 40. He’s still got at least 2 more prime years if not 3 and will a small fall off make the Patriots that much worse. I think not. But yep, you can be the ONLY 1 to think (or should I say pray/wish) what you do. I get it! #5 & counting.

      • john ytto

        I personally think that while Brady may have some titles ahead of him, he’ll unfortunately either end up fading out with the Patriots or ending it on a high note like Peyton. No one here is jealousy or envious. Why are there so many high strung Pats fans who can’t argue properly so they resort to “hurr durr ur jellus!!11!”. Come on, you could easily have stated that Brady has a few more good years left in him.

        While the Patriots have been a great team in recent years, a 10 year dry spell is not what I would call “dominance”. Regardless, you should either stop acting like such a condescending prick or neck yourself.

    • Rahn Aquizap

      Dude, whatever you’re smoking….please stop doing it, cuz it’s killing whatever brain cells you have left. Everything about your comment displays your ignorance and the fact that you’re very uneducated son! Sorry your team SUCKS!

  • Nick_CT

    As much as I want to see Romo succeed what makes anyone think he can stay healthy?

    • TheOriginalDonald

      He won’t, and he ain’t gonna be the Dallas starting QB next year

      • Nick_CT

        well no shit

  • GorillaNation

    No Dallas or Green Bay mentions?
    The AFC stinks. Patriots have such a cakewalk over there.

    Did someone actually say Houston? Shirley you can’t be serious……

    • TheOriginalDonald

      He was serious…AND DON’T CALL ANY OF US SHIRLEY!-Houston Texans Cheerleaders

    • Joe Smith

      Does your statement “over there” reference the AFC by any chance? Or the AFC East? You’ll note that the AFC had a winning record vs the NFC last season, that if not for the NFC East dominance over the overrated AFC North, wouldn’t have made the overall conference records against each other so tight. U realize that included AFC East dominance of the NFC West which was a bad division and the AFC West dominating the NFC South(can u say, no defenses in this division).Then you have the pathetic AFC South actually having a winning record over the “overrated” NFC North, that included the so called GB juggernaut getting hammered at home vs a pathetic Colts team during he season. So, is that what you meant by “over there”? OR did you mean the AFC East? The division with the best overall winning percentage in the NFL since 2002. Take away the Patriots you say and then what’s that winning percentage? Well, then I’ll say take away the 1st place finisher in all the divisions since 2002 and then see what each division’s winning percentage is. OHHHHH, lookie here. The AFC East without the Patriots still has the 2nd best overall winning percentage of ANY division in the NFL since 2002. Only the NFC East is better. So Gorrilla Nation, take your jealous, envious, hate filled opinion and put it in your pipe and smoke it. Know the FACTs next time. thanks for trying though. Mike dropped.

      • GorillaNation

        LOL U say Packers were “hammered by” the Colts. Haha.
        5 point loss, with Janis dropping a long TD pass, & Haha Clintons Dix missing a free sack of Luck with 3 minutes to go to give the ball back to red hot Rodgers.

        Nice try.

  • Teacherman

    Look at recent history, and see that picking against the Patriots comes down to one of two things:
    1) Is Brady healthy/active for most of/the end of the season? 2008 may have been the best example of this, and that was not recent, but after Brady’s injury, Cassel carried the team, but couldn’t close the door when it mattered. If Brady plays the majority of the season healthy, they should be the undisputed favorite. Other pieces matter, OL, skill positions, defense, but they, more than Brady can be adjusted for if an injury occurs.
    2) Is there another dominant AFC team to challenge the Pats in the AFC title game? With Manning retired, those options are reduced. You can make a case for Pittsburgh, and sometimes Baltimore, although they haven’t looked up to the job lately. It’s been kind of a “Brady, Roethlisberger, Manning” show since ’02 with exceptions of only Gannon and Flacco. It looks like Carr is the most likely new candidate, but we’ll need to see it happen before we can count on it.
    If the answers, respectively are “yes” and “no” then we’re looking at another Pats Superbowl appearance, and let’s be honest, most likely, win.

  • DaStrongSKRAWN

    Giants or Packers for me. Texans if they get an average QB.

  • Pat Infante

    The Giants played way over their head this year and stayed relatively healthy. Eli will continue to have his skills diminish albeit still better than a third or more of the QBs in the league. The Giants have no chance.

  • hitbraker

    My Giants will win Super Bowl 52 with “aging” Eli..

  • James hannagan

    To Joe Smith agree with most of what you said but longer view afc west has been better the east has had a lot of fair to decent teams but I can’t remember when there was another real contender besides the division winner unlike the west but we will see this year I personally think they’re going to get smacked around when they go div. to div. this year I could easily make a case for San Diego being better than Miami if they can get a break from injuries I also think NE goes 2 and 2 and a whole lot more beat up in process the fact that KC and Oakland had to play so many meaningful games hurt both teams in postseason Denver as well NE may have beaten broncs but got smacked good and it will happen 4 times this year at least

  • Thatsenoughalready

    The Raiders are built for the long haul while the Pats are fading.

    There’s definitely a changing of the guard happening in the AFC.

  • Moose Jacob

    Top 5 Teams to win in AFC:


    Sleepers: Broncos, Bengals, Titans
    Super Sleepers: Dolphins, Colts, Ravens
    Probably Not: Bills, Chargers
    No Way: Jaguars, Jets, Browns

    Top 5 Teams to win in NFC


    Sleepers: Cardinals, Panthers, Buccaneers
    Super Sleepers: Lions, Saints, Redskins
    Probably Not: Vikings, Eagles
    No Way: Rams, 49ers, Bears