There are a few things I look for in a potential Super Bowl team, but chief among them is comfortability with the quarterback situation.
Joe Flacco and Eli Manning have proven that you don't need to have an amazing quarterback, but you do need competent. One of my favorite recent theories on this is the "Dalton Scale" idea that NFL.com's Chris Wesseling devised: if your quarterback is worse than Andy Dalton, you need a new quarterback.
Minnesota Vikings (+3300 - +5750)
Teddy Bridgewater's rookie season was not fabulous, but he did improve dramatically down the stretch. As a believer before the draft, I know that I'm giving him a bit of the benefit of the doubt here. If there's one thing I've learned over the last couple NFL seasons, it's that a hot six-game sample doesn't actually have a lot of predictive value.
But I was smitten with Bridgewater coming out of the draft – I thought he was the best quarterback in it. Add to this that the Minnesota Vikings will have Adrian Peterson back, and Mike Wallace in theory gives them a nice little deep threat. The defense is only going to get better as first-rounders Xavier Rhodes and Tre Waynes repopulate the secondary, and the only true weak link I see on the unit is with end Brian Robison, who had a down 2014.
The Vikings haven't made the leap yet. But that's why you get them at this price. This team reminds me a lot of Seattle before we were sure Russell Wilson was a star.
San Diego Chargers (+2500 - +5000)
Philip Rivers has been one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL over the past two seasons, he's just been toiling at it anonymously. San Diego thought about moving on in the offseason, and may still watch him walk if the Chargers move to Los Angeles, but for now they've got one of the league's best.
I'm not a big fan of drafting running backs in the first round, but given how ground-heavy head coach Mike McCoy likes to play, the Melvin Gordon selection made more sense for them than for most teams. If Gordon and Danny Woodhead can both stay healthy, the Chargers should again be able to chew clock well. I don't think it's the most optimal strategy at times, but when they're an underdog, it does make them a little more dangerous.
The defense is… well, that's a bit more of a stretch. But the Chargers will have last year's first-rounder Jason Verrett back. He played like a star in limited snaps. I'm worried about the pass rush, but I think the San Diego Chargers can overcome this.
Atlanta Falcons (+3500 - +4500)
We went over why I like the Atlanta Falcons to win the division here, so I'll let that stand and try to sell you on their Super Bowl chances. They've got the best offense of any of these teams with quarterback Matt Ryan and wideout Julio Jones. I don't think it's completely implausible that role players like Jacob Tamme give the Falcons more options than they had in 2014.
And while, like San Diego, their defense is a bit of a stretch projection, we've seen crazier things happen when a first-time defensive head coach takes over. Given that head coach Dan Quinn also has a pair of extremely talented players in first-round pick Vic Beasley and underappreciated star corner Desmond Trufant, he may be able to do a lot more with the talent on hand than Mike Smith did.