Early Super Bowl favorites for 2014

Coach Jim Harbaugh has to find a way to re-sign Anquan Boldin. The 49ers have $8.2 million of cap room and some interesting decisions. Unsigned are Boldin, cornerback Tarell Brown, center Jonathan Goodwin and safety Donte Whitner. Cornerback Carlos Rogers could be cut for cap purposes, and the team has to hope defensive end Justin Smith wants to play another year. The thought is that he will.

With Seattle, Arizona and St. Louis, the NFC West is a tough division. The core of this team is still young enough to challenge for a trip to the Super Bowl.

3. Denver Broncos: Now that he has re-established himself in Denver, Peyton Manning is doing what he did in Indianapolis. His presence almost automatically puts a team at 12 wins. Because of Manning and a solid front office, the Broncos have been a No. 1 seed for the past two years.

It will be tougher in 2014. Going into the '13 season, the Broncos had the easiest schedule based on 2012 records. Based on 2013 records, the Broncos have the second-toughest schedule, with opponents posting a .570 win percentage. Part of the problem is the AFC West plays the NFC West. To get back to the Super Bowl, the Broncos might have to do it as a lower seed, maybe following an 11-win season.

The Broncos have $5.4 million of cap room. They have plenty of tough decisions. Unsigned are cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, running back Knowshon Moreno, defensive end Robert Ayers, wide receiver Eric Decker, guard Zane Beadles and defensive end Shaun Phillips. But with Manning expected to be back, the Broncos have a chance to be back.

4. New England Patriots: As Tom Brady goes, so go the New England Patriots. Brady won't go through what he experienced in 2013. He entered the regular season minus his five top pass-catchers from 2012. Bill Belichick still has issues in that regard. Tight end Rob Gronkowski is coming off an ACL injury. Julian Edelman is unsigned, and if the Patriots re-sign him, they might have to cut Danny Amendola.

Clearly, the Patriots have to find a No. 2 tight end and upgrade the outside wide receiver position. They are at the cap, so a few players have to be cut. Cornerback Aqib Talib is the Patriots' main coverage cornerback, but he's unsigned. Also unsigned are halfback LeGarrette Blount and linebacker Brandon Spikes.

5. Carolina Panthers, New Orleans Saints, St. Louis Rams and Arizona Cardinals: All right, I cheated to try to squeeze in three more teams, but I had to do it. The Saints made it to the divisional round this past season, and you can't count out Sean Payton. He'll be looking for a left tackle and maybe a right tackle if he doesn't re-sign Zach Strief. The Saints are $14 million over the cap, but they'll get relief when they cut linebacker Will Smith and a couple of other players.

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