Ranking Super Bowl contenders

The three teams with the Broncos are volume rushing teams, with each ranked in the top nine in rushing attempts. But Denver's rush defense is far better equipped than its secondary, posting an EPA success on 64.6 percent of opposing rushing attempts (eighth in NFL). When defensive tackle Terrance Knighton is on the field (as he was for 32 snaps last weekend), the Broncos allow only 3.3 yards per rush. That number would lead the league as a stand-alone total.


4. New England Patriots (Average rank 2.71)

Why they won't win: The defense, plain and simple. Among the remaining teams, New England has the worst defensive third-down percentage, Total QBR allowed, rushing success rate allowed and four-man pass rush. In fact, the Patriots' four-man pass rush isn't just the worst of the four -- it's the worst in the league, controlling the line of scrimmage on 40 percent of pass plays (50 is average).

If Vince Wilfork and/or Tommy Kelly were healthy, this would be a different discussion. However, undrafted rookies can take you only so far, and New England's defensive tackle position is manned by three ( Sealver Siliga, Chris Jones and Joe Vellano). With Jamie Collins' emergence at linebacker and the return of key cogs from injured reserve, this unit could be very interesting -- next year.

How they could win: The Patriots had the best rushing success rate of the four, improving the team's expected points added on 42.2 percent of rushes (third best in NFL). If LeGarrette Blount is for real (and his 431 yards in the past three games suggests he is), moving the ball on the ground, maximizing red-zone possessions and playing opportunistic defense (10th in NFL in takeaways) has worked in Foxborough before. Bill Belichick's teams won't beat themselves (second in both penalties and special teams EPA), and New England is always a tough out with Tom Brady behind center.

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