We know who dabs.

But who’s got dibs?

The Carolina Panthers were the best team in the 2015 regular season, good enough to make their celebrations notorious. The Denver Broncos were the best team in the playoffs, beating Ben Roethlisberger, Tom Brady and Cam newton in succession without allowing any of them to produce more than 18 points.

Today, with Peyton Manning headed toward retirement, the Broncos will not be considered the team to beat in 2016.

So, once Manning retires, who in the NFL will be clearly better than the Minnesota Vikings?

Not the Broncos. You can’t count on Brock Osweiler to guide Denver to another Super Bowl.

Not the Packers, although they could reassert themselves in the NFC North if Jordy Nelson can pick up catching passes where he left off.

Not Seattle, not after the Vikings came so close to beating the Seahawks a month ago.

Not Arizona, not after the Vikings came so close to beating the Cardinals in Arizone without three key players.

Today, I think the only teams that can enter 2016 accurately thinking they are clearly better than the Vikings are the last two team to lose to the Broncos:

The Patriots. And the Panthers.

If the Patriots hadn’t elected to kick off in overtime against the Jets or had cared enough to beat a dysfunctional Dolphins team in the regular-season finale, they would have had home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. They almost beat Denver in Denver, and they hardly ever lose home playoff games, The Patriots were good enough to win the Super Bowl this year under more favorable circumstances.

The Panthers are similar to the Vikings - a team that loves to run the ball and plays fierce defense - but right now the Panthers are better at what they do than the Vikings. They have the better quarterback. When Kelvin Benjamin returns they will have the better lead receiver. Their two star linebackers are more accomplished than the Vikings’. And Josh Norman would be the Vikings’ best cornerback.

Other than that, the Vikings could be expected to slug it out with any team in the NFL next season, if they upgrade their offensive line.


Next Russo-Souhan Show will be 4 p.m. Tuesday at Tom Reid’s Hockey City Pub. All of the other podcasts, including my talks with Matt Birk and Tim Cowlishaw, are available at MalePatternPodcasts.com, or via Itunes subscription, or by downloading the SoundCloud.com app.