ESPN recently polled current NFL players to pick their brains on the Super Bowl and the next decade of football. It's clear that the New England Patriots are the heavy favorites to dominate the league. The Patriots are expected to reach more Super Bowls than any other teams, even with a possible transition away from quarterback Tom Brady.
Is this based on the team's reputation, or are the Patriots actually set up well for the future?
I dove into rosters across the league to see which teams were the youngest, and which teams are about to break down and enter a rebuilding period. Here's the snap-weighted average age of every single roster in the league:
Here are some of our findings:
The Super Bowl is going to be old
The Broncos are the 8th oldest team in the NFL, but the Panthers are even older as the 5th oldest. In fact, Carolina is the oldest team in the NFC. Denver pairs the 4th oldest offense with the 19th oldest defense. Even if you remove quarterbacks from the average age, the Broncos still rank 4th oldest, thanks to their tight ends and offensive line. Carolina has the 14th oldest offense and the 4th oldest defense.
The AFC is going to be the Patriots and Chiefs for a while
The Patriots are actually the 5th youngest team in the AFC, behind the Jaguars, Dolphins, Titans, and Bills. It might be concerning that the Dolphins and Bills are so young, but until any of these four teams deserve attention, New England will continue to rule the roost. The Chiefs were the 6th youngest, with nearly the same average age as the Patriots. When you factor out quarterbacks, the Chiefs are the 2nd youngest team in the AFC. Don't be surprised to see Kansas City as a powerhouse in the AFC for the next few years.
The 2015 AFC playoff competitors are old
The Texans (oldest) and Colts (2nd oldest) are set to implode, while the Jets (3rd oldest) and Steelers (4th oldest) are all a full year older than the Patriots. The Broncos (5th oldest) and Bengals (6th oldest) are also far up in age. Seriously, those teams were in the playoff hunt, along with the Patriots and Chiefs. These competitors are due for a rebuild.
The NFC is set to remain more competitive for the foreseeable future
Washington, Green Bay, and Seattle are all in the younger half of the NFC, while the three NFC South teams account for the three oldest in the conference. This means that three divisions will compete with one another, while the NFC South will destruct and rebuild at roughly the same time. It should make for a fun competition.
The Patriots have the 2nd youngest defense in the AFC
Six of the seven youngest defenses in the league belong to the NFC, with the Chargers (4th youngest) the only in the AFC. The Patriots rank 8th youngest and the whole group should stay together for the next half decade. Players like linebackers Dont'a Hightower and Jamie Collins are set to earn contracts, as are cornerbacks Malcolm Butler and Logan Ryan. This unit will be a dominant force in the conference.
When you remove quarterbacks, the Patriots have the 9th youngest offense in the NFL
Quarterback Tom Brady is old, there's no way around that. But he's also playing like the best player in the league. When you remove the age of quarterbacks on every team around the league, the Patriots actually shoot up to the 9th youngest in the league, thanks to the offense line. So if Brady maintains his current level for the next few years, the Patriots will feature an incredibly young offensive and defensive pairing. The Broncos have the 4th oldest quarterback adjusted offense, while the Steelers (2nd oldest) and Jets (oldest) are also ancient.
Tom Brady changes the Patriots offense's snap-weighted average age by 1.07 years
That's the most for any quarterback in the league, ahead of the Giants' Eli Manning and the Saints' Drew Brees.