Feb. 23, 2014 at 11:04 AM ET
“The Amazing Race All-Stars” season kicks off on Sunday, with 11 teams of returning racers. This will mark the second and third times viewers have seen some teams, and frankly, we've lost track of how many times we've watched “Big Brother” vets Rachel Reilly and Brendon Villegas on a CBS reality show. But which teams really have an edge heading into the season?
“Returning for a third season definitely gives teams an advantage over those who have only raced once before,” past player Marie Mazzocchi, who won't be returning for the all-star season, told TODAY. “There’s really no excuse for stupid rookie mistakes there.”
But while some players might make the most of yet another do-over, others could just fall back to their old, not-so-rookie mistakes.
Here's how we think they'll do:
Herbert 'Flight Time' Lang and Nate 'Big Easy' Lofton (Harlem Globetrotters)
These basketball-twirling jokesters are the ones to beat this season. Not only are they one of the “threepeat” teams, but they finished high in both seasons (fourth place during season 15 and second in season 18). In their past seasons, the guys made bad calls — taking a four-hour penalty instead of solving a puzzle, for instance — but they should know better now.
Cord and Jet McCoy (Cowboy brothers)
Hold your britches! Don’t let their hilarious cowpoke terminology fool you. These brothers are going to bring some stiff competition. Another team that’s returning for a third time, Cord and Jet have run two solid races during previous seasons , so it’s likely they’ve finally honed their racing skills to perfection. And if not? At least we get to her them mutter “Dagnabbit!” over and over again.
Leo Temory and Jamal Zadran ('Afghanimal' cousins)
Last season, Leo and Jamal gained a rep for their aggressive style and incredible perseverance. However, their pairing up with blonde bombshells Ashley and Ally may have hurt their game, as the guys were constantly trying to help their “race wives” succeed. Without another team’s fate to worry about, Leo and Jamal are sure to come back stronger than ever.
Margie O’Donnell and Luke Adams (Mother and deaf son)
Luke may be deaf, but he and his mom Margie were smart enough to use his disability to their advantage, often strategizing in sign language so that the other teams couldn’t understand them. They, too, are back for a third time, after finishing in the top three during both of their previous seasons. Although they aren’t as physically strong as some of the other teams, they are very clever.
Jennifer Wayne and Caroline Cutbirth (Country singers)
These little ladies should not be underestimated. They may be small in stature compared to some of the other teams (“Big Easy” has over a foot-and-a-half in height on Caroline!), but they race smart and tend to pair up with the strong teams, which may help them in competing against more-experienced teams.
Natalie and Nadiya Anderson (Twin sisters)
If there were a prize for most obnoxious team, these Sri Lankan “twinnies” would surely win, but their likelihood in capturing the grand prize is significantly less. Although they finished in a respectable fifth place during their last season, their nails-on-a-chalkboard personalities and history of making stupid mistakes may prove that their previous success was more luck than skill.
Brendon Villegas and Rachel Reilly (Married 'Big Brother' couple)
“Brenchel” managed to place in the top three on their last season, however, their inability to pull themselves together during stressful times was what ruined their game the first time around. (Who could forget Rachel’s constant crying and frequent breakdowns?) If they can somehow manage to quit the bickering and blubbering, they may have a decent shot at the "All-Stars" grand prize.
William 'Bopper' Minton and Mark Jackson (Friends from Kentucky)
During their last season, these backwoods best friends gave everything they had — including Mark’s hair during a Fast Forward challenge — to win the race, but ended up finishing in fifth place. Their positive attitudes and likable personalities will help them in "All-Stars," but they will need to step up their game if they want to stick around.
Joey Graceffa and Meghan Caramena (YouTubers)
Joey and Meghan finished in fifth place during season 22, and in promos, promised to be coming back tougher than ever. Of course, it’s hard to take their words seriously when they are wearing stuffed animal hats. It’s likely that Joey and Meghan were brought back because of the wave of fans they brought to the show from YouTube, rather than their racing skills.
Dave and Connor O’Leary (Father and son)
This team got a bad break — literally! — when they were forced to withdraw from the competition when Dave injured his leg during season 22. While we didn’t have a chance to see what they could really do the first time they played, it was obvious that their friendly personalities were working against them. They’re going to need to become way more aggressive and a lot more conniving to have a chance this season.
John Erck and Jessica Hoel (Engaged couple)
This couple managed to snag a spot on "All-Stars" despite finishing in a paltry ninth place during season 22 simply because they are the only team in the show’s history to be eliminated while having an express pass. Their boneheaded mistake earned them a chance at redemption, even though many fans don’t even remember who they are. They have the least amount of “Race” experience in the group, so they may struggle to keep up.
Marie — who finished in second place on her season — thinks that while some teams may have skated through their first season(s), it will take a lot more than luck to win this time.
“Some teams make it far just with luck, but it takes a team of two well-rounded competitors that have strengths across the board — physical and mental — (to win ‘All-Stars’)," she said.
While there is plenty of stiff competition, our money is on Flight Time and Big Easy to cross the finish line first, due to their physical strength, two seasons of experience and happy-go-lucky personalities. How can you not root for these jolly giants?
"The Amazing Race All-Stars" kicks off Feb. 23 at 8 p.m. on CBS.