Super Bowl XLV is ancient history, and odds makers are already looking ahead to the next Super Bowl in 2012 (or whenever the next football season is held).
So who do we think has the best shot to hoist the Lombardi Trophy next?
- Green Bay Packers – The defending champions should only be better next year when their starting running back, tight end, right tackle, and linebacker return to the lineup. Green Bay was dominant down the stretch this year, but we ain’t seen nothing yet.
- New England Patriots – Tom Brady and the Patriots were shocked by the New York Jets in the Divisional Round of the playoffs, but the league’s MVP will lead the Patriots back to the playoffs next year. New England’s young defence only got better as the year went on, and armed with three draft picks in the top 33, the Patriots should be able to shore up problem areas.
- Pittsburgh Steelers – If not for a couple uncharacteristic Ben Roethlisberger interceptions, the Steelers might be celebrating their third Super Bowl title in six years. The pillars of their franchise aren’t going anywhere, so Pittsburgh will be a threat again.
- New York Jets – New York expended all its energy in upending the Patriots, but it’s clear that Rex Ryan’s squad will be a contender for years to come. The Jets have some difficult personnel decisions to make, but Mark Sanchez is on the path to stardom. The loud-mouthed Jets won’t be able to play the “world is against us” card again next year.
- Baltimore Ravens – Baltimore was unable to beat its main adversary in the playoffs, but the rest of the 2010 season must be considered a major success. The defence was strong as always, and the Ravens, though inconsistent, have plenty of talent on offence.
- Dallas Cowboys – Nothing went right for Dallas in 2010, but there still might not be a more talented team in the league than the Cowboys. Without the pressure of a Super Bowl in their stadium, and with a competent coach in place, Dallas might be able to get its act together and be the surprise team of 2011.
- Philadelphia Eagles – After relinquishing Donovan McNabb, no one expected much out of the Eagles last season. Of course, no one knew that Michael Vick would snatch the starting quarterback job and play at an MVP level. Philadelphia has plenty of speed on offence, and with a few upgrades on the other side of the ball, Philly will be tough to beat.
- New Orleans Saints – The Saints were upset by the Seattle Seahawks in the first round of the playoffs, but during the second half of the regular season there wasn’t a better team in football than New Orleans. Injuries killed the Saints in 2010, but a return to health and a renewed hunger next season should have New Orleans in the title mix.
- Atlanta Falcons – Atlanta was crushed in the Divisional Round by the eventual Super Bowl Champions, but they were the most fundamentally sound team in football in 2010. Nothing about the Falcons is sexy, but they have plenty of good, young players, and should only get better.
- St. Louis Rams – The Rams almost won the pitiful NFC West in 2010, and with the additions of a few veteran receivers, of which there will be plenty available, the Rams are ready to take the next step. Another year of maturity for Sam Bradford will only help, and the defence could join the ranks of the NFL’s elite.
Apologies to: Indianapolis, San Diego, and Chicago
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