The NFL Season starts today, so what better time to tell you which eight teams I think have a chance to compete for the Super Bowl. If you’ve been following along, you know that I put my Power Rankings up. My top eight there is not the same as here. This list takes into consideration scheduling and my thoughts. Not a lot of a statistical analysis involved. Without further ado, here we go!
8. Houston Texans: Yes, those Houston Texans; the same team that finished 6-10 in 2010. Call me crazy, but they are competing in what seems to a be a very weak AFC South. The Indianapolis Colts claim that Peyton Manning will be out for “awhile,” the Jacksonville Jaguars are playing with a bad QB situation, and the Tennessee Titans don’t look to contend. The Texans get a relatively tough schedule, but with defense that looks to be much better than last year (it only has to be mediocre for them to contend), an offense that is electric, and some experience under their belt, they should win the division and get at least one home game in the playoffs.
7. Dallas Cowboys: I know that this is starting to become a trendy pick, but it’s also not a dumb one. They open with a tough game against the New York Jets, but they follow that with games against the San Francisco 49ers, Washington Redskins, Detroit Lions, and St. Louis Rams before heading to Philly. They could get off to a hot start. Jason Garret will get to use his own playbook and Rob Ryan is a great defensive mind. Even if these guys can’t win the East, they should be able to make some noise as a Wild Card.
6. New Orleans Saints: I don’t think the Saints will win their first game at Green Bay, but their schedule after that has some winnable games: vs. Chicago Bears, @ Jaguars, @ Carolina Panthers, @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and @ St. Louis Rams all before their Week 11 bye. Drew Brees is coming off a quietly bad second half of last season and should be able to get back to his 2009 form.
5. San Diego Chargers: I know! They always get off to a slow start. Have you seen their schedule this season? Outside of the Green Bay and New England games, every game on their schedule is winnable. Phillip Rivers will have his receiver corps back and healthy and could very possibly (you know what’s coming!) throw for 5,000 yards this season. The defense is somewhat a question mark, but it should be good enough to help them contend.
4. New England Patriots: You may have heard of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. These guys are pretty good. The defense will be in transition this year, adding more 4-3 looks with the addition of Albert Haynesworth. The offense is always good, and this year should be no different. If Belichick can do it again with an aging defense, the Patriots should have no trouble getting the playoffs and letting Brady work his magic, where he’s 14-4 over his career.
3. Green Bay Packers: The defending Super Bowl Champions would be an easy team to put at number one. They get back Jermichael Finley and Ryan Grant. I don’t know if you’ve been watching football long, but it’s really hard to repeat as champions. The Packers will get everyone’s best and will have a target on their backs. They’ll get back to the playoffs because they’ll win what appears to be a weak NFC North, but I’m not convinced they’ll make it all the way back to the big game.
2. Philadelphia Eagles: I won’t go in to painful detail here because you’ve heard it all before. The Eagles won the offseason and no one else was even close. Their secondary was their weakness, and now it’s the deepest in the league. Like the Packers, the Eagles will have a target on their backs. Michael Vick is the glue that holds the Eagles dream of finally winning a Super Bowl under Andy Reid together.
Even if Vick goes down, Vince Young is a good backup to have. He offers a slightly less talented version of the same offense and last year, before being run out of Tennessee, he threw ten touchdowns to three interceptions. Either way – Vick staying healthy will be important. If he misses just one game, it could be the difference between a one seed and a two seed – and the NFC Championship game in Philly is much easier to win than it will be in Green Bay.
1. Pittsburg Steelers: I’m sure it’s already been written a few times – but have you seen the schedule that the football gods blessed Pittsburgh with this season? They drew the NFC West and AFC East. The Baltimore Ravens won’t be as good this season and the Steelers could realistically win 13 or 14 games and get the number one seed in the AFC. I don’t need to go into detail, because you know how good Ben Roethlisberger is in the playoffs. This team would be a tough out.