NFL Teams Whose Super Bowl Window Is About to Slam Shut
In the NFL, it is imperative to strike while the fire is hot.
Rarely do teams come out of no where to claim a championship like in other sports, as you can pretty much rule out around half of the teams from day one.
That being said, teams have small windows to win. During that time period, if a team is unable to snag at least one championship, they will be left wondering "what if" for years and years. It takes years of development and diligent drafting to assemble a championship squad. These are a few teams seeing their windows slamming shut before their eyes.
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The Broncos have just seen their window go from bleak to wide open after having Peyton Manning fall right into their laps.
As long as the future Hall of Famer is piloting this team, they have a chance to win. It is not every day that quarterbacks like that are available in free agency. He has a substantial amount of talent around him on both sides of the ball, most of whom will be around for the foreseeable future—minus shutdown corner Champ Bailey.
However many productive years Peyton has left is exactly how many years the Broncos have before that proverbial window shuts. By the looks of it, health permitting, Manning is still the cream of the crop, with 37 touchdowns and just 11 picks last season. He has a couple of young dynamic receivers in Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker.
The Broncos will go as Manning goes. Their success very much hinges on his health and success.
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With an aging defense, James Harrison and Mike Wallace entering free agency and a quarterback who is a couple of hits away from a nursing home, the Steelers are in serious "win now" mode.
The 35-year-old Harrison has a very good chance of not being in black and yellow next season, which would leave a gaping hole at outside linebacker and in the locker room. There are injury concerns all over the team, with players banged up all over the already shaky offensive line. Troy Polamalu was injured and unproductive this past season, only appearing in seven games.
Beyond that of course, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has taken so many vicious hits in his career behind that porous O-line, one might wonder how long he has left before he falls apart. After an uncharacteristic 8-8 season, these are all concerns that Steeler Nation does not want to hear, but that they must address.
Their running game fell off the map as well, finishing 26th in the league in rushing. This team might have one last rally under Mike Tomlin left in the tank, but even that is being optimistic. Pittsburgh's window has been closing rather rapidly since they got Tebowed in the 2011 playoffs.
New England Patriots
It is incredibly hard to believe that the Pats haven't hoisted the Lombardi Trophy since 2004. There are only so many missed opportunities a team can have before they don't get another one.
After a crushing loss to the future champion Ravens in this past AFC title game, reality sunk in. Is it possible these Patriots have squeezed every ounce of success out of this current core group of players?
While they have rebuilt on both sides of the ball with some tremendous young talent, how long does Brady have left? Will Wes Welker head elsewhere this offseason?
The biggest question lies in the secondary, as they have gotten torched many times in recent years. After dropping their last two Super Bowl chances to the New York Giants, the question very much remains of whether or not this team can get it done when it matters.
Much like Denver, their success very much relies on how long Brady sticks around, and even Belichick for that matter. Consider their window closing ever so slightly with every missed opportunity. It is definitely still open, just not as much as it once was.
New York Giants
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Fortunately for the Giants, Eli Manning has already capitalized and brought them two highly improbable Super Bowls.
The first victory could have been considered a fluke, but lightning rarely strikes in the same place twice. It did for the Giants, as they went on another tear in 2011 to bring home their second title in five years. It is very unlikely for them to coast into the playoffs after another average season and run the table as a wild-card team.
The Giants had a trying season, yet still finished 9-7. Today, they released starting running back Ahmad Bradshaw, linebacker Michael Boley and defensive end Chris Canty. They still have a boatload of talent threatening to leave in free agency. Team cornerstones Osi Umenyiora, Victor Cruz, Kenny Phillips, Chase Blackburn and Stevie Brown are all heading into free agency.
The always tough NFC East is not getting any easier, as Dallas is always somewhat of a threat, Philly is rebuilding, and the Redskins are firmly engulfed in an RGIII fantasy land.
In a league driven by quarterbacks, the Giants have a great one who will be around for a while and is not in the twilight of his career. However, he did have a poor season and despite proving how clutch he can be, Eli is still quite enigmatic. They stand to lose a lot of talent in the coming offseason, and if they cannot re-up, their window could slam shut a lot faster than they anticipated.
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The Ravens are on top of the world. The team of destiny just rampaged through the playoffs against all the odds and sent Ray Lewis into retirement a champion.
When the glamor of the title starts to wear off and reality sets in, they will realize just how important that title was, as the upcoming seasons will be immensely more difficult.
Ray Lewis is not a player that can be replaced immediately. No one on this roster, and no one in free agency or the draft, can step in and replicate what he did and the impact he had. Ed Reed is also a constant threat to retire, discussing it on numerous occasions. There is no guarantee he will be playing next year, either.
On top of the two faces of the franchise in limbo, recently crowned Super Bowl MVP quarterback Joe Flacco is in line for a new contract, and is said to be looking for $20 million annually. Committing that kind of money to him could limit them financially in the future.
Terrell Suggs, Haloti Ngata and possibly Reed can still keep this defense powerful for the coming years, but how long that group has left together will become an issue. Much more responsibility will be bestowed upon Flacco's shoulders, and he better be ready for it. Otherwise, this team could fall flat on its face.
Consider their window tentatively wide open, with "tentatively" being the operative word after the subtraction of Ray Lewis. It could remain that way, or all go up in flames sooner than they'd like.