Which NFL Franchise Will be the Next Team of the Decade?
During each decade a new team emerges seemingly from nowhere to claim the mythical title of the team of the decade.
Going back to the 1970s (the first full decade of the Super Bowl era), it seemed as if the Miami Dolphins would lay claim to that title. The Dolphins appeared in three straight Super Bowls (winning two) and had a perfect season. However, the Pittsburgh Steelers won four titles in six years to snatch the crown away.
The 1980s saw the San Francisco 49ers also win four Super Bowls. They clinched the title as team of the 1980s by winning the last two title games of the decade. The Niners held off the Raiders and Redskins who each won two Super Bowls.
The 1990s introduced us to the expression, "How 'bout them Cowboys?!" Dallas won three titles in four years. Only the Broncos came close to matching their success with consecutive Lombardis near the end of the decade. Buffalo appeared in the first four Super Bowls of the 1990s but lost each one.
Finally, we have the 2000s. The New England Patriots won three titles by a combined nine points. They also had a perfect regular season in 2007 which was marred by a Super Bowl loss to the Giants.
What does the upcoming decade hold?
Looking at the previous teams of the decade, it's certain that you must have a top quarterback and a stout defense to compete for multiple titles.
Here are my top five teams primed to lay claim to team of the 2010s.
5) New Orleans Saints
Pluses: Drew Brees, 31, is the youngest of the truly elite quarterbacks in the league (P. Manning, Brady). He should have at least four or five high quality seasons left in him.
The Saints have a chance to give defensive coordinator more front seven weapons via the 2010 NFL draft.
Minuses: For starters, their recent Super Bowl win doesn't count towards the next decade. The Saints window of opportunity mirrors that of Drew Brees so they need to win early in the 2010s to lay claim to team of the decade.
4) New York Jets
Pluses: The Jets made it to the AFC Championship Game in their first year under Rex Ryan. This was also the first year for quarterback Mark Sanchez who can only improve from here.
The Jets already have one of the ingredients for a Super Bowl contender and that's a top tier defense.
Minuses: The biggest thing that seems to be holding back the Jets is the passing game. In an NFL that constantly evolving towards an aerial attack, the Jets were run, run, run. I'm sure a lot of that had to do with Sanchez being a rookie, but he completed just 53 percent of his passes and threw eight more interceptions than touchdowns.
3) Atlanta Falcons
Pluses: Unlike the Jets, the Falcons know that their young quarterback can throw the ball around the field with success. As a rookie in 2008, Ryan completed 61 percent of his passes with 16 touchdowns and just 11 interceptions.
Despite playing hurt and then missing two games last season, Ryan had 22 touchdowns.
Minuses: Atlanta lost six games last year by more than seven points. They must find some play-makers for their defense in order to contend for a Super Bowl.
2) Baltimore Ravens
Pluses: The Ravens are the only AFC team to win at least one playoff game in each of the past two seasons.
Joe Flacco emerged as one of the game's better quarterbacks with his season last year. He tossed over 3,600 yards and 21 touchdowns against only 12 picks.
Running back Ray Rice instantly became one of the best dual threat players with his running and receiving abilities.
Minuses: Despite another top five defensive performance, the Ravens' two best defenders, Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, are both aging with Reed talking about retirement. Baltimore must also focus on finding better talent at cornerback.
1) Green Bay Packers
Pluses: Aaron Rodgers is the best quarterback on this list not named Brees. He had an astonishing 30 to 7 touchdown to interception ratio.
Green Bay might be the most balanced team in the league having ranked in the top seven in points and yards scored AND allowed.
Minues: The much-improved defense really let them down in the playoffs. Arizona torched them for 45 points before scoring the winning score on a defensive touchdown of their own.