Year in and Year out, the NFL dominates the American sporting scene. It is truly an American sport. With training camps opening up all over the NFL, every team has one goal: Win the Championship. We take a look at this year's crop of contenders to hoist the Lombardi Trophy come February 2009.
So sit back and relax, grab you some T.O. popcorn as we take a look, in no particular order, at some of the 2008 contenders.
The defending champs earn a free pass just because they are the defending champs. But with questions surrounding the team such as Michael Strahan, we wonder how this team defends its title with one of its defensive mainstays hitting golf balls instead of Quarterbacks. Forget Jeremy Shockey being gone. This team went 5-1 without Shockey, most of them against top talent and on the road, and went 9-5 with him. This is now Eli's team and we we will all watch in anticipation to see how this team does in defending its title.
Seems to be that since the "Romo" era began, people have jumped on the bandwagon that is the Dallas Cowboys. Sure they have Romo, Barber, T.O. and a stout defense, but how many playoff games has this current group of "America's Team" won? Zero. Winning zero playoff games means zero Superbowl trips. However there was a time that the great Peyton Manning couldn't win the "Big Game", and by all means Romo is no Manning. Romo has had a few years of experience under his belt, now its time for him and the 'boys to make that run.
Jack Del Rio made a bold move last year by cutting one time first round pick/bust/out of the league, Byron Leftwich in favor of fourth round selection, David Garrard. Seems to be that the gamble has paid off in the short term. Garrard is good, but can we really base their future off of one year? Tommy Maddox anyone? This off season Jacksonville rewarded Garrard with a long term contract. With a stout running game, solid defense, Jacksonville has all the tools to make it far into to January. So long that our top two contenders don't come up on their playoff schedule.
Two seasons ago, New Orleans went on a magical run en-route to an NFC Championship date with the Chicago Bears. Last year injuries riddled this team to a 7-9 record and third place finish in the NFC South. So why would we put them as one of the Superbowl 43 favorites? All you have to do is look at the Superbowl 42 winner to determine your answer. New Orleans has made some great off season pickups with players like Jeremy Shockey and Jonathan Vilma. They, along with some other acquisitions, should help the team make a strong push toward Tampa in a wide open NFC. With a solid offense, the question remains in New Orleans comes back to defense. Last year their secondary consistently got burned by opposing offenses. But with the NFC lacking some of the offensive firepower the AFC holds, New Orleans could still be playing come February.
Ahh the popular pick among "experts" for 2008. People seem to forget some of the injuries that this team suffered just 6 short months ago, or that their coach is the poster-boy for the coaching carousel. Did Norm turn this team into contenders, or did the team underachieve under Marty, Wade, and Cam? Although talented on all sides of the ball, San Diego still lacks that big time, go to receiver. Last season's trade for Chris Chambers helped, or maybe the emergence of Vincent Jackson is enough. Last year San Diego overachieved and hit their stride down the stretch. We all know San Diego has the Indianapolis Colts number having beating them twice last season, but there is one more bully on the block they haven't quite overcome. I'm still not quite convinced with this team. Injuries to their Quarterback, Running Back, and Tight End does not have me convinced. But we all thought the same about the New York Giants. Anything can happen.
The only reason this team is even on this list is the experience that they have in January football. The Pittsburgh Steelers have done a tremendous job over the year at retooling the lineup. From loosing players such as Joey Porter, Plaxico Burress, among others over the years, the Steelers know how to retool. Adding to the mix in 2008, Pittsburgh picked up explosive RB Rashard Mendenhall to compliment "Fast" Willie Parker. Parker seemed to run out of gas as the season went on. Without a solid backup, the Steelers were forced to rely on Parker a little too much. In today's NFL, the two back system is key for success(see Rhodes/Addai and Jacobs/Bradshaw) in today's NFL. Pittsburgh thrived off that type of running game riding. The power of Jerome Bettis complimented the Speed of Parker. This year they seem to have a team put together that somewhat mirrors that magical 2005 team. Now if only they could find a way to beat the Jags?
Running Game issues limited Seattle in the 2007 playoffs. Without 2005 League MVP, Seattle's Running Game will suffer setback with Jones.
If they acquire Favre, different story. Until then, defense can no longer carry team.
Last year's 13-3 run wont happen again with tougher schedule. Oh I almost forgot, number 4 retired.........uh make that reported to camp..........uh make that got traded...........hell who know's what is going on there. If Favre returns, Green Bay has a chance.
So there you have it folks. Sure there will be teams that will make the playoffs, and there will be a few surprises here and there. All we know is that there are few teams year in and year out that are true contenders. Lets enjoy 2008.