Five NFL Teams Primed To Overtake the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC
The NFL's runner-up hasn't exactly done great the following year. There have only been a small handful of teams to make it back to the Super Bowl after losing it the previous year.
Of those teams only two have won it the second time around. Dallas won Super Bowl VI after losing Super Bowl V and Miami won Super Bowl VII after losing Super Bowl VI.
This past decade was particularly tough on Super Bowl losers. Less than half of them even returned to the playoffs the following year.
Here are five teams that are primed to overtake the Indianapolis Colts for Supremacy in the AFC.
AFC No. 5: New York Jets
Who are the real New York Jets?
Are they the team that finished 9-7 and squeaked into to the playoffs? Or are they the team that came within a game of playing in the Super Bowl?
A lot of that depends on quarterback Mark Sanchez. Sanchez had an up and down year in 2009, typical for a rookie. He was efficient at times but also had five games with multiple interceptions.
The Jets make the list primarily because of last year's playoff run and Sanchez's tremendous potential to improve.
I am, however, not at all crazy about many of the personnel moves they made this offseason. These moves need to pay off because they can't count on 9-7 being good enough again to make the playoffs.
AFC No. 4: Miami Dolphins
Some teams start the season strong. Others end it on a positive note.
Miami did neither of those as they started and ended the season 0-3.
A fast start and strong end will be imperative to the Dolphins' success. They will face each division opponent within the first four games of the season and again during the last four games of the season.
I absolutely love what the Dolphins have done this offseason. Brandon Marshall instantly upgrades a very average passing attack. Karlos Dansby gives the defense another playmaker.
Quarterback Chad Henne is already has a 60 percent completion rate and will improve with a top-tier receiver and another year under his belt.
AFC No. 3: San Diego Chargers
The San Diego Chargers are that team that underachieves in the playoffs nearly every single year. It seems that they should have been in the Super Bowl at least once or twice over the past four or five years.
The offense will continue to pile up points with Philip Rivers under center, but the run defense is my concern.
Jamal Williams, the one-time anchor of the defensive line, only played in one game last year and is now in Denver.
LaDainian Tomlinson is wearing a different uniform for the first time in nearly a decade and rookie Ryan Matthews needs to prove that he was worth trading up to get at the twelfth overall pick.
AFC No. 2: New England Patriots
After a 10-6 record and securing the conference's number three seed last year, the New England Patriots got annihilated by the Baltimore Ravens in the wild card round of the playoffs.
Was this a fluke or a sign of things to come?
I'm leaning towards fluke as they were in the top ten in both scoring offense and defense.
New England is looking to get a much needed youth injection with five picks in top 90 and 12 picks overall.
AFC No. 1: Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens are the only AFC team to win at least one playoff game in each of the past two seasons and they've done it both times as a wild card team.
They recognized that they needed to improve their passing game so they traded for Cardinals receiver Anquan Boldin.
He has five 1,000 yard seasons in seven years, but he's accomplished it mostly as Larry Fitzgerald's sidekick. Now, he will see the bulk of the double teams and if he can still duplicate his usual stats, he can elevate Baltimore's offense to one of the best in the NFL.
Even though the defense got a year older, they still managed to rank third in both points and yards allowed. Rookies Sergio Kindle and Terrance Cody will bring youth and energy to the defense.
Baltimore was in every game they played last year. The Ravens lost four games by three or fewer points. Their largest margin of defeat was by just 13 points to the Packers and they were down by only three points heading into the fourth quarter of that game.
The Ravens need just some improvement offensively to go from a wild card team to a division winner and championship contender.