Their Way or the Highway: 10 'Super Bowl or Bust' Teams to Watch in 2010
Finally, we reach a new decade in NFL football.
It promises to be exciting, it promises to be dramatic, and it darn sure promises to pack a punch harder than any previous decade ever has.
Right now, there are a lot of potential Super Bowl winning teams heading toward September.
In the past decade, we have seen a few unlikely competitors step up to plate such as Indianapolis, New England, New York Giants, and New Orleans, and this year expect to see no exception.
So who should we look at as perennial Super Bowl or bust teams?
Well the list could go on and on forever, but realistically there are a handful of teams that are a single step closer than others.
Therefore, here is a look at the top 10 teams that may either make it or break it, in terms of attaining championship success.
- Chicago Bears
- Miami Dolphins
- Philadelphia Eagles
- San Francisco 49ers
- Atlanta Falcons
- Denver Broncos
10. Tennessee Titans
If there is a more underrated team in the NFL than Tennessee, I have yet to find them.
So far, the Titans seem to have their act together. Vince Young is the solid starter at quarterback, and with Chris Johnson running the ball and trusty head coach Jeff Fisher at the helm, Tennessee looks fairly solid in 2010.
Right now, no one has really been brave enough to say that the Titans are potential Super Bowl contenders.
Instead of remaining optimistic about this young and talented team, people seem to focus on the challenges that lay in store, such as Young's questionable consistency and, of course, the overall challenge that the AFC South poses.
However, aside from these small criticisms, there is no doubt that Tennessee is in firm control of their own destiny.
They haven't tasted much playoff success in recent years, and perhaps 2010 marks a new era for Titans postseason football.
The term "Super Bowl or Bust" could be applied to Tennessee, but realistically most Titans fans aren't thinking Super Bowl right now.
Instead, they are more focused on putting together a winning team for the future, and seeing just how far this talented roster really can take them.
Maybe Tennessee will slip into the postseason, and make a New York Jet-style playoff run, but who knows right now.
Let's face it, this is a strong possibility, and if it does happen, you can guarantee that the Titans will have an air of confidence about them in the future.
Is the Super Bowl in the cards? Quite possibly, you never know just how far a good and well coached roster can take a team.
If Tennessee fails to make the Super Bowl, let alone win it, expect some serious disappointment and heartache to be felt in Titan-land.
9. Arizona Cardinals
The Arizona Cardinals still have a fresh taste of Super Bowl football in their mouths.
They made it in 2008, but unfortunately were stopped by the then dominant Pittsburgh Steelers of the modern era.
Even though heartache was felt though throughout the state of Arizona, some seriously promising signs were shown from their boys in red and white.
The concerns for Arizona right now though are at quarterback. Kurt Warner no doubt had a strong influence on this team's impressive playoff runs in recent years, and some scrutiny hangs over the head of young Matt Leinart and his ability to throw the ball.
Even though we have seen glimpses of Leinart's passing abilities, I guess we will never know for sure how well he will do until Week One of the regular season.
When Arizona first made the Super Bowl in 2008, I was one of the select few people who raised their hand and set that the Cardinals were simply a fluke team.
Now though, I think differently, as this team has simply found the winning gene, time and time again, even when we have written them off for good.
So what is stopping the Cardinals from repeating their fate in 2010? Easy, absolutely nothing.
Sure a few concerns hang about, but realistically these could easily be canceled out with a serious dose of confidence, motivation and wins—something that Arizona has in abundance.
People are quick to count Arizona out, but as we all know, they are at their best when they're underestimated. The Super Bowl is a distinct possibility for this club, as they know how to get it done in the playoffs.
Once again, a Super Bowl or a bust-style season? We'll have to wait and see, but right now the Arizona Cardinals a Super Bowl sleeper.
8. Cincinnati Bengals
Following a highly successful draft campaign that saw Cincinnati gain both Jermaine Gresham and Jordan Shipley, the Bengals finally seem to have some confidence on offense.
In 2009, the Bengals lacked spark. Everybody knows they have a talented roster, but it seemed when the going got tough, no one was ready to step up and take charge to post a win.
What should we expect in 2010?
For starters, a totally rejuvenated Bengals side. I am not willing to go out on a limb just yet and state that the Bengals will make the Super Bowl, but surely with such a talented roster, they can make the playoffs once again.
The criticism that I do find when thinking about the Bengals is time. Carson Palmer isn't the youngest quarterback in the league, and with Chad Ochocinco quickly aging both physically and mentally, the Bengals may only have five to six years tops, to get a Super Bowl victory.
Fans in Cincinnati are tired of missing in the big game, and rightfully so. This franchise has seen its ups and downs, but right now they may be at their ultimate peak.
No postseason football would not only crush the hopes of Cincinnati, it would also dampen any Super Bowl thoughts. If there is one thing the Bengals don't want to become, it's a "bust" team, as it may simply undo all of the hard work that has been put into this turnaround.
The Super Bowl could be a good two to three years away, however, don't count out the possibility of a orange and black year.
7. Houston Texans
I, like everyone else last season, was thoroughly impressed with how the Houston Texans played.
Sure they missed the playoffs, and, yes, it was a bit of a bumpy ride, but for now at least, the boat seems to have stabilized as the postseason prepares for a possible attack from the Houston Texans.
So far this offseason, the Texans haven't been painted in a great light. The Brian Cushing issue grasped headlines for weeks, and just when we thought it was all over, Andre Johnson's contract issues also created a buzz in the media.
However, like every storm, the Texans have managed to weather it all quite well, and keep their focus.
So what exactly is their focus, you ask? It's simple: postseason football.
The Texans as a franchise have never experienced much success aside from a few memorable wins, and now that they are acquainted and experienced within the league, it is time for them to target a spot in the 2010 playoffs.
For the most part, this is no easy feat to achieve. Indianapolis and Tennessee both prove to be huge threats to Houston in the AFC South, and a potential Wild Card berth may be all that Houston sees this season.
The Super Bowl? Maybe, but it is still a little out of reach. If anything is certain though, another tough and disappointing season will only hurt these young players more.
Like Cincinnati, a "bust" could hurt Houston immensely in the future, so it is vital that the Texans start out strong, and end strong from September through the postseason.
6. New York Jets
Some may argue with the Jets' low ranking on this list, but despite their impressive 2009 season, New York still has a lot of work to do in 2010.
The first priority is to give QB Mark Sanchez control of the team. Instead of New York carrying Sanchez, it is time for Sanchez to carry New York.
For a young quarterback, this may be hard to do from the very beginning, however, it may make the difference between an AFC Championship loss, or a Super Bowl berth.
For once, the Jets are on the more confident side in New York. They have an exciting and bright coach in Rex Ryan, and finally the quarterback position looks to be set for the future.
More importantly though, it is the Jets' No. 1-ranked defense that has people talking Super Bowl throughout the Big Apple.
So can New York really do the unthinkable? Jets fans will tell you they can, but realistically there is still a lot to overcome.
The New England Patriots are still a major threat, some concern still hangs above Sanchez, and the term "fluke" is being tossed around a lot in regards to the Jets' success in 2009.
These are all factors that the Jets are well aware of, and that they can easily overcome. The Super Bowl was extremely close last season, and hopefully New York can make it that extra step further this season.
If they are to backpedal though and do the very opposite, well, the Jets may go down as not only a "bust," but also a one-hit wonder.
5. Dallas Cowboys
To me, the Cowboys have the most impressive roster in all of football.
More importantly though, the Cowboys have their sights set on the Super Bowl, and now know what it feels like to win in the playoffs.
In previous years, it appeared Dallas simply wasn't all there. If it wasn't Terrell Owens causing off-field distractions, it was Tony Romo's love-affair with Jessica Simpson.
Nowadays though, the Cowboys do have their head in the game. Perhaps it was Dallas' over decade-long losing streak in the playoffs that finally motivated this team, or maybe it was due to head coach Wade Phillips, but something seems to click for the previously labeled "choke" of a team.
For owner Jerry Jones' men, the Super Bowl is favored. Many people have picked Dallas to get it done in 2010, and fans and analysts alike agree that Dallas is the real deal.
Getting over the playoff hump is one thing, but adding fuel to an already well burning fire is another. The Cowboys Super Bowl destiny starts now, and many fans believe that the 2010 era will be much like the Cowboys dominant 1990s period.
Will it happen? It definitely could, however, it is still a mere thought.
If another trophy-less season does occur though, expect Dallas to be more than just labeled "chokers" by this time next year.
4. San Diego Chargers
"Close, but no cigar."
That very statement sums up the San Diego Chargers in a nutshell.
It seems every year people predict San Diego to take the Lombardi Trophy back to Qualcomm Stadium, and this year will be no exception.
In past years, we have seen the Chargers slowly come out of the gates, only to heat up in the playoffs.
Will it happen again this year? Probably, just minus running back LaDainian Tomlinson.
For the San Diego Chargers, the term "Super Bowl or bust" has already occurred many times. They've been close to making it, and ultimately choked and failed at every given opportunity.
This season, the same could very well happen. Tomlinson is gone, and a serious presence at running back will be missing when Ryan Matthews steps in and tries to prove himself as a rookie.
Therefore, the Chargers are Super Bowl contenders, but also very big "bust" contenders.
To me, the Chargers are simply one of those unlucky teams—they get so far every year, and collapse.
Of course, there is a ton of time to change this fate, but until San Diego posts a consistent season, perhaps the same misfortune will continue to happen.
3. Green Bay Packers
Criticizing ESPN analyst Tony Kornheiser isn't the only thing Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers can do exceptionally well—turns out, he's also quite a decent passer.
In 2009, the Packers suffered a crushing defeat to the Arizona Cardinals in the NFC Wild-Card Game. However, even though this was seen negatively in Green Bay, a lot of positive came from the Packers' 2009 season.
The first of course, was Rodgers' impressive development. A near MVP award winner, Rodgers is now one of the top fantasy quarterbacks in football.
The second was the Packers' impressive defense, which ranked No. 2 in the league thanks to Charles Woodson and Clay Matthews.
All of this makes for a potential Super Bowl season in Green Bay in 2010. The talent is there, and above all else, the confidence factor is also there.
The Packers may have exited the playoffs early last season, but it was also a character building moment for Rodgers. He now knows what to do in certain situations, and now knows how to handle the playoffs differently.
If a Super Bowl doesn't come to Green Bay, Packer fans may not be too disappointed, but if the postseason is totally canceled out, it would be extremely unfair to the loyal Packer fan base.
The anticipation is high right now heading into the season, and the Packers' impending campaign should go in a great direction.
2. Minnesota Vikings
From one NFC North team to another, we focus on the Minnesota Vikings.
Of course, a lot of Minnesota's potential postseason campaign does rely on Brett Favre's return to football.
There is no doubt that he added that talent factor to the Vikings last year, and also steadily guided them to the NFC Championship game.
As much as the Vikings 2010 season hangs in the balance, realistically they are as bigger threat as any other team in the league.
Adrian Peterson is still a steady rusher despite some fumbling issues, and young Percy Harvin's talent is now on display for the world to see.
For the Vikings to make the postseason, they will have to win the NFC North division once again. They did it in 2009, and if Favre does return, you can't help but like their chances.
In the Vikings' history, a lot of "busting" has happened, particularly in the postseason.
Can they get over the hump? I say so, given that Brad Childress is an excellent coach when it comes to going against the flow.
However, another disappointing year may not only drive Favre away, but also crush a few Viking fans' hopes and dreams.
1. Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens are the unlikely No. 1 on this list, but there is no denying that this team is quite possibly the closest to Super Bowl victory.
Of course, some obvious questioning does surround Joe Flacco, and whether or not he can support this team in 2010.
Aside from criticism though, it is the positive that has convinced many that this is the Ravens' year. A highly successful draft equipped with the addition of Anquan Boldin, leaves the Ravens in prime position to take advantage of the AFC North.
The Ravens haven't won the Super Bowl since 2000, exactly 10 years ago. Will it be another Ravens reign to start the decade? Possibly, and unfortunately for some fans, the odds to favor Baltimore.
The term "bust" hasn't really entered the Ravens' vocabulary just yet, as they are only set on the Super Bowl. However, if they do fail, expect them to keep at it year after year.
If by this time next year our new Super Bowl champions are the Baltimore Ravens, you can credit it due to hard work and persistence, as this team has never given up, even when they are down.