NFL Preseason 2010: Five Teams Ready To Take a Step Forward

Andrew TolanCorrespondent IAugust 17, 2010

NFL Preseason 2010: Five Teams Ready To Take a Step Forward

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    As the collective football world moves in to week three of the preaseason, the annual football carousel has begun.

    Fans take off work, lose sleep and fast while awaiting  the next Brett Favre update and the St. Louis Rams are awful.

    The NFL season starts September 9th - ample time for prognosticators to prognosticate and give you the inside scoop on who will be the surprise teams for the  2010 season.

    This will also mark the tenth straight season the Cowboys are my pick to win the Super Bowl.  

    I really thought Quincy Carter was going to get it done in 2003.  

    Fun fact: According to ESPN's player profile of Quincy Carter, he is a 27-year-old born in 1977.  Quincy Carter continues to amaze.

    Last year saw a slew of teams enter the playoffs that didn't do so the previous season (two seasons before this season if you are following this article for a classroom assignment).

    The New York Jets became a relevant franchise, the Cowboys won a playoff game and the New Orleans Saints won the Super Bowl.

    Weird.

    This article will attempt to pinpoint five NFL teams that will take a step forward in 2010.  Get your notepads ready, call your sports bookie and let the fun begin.

The Seattle Seahawks

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    The Seattle Seahawks are coming off a 5-11 season that will respectfully be chalked up to post-traumatic Mike Holmgren syndrome.

    Peter Clay Carroll will take over as head coach in Seattle, which should immediately pay dividends.

    Carroll's last NFL coaching gig before becoming the omnipresent USC coaching legend was with the New England Patriots and was fairly successful.

    Carroll amassed a 27-21 record, twice took the Patriots to the playoffs and never incurred a losing season.

    Carroll will look to take Matt Hassellback to the wayback machine and bring back the 28 touchdown, 12 interception performance of 2007 rather than the injurry riddled Hasselbeck of the last two seasons that caused the team to trade for quarterback Charlie Whitehurst.

    The Seahawks have a pretty solid running core with Julius Jones and newly acquired running back Leon Washington, who was injured for the majority of '09, but is an explosive back that can be a great big play  option alongside Julius Jones.

    Last season's big signing T.J. Houshmandzadeh had a disappointing season with under 1,000 yards, but should have better repoire with Hasselback after a full year in Seattle and will hopefully improve on the  three touchdown campaign he had last season.

    First-round draft pick Russell Okung should shore up the offensive line and first-round pick Earl Thomas should get considerable playing time in the secondary.

    With the Seahawks signings and new coaching staff,  they should be an improved team.  The fact that they also play in a pretty bad division means that a 9-7 record could see them make the playoffs as the  division winner.

    My prediction: Seahawks (somehow) make the playoffs

The Oakland Raiders

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    The Oakland Raiders have to get better.

    After years of futility, they just have to.

    You take away JaMarcus Russell, who is not good and you add Jason Campbell, who is pretty good and your quarterback position, which was ranked 29th in the league in passing yards last year, is vastly upgraded.

    The Oakland pass defense is already solid with Nnamdi Asomugha spearheading a good secondary and setting a salary standard Darrelle Revis can only dream about.

    Raider Nation is hoping that Darren McFadden, who is already struggling with a hamstring injury this offseason, gets healthy and doesn't join a lineage of Raider busts.

    Al Davis thinks this is a great team and I dare you to show me an instance in which Mr. Davis was wrong.

    Okay - that might not be completely accurate, but the Oakland Raiders are going to be better this year.

    My prediction: The Raiders go 8-8

The Houston Texans

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    It seems that for years the Houston Texans have been the staple pick as the "surprise team."

    They have a ton of weapons on offense, their defense is pretty solid and Gary Kubiack seems to be a quality NFL coach.

    However, the Texans have yet to make the playoffs.

    Coming off their first winning season, the Houston Texans have an uphill climb ahead of them this year. 

    They have one of the hardest schedules in the league (their opponent's combined winning percentage is over 50-percent) and play in one of the most competitive divisions in football.

    But this is the year the Texans finally ascend to the playoffs.  Schaub is going to assert himself as an elite NFL quarterback and the Texans are no longer going to blow 4th quarter leads.

    My prediction: The Texans, at 9-5, win their last two games of the season against Denver and Jacksonville and make it in as a wild card team at 11-5.

The Atlanta Falcons

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    This is a pretty easy pick.

    Falcons make playoffs in '08, rookie quarterback Matt Ryan looks good.

    Falcons' expectations are high for the first time in the post-Vick era.

    Falcons have a disappointing '09, still finish 9-7.

    Michael Turner is in better shape, Matt Ryan has great options in Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez and there is less buzz around the team creating a more even-keeled temperment and more realistic expectations.

    Result: Falcons will finish 10-6 and make the playoffs as a wild card team.

    "Boom!" - John Madden

The Dallas Cowboys

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    The Cowboys are going to win the Super Bowl.

    Pretty gigantic step forward if you ask me.

    As I sit sandwiched between an autographed Ed "Too Tall" Jones helmet and a Quincy Carter rookie card, the objectivity may not quite be there.

    I also still play ESPN NFL2k5 to enjoy the Vinny Testaverde Cowboy-era.

    Still - it's inevitable that the Cowboys win the Super Bowl.

    They have the talent, Wade Phillips is no longer getting made fun of as the worst coach in football and Tony Romo has become a leader that is more concerned with on-field performance than Cabo vacations with Jessica Simpson.

    Dez Bryant is the next Randy Moss, Felix Jones is the next Barry Sanders and Miles Austin is the next Jerry Rice.

    The Cowboys are also going to have home field advantage for the Super Bowl - pretty neat deal.

    My prediction: Marion Barber knocks over Darrelle Revis as he scores the winning touchdown for the Cowboys - the 2010 NFL champions.