NFL 2011: 5 Teams Who Are Still a Year Away from Competing for a Super Bowl

Sebastian BellittoCorrespondent IJune 3, 2011

NFL 2011: 5 Teams Who Are Still a Year Away from Competing for a Super Bowl

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    KANSAS CITY, MO - DECEMBER 26:  Jamaal Charles #25 of the Kansas City Chiefs makes a catch in the endzone for a touchdown as Gerald McRath #51 of the Tennessee Titans defends during the game on December 26, 2010 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missou
    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    For some teams, the road to the Super Bowl is seemingly an easy one. The New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Indianapolis Colts have been Super Bowl contenders for as long as most fans can remember. 

    But for most teams, becoming an perennial contender is not so easy. In a league dominated by superstar quarterbacks and stifling defenses, some teams are just one piece—or even one more year of experience—away becoming legitimate contenders.

    Nearly every season, there is one or two teams who make a run a year or two before they are expected. Unfortunately for the fans of the teams to follow, it seems as if they may have to wait another year.

    Here are five teams who are still one year away from contending for a Super Bowl. 

Detroit Lions

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    MIAMI - DECEMBER 26:  Lineman Ndamukong Sue #90 celebrates a sack against the Miami Dolphins at Sun Life Stadium on December 26, 2010 in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)
    Marc Serota/Getty Images

    After years of futility, the Detroit Lions have made leaps and bounds, mostly through the NFL Draft. Though the Lions finished just 6-10 (3rd in NFC North) in 2010, they were competitive in nearly every game, something that cannot be said about past seasons.

    The Lions have built a young, strong foundation upon which to build a contender. If quarterback Matthew Stafford can stay healthy, they will be all the more closer to contending for the division title. 

    Detroit has also drafted running back Jahvid Best (555 yards rushing, 487 receiving, 6 total TDs) and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh (10 sacks) in last year's draft alone, along with Pro Bowl wide receiver Calvin Johnson (1120 yards, 12 TDs).

    The addition of defensive tackle Nick Fairley in this year's draft will only help increase Suh's production, and should instantly make the Lion's defensive front one of the league's toughest to handle.

    However, it seems as if they Lions are a year or two away from making a statement as a legitimate NFC contender. If they are able to put the pieces together and remain healthy, the Detroit Lions could be a force in the NFC North in the years to come.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 02:  Josh Freeman #5 talks with Jeremy Zuttah #76 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after a play clock violation during the game against the New Orleans Saints at the Louisiana Superdome on January 2, 2011 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (
    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were one of the biggest surprises in the NFL in 2010, going 10-6 a year after winning just three games. 

    Behind undrafted running back LeGarrette Blount, who rushed for 1007 yards and 6 touchdowns, and quarterback Josh Freeman emerging as a star in the making (3451 yards passing, 25 touchdowns), the Buccaneers surprised nearly everyone on their schedule.

    Although they did not make the playoffs, it is apparent that the Bucs are close to contending in the NFC.

    Unfortunately for the Buccaneers, they play in the NFC South, where they have to deal with the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints twice a year.

    While the Bucs will certainly not be overlooked by anybody next season, their return to the playoffs may have to wait another year. 

Kansas City Chiefs

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    SAN DIEGO, CA - DECEMBER 12:  Brodie Croyle #12 of the Kansas City Chiefs handsoff to Jamaal Charles #25 against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium on December 12, 2010 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
    Harry How/Getty Images

    The Kansas City Chiefs shockingly won the AFC West in 2010, going 10-6 in overtaking the San Diego Chargers as division champions.

    With a young roster full of emerging stars, including quarterback Matt Cassel (3116 yards passing, 27 TDs, 7 INTs), running back Jamaal Charles (1467 yards rushing, 10 TDs), and wide receiver Dwayne Bowe (1162 yards receiving, 15 TDs), the Chiefs' offense will likely be a force to be reckoned with for the foreseeable future. 

    But can the Chiefs become Super Bowl contenders? Surely, they will compete and look to defend their division crown. However, the Kansas City Chiefs do not seem quite ready to overtake the powers that be in the AFC. 

Oakland Raiders

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    OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 19:  Darren McFadden #20 of the Oakland Raiders runs with the ball during their game against the Denver Broncos at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on December 19, 2010 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    The Kansas City Chiefs aren't the only team in the AFC West who look to have a bright future.

    The Oakland Raiders have become the face of dysfunction in the NFL over the past several seasons. When they seemed to be making a turn for the better, the Raiders always seemed to fall apart midway through the season.

    However, the Raiders surprised everyone in 2010. While their 8-8 record was certainly and improvement, it was their 6-0 record in the division which turned the most heads.

    Running back Darren McFadden came into his own in 2010, rushing for 1157 yards and 7 touchdowns after two mediocre years to begin his career in Oakland. The Raiders also boasted the league's second-best pass defense, allowing just 189.2 yards per game through the air.

    While the Raiders are finally on the upswing, the Raiders may be a few pieces away from contending. Quarterback Jason Campbell—or whomever is their starting quarterback once the league returns—will have to play much more consistent football if the Raiders want to reestablish themselves as contenders in the AFC.

St. Louis Rams

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    ST. LOUIS, MO - DECEMBER 26: Sam Bradford #8 of the St. Louis Rams passes against the San Francisco 49ers at the Edward Jones Dome on December 26, 2010 in St. Louis, Missouri. The Rams beat the 49ers 25-17. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
    Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

    The St. Louis Rams were arguably the most surprising team in the NFC in 2010. With a rookie quarterback and coming off a league-worst 1-15 season, things did not look great for the Rams leading into the 2010 season.

    However, as Chris Berman proclaims: "That's why they play the game."

    The Rams went 7-9 in 2010, good enough to finish tied for first with the Seattle Seahawks, only to lose a playoff birth and a home playoff game on a tiebreaker.

    Nevertheless, the future looks bright for Bradford & Company.

    In his rookie campaign, Bradford started all 16 games, passing for 3512 yards and 15 touchdowns. He quickly became the face of the franchise, seemingly igniting a team that desperately needed some glimpse of hope after several dismal seasons.

    While Bradford and the rest of the Rams will be fun to watch, it is not likely that they will be competing for much more than an NFC West crown in 2011. However, if 2010 was any indication, the St. Louis Rams may be closer to contending in the NFC than most expect.