NFL: The Green Bay Packers and 9 Teams with the Most Super Bowl Potential

Brian Wright@@BrianWright86Correspondent IIJune 29, 2011

NFL: The Green Bay Packers and 9 Teams with the Most Super Bowl Potential

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    There are those NFL teams that have bright futures ahead; the Lions, Buccaneers, Rams and Chiefs all fall into that category.

    But there are teams that, based on the players they have today, can not only get to the Super Bowl this season, but are legitimate contenders for years to come.

    The idea of teams with the biggest Super Bowl windows is a fleeting topic because a lot depends on the development of young talent, the deterioration of veterans and the acquisitions of key components. 

    So, as it stands right now, here is a group of nine franchises ripe for success with a chance to reach the sport's biggest game in the upcoming seasons.

9. New Orleans Saints

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    Winners in Super Bowl XLIV, the Saints' window to capture another Lombardi Trophy is still open.

    Quarterback Drew Brees is now 32 years old, but he should continue to be one of the game's top passers. Marques Colston has been on the receiving end of most of Brees' throws, hauling in more than 1,000 yards over the course of the 2010 season.

    The improving defense has a core group that should lead them the next few years. Cornerbacks Tracy Porter (age 24) and Malcolm Jenkins (23), along with safety Roman Harper (28) helped make New Orleans fourth-best the previous season when it came to opponent's passing yardage.

    Of course, let's not forget Sean Payton, who has established himself as one of the best minds in the game in just five years at the helm.

8. San Diego Chargers

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    Annually the most underachieving team in the AFC, the Chargers still have time to fulfill the high expectations that have been placed on them the past few seasons.

    And if they do reach the promised land, quarterback Philip Rivers will be the savior.

    Despite missing out on the postseason in 2010, Rivers (age 29) led the NFL in passing yardage (4,710) and reached the end zone through the air on 30 occasions.

    If wide receiver Vincent Jackson stays out of trouble and stays with San Diego—and that's a big if—Rivers has a great deep threat to go to. At least he'll have tight end Antonio Gates at his disposal for a good five years.

    No. 17 will also have a fine tag team in the backfield with Mike Tolbert and Ryan Mathews. The latter found the injury bug in his rookie campaign last season, but Mathews managed to total 222 rushing yards and four touchdowns in the final two games.

    An unproven playoff coach like Norv Turner may hinder their chances, but a QB with Rivers' talent can take them far again.

7. Baltimore Ravens

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    The Ravens' defense, arguably the best in football since the start of the 2000's, has some wily veterans still leading the way.

    Linebacker Ray Lewis (age 36) and Ed Reed (32) remain solid players, but their best days are behind them; this side of the ball will be the main fixing area as the seasons progress. But if any front office is capable of acquiring the right players, it's that of Baltimore and general manager Ozzie Newsome.

    Quarterback Joe Flacco has played three seasons in the NFL and has reached the playoffs in each of those campaigns. That postseason experience can only help him down the road.

    In 2010, the former University of Delaware standout set career bests in passing yards (3,622) and passing touchdowns (25), while only throwing 10 interceptions.

    Running back is an area of comfort as well, with 2008 draft pick Ray Rice continuing to blossom.

    The 2008 season was also the rookie year for John Harbaugh as head coach. So far in his brief tenure, Harbaugh's regular-season record is 32-16 with a 4-3 playoff mark.

6. New England Patriots

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    Is there any team better at reloading than the Patriots?

    They consistently ship out players ready to hit their decline and replace them with unknowns who prove effective in the well-oiled machine molded by head coach Bill Belichick. That certainly helps when you hoard as many draft picks as New England does. 

    Tom Brady will turn 34 on Aug. 3. In terms of a football life, that's the equivalent of "playing the back nine." But it's hard to argue that Brady has lost much. Last season, he had 36 touchdown passes—tops in the league—along with an average quarterback rating of 111.0.

    Don't forget 25-year-old running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis finished with more than 1,000 yards rushing.

    As long as Belichick is still roaming the sidelines and Brady is still effective at quarterback, the Patriots always have a shot.

5. Philadelphia Eagles

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    The 2010 season proved to be a feel-good chapter in Michael Vick's comeback story. The question now is, will he hold up in time for the Eagles to make another serious run at the Super Bowl?

    It's clear Vick will be the man guiding Philly, rather than Kevin Kolb. The former Falcon reminded us of his days in Atlanta with 676 rushing yards for nine touchdowns. But all that scrambling comes at a price physically, especially when you're over the age of 30.

    Important for Vick will be his ability to pass effectively. He did just that last year with 3,018 yards and 21 touchdowns to just six interceptions.

    Vick's passing development was aided by a young corps of speedsters at wide receiver. DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin are 24 and 23, respectively, and combined for 16 TD catches in 2010. Running back LeSean McCoy had more than 1,600 total yards as an NFL sophomore.

    If they want to develop further, a major need for the Eagles will be adding defensive talent around defensive end Trent Cole and linebacker Stewart Bradley.

4. Pittsburgh Steelers

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    As the model franchise in the NFL, the Steelers have the capability of building great teams without much drop-off in production.

    The two most important positions for a football team are quarterback and head coach. Pittsburgh has talent—to go along with potential longevity—in both of those departments.

    It's hard to believe Ben Roethlisberger is just 29 years old when you consider that he's been the Steelers' signal-caller since the early weeks of the 2004 season. In seven years, he's won a pair of Super Bowls and was able to fend off all distractions last year to produce another AFC Championship.

    If history holds true, Mike Tomlin will be staying in the Steel City for a while. The Rooney family never makes any swift changes at head coach, and keeping Tomlin around—especially since he's quickly become a proven winner—will enhance the cohesion necessary to remain in contention.

3. New York Jets

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    Two straight defeats in the AFC Championship game may make some long-suffering Jets fans feel snake-bitten.

    The feeling instead should be optimistic, considering the wealth of young talent Rex Ryan—entering his third year as New York head coach—has available to him. 

    The key, of course, is the development of Mark Sanchez. In his first two seasons behind center, Sanchez has relied on his running game and has done more to not lose the game than to try and win it. Nevertheless, he has done very well in managing the Jets' offense in such a short period of time.

    Sanchez has had great protection in a solid, young offensive line. A pair of starters who, at the age of 27 and are among the best at their respective positions, are tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson and center Nick Mangold.

    The defense has been consistently great since Ryan took over as head coach. And with shutdown cornerback Darrelle Revis satisfied financially, thanks to a new multi-year contract, the 25-year-old will certainly be presenting long-term headaches for opponents while wearing the green and white for the Jets.

2. Atlanta Falcons

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    Atlanta proved why they're ready to win soon, as they finished with the best regular-season record in the NFC, but were done in by a red-hot Green Bay Packers team that eventually won the Super Bowl.

    But there's more success in the road ahead than in the rear-view mirror.

    And the guy driving the Falcons to many victories to come will be Matt Ryan.

    The former Boston College standout and third overall pick in the 2008 draft has already shown that the Falcons chose wisely. During last year's 13-3 effort, Atlanta's signal-caller threw for a career-best 3,705 yards and 28 touchdowns.

    Ryan leads a balanced offensive attack that features running back Michael Turner and wideout Roddy White. The Falcons made what could be another fine draft choice in April, taking University of Alabama receiver Julio Jones with the No. 6 selection.

    Head coach Mike Smith, who was an unknown to the general public when he took over the field leadership of the Falcons, in short order has given the team a winning identity that should continue.

1. Green Bay Packers

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    What's not to like about the Packers' future?

    Let's put it this way: The defending Super Bowl champs are enjoying the return of several players who missed most of last season due to injury—including tight end Jermichael Finley, running back Ryan Grant and linebacker Nick Barnett.

    That can only bode well for what may be a dynasty in Green Bay, especially when you consider that they boast a top-flight, 27-year-old quarterback in Aaron Rodgers and one of the youngest rosters in the league.

    Management is also well intact with 47-year-old head coach Mike McCarthy, general manager Ted Thompson and president/CEO Mark Murphy.

    All of this adds to the great possibility of more titles in Titletown.