10 NFL Teams Most Likely to Reach the 10-Win Mark First
In a modern NFL season, 10 wins can almost guarantee your team's spot in the hunt for the playoffs. Many teams over the past few years have reached for the magic number 10 but have fallen short and watched their postseason dreams slip away.
Reaching double digit wins does not guarantee a Super Bowl birth or even a prolonged playoff run. However, it does mean additional ticket sales, revenue for the franchise, and good feelings around the entire organization.
Here are the top 10 teams that have a chance of reaching the 10 win mark in 2011 before everyone else.
No. 10: San Diego Chargers
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San Diego had their fare share of problems in 2010-11, but they still had one of the best offensive units in the game, as they posted a score differential of +119.
With that type of offensive production, the Chargers are always a threat to put up huge numbers and win plenty of football games. San Diego does have the ninth hardest schedule according to NFL.com but also has had plenty of success against some of the best competition in the league the last few years.
The Chargers' success will rely heavily on Philip Rivers and his ability to build off of the most productive season in his career. In 2010, Rivers threw for 4,710 yards and 30 touchdowns, while surrendering just 13 interceptions.
No. 9: Chicago Bears
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Defense has been the name of the game for the Chicago Bears since their trip to the Super Bowl in the mid-2000's.
Jay Cutler is yet to fully gain the respect of the Bears' faithful but has done a solid job taking over for Kyle Orton and helping Chicago reach the playoffs. Cutler's numbers declined in his second year as Chicago's starter, but he greatly improved his decision making as he improved his interceptions from 26 in 2009 to 16 in 2010.
The Bears have a tough schedule in 2011, as their opponent's cumulative 2010 record was 128-128. However, Chicago also has stretches of "easy" games, as they play the Carolina Panthers, Detroit Lions, and Minnesota Vikings in consecutive weeks.
No. 8: Baltimore Ravens
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The Baltimore Ravens were expected by many to be Super Bowl contenders in 2010. After a disappointing loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Championship, Baltimore now has some personnel decisions to make in 2011.
Derrick Mason and Donte Stallworth both had their fare share of ups and downs during the 2010 season. Baltimore used two draft picks this past April on players to possibly replace Mason and Stallworth, as the Ravens drafted Torrey Smith and Tandon Doss.
Baltimore is an aging team but has the luxury of a weak schedule in 2011. In addition to division games against Cleveland and Cincinnati, Baltimore will play the St.Louis Rams, Tennessee Titans, Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks, all before Week 10.
No. 7: New York Jets
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The New York Jets are one of the most controversial team in the entire NFL. However, the one thing that cannot be argued is their talent and ability to win football games.
The Jets have turned the corner over the last two seasons and have become one of the strongest forces in the entire AFC. Rex Ryan has also become one of the most talked about coaches in the league, as his guarantees of Super Bowl championships seem to always squeak out in the offseason.
The Jets open the 2011 season with two home games against the Dallas Cowboys and the Jacksonville Jaguars. New York will then hit the road for three games before returning to play the Miami Dolphins in Week 6.
The Jets posted a very good road record in 2010-11, as they posted a 6-2 number away from their friendly confines. That number should give New York great confidence heading into the beginning portion of their schedule and can easily propel a very fast start to the 2011-12 season.
No. 6: New Orleans Saints
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The New Orleans Saints started the 2010 season on the right foot as they blew through the first two games of the regular season. However, the wheels quickly fell off as injuries began to mount, and the Saints lost two winnable games against the Arizona Cardinals and the Cleveland Browns.
New Orleans did finish the 2010 season with an 11-5 record despite going 5-3 during the first half of the season.
The Saints have added some key weapons during the offseason, as Mark Ingram enters the running game and Reggie Bush likely returning to an expanded role.
Drew Brees will still be the player to watch on the Saints in 2011. Brees was more productive passer in 13 of New Orleans' 16 games last season. Only Alex Smith, Sam Bradford, and Josh Freeman out-passed Brees and the Saints during their contests.
No.5: Atlanta Falcons
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The Atlanta Falcons were a strong team in 2010 but have gotten even stronger with the addition of Julio Jones to the offensive unit. Matt Ryan and Roddy White made for one of the strongest quarterback-to- receiver connections in the league, and now Ryan has yet another weapon to add to his arsenal.
Even though the Falcons have a tough schedule early in 2011, their talent alone should help carry them through the fire. Atlanta finished the 2010 season with a 5-1 record in their division and had the second best record in the entire NFL at 13-3.
No. 4: Indianapolis Colts
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Since the 1998 NFL season, one thing has become very apparent with the Indianapolis Colts organization.
Peyton Manning is a very good quarterback.
The Colts are always a threat to win with Manning calling the shots, and Indianapolis has won early and often over the past several seasons. Fans expect the Colts to do the same in 2011, as recent reports have Reggie Wayne returning next season, and Manning is still playing at a high level.
Indianapolis has a relatively easy schedule over the course of the first 10 games in 2011. The Cleveland Browns, Kansas City Chiefs, and Jacksonville Jaguars will all make their way to Lucas Oil Stadium before the Week 11 bye.
No. 3: Pittsburgh Steelers
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The Pittsburgh Steelers are in a similar position to that of the Baltimore Ravens. Both teams play in a one-sided division, and both have the chance to be Super Bowl contenders every season.
The Steelers seem furthur along in their development for several reasons. Pittsburgh played multiple games without Ben Roethlisberger in 2010 but still managed to reach the Super Bowl amidst a world of controversy.
The fact that the Steelers could overcome that type of adversity in 2010 and still be successful promotes good feelings for the 2011 season.
No. 2: New England Patriots
The New England Patriots have two weapons that every other team in the AFC can never have. Tom Brady and Bill Belichick have made a living out of beating their opponents and have built one of the best NFL dynasties that has ever existed.
The Patriots continued their dominance in 2010 with a 14-2 overall record and simply do not show any signs of slowing down next year. If anything, the Patriots should get better in 2011, as their core of young offensive players have had time to develop and learn under Belichick's system.
Look for New England to be at the top of the NFL standings for a very long time.
No.1: Green Bay Packers
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The defending Super Bowl Champions have to be the favorites to reach the 10 win mark first in 2011.
Green Bay played much of the 2010 season decimated by injuries and still managed to pull off one of the best postseasons in recent memory.
With players like Donald Driver and Ryan Grant returning to 100 percent in 2011, Aaron Rodgers will have even more options to help carry his team back to the playoffs and to the top of the NFL.