The New England Patriots had a better season than anyone expected, finishing 14-2 and winning the AFC East. Their year ended on a sour note, though, with a feeble loss to the New York Jets in the playoffs.
A young team with another year's experience under their belts, the Pats will be confident of another return to January football. Here's why they will another AFC East title in 2011.
Tom Brady's performance in 2010 might have surpassed that of his record-breaking 50-touchdown 2007 season. He is still in the top-two quarterbacks in the NFL today and is in the conversation for greatest of all-time.
As Brady goes, so go the Patriots. With such a young team, that was certainly the case in 2010, and will surely be the situation this year. The Pats are still largely inexperienced, especially in the playoffs, and will need their leader again.
If there is one thing we have learnt over the last decade and a half, it is never to question Bill Belichick.
One can scrutinise his decisions and second-guess them, but more often than not, the genius in the hoody will be proven right. There is no reason to think he cannot coax another Super Bowl-calibre season out of his players in 2011.
The New England pass rush last season was almost non-existent, ranking near the bottom of the league in almost every category.
Bill Belichick surprised many by not drafting a defensive linesman in the first round. He surprised more by acquiring Albert Haynesworth from the Washington Redskins.
A shadow of the player he was three seasons ago and mired in off-field distractions, Haynesworth might not even make the team. If he does, though, he will help bolster the D-line, on which the Pats already have Vince Wilfork and a more than decent selection of players.
Miami and Buffalo fans can kid themselves as long as they want, but let's face facts. The Dolphins' fans were jeering their own quarterback before the season even began; they're not going anywhere. The Bills have a very solid defense, but cannot score points to save themselves.
The Pats' only real challenge is, just as it was last year, the outspoken, loudmouth New York Jets. Rex Ryan's team is all-around a very good side, but there are still major question marks over Mark Sanchez at QB. He made a big step forward in 2010, but was still far too prone to errors.