NFL Predictions: 8 Players That Will Catapult Their Team to the Super Bowl
NFL teams were able to choose from a large market of players that could possibly help their team over the hump. Due to the abnormal size and unorthodox setup to this year's free agency period, many teams will have made ingenious or dead-brained decisions within the market.
No team in the NFL is simply one player away from being a Super Bowl caliber team; it does not work that way. But one player could have a profound effect on a team's performance and psyche throughout the season. Positively or Negatively.
The following list is compiled of players that were acquired during the offseason by their respective teams. This particular list of players is composed based on the fact that their performance during the regular season and in the playoffs will be the push needed for their team to make the Super Bowl.
1. Ray Edwards
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The Atlanta Falcons revealed their cards to the rest of the league during the offseason. Trading up for the sixth pick—Julio Jones—revealed to the NFL that they believe they are capable of winning a championship now.
Adding Ray Edwards to the defense gives the Falcons a much needed threat off the edge. Atlanta needs to be able to get pressure from the defensive line in the backfield in order to have success in their division and make a playoff run.
In the NFC South they have to face the always dangerous Drew Brees, the grossly underrated Josh Freeman and elusive rookie Cam Newton (most likely). The Falcons also face Michael Vick, Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning and Jay Cutler during their 2011 schedule.
Edwards played opposite quarterback hunter extraordinaire Jared Allen as a Minnesota Viking last season. As a Viking, Edwards recorded eight sacks in 2010. Allen recorded 11 sacks of his own playing opposite Edwards. Now that Edwards has moved south to “Hotlanta,” it should help heat up the defensive line production for the Falcons.
Joining John Abraham—who recorded 13 sacks in 2010 without a viable quarterback-hunting partner—should vastly improve the defensive line’s production in the upcoming season. With their potent offense and newly acquired terror on the edge of the defensive line, the Falcons have all the tools to build a Super Bowl quality performance this season.
2. Chad Ochocinco
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The constantly attention-starved wide receiver has landed in a place that prefers no attention at all. Chad Ochocinco did everything this offseason. He tried out for the MLS team Sporting KC, tried his hand at NASCAR and even attempted to ride a bull.
Thankfully, the lockout ended and Ochocinco could return to his natural sport: football. The New England Patriots picked up the wide receiver from the much-maligned Cincinnati Bengals during the offseason.
Ochocinco endured an abnormal year last season, only hauling in 67 receptions and 831 yards during his final season in “the jungle.” Carson Palmer provided the wide receiver with some quality balls over the years, but joining Tom Brady alongside the mastermind Bill Belichick will have a profound effect on Ochocinco’s game.
For a receiver who has had seven 1,000-yard seasons during his 10 years in the league, his numbers could skyrocket with the three-time Super Bowl champion delivering passes. The New England Patriots went 14-2 during the regular season last year with a bunch of no-name wide receivers and a recovering Wes Welker.
The addition of Chad Ochocinco has me excited to watch the New England Patriots and what kind of relationship he will foster with Brady. The Patriots are always a Super Bowl favorite, but Ochocinco could be the addition that provides the proper talent to an already effective offense.
3. Kevin Kolb
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I know, I know. How could any team from the NFC West—especially a team that has a quarterback with only seven starts under his belt—go to the Super Bowl? I answer that question with another question.
If you answered yes, then you should be reading this on an island with your retirement money from the bet you placed in Vegas. For the rest of us, myself included, we can all admit that came as a big surprise.
One thing we learned from that Seahawks victory last season is that you cannot underestimate the value of home field advantage in the playoffs. The Arizona Cardinals play in the weakest division in all of football. With a decent quarterback to spread the ball around, they should be able to win the watered-down division.
They have the best coach in the division with Ken Whisenhunt, the best wide receiver in the league in Larry Fitzgerald and now they arguably have the best quarterback in the division. Kolb’s biggest competition for that spot would be second-year player Sam Bradford, so I’ll give the guy with more time in the league the advantage.
It is not impossible to anticipate a scenario with Arizona sweeping their division and putting themselves in contention for a first round bye in the playoffs. If the Cardinals secure a first round bye, do not be surprised if they reenact their Super Bowl run of 2008.
4. Roy Williams
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Devin Hester’s craft has been dampened due to the new kickoff rule and Roy Williams was brought in to add a true wide receiver alongside last season’s breakout wide receiver Johnny Knox.
Williams reunites with his former offensive coordinator from the Detroit Lions after a failed stop down in Jerry Jones land. The Chicago Bears hope to reignite the level of play Mike Martz coerced out of him in Detroit with his offensive schemes.
Chicago has found itself a quarterback capable of winning the Super Bowl in Jay Cutler, a playmaking running back with Matt Forte and an explosive wide receiver in Johnny Knox. Adding Williams will provide the NFC runners-up from last season a second option out wide for Cutler to target in what is shaping up to be a brutal division for 2011.
Roy Williams during the 2006 and 2007 seasons hauled in 1,310 and 838 receiving yards under Martz’s offensive system. He also crossed the goal line a total of 12 times during those two years.
If Martz can bring out the Roy Williams of old, the Chicago Bears could improve upon their NFC Championship disappointment last season to division rivals the Green Bay Packers. Jay Cutler should have no qualms about hitting the big 6’3’’ target with his rifle of an arm.
5. Johnathan Joseph
Joseph and Manning talking during practice.
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Year after year we have been told the Houston Texans are ready to take the next step as an NFL franchise by qualifying for the playoffs. Last year the Texans took a step in the right direction with the emergence of an explosive running back in Arian Foster.
However, due to their inviting secondary the Texans defense gave up far too many touchdowns to keep themselves in games.
In a division that has arguably one of the NFL’s top five quarterbacks of all-time, you would think that the secondary would be a point of emphasis for Houston every season.
Not until this offseason has Houston realized just how bad their secondary is. The team added a solid veteran to roam over the top in safety Danieal Manning. But that was not the signing that would put their team over the top.
The addition of cornerback Johnathan Joseph bolsters a secondary that previously could not cover a breaking news story if it happened right in front of them. Joseph may not be a household name around the league, but the cornerback has picked off an impressive 14 interceptions in five years and returned three to pay dirt.
With a schedule that contains Brandon Marshall, Mike Wallace, Roddy White and Reggie Wayne, the addition of Joseph in the secondary should help the Texans clot the bleeding that has occurred in the pass defense.
Joseph’s addition to the secondary should allow the Texans to take a swipe at the AFC South division title and make their first ever playoff run.
6. Plaxico Burress
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Plaxico Burress has yet to prove if his pre-incarceration ability will resurface, but that did not scare off the New York Jets. In a locker room that has plenty of personality, adding Burress to the Jets seemed like a no-brainer with the baggage he’s carrying.
He returns to a city—albeit with a brand new stadium—that he is familiar with. Hopefully he can learn to park on the correct end of the Meadowlands complex.
The idea of winning a Super Bowl with both New York ball clubs seemed too enticing for Burress to pass up when weighing his options during the offseason. Similarly, the Jets have seen the impact that a 6’5’’ wide receiver could have upon a young quarterback’s psyche.
Burress provides a large target area that any quarterback could fire a ball into. His presence in the red zone should allow Mark Sanchez to increase his accuracy and subpar 54.8 completion percentage from 2010. The addition of Burress is a small risk, huge reward bet by the Jets.
When it comes to Burress, the Jets hope that form is temporary, but talent is withstanding even after a stint in the slammer. If Burress can find his old form, the New York Jets will be grinning from ear-to-ear as they try to make their third consecutive trip to the AFC Championship game in the upcoming season.
7. Nnamdi Asomugha
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The Philadelphia Eagles landed the big 6’3’’, 215-pound prize of the free agency period in Nnamdi Asomugha. Any team that landed the lockdown cover corner from the Oakland Raiders would instantly see improvement on the defensive side of the ball.
Philadelphia allowed a franchise-high 31 touchdowns through the air last season. Their secondary contained only one reliable player in Asante Samuel, who was surrounded by subpar, aging and rookie players in 2010. The addition of Asomugha amongst the plethora of free agents to the defensive side of the ball for Philadelphia will help take some of the load off of the team’s intoxicating offense.
A new look secondary that includes Asomugha, Samuels, and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie at cornerback allows for a ton of flexibility scheme-wise. The Green Bay Packers’ Charles Woodson has sparked Philadelphia’s defensive coordinator Juan Castillo to make a suggestion that Asomugha might play a similar role for the Eagles.
"I think Nnamdi is a special guy. He wants to make plays… I think he respects Charles Woodson. I think he would love that role, being able to blitz. A big tall guy like that coming off the edge, and then all of the sudden in press coverage on the slot guy. Sometimes if he is going to match, the slot guy may be the guy inside anyway. It’s exciting.”
Philly.com breaks down the comparison between the two Pro Bowl cornerbacks in case you could not envision Asomugha in his new prescribed role on your own. If Asomugha can play the type of role in Philadelphia as Woodson does in Green Bay, the Eagles defense could be tough to handle this upcoming season as they make their usual push late in the season.
8. James Jones
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The Green Bay Packers were fairly quiet during the free agency frenzy that took place this summer. For the most part, the Packers kept to themselves and re-signed key guys that they felt they needed to make a second run at a Super Bowl title within subsequent years.
James Jones brought in the second most receiving yards with a total of 679 yards and 50 receptions as the team’s third wide receiver. Jones wanted to test the market for his second career contract, but Aaron Rodgers publicly pleaded while talking to ESPN Milwaukee his opinion to the Green Bay front office on why they should resign the wide receiver.
“James is extremely talented and he’s a guy that I think we have to bring back without a doubt…He should be priority No. 1. And I mean that with all my heart. He really should be priority No. 1. We don’t win the Super Bowl without him. And we need him.”
There certainly is no shortage of wide receivers in Green Bay. The deep stable of wideouts in the frozen tundra will help keep the wheels rolling in 2011. But the addition of Jones by not subtracting him allows the Packers to make another run at the Super Bowl and provides Rodgers with some piece of mind.
Jones’ production could dip with the return of Jermichael Finley and Ryan Grant for the Packers. Nonetheless, Aaron Rodgers clearly got his wish in what he believes was the Packers’ “No. 1 priority” to ensure the best possible chance of a Super Bowl repeat.