Next Season's Surprise Super Bowl Teams
Now that New York has stopped celebrating (a little), we can look forward to next year's surprise Super Bowl teams. In each of the past four seasons, a team that missed the playoffs the previous year has advanced to the Super Bowl in the next. With that in mind, I will look at 4 teams that fit that criteria going into next season.
The Eagles may seem like an obvious choice. Remember that they deemed themselves the "Dream Team" going into last year. That didn't work out very well for several reasons. Even though they finished 8-8, did you know that they had the #3 offense and #2 defense in the NFC?? I bet you also didn't realize that Michael Vick had very similar passing stats last year compared to his MVP like 2010 campaign?? LeSean McCoy not only matched but exceeded his 2010 year with 20 total touchdowns and over 1300 yards rushing
The big concern for the Eagles going into the offseason is the status of Desean Jackson. Do they let him go into Free Agency or do they deal with his mental lapses?? There is no question that they love his speed. Can they find a mentor for him?? They did sign Steve Smith from the Giants last year on the cheap. Is he capable of replacing Jackson if they do not resign him??
We all know that the NFC East is always a dogfight to the end because of the strength in the division. It seems that whoever can stay healthy is in the thick of it. There is always some risk of that with the style of play in which Michael Vick plays. If they can keep Vick healthy and get the Desean Jackson situation handled, the Eagles could very well make it to the Super Bowl in 2013.
Similar to the Eagles, the Cowboys had high hopes entering the 2011 NFL season. The biggest issue with Dallas is the injuries. Tony Romo hurt his arm last year and the team did not paly quite the same for many games. Starting tailback Felix Jones was hurt early in the season just when he was getting his legs under him. DeMarco Murray came on and played fantastic during the middle of the season, but got injured for the remainder of the season. Felix Jones came back to finish the year fine, but what could have been if either was able to stay healthy all year and get into a rhythm?? We can't forget that Miles Austin was hurt once again last year and Dez Bryant never seemed fully healthy.
Dallas saw a collapse in the defensive secondary last year and need to address that either in the NFL Draft or via Free Agency. Laurent Robinson came on in place of Miles Austin last year and had his best season of his career with 11 touchdowns. Do the Cowboys resign him?? That would make a terrific trio of WRs for Tony Romo to pitch the ball to
The Cowboys lost the NFC East title in the last game of the regular season in a Sunday night game against the Giants. Look what they ended up doing. Jerry Jones and company has a team with talent everywhere. Can they stay healthy enough and live up to some of the expectations? The Cowboys will stand up and fight til the end again this year.
NEW YORK JETS
In both 2009 and 2010, the Jets made the AFC Championship game a fell short. Rex Ryan had promised after both seasons that the Jets would make it to the next step. Obviously that did not happen as the Jets finished 8-8. There has been a lot of complaining about the play and practice habits of Mark Sanchez . The Jets Quarterback seemed to regress last year with worse stats in every category than in previous years. Shonn Greene did not start the season well at Running Back and seemed to stall the team somewhat. The once great L.T. has slowed down a lot and is not much more then a 3rd down receiving back. The Jets say that they will resign Santonio Holmes, but he disappears because of the QB play.
Will the Jets make an attempt at Peyton Manning if he is released as expected?? Manning would instantly make Holmes and TE Dustin Keller much more reliable in the passing game. If Manning comes, does Reggie Wayne come also to fill the shoes of Plaxico Burress??
We know the Jets have a great defense. How many survive on "Regis Island"?? If the Jets can get the situation fixed at QB and find another WR, they could once again find themselves playing deep into January.
SAN DIEGO CHARGERS
Just 2 years ago, the Chargers led the NFL in both Offense and Defense!! In every year in what seems like forever San Diego has a good half of a season and a bad half. Why can't they put it together?? The Chargers have not lost any firepower on offense, but they do constantly fight injuries (especially Antonio Gates and Vincent Jackson ). Can they stay healthy, finally?? Philip Rivers is still a good Quarterback and the duo of Ryan Mathews and Mike Tolbert performed very well last year.
One of San Diego's downfalls has been the pass defense. They need to find a Cornerback in the Draft or Free Agency. This is a very deep NFL Draft and they should be able to find one in the early rounds. Every year there is a question about Vincent Jackson becoming a Free Agent or staying with the team. This might be the year that he leaves, but the Chargers did well in finding Vincent Brown in the draft last year and he played well enough to earn a chance.
The AFC West is not the strongest division in football. If the Chargers can stay healthy and not self implode, they could rack up enough wins to secure home field advantage in the playoffs. If that happens, who knows??