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mesaSteeler
02-04-2009, 07:41 AM
Six teams on the 2009 title radar
By John Clayton
ESPN.com
http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/playoffs2008/columns/story?columnist=clayton_john&id=3881228

Super Bowl forecasts always have been difficult to make. Because teams that enjoyed first-round playoff byes have failed in recent divisional-round playoff games, accurate forecasts are almost impossible. For instance, this past postseason, three of the four bye-week playoff teams lost in the divisional round. Since the 2006 postseason, the higher-seeded teams in the divisional-round contests have posted a 5-7 record.

The key to determining Super Bowl contenders is figuring out which teams will come together late in the regular season and then get hot during the playoffs. Even predicting those teams is hard. The Arizona Cardinals were terrible in December but won three playoff games to reach Super Bowl XLIII. In the 2005, 2006 and 2007 postseasons, the Steelers, Colts and Giants won Super Bowls, even though each played in wild-card games. The 2007 Giants and 2005 Steelers were true wild-card teams; the 2006 Colts won the AFC South Division but finished behind the 14-2 Chargers and 13-3 Ravens in the overall AFC standings. The task of forecasting the Super Bowl is more of a wild card than ever.

Here are the three teams in each conference -- in no particular order -- that are my favorites to contend for berths in Super Bowl XLIV in Dolphin Stadium on Feb. 7, 2010.

AFC teams

Pittsburgh Steelers: The champions have a chance to repeat because they'll play an easy schedule next season. That's a rare circumstance for defending champions. The Steelers entered the 2008 season with a .598 strength of schedule that decreased to a still-tough .525 when the Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns and Jacksonville Jaguars had down seasons. In addition to playing AFC North teams, the Steelers will play AFC West and NFC North teams in 2009. Those future opponents combined for a .434 winning percentage this past season, so the Steelers will play the fourth-easiest schedule in the league. Their biggest shakeout of players will be along the offensive line. Guard Chris Kemoeatu and offensive tackles Marvel Smith, Max Starks and Trai Essex are unrestricted free agents.

New England Patriots: Even if quarterback Tom Brady doesn't return for the start of the regular season, the Patriots can franchise quarterback Matt Cassel and maintain their high-paced offense. In some ways, the 2009 Patriots could be similar to the 2008 Steelers. The Patriots will play the second-toughest schedule in the league next season; their 2009 opponents combined for a .594 winning percentage this past season. AFC East teams will play the AFC South and NFC South. New England is similar to Pittsburgh in that it is the best team in its division. New England could survive the tough schedule, go into the playoffs as a third or fourth seed and get hot at the end.

San Diego Chargers: I put the Chargers ahead of the Indianapolis Colts only because the Chargers have beaten them in their past two meetings in the playoffs. The Chargers have the best team in the AFC West, a division that underwent three head coaching changes. Philip Rivers continues to grow into an elite quarterback, and general manager A.J. Smith will find some players to fix holes in San Diego's starting lineup.

NFC teams

New York Giants: Until the Dallas Cowboys win a playoff game, it's hard to pick them to go to the Super Bowl. The Cowboys might be the most talented team, but New York is the one team in the division that has made it to the Super Bowl and won in recent years. The Philadelphia Eagles are good enough to make the playoffs and win a game, but their record in NFC Championship Games is 1-4 this decade. The key for the Giants is figuring out what to do with Plaxico Burress. Without him, quarterback Eli Manning won't have a go-to receiver.

Minnesota Vikings: The Chicago Bears will play the league's easiest schedule (.414) in 2009, but the Vikings will play the second-easiest (.420), and they have a better team. If the Vikings come up with a better quarterback than Tarvaris Jackson, they could make a Super Bowl run next season. Several of their key players are getting older, so this is the season head coach Brad Childress must find that quarterback who can push them over the top.

Atlanta Falcons: Quarterback Matt Ryan is the real deal. He went 11-5 as a rookie and could be even better next season. The Falcons will play the fourth-toughest schedule in the league at .588. If the Falcons can win the NFC South, they can enter the playoffs as a third or fourth seed. Ryan will have matured with a second season under his belt and should be able to exploit that experience in the postseason. Team owner Arthur Blank has to make sure the Falcons make aggressive moves this offseason to upgrade the roster and prepare his team for a tougher schedule.

John Clayton, a recipient of the Pro Football Hall of Fame's McCann Award for distinguished reporting, is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

Milkman
02-04-2009, 09:07 AM
I actually like it when they "don't" mention the Steelers as being title contenders. It makes it that much more sweet when we win the SB!

:tt:

KeiselPower99
02-04-2009, 09:12 AM
We are young and have alot of talent coming back. I really think we could/should be the favorites next year.

revefsreleets
02-04-2009, 09:56 AM
These dudes need to step awayfrom the Matt Cassel crack pipe. Dude is DA II...

fansince'76
02-04-2009, 10:00 AM
I actually like it when they "don't" mention the Steelers as being title contenders.

By July/August, they won't be. Book it.

Steelcitygal87
02-04-2009, 10:02 AM
I think one of the reasons we aren't the favorites is because it is pretty difficult to repeat as champions(for any team). Not very many teams are fortunate enough to do it. Losing players to free agency, injuries to major players...often factor as to why.

I like John Clayton...I usually agree with what he has to say. Having said that...I am not sure I would put the Chargers above the Colts. To me they are actually pretty even..as far as talent goes.

Fire Haley
02-04-2009, 11:33 AM
On the NFL network it only took them one day after the Steelers won before they predicted a Pats/Eagles SB next year - how predictable.

SteelCurtain7
02-04-2009, 04:56 PM
I think one of the reasons we aren't the favorites is because it is pretty difficult to repeat as champions(for any team). Not very many teams are fortunate enough to do it. Losing players to free agency, injuries to major players...often factor as to why.

I like John Clayton...I usually agree with what he has to say. Having said that...I am not sure I would put the Chargers above the Colts. To me they are actually pretty even..as far as talent goes.


On paper, the Clots and the Chokers are closer to equal...but in actual game-time performance, the Chokers have owned the Clots lately.

Steelersfanforlife
02-04-2009, 04:58 PM
Steelers should be favorites

jev7452
02-04-2009, 05:04 PM
i just hope that the steelers can play like they did this past season next season.. i just hope they dont play on a level of their opponents

Stover4Prez
02-04-2009, 08:24 PM
Don't forget about the Ravens!! If we get the "home town discount" for Suggs, Scott and Lewis, and keep our RB's and Flacco healthy, your Steelers will have their hands full in the division. (and maybe our bye week won't be week 2!)

Of course rankings right now mean jack squat. Show me one pre-season power ranking that had Baltimore in the AFCCG or the Dolphins HOSTING a playoff? It is fun to talk about, but really is as useful as a snow cone in a blizzard!

Can't wait! Is it September yet!?

tyler289
02-04-2009, 08:35 PM
The Ravens are one team I would watch out for. They finally have their QB.

Now, if 2 of Lewis, Scott, and Suggs leave, then it's a different story, but if they get a playmaker at WR in the 1st round and then take a solid CB in round 2, they could be very dangerous.


And I'm SICK of the perennial Chargers/Eagles "on the verge" every freakin' year. Every season Philip Rivers gets hyped up, and the Eagles are talked about like they've actually made it to more than one super bowl in the last 10 years. How many NFC Championship games have they lost?

Fire Haley
02-04-2009, 08:47 PM
Don't forget about the Ravens!! If we get the "home town discount" for Suggs, Scott and Lewis,

I just watched a RayRay interview in Hawaii.

He was kissing major Cowboys and Jets butt. Licking it up and practically begging to play with T.O. or for Rex in the big apple.

When he was asked about the "hometown discount" he said he didn't play at a discount - and could not believe anybody would dare pay him that way.

He's gone.

MasterOfPuppets
02-04-2009, 08:56 PM
Don't forget about the Ravens!! who ??? :huh: .......:noidea:

Stover4Prez
02-05-2009, 12:15 AM
I just watched a RayRay interview in Hawaii.

He was kissing major Cowboys and Jets butt. Licking it up and practically begging to play with T.O. or for Rex in the big apple.

When he was asked about the "hometown discount" he said he didn't play at a discount - and could not believe anybody would dare pay him that way.

He's gone.

That is not at all what he said, but I understand and respect the Pittsburgh spin on it!

The Ravens NEED to sign him and he is worth all the money he thinks he is. We'll see. It will play a big factor in our D next year if he isn't there.

tony hipchest
02-05-2009, 12:43 AM
That is not at all what he said, but I understand and respect the Pittsburgh spin on it!

The Ravens NEED to sign him and he is worth all the money he thinks he is. We'll see. It will play a big factor in our D next year if he isn't there.porter was worth as much as he thought he was too. but the steelers got a defensive mvp and sb record setter for 1/4 of the price instead. :thumbsup:

maybe the ravens can pull something like that off. :popcorn:

(thanks for cutting harrison btw)

:sofunny:

MasterOfPuppets
02-05-2009, 05:55 AM
That is not at all what he said, but I understand and respect the Pittsburgh spin on it!

The Ravens NEED to sign him and he is worth all the money he thinks he is. We'll see. It will play a big factor in our D next year if he isn't there.
may not be word for word..... but its a pretty good summary....buh bye bmore..:wave: ray ray don't do discounts....:laughing:
http://www.nfl.com/videos?videoId=09000d5d80e953f8

Fire Haley
02-05-2009, 11:11 AM
With Rex gone, RayRay gone, and probably either Suggs or Bart Scott too - the B'more D should be gutted nicely.


Speaking of FA's - maybe Larry Johnson would want to play for a SB winner at vet minimum - come on over big guy, we need a short yardage back.

IndyColtsSBXLI
02-05-2009, 01:13 PM
Chargers ahead of the Colts??? that's very suprising

OX1947
02-05-2009, 01:44 PM
The Ravens are one team I would watch out for. They finally have their QB.

Now, if 2 of Lewis, Scott, and Suggs leave, then it's a different story, but if they get a playmaker at WR in the 1st round and then take a solid CB in round 2, they could be very dangerous.


And I'm SICK of the perennial Chargers/Eagles "on the verge" every freakin' year. Every season Philip Rivers gets hyped up, and the Eagles are talked about like they've actually made it to more than one super bowl in the last 10 years. How many NFC Championship games have they lost?

Lewis will be a Cowboy and Suggs will be a Cardinal. So the Ravens will be hit a little this off season.

LVSteelersfan
02-05-2009, 02:11 PM
Bwahahahahaha !!!!!!!!!! Ravens. Not a chance bub. Your team will fall apart with or without Ray Lewis. Do you understand at all that his skills are diminishing because he is an OLD MAN as far as football goes? And with your defensive mastermind gone, your coach is in for another of those disappointing seasons next year. The Jets made the right decision. Can't say as much for the Clowns and taking loser Mangini.

Steelcitygal87
02-05-2009, 02:16 PM
Bwahahahahaha !!!!!!!!!! Ravens. Not a chance bub. Your team will fall apart with or without Ray Lewis. Do you understand at all that his skills are diminishing because he is an OLD MAN as far as football goes? And with your defensive mastermind gone, your coach is in for another of those disappointing seasons next year. The Jets made the right decision. Can't say as much for the Clowns and taking loser Mangini.

I'm confused...you stated they would fall apart without Ray Lewis...but then went on to say all his skills are diminishing. So my question is....how can it be both? If he is no longer of any use to them( as you seem to think), then why would they fall apart if he leaves? As far as his skills go..maybe he has lost a step or two..but I remember a hit on Mendenhall and another on a player in the Titans playoff game...that showed he still plays with a LOT of passion and intensity. He is still very good against the run.

The RATS are still a GOOD team even if Ray goes..It is not as if he is the only talented player they have on defense. Plus, barring injury, I only see their QB getting better. It will be his second year in the league..and having taken his team to the AFCC game this year, I would tend to think he will be all the wiser next year.