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mesaSteeler
04-08-2009, 07:26 PM
http://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/news;_ylt=AkmTin6YDWAKoxk7ob2M_qOT2bYF?slug=anearl ynflfinalfourpower&prov=tsn&type=lgns
An early NFL final four: Power to the AFC

By Vinnie Iyer - SportingNews 3 hours, 42 minutes ago

It's been only eight weeks since Super Bowl 43, but with all this insanity regarding the NCAA Tournament, it's hard not to think about what the NFL's version of the final four will look like in '09.

You would think filling out a successful bracket in the NFL would be a lot easier, just because there are only 32 teams. But then you realize any one of them can surprise you to survive and advance past the regular season, and about a dozen have a real shot at winning it all.

So to help with such a challenge, it's important to look at similar attributes that allow top college basketball teams to get to the national semifinals.

A college hoops team needs a good backcourt to go deep in the tourney. An NFL team needs a good backfield—a.k.a. a strong running game—to win multiple playoff games. Point guards and quarterbacks are similar passers and leaders. An inside game is also key, whether it's working well close to the basket or executing well in the red zone. Then of course, like in every sport, defense wins championships.

Picking the final two teams standing in the AFC "regional" was like going with powerhouses from the Big East and ACC; it came down to picking a pair from an elite group. The NFC provides much more of an opportunity to go with Cinderellas. High seeds from one year go to being on the bubble the next. It's fun, knowing that going with at least one "George Mason" could pay off.

This selection show has had enough drama. Let's reveal the "top four seeds":

— New England Patriots. Call them the '09 favorites in the "Big AFC East." The Dolphins are reigning champs, the Jets are a Jay Cutler away from being very tough, and the Bills even made a splash with Terrell Owens. But barring another major injury to Tom Brady, the Pats will be back as the beast of the division.

Their passing game should be awesome, and their power running game gets an upgrade with Fred Taylor. Bill Belichick has used the free-agent period to add experience to the secondary, and the team has 11 picks with which to work in the draft. That should allow the Patriots to add much needed youth and depth to their front seven. They won't miss the playoffs again, and they won't be an early out when they get there.

— Pittsburgh Steelers. We know it's difficult for any team to repeat as Super Bowl champions, but the Steelers have the nucleus intact to at least get to the penultimate round. It starts with the AFC North. Cincinnati and Cleveland are trying to clean up their respective messes. Baltimore will be a tough archrival again, but will lose a bit defensively without Rex Ryan and Bart Scott.

The Steelers didn't lose any significant veterans, and as usual, they had the youngsters ready on the roster to provide more than adequate replacements. It's scary they won without steady offensive line play and a strong running game, and with a refocus on that and the return of Rashard Mendenhall, watch out. Mike Tomlin is a great young coach, and his staff is intact. Plus, Ben Roethlisberger will be hungry to match Brady's three rings.

— Dallas Cowboys. Now it gets interesting. In the past two years, we've had Giants-Packers and Eagles-Cardinals as the NFC's championship game matchup. Not only it is hard to predict which team will make the playoffs in this conference, but the seeds also don't mean anything.

So why not go with a third different team from the NFL's best division, the NFC East? With Owens out of town and the team dumping some off-field baggage, the Cowboys are in position to open their new stadium in style. The defensive talent, led by DeMarcus Ware, is Super Bowl worthy. The key is becoming more efficient and balanced offensively, and helping that carry over to the entire team.

The passing game won't lose too much once Roy Williams gets on the same page with Tony Romo, but without the crutch of T.O., the 'Boys will lean more on a strong rushing attack as the ideal complement to their defense. Going back to the basics of pounding away with Marion Barber and Felix Jones to set up the pass will turn Dallas from a disappointing non-playoff team to the contender it should have been.

— New Orleans Saints. While the Cowboys are this year's version of the Giants and Eagles, the Saints are that wacky offensive-minded team ready for a shocking run, a la the '08 Arizona Cardinals. They should look a lot more like the '06 Saints in 2009. Like Dallas, New Orleans showed flashes of greatness last season, but eventually, inconsistent play led to a record that wasn't good enough, even in a mediocre conference.

The Saints finished a respectable 8-8, putting them last in a surprisingly tough NFC South. Of course, being last in that division in the previous year usually means one thing—a division title the next year. The Saints' biggest competition will be Atlanta, but after two non-playoff years, Drew Brees is due for—and too good not to get—at least a wild-card shot in the NFC tournament.

The Saints will advance by scoring often and putting their defense in favorable positions to get takeaways. Taking care of the ball and controlling the clock were part of the M.O. when the Saints got to the NFC title game three years ago.

It's still easy to like someone from the AFC side of the bracket to win the Super Bowl, but as we have learned from recent NFC history, if no pick can be considered safe, no pick can be considered crazy, either.

For more in-depth NFL coverage, including weekly mock drafts, free agency analysis, matchups, statistics, projections and more, visit Sporting News' Pro Football War Room today.

Vinnie Iyer is a staff writer for Sporting News. Email him at viyer@sportingnews.com.

Steel-Bryan
04-08-2009, 07:56 PM
I think it'll be Steelers Colts, and the Panthers, Packers[idk why]

KeiselPower99
04-08-2009, 08:07 PM
I think the Packers will be back to their 07 form this year. Capers will get that defense doing good if not great things this season and Aaron Rodgers will continue to put up better stats then that Brett guy he replaced.

lilyoder6
04-08-2009, 08:19 PM
i think the eagles can make another good run with the addition of another talented rb and receiving threat 4 mcnabb

Galax Steeler
04-09-2009, 06:47 AM
I hope New England is no where near the playoffs. I hate that bunch of douch bags.

jev7452
04-09-2009, 09:52 AM
I hope New England is no where near the playoffs. I hate that bunch of douch bags.

i want to see the afc title game between steelers and pats, that way there will be no more questions about the team of the decade

i think itll be the STEELERS, pats, packers (maybbeeee), and falcons (maybbeeee.. see what matt ryan can do)

scsteeler
04-09-2009, 10:02 AM
i want to see the afc title game between steelers and pats, that way there will be no more questions about the team of the decade

i think itll be the STEELERS, pats, packers (maybbeeee), and falcons (maybbeeee.. see what matt ryan can do)


Yes I would love to play the Patties and kick their butts in the AFC Championship. I think the packers will be playing Philly in the NFC if they get another good receiver to come in.

Cheppy
04-09-2009, 10:43 AM
Romo's still the qb of the Cowboys if I'm not mistaken. Yet every so-called "expert" believes the Cowboys to be an elite team every off-season it seems. How many playoff games has Romo win? Or better yet, what are his stats like in the month of december & onward? And when was the last time that joke of a franchise won a playoff game at all? Oh yeah, 13 freakin years ago.

But watch out, the Cowboys are coming:chuckle:

revefsreleets
04-09-2009, 10:55 AM
This incessant Pats nuthugging gets old year after year after year....

Guess what? The Pats didn't win the SB last year! And they aren't going to win it next year either...

The Duke
04-09-2009, 10:55 AM
I want the pats in the AFC championship

The win this past season was NOT revenge. I want to humiliate them on the 2nd biggest game of the year

vasteeler
04-09-2009, 11:13 AM
i have to disagree with a lot of you guys,I do not want to play the *'s in the afcc game they seem to own us in said game. gimmie the browns:laughing:

Steel-Bryan
04-09-2009, 11:18 AM
Next year the pats are gunna have like 15 + free agents, most are from their O and D line, that sucks.

CPanther95
04-09-2009, 11:23 AM
But Brady got married and got soft in the offseason. :flap:

Steel-Bryan
04-09-2009, 11:36 AM
But Brady got married and got soft in the offseason. :flap:

haha

revefsreleets
04-09-2009, 11:40 AM
i have to disagree with a lot of you guys,I do not want to play the *'s in the afcc game they seem to own us in said game. gimmie the browns:laughing:

A) They don't Anthony Smith to tear apart anymore
B) No videotape
C) No radio signal stealing

Steelers 42
Pat 14

fansince'76
04-09-2009, 11:41 AM
A) They don't Anthony Smith to tear apart anymore
B) No videotape
C) No radio signal stealing

Steelers 42
Pat 14

Our D is better and they'll be facing a QB that has two rings, not a green rookie QB or a WR masquerading as a QB who will serve up INTs on a platter for them this time around. I want them in Foxborough.

Steel-Bryan
04-09-2009, 11:53 AM
A) They don't Anthony Smith to tear apart anymore
B) No videotape
C) No radio signal stealing

Steelers 42
Pat 14

42 - 14? Chill i think it would be like 21 - 13

revefsreleets
04-09-2009, 12:07 PM
Wood and Silverback each force a Brady fumble, which result in 14 points, and Troy gets a pick 6.

It's a route!

Dino 6 Rings
04-09-2009, 12:08 PM
Its basically the same reason I refuse to pick an "Arizona" from the AFC.

Pats, Steelers, Colts. Own the AFC. Chargers make it interesting but really, those are the top 3 and have been for the last 8 years or longer.

In the NFC the woosy Conference, it can be any team any time any year. So I don't care who comes in from the NFC. I'd take the Saints, I like beating up on Super Bowl Virgins.

As for who we play in the AFC Title game. I don't give a flying rats arse who it is. The Only game that matters to me is Game 1. Opening Day. Vs the Titans. Nothing esle matters.

St33lersguy
04-09-2009, 12:24 PM
When will the media stop overhyping the Cowboys. They cant win a December game, Tony Homo has the leadership qualities of a 2 year old, they lost one of their most productive players (even though he was a jackass, he did put up some numbers there), & Jerry Jones instills no chemistry. The Cowgirls won't even make the playoffs. As for the Saints unless they prove they have a Defense I can't predict them going to the playoffs

steelreserve
04-09-2009, 12:39 PM
Why the hell would anyone want to play the Patriots in the AFC title game? That would mean they had a relatively successful season. I'm always rooting for them to go 2-14 and 21 of their starters to suffer a torn ACL in the season opener. And the only reason I don't say all 22 of their starters is so you can't accuse me of poor sportsmanship by wishing injury on anyone specific.

MACH1
04-09-2009, 12:42 PM
I wouldn't mind seeing the *s go 11-5 and miss the playoffs altogether.

Steel-Bryan
04-09-2009, 12:53 PM
The pats are gunna go 10-6

Steel-Bryan
04-09-2009, 12:54 PM
The pats are gunna go 10-6 i bet :hug:

Steely McSmash
04-09-2009, 01:14 PM
what a load of crap. Serious filler material.

Any mention of the Cowboys making it to the NFC championship game pretty much casts a huge shadow over the intelligence of the author.

I have no desire to see the pats succeed at all. If they finished 0-16 I'd be very pleased.

CPanther95
04-09-2009, 01:14 PM
When will the media stop overhyping the Cowboys. They cant win a December game, Tony Homo has the leadership qualities of a 2 year old,

It's Tony Rhomo.

The "h" is silent - at least until he comes out of the closet.

revefsreleets
04-09-2009, 01:18 PM
Pats will go 10-6 or 11-5. They'll make the playoffs and lose in the divisonal round.

steelreserve
04-09-2009, 01:57 PM
I have no desire to see the pats succeed at all. If they finished 0-16 I'd be very pleased.

Personally, I'd like to see them go 0-17 because they and the Lions both went 0-16, and Goodell had a heart attack at midseason because his beloved Pats were doing so badly, and the new commissioner threw out the tiebreaker system and made them play each other to settle who got the #1 draft pick. And then forced them to trademark "0-17" and have shirts printed. Also, the new commissioner would be Jenna Jameson. I'm starting to like this idea more and more.

Rek
04-09-2009, 04:16 PM
Hmmm....I'm going to go with the Lions, Chiefs, Rams, and Browns.

Mags87
04-09-2009, 04:37 PM
no love for the Vikings? they added a quarterback that will hopefully help them out. they have all the pieces in place if Rosenfels can step up. they had the best run D last year, have the best RB in the biz, good special teams. if Childress can just pull his head out of his ass, i think they have a great shot at going. but now that Chicago got Cutler, it makes the NFC North pretty interesting. (btw the Vikes are my second favorite team, but there is a big gap between numbers 1 and 2)

steelreserve
04-09-2009, 04:45 PM
no love for the Vikings? they added a quarterback that will hopefully help them out. they have all the pieces in place if Rosenfels can step up.

My money is definitely against that. They still need a quarterback to be a serious contender. Their run defense is good, but overall their defense isn't bulletproof, and it's going to take more than that to carry the team.

St33lersguy
04-09-2009, 05:49 PM
Hmmm....I'm going to go with the Lions, Chiefs, Rams, and Browns.

This is the 4 best not 4 worst:chuckle:

Ravnet
04-09-2009, 06:04 PM
Pats, Steelers, Colts. Own the AFC. Chargers make it interesting but really, those are the top 3 and have been for the last 8 years or longer.

The Chargers have really only been "good" for four years.

CPanther95
04-09-2009, 06:50 PM
The last time the Vikings were one guy away from a Super Bowl, they gifted 3 SBs to the Cowboys.

LVSteelersfan
04-09-2009, 06:53 PM
The press can go jump in a lake with their ball washing of Belicheat and his merry band of HGHers and Mr. Gimp leading the way. Anyone who has watched Carson Palmer since his knee injury shouldn't be automatically thinking Brady is going to be all world just because he steps back on the field. I hope they regret it TREMENDOUSLY for trading Cassell away. They deserve whatever they get as long as that hoodie wearing cheating jerk is in charge.