Don't Count On ...
... anyone but the following seven teams winning the Super Bowl.
Twelve teams are going to make the playoffs, but there won't be 12 teams with a shot of winning the Super Bowl. Some teams will have the records, but not necessarily the goods.
It's like the hippie vegan girl who enters the local beauty pageant ... you can tell her that everyone's beautiful in their own way, but I'm sorry, when it goes to the judges, the girl with the hairy armpits just doesn't have a chance.
It's not necessarily the best teams that'll be on the short list of teams that can win it all, either. What I'm looking for is 1) hairy armpits. And 2) a team that has one dominant unit that can catch fire and just steamroll teams. To me, that's the key.
You can't have any areas that are pitiful weaknesses, but more important is that one unstoppable unit to lean on. You've got to have that one area that a team either can't defend, or has to give up a lot of things in other areas in order to defend. The Giants pass rush. The Colts passing game. That sort of thing.
7. Dallas Cowboys
. With that in mind, we proudly begin this list with a team that has no dominant unit. Right now, I'm not sure they even have that great of a chance to make the playoffs. I can think of at least four, and as many as eight, other teams not on this list that I'd choose to beat the Cowboys on a neutral field right now.
But I can't let go of the notion that there's a high ceiling for this team, if they ever get their mental/emotional issues worked out to a point where they can show up and play hard, and with energy and togetherness every week.
That's the thing, though. With every team in the history of sports that's ever had that problem this late in a season, exactly zero of them have ever recovered and won the championship that their talent dictated they should have. It won't start with these Cowboys, either, but I think their talent level just barely, barely, barely qualifies them for inclusion on this list.
6. Baltimore Ravens
. Again, like the Cowboys, a potential snag here could be that they won't be in the playoffs. But if they do get into the bonus round, would you want it to be your team that had to gameplan around Baltimore's defense?
Would you want it to be your team that had to worry about the Ravens defense stealing points of their own, or putting their offense in a position to work with a short field? In the end, they won't have enough balance, and if, by some miracle, they did make it to the Super Bowl ... well, they better hope it's not the Giants on the other end of the ceremonial coin toss
5. Green Bay Packers
. The Packers hate your passing game and they wish harm upon it. Al Harris
and Charles Woodson
lead a secondary that's the best in the league at collecting interceptions, opposing quarterback rating, opponent's completion percentage and average yards per passing attempt.
It seems like this is an offense that's rounding into form, too. Five of Ryan Grant
's six best games this year have been his last five, Aaron Rodgers
is playing at a high level and still gaining experience and keep in mind that just a couple of weeks ago the Packers gave undefeated Tennessee all they could handle, in Tennessee.
4. Pittsburgh Steelers
. What do they do well? They attack. They blitz. They punish your quarterback. And if they play you at home, they make you play on a field that's as well-maintained as your local, "$8 to golf all day, no shirts required!" golf course.
You might point to their offense, specifically their offensive line, as a pitiful
weakness, and I couldn't argue with you. However, I'd also point out that the stars of the offense -- Roethlisberger, Ward and Parker -- all have Super Bowl experience, and there have been dim, flickering signs recently that Roethlisberger is starting to play smarter.
3. Arizona Cardinals
. What the Cardinals have is an unstoppable passing attack with two receivers who no one can cover in Larry Fitzgerald
and Anquan "Toughest Man Alive" Boldin. Throw in Steve Breaston
, throw in Jerheme Urban
... and, oh yeah, throw in a quarterback having a brilliant year who's probably the leader in the clubhouse for MVP right now, and who also has a Super Bowl MVP trophy on his mantle.
The defense? Not great, but maybe not as bad as you think. They give up fewer than 90 rushing yards per game, which is pretty good, and 210 passing yards per game, which doesn't kill you. Granted, these stats might be skewed a little from playing Seattle, San Fran and St. Louis twice, but they are what they are.
Warner, those receivers and Ken Whisenhunt's creativity can score enough points on any given day to beat anyone.
2. Tennessee Titans
. You don't go 10-0 by accident. Tennessee's got a great defensive front, they pressure the quarterback, they give up fewer than four yards per carry and they can run the ball against anyone. When you can do those things, you can beat anyone. As they've proven.
1. New York Giants
. The most dominant offensive line and the most dominant running game in the league. Ask Baltimore. They also happen to be second in the league in total defense, second in sacks and second in passing yards allowed per game.
And as you might recall, they also have Super Bowl experience. Very recent Super Bowl experience. They're the most well-rounded group that also has sharp points of brilliance.
And if your team doesn't appear on this list, don't sweat. Three of the last eight Super Bowl champions have come from the Wild Card position, so things don't always work out as they're supposed to.