There are a lot of strong teams in the NFL this year. The Patriots, Steelers, Ravens, Saints, and Colts are talented, veteran teams and plan to be in the postseason hunt. Several teams, including the Buccaneers and Chiefs, are almost there but need one more year before they really hit their stride. However, there are several talented squads whose changes in the last offseason (or several off-seasons) have produced teams ready to break out and win a title. The Falcons, Eagles, and Bears fit this mold and, despite continuing skepticism, any one of them could rise above the fray and hoist the Lombardi Trophy this year.
The Falcons are the most obvious choice for 2010's breakout team. They have proven to be the class of the NFC and beaten both the Saints and Packers. Moreover, the Falcons are loaded with talent on both sides of the ball. The offense boasts standout quarterback Matt Ryan, pro-bowl receiver Roddy White, pro-bowl running back Michael Turner, pro-bowl tight end Tony Gonzalez, and one of the most stable and talented lines in the league. On defense, John Abraham still anchors a veteran unit but it is one that now boasts a dangerous secondary and talents like linebacker Curtis Lofton and defensive tackle Peria Jerry. Though not the NFL's best team on either individual side of the ball, the Falcons have the best combined offense and defense and have an eclectic mix of veteran leaders and young playmakers.
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Atlanta Falcons Game Matt Ryan fakes the handoff and prepares to pass. Thanks to The Suss-Man (Mike) at flickr.com for the picture.
The Eagles are a slightly more controversial pick but, like the Falcons, they boast superior talent on both sides of the ball and are poised to contend. Though banged up all season, their line is one of the most talented in the league and quarterback Michael Vick has produced astounding numbers behind it. Exceptional pass-catching running back LeSean McCoy has begun taking over games offensively and Vick has begun to rely on both his running back and a stable of capable young wideouts. On defense, the Eagles remain extremely aggressive and, though they need to tighten their run defense, this approach has produced good results on the field in 2010. Finally, the Eagles are also one of the youngest teams in the NFL and, astonishingly, managed to reload their talent while still fielding perennial playoff squads under former franchise quarterback Donovan McNabb so they shouldn't miss a beat in future years.
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Michael Vick carrying the ball. Thanks to Ed Yourdon at flickr.com for the picture.
Of these three teams, the Bears are forced to endure the most skepticism but this 2010 team has astonishing similarities to the one that went to the Superbowl in 2006. The 2006 defense was historically dominant but a close look at the numbers reveals that the 2010 Bears are not far behind. The 2010 team is 3rd in total defense, boasts the league's best rushing defense, is a top ten passing defense and, most importantly, has been consistently good in every game. This consistency is not an accident.
The secondary is deep since Tillman, Bowman, and Harris are capable starters and Graham and Manning provide valuable depth, Urlacher, Briggs, and Tinoisamoa are the top linebacker trio in the NFL, and Julius Peppers has singlehandedly wreaked havoc up front. On offense, the team has been inconsistent over the season but gotten better over time and, like in 2006, has a talented gunslinging quarterback, a good running game (though a capable goal back would be a helpful future addition), fast wideouts, and an improving line. Therefore, while the Bears are not perfect and could certainly implode, they have an impressive defense and the offensive talent to go all the way.
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