It’s time to move ahead to the 2007 season. Who’s going to win the Super Bowl next year?
There’s definitely a group of serious contenders. Sure, things will change some through free agency and the draft, but there are some clear contenders from their current nucleus. The following is a look at some of the teams, sans Indianapolis and Chicago, that have a chance to be where the Colts and Bears just went.
San Diego: The Chargers are going to have to get over their home loss to New England in the divisional round. The No. 1 seeded Chargers were the best team in the playoffs and had a 10-game winning streak. They were in control of the Patriots all game long. Still, they lost.
Then an offseason of disaster began, with defections on the coaching staff — offensive coordinator Cam Cameron to the Dolphins, defensive coordinator Wade Phillips to the Cowboys — and the surprise firing of head coach Marty Schottenheimer.
The Chargers have the talent, but they must bounce back. This team is loaded. It has more stars than any team in the league. But the keys are the new coach, whoever he is, and quarterback Philip Rivers. After starting off strong, Rivers fell off the map late in the season. Besides those issues, this team is ready for a run.
Seattle: Could be the Bears' biggest competitor in the NFC. Seattle, the conference’s Super Bowl XL representative, has to be healthier than it was in 2006. The two centerpieces of the team, quarterback Matt Hassselbeck and running back Shaun Alexander, missed a huge chunk of the season. The team has several other key injuries and played in the postseason with a makeshift secondary.
The Seahawks, though, made a strong playoff push, losing at Chicago in the divisional playoffs in overtime.
New England: How can we deny Bill Belichick anymore? There is no way that roster should have been seconds away from the Super Bowl. But it’s Belichick. He’s brilliant. He’ll always have his teams in the Super Bowl mix.
If the Patriots can get some receiver help to take pressure off Tom Brady, this team will be even more dangerous come next January and February.
New York Jets: Who can underestimate Eric Magnini? Belichick’s former lieutenant had an amazing first season as a head coach. Magnini, 36, took one of the worst preseason rosters and made it a playoff team. The Jets are going to get better. Still, it may be difficult to believe that Chad Pennington can lead the Jets to the Super Bowl. But Magnini had such a turnaround there, the Jets have to be considered a Super Bowl threat.
New Orleans: There’s something brewing here. Both the Seahawks and the Bears have to worry about the Saints — for the next several years. With continued right personnel moves, this may be the next great power team.
CSN: Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez has been contacted by police investigating a possible homicide in North Attleboro, Mass. Hernandez is not believed to be a suspect but a rental car in his name is connected to the death.
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