It seems that every year....a new team comes along and makes noise in the NFL. Last year it was the NFC Champion Carolina Panthers. But, the Cincinnati Bengals, Dallas Cowboys and Chicago Bears also were nice stories.
So who could be the prime candidates for this year's surprise team??
1-Atlanta Falcons. Unfair, I know...but the Falcons still were a last place team in 2003. But, when Michael Vick was healthy, Atlanta was VERY good. Look for more of the same in 2004. If Vick stays on the field, and new coach Jim Mora, Jr can get his defense right so Vick has more opportunities......then the Falcons could be the next NFC South team to go to the Super Bowl
2-New York Jets. Laugh all you want, but the Jets do have one of the most efficent QBs in the league. Curtis Martin is a workhorse, McCareins and Moss are okay WRs. The defense is young....but fast. And, as teams have shown....you add a solid, mistake-free QB with a tough runner and a fast aggressive defense....you can get to and win the Super Bowl.
3-Washington Redskins. My beloved Skins. I know....over the last 5 seasons, they've underachieved more than any franchise in history. But, we have a real coach now. Gibbs will pull together what Spurrier tore apart.....and close knit family franchise. Brunell is the best QB the Skins have had since the Brad Johnson days [and he wasn't too good either]. He has a stable of solid receivers....led by Laveraneus Coles. Oh, but the #1 option is to turn around and hand it to Clinton Portis. Portis should GREATLY improve an offense that looked confused last year. As for defense...the talent is there. Well, not on the line. But excellent backers like Arrington and Washington and a revamped secondary led by Springs, Smoot and Taylor.....they have speed to compete.