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Light my fire: Five teams that have fans talking


It's no coincidence that after signing star defender Mario Williams, the Buffalo Bills witnessed a heavy spike in ticket sales.

Bills loyalist Joel Thompson ditched his season tickets two years ago, but hopped on the bandwagon after learning Super Mario was heading to town.

"This looked legit," Thompson told the team's official website. "Adding Mario, I thought, 'Maybe this team can win sooner than later.' "

It's proof that splashy offseason transactions do wonders for a suffering fan base, even if they don't always pan out. With that in mind, here's five other teams that have given their fans reasons for excitement:

• (1) Denver Broncos: More than one NFL owner grew hot and bothered upon learning Peyton Manning and the Colts were history. Along with his play, Manning brings instant hope to Broncos fans. Perhaps too much hope. Denver's schedule is a brutal pathway through an improved AFC West and an NFC South slate that never lets up. Manning can't do it alone, as Rosenthal pointed out, and there's danger of cooked-up expectations here.

• (2) Washington Redskins: New blood at quarterback lures in the most casual of followers. The Redskins are a proud fan base, but it's been 20 years and counting since their last Super Bowl appearance. Much of the trouble can be linked to problems under center, with grown men still waking up from nightmares of Heath Shuler giving way to Gus Frerotte. Barring a civic disaster, Robert Griffin III will ride in on his white horse come late April, and the Redskins will make for good television once again.

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• (3) Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Last season's 10-game skid drove this fan base into dark corners. New coach Greg Schiano wasted little time shaking up the roster, signing veteran wideout Vincent Jackson and guard Carl Nicks to free-agent contracts. (I can't add Eric Wright to the list, they overpaid here for an average corner.) When you're coming off a 4-12 disaster, ticket buyers must be led down new roads. April's free-agent signings can become December's pounding headaches, but in terms of lighting a spark, Schiano and the Bucs appear committed to changing the culture in Tampa.

• (4) Seattle Seahawks: New Nike uniforms aside, the signing of Matt Flynn -- if he pans out -- addresses a glaring hole on the roster. Tarvaris Jackson is a driven, thick-skinned competitor, but a tough sell as your No. 1 Quarterback. The Seahawks have an exciting, young secondary and re-signed Marshawn Lynch in the offseason. One of the more dangerous teams down the stretch in 2011 can't be sure yet what they have in Flynn -- this season will determine that. The fans, however, know this organization isn't afraid to the roll the dice.

• (5) Chicago Bears: The Bears are gearing up to win now. Jay Cutler had Chicago at 7-3 before a thumb injury ended any hopes of the playoffs. The signing of Brandon Marshall is a wild card, but provides the Bears with a legitimate deep threat for the first time in eons. A player like Marshall opens up the passing game underneath, and will benefit Michael Bush and Matt Forte (who desperately deserves a long-term deal). Brian Urlacher recently spoke of renewed optimism, and Chicago looms as a threat in the NFC North.

Who did we miss? Lay it on us below.


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