The Brandt Report  


Cardinals, Bengals headline teams vying for first Super Bowl title


Forty-nine Super Bowls have been played thus far -- and six teams have won 57 percent of them.

Yes, life has been good for the Steelers (six titles), 49ers (five), Cowboys (five), Packers (four), Giants (four) and Patriots (four) in the Super Bowl era. Of course, the flip side of so many titles going to so few teams is that a fair number of franchises have experienced more than their share of bum luck -- specifically, the 13 organizations that have never won a Super Bowl.

But hope springs eternal, especially in July. So I thought I'd assess the 13 title-less teams and rank them according to their chances of finally capturing that elusive Lombardi Trophy next February. The resulting list is presented below, with teams grouped in tiers.


1) Arizona Cardinals

Last season, Carson Palmer was limited to just six games by a shoulder issue and torn ACL -- and the Cardinals still won 11, making the playoffs for the first time since 2009. With Palmer healthy and ready for 2015, the Cards have the best shot of the bunch to break into the winners' circle. Another factor working in Arizona's favor: the presence of Bruce Arians, who is so good, he might be one of the most underrated coaches in the league even after winning the Coach of the Year award for the second time in three seasons.

2) Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals are probably the deepest of the teams on this list. Cincinnati's offense, led by receiver A.J. Green and back Jeremy Hill, will be boosted by healthy returns from Marvin Jones and Tyler Eifert, while former Bengal Michael Johnson rejoined the talented defense after a year in Tampa Bay. This squad features a lot of good, young players -- including quarterback Andy Dalton, who, yes, I think is capable of winning a playoff game, his 0-4 lifetime record notwithstanding. The AFC North is tough, but coach Marvin Lewis can get Cincinnati, which should be competitive for a while, over the postseason hump.

3) Philadelphia Eagles

Chip Kelly is a sharp guy who could make the auspicious start to his NFL head-coaching career truly special by capturing a title in Year 3. Yes, Philly traded away a 1,300-yard rusher in LeSean McCoy and let a solid receiver in Jeremy Maclin walk in free agency, but I think 1,800-yard back DeMarco Murray and promising rookie Nelson Agholor will keep the offense rolling. The Eagles' defense, meanwhile, should be much improved with the additions of Byron Maxwell, Walter Thurmond and Kiko Alonso. Furthermore, if new quarterback Sam Bradford can stay healthy, which has always been the biggest question with him, he can have a huge impact. The bottom line is, Kelly knows what he's doing.


4) San Diego Chargers

When talking Super Bowl chances, the quarterback position is obviously crucial, and Philip Rivers is capable of putting San Diego in great position. Of course, since this is the final year of Rivers' current contract, this might be the last, best shot for the Bolts for some time. The offense is better with rookie running back Melvin Gordon onboard, and San Diego -- which finished 9-7 the past two seasons -- has a shot to win the AFC West. But how much will losing suspended tight end Antonio Gates for four games hurt? And how much of an impact will the distraction of a potential move to Los Angeles have on the team?

5) Minnesota Vikings

Adrian Peterson's return means everything to the Vikings. Some questions about the left tackle position -- where Matt Kalil struggled last season -- aside, Minnesota has the supporting cast in place on offense to thrive with Peterson back on the field, between a solid young quarterback (Teddy Bridgewater), a receiving corps with explosive potential and a talented defense on the rise. Moreover, this is a well-coached squad; head coach Mike Zimmer is as good as any defensive mind in the NFL.

6) Detroit Lions

The Lions have plenty of offensive firepower, with big-armed quarterback Matthew Stafford throwing to Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate, and they had one of the best defenses in the NFL last year, ranking second in yards allowed and third in scoring D. Losing Ndamukong Suh to free agency hurt, but Detroit still has defensive coordinator Teryl Austin on staff. If the team manages to overcome the defection of Suh and make something happen in 2015, I would not be the least bit surprised to see Austin land a head-coaching gig by 2016. Of course, the Lions have the same problem as the Vikings: dealing with the Packers in the NFC North.


7) Buffalo Bills

If they hadn't fumbled away a Week 10 loss to the Chiefs, the Bills could have been 10-6 in 2014. The defense (which posted a league-high 54 sacks and a turnover differential of plus-seven last season) is top-notch. The offense, which has a number of skilled receivers, should only be better with LeSean McCoy carrying the ball. New coach Rex Ryan can get a lot out of his players in his own way; he's a font of perpetual enthusiasm. But who's going to play quarterback?

8) Houston Texans

J.J. Watt makes Houston a defensive dynamo, and if veteran back Arian Foster can stay healthy, this team will run the ball well. Coach Bill O'Brien does a heckuva job -- but unless he can play quarterback himself, I don't see the Texans getting very close to the ultimate goal.


Note: These teams are listed in alphabetical order.

Atlanta Falcons: Dan Quinn will prove to be a very good head coach someday, but the Falcons don't have the players right now to play defense like he wants to.

Carolina Panthers: The Panthers have made the playoffs the past two seasons, but they also had a losing record last year. I don't see them breaking away from the middle of the pack in 2015.

Cleveland Browns: The defense will be competitive, but it's hard to move the ball without a quarterback or receivers.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Blake Bortles needs to grow a bit more before they can really enter the picture.

Tennessee Titans: It appears the 30th-ranked scoring offense in 2014 will be starting a rookie quarterback -- not a recipe for instant success.

Follow Gil Brandt on Twitter @Gil_Brandt.



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