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Instant Debate

Which NFL player faces the most pressure to win a Super Bowl?

After facing immense public scrutiny, LeBron James finally got the monkey off his back, winning his first NBA championship with the Miami Heat on Thursday night. Which NFL player without a ring is under the most pressure to win a Super Bowl?

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  • Steve Wyche
  • Romo would be validated by a title -- or even a trip to the Super Bowl

No doubt to this one: Tony Romo. The Dallas Cowboys quarterback is the most scrutinized player in the NFL -- rightfully so -- for not stepping up in the big games or getting things done in the playoffs.

If Romo were to win the Super Bowl, his impressive stats would look far more impressive, and Jerry Jones' faith in him would be unquestionably justified. I think if he GETS to a Super Bowl, he'll be validated. If he doesn't, the criticism will only get louder before it's passed along to the next Cowboys QB.

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  • Gregg Rosenthal
  • It's now or never for Urlacher in Chicago

Tony Romo is the easy answer and probably the right one, but since when are Instant Debates about being right?

I'm rolling with Brian Urlacher. The Bears linebacker is a 34-year-old future Hall of Famer who is a lot closer to the end of his career than people think. More importantly, this might just be his last season in a Bears uniform. This Chicago team is built to win now with its aging defense and quarterback in his prime. It quietly feels like now or never for Urlacher.

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  • Ian Rapoport NFL Network
  • Romo's had a fine career, but he'll only be fully appreciated with a ring

If you play long enough and establish yourself as a really good player, the stats eventually cease to matter. After a while, you are judged on titles (or lack thereof). That's why LeBron James could have scored a million points and opinions would have remained stagnant if he didn't win a title.

In the NFL, there are better players than Cowboys QB Tony Romo. But no one is more in need of a title. Romo actually had his best statistical season last year. Didn't know that? Of course you didn't. His team missed the playoffs. Much like Eli Manning has learned, greatness is realized by rings. That's why Romo needs a title to validate what is really a very, very good career. Only then will he be appreciated.

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  • Chad ReuterNFL Network
  • With an aging defense, Baltimore's Super Bowl hopes fall on the right arm of Flacco

Joe Flacco has the weight of the Baltimore Ravens' Super Bowl hopes on his shoulders in 2012. He does have running back Ray Rice on his side, but Ray Lewis and Ed Reed are nearing the end of their outstanding careers, and the team probably won't get Terrell Suggs back until midseason (if at all) because of the torn Achilles he suffered this summer.

That means Flacco will need to move the ball through the air more consistently in the regular season (he ranked 18th in the league in passer rating in 2011) and play like he did against the New England Patriots in last year's AFC Championship Game if the Ravens want to grab that Super Bowl ring.

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  • Bucky Brooks
  • If Romo doesn't win a title, one of the NFL's elite QBs will labeled a career underachiever

Tony Romo is unquestionably the player with the most pressure to win a championship this season. He is one of the best quarterbacks in the league, in my opinion, but a lack of postseason success has kept him from receiving proper recognition. Romo's harshest critics have focused on his inability to lead the Cowboys to a Super Bowl, his 1-3 post-season record and his handful of blunders at inopportune times. Otherwise, a player who has won 61.6 percent of his games, while completing 64.5 percent of his passes for over 20,000 yards with 149 touchdowns and only 80 interceptions in his career would be recognized as an elite quarterback.

To fully receive the credit he deserves as one of the top players in the NFL, Romo must win a championship this year or run the risk of being labeled as an underachiever for his career.

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  • Adam Rank
  • When it comes to the 2004 draft class, Philip Rivers is the odd man out

There is a famed cast of The Mickey Mouse Club that included Justin Timberlake, Ryan Gosling, JC Chasez, Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera. And if you look closely at pictures of the group, there is always one anonymous guy time has forgotten. When you think of that guy and how much he must resent the rest of his castmates, you have to believe Philip Rivers must feel the same way about the 2004 NFL Draft class.

Eli Manning (the guy Rivers was traded for) and Ben Roethlisberger each have two rings. And heck, the Texans will open the season as one of the favorites in the AFC, which means Matt Schaub (also drafted in 2004) could win a title before Rivers, too. All of that would be hard to stomach, and then you have to consider he replaced Drew Brees in San Diego. Brees has gone on to do pretty well in New Orleans ...

So the most pressure to win a title has to be on Rivers right now. Especially since he stuck his neck out for Norv Turner. Yep, nobody has it worse than Rivers -- not even Tony Romo.

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  • Daniel Jeremiah
  • Romo's held to the same standard as Staubach and Aikman, who both own multiple rings

Tony Romo is the player without a ring that is facing the most pressure to win a championship. Playing quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys is the marquee job in professional sports, and Romo faces intense scrutiny with every move he makes, on and off the field.

During the past five years, the Cowboys have fielded one of the NFL's most talented rosters, but they have yet to even advance to the NFC title game under Romo's leadership. The Cowboys fans hold Romo to the same standard as former Hall of Famers Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman. Until he can bring home a title, Romo will be viewed as a disappointment to Cowboys fans.

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  • Jason Smith
  • Vick and Rivers face pressure, but nothing compares to heat on Romo

Three players immediately come to mind: Tony Romo, Michael Vick and Philip Rivers. The pressure to win is always on the quarterback and the quarterback only. We never talk about a running back or receiver who needs to win it all. So let's go in ascending order as far as rising temperatures go.

Rivers plays on the West Coast and it's almost ingrained in everyone's heads that the Chargers will usually be really good, but just not good enough. Vick is just starting to get some heat this season with the "Dream Team" expectations ticking away.

But nothing compares to the heat on Romo. Jason Witten was right this week when he said, "Until we win the big game, the criticism is going to come." Right or wrong, Romo shoulders the blame for all of the Cowboys' shortcomings. It's not his fault they couldn't build a running game or had a bad secondary. But throwing picks in the final four minutes is definitely on him. He'll continue to get battered the most until he's holding the Lombardi Trophy. In terms of temperature, he's on a beach in the sun with no sunscreen, lying on an electric blanket turned up to super high.

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  • Dave Dameshek
  • Quarterbacking the Dallas Cowboys is one of the most pressure-packed jobs in sports

Mike Vick has his checkered past, Mark Sanchez has a certain southpaw savior as his backup, and both starting QBs bear the pressure of rabid-but-frustrated fan bases in hard-boiled northeast metropolises. The question, however, asks which player has the most pressure to win a title. And the answer to that question is Tony Romo.

It seems odd to compare a guy who wasn't even drafted to King James, for whom the massive expectations began while he was still in algebra class, but that star on the side of Romo's helmet marks the capital city for pressure in pro football. "Dallas Cowboys quarterback" is one of the most iconic titles in sports because of names like Staubach and Aikman. If Romo doesn't win in 2012, Jerry Jones has made it clear he'll look for another name to fit the bill.

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