As the NFL prepares to crown another champion on Super Bowl Sunday, there are a number of star players who are still seeking their first ring. A title isn’t a prerequisite for superstardom, but it certainly cements a player’s place in history. Nine of these 10 players will have to wait until next year for that elusive first ring, but Julio Jones could remove his name from this list if the Falcons can pull off the upset.
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Odell Beckham Jr., WR, Giants
Beckham is a can’t-miss superstar who has the ability to make virtually any catch. He has eclipsed 1,300 receiving yards and hauled in double-digit touchdowns each of his first three years in the league. Beckham is only 24 and has a number of years to earn that first title, but his decision – along with some of his teammates – to travel to Miami six days before his playoff debut wasn’t the best idea.
Career stats: 288 receptions, 4,122 receiving yards, 35 TDs
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Tony Romo, QB, Cowboys
Health is the biggest question facing Romo, who has played in a total of just five games the past two years combined. Most of that time missed was due to multiple injuries, but when he finally got healthy Romo was benched in favor of Dak Prescott during 2016. Romo, who is in the middle of a six-year, $108 million deal, likely won’t be back with the Cowboys next season. If he were to land with the Broncos – a team that is a quarterback away from being a Super Bowl threat – Romo could be holding the Lombardi Trophy next year.
Career stats: 2,829 of 4,335, 34,183 passing yards, 248 TDs, 117 INTs
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Adrian Peterson, RB, Vikings
Peterson will have to defy the odds once again if he plans to return to his Pro Bowl form after another major injury. Peterson, who will be 32 when next season kicks off, had lateral meniscus tear and missed all but three games in 2016. The three-time rushing champ has proven to be a remarkable healer, but as he gets older the effects of these injuries have to be taking a toll. The Vikings got off to a quick start last season, and if Peterson is healthy in 2017 -- providing he re-signs with them -- they could be a legitimate Super Bowl threat.
Career stats: 2,418 attempts, 11,747 yards, 97 TDs
J.J. Watt, , DE, Texans
Another victim of an injury-plagued 2016 campaign, Watt’s reign as two-time Defensive Player of the Year will come to an end through no fault of his own. The Texans star defensive end suffered a preseason back injury that derailed his season, but Watt had to feel good about seeing Houston make the playoffs without its franchise star. If Brock Osweiler can turn it around or maybe the Texans bring in someone else – like Tony Romo – Watt’s title drought could quickly come to an end.
Career stats: 379 tackles, 76 sacks, 1 INT
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Andrew Luck, QB, Colts
The Colts have their franchise quarterback, but now they need to protect him. For the second time in his career, Luck was sacked 40-plus times, something the franchise needs to address ASAP. Luck has thrown for more than 4,000 yards in three of his first five years, but Indy’s back-to-back 8-8 seasons have left some wondering just how close the Colts are to returning to the Super Bowl for the first time since 2009. But Luck also has to work on cutting down his propensity for committing turnovers.
Career stats: 1,570 of 2,651, 19,078 passing yards, 132 TDs, 68 INTs
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Cam Newton, QB, Panthers
Many thought Newton had a breakthrough season in 2015, a campaign in which he accounted for 45 touchdowns and was named league MVP. It looked like the former No. 1 pick was ready to take over the league, but that didn’t transpire in 2016. Newton regressed, and so did the Panthers, who went from a Super Bowl appearance to missing the playoffs. There’s no denying Newton’s physical tools, but after this season his championship window might be shrinking faster than we thought.
Career stats: 1,710 of 2,928, 21,772 passing yards, 136 TDs, 78 INTs
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Philip Rivers, QB, Chargers
Rivers is likely the longest shot on this list to win a title before his career ends. The Chargers haven’t won a division title since 2009, the last time they reached double-digit wins. The team has finished last in the AFC West each of the past two years, but it’s tough to lay that at Philips’ feet. The 35-year-old has thrown for 4,000-plus yards in eight of his past nine years and has played in all 16 games every year since 2006. Unless the Chargers turn things around in Los Angeles, Rivers will be added to the list of best quarterbacks without a ring.
Career stats: 3,811 of 5,917, 45,833 passing yards, 314 TDs, 156 INTs
Antonio Brown, WR, Steelers
Brown is riding a streak of four consecutive seasons of 100-plus catches and 1,200-plus receiving yards. Individually, there are few players in the league better than the 28-year-old wideout. Brown played in Super Bowl XLV as a rookie, but the Steelers fell short against the Packers. Pittsburgh has made the playoffs five of his seven seasons in the league, giving Brown hope that his first championship could be right around the corner.
Career stats: 632 receptions, 8,377 receiving yards, 50 TDs
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Julio Jones, WR, Falcons
Jones could remove himself from this list in a matter of days if the Falcons can deny the Patriots their fifth title. The Atlanta star has made a convincing argument for best wideout in the game during his six-year career, topping 1,400 receiving yards in each of the past three seasons. A big performance Sunday would elevate Jones’ stature even further – and potentially get him some coveted jewelry.
Career stats: 497 receptions, 7,610 receiving yards, 40 TDs
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Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Cardinals
You’d think Fitzgerald’s best days would be behind him after 13 years in the league, but the Cardinals star led the league in receptions in 2016. Still, there have been rumblings that the 33-year-old could call it a career soon. Fitzgerald’s place in Canton is all but assured, but it would be a shame if he left the game without a championship under his belt.
Career stats: 1,125 receptions, 14,389 receiving yards, 104 TDs