Unless you’re the New England Patriots, Super Bowl windows don’t stay open for very long. Depending on whom your quarterback is, and the youth of the roster, your chance to win a ring is brief, coming and going in the blink of an eye sometimes.
That’s not to say winning a championship is completely out of the realm of possibility, it just means the likelihood of it happening is far worse than it was when the proverbial window opened.
There are a few teams in the NFL right now whose windows are closing – some quicker than others.
We saw the Panthers go from Super Bowl participants to a team that couldn’t reach .500 in a matter of one season. Their drop-off was shocking, but in hindsight, it’s easy to see why it happened. Cam Newton regressed as a passer, the running game wasn’t good and the defense allowed nearly 100 more points than it did in 2015.
Entering this season, the Panthers haven’t done much to help fix those issues. The running back position is a huge question mark, the defense hasn’t added any playmakers outside of 37-year-old Julius Peppers, and Newton still lacks reliable receivers on the outside.
Fortunately, the Panthers have a good amount of draft capital, which should be spent on a running back, receiver and defensive end.
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Joe Flacco is past his prime, and that’ll become even more evident this season with a significant lack of playmakers at his disposal. Steve Smith is retired, Breshad Perriman can’t stay healthy, and their running game does nothing to help Flacco as a complementary piece of the offense.
Additionally, the Ravens are quickly getting older on the defensive side of the ball. Terrell Suggs isn’t the same player he once was, Eric Weddle isn’t getting any younger, and one of their best young players, Zach Orr, retired at 24.
The Ravens need to nail their draft picks and add a stud pass rusher in order to better their chances of winning a Super Bowl in the next year or two.
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The Cardinals nearly saw their window slam shut this offseason when Carson Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald talked retirement. It’s just barely open, which is crazy to think about after seeing them go 13-3 in 2015. The reason there’s still time to win a championship is because of two things: the defense, and David Johnson.
Although Arizona lost a bunch of playmakers in free agency – namely Tony Jefferson and Calais Campbell – the draft is loaded in the secondary, so there are playmakers to be had. And on the other side of the ball, Johnson carries the offense.
He did so last season, but it wasn’t even good enough to get Arizona above .500. Injuries and a terrible offensive line played a part in that, which is why the Cardinals still have time. They should be better in that regard next season, assuming they draft well.
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Prior to 2016, the Bengals had made the playoffs in five straight years. The perception of them being Super Bowl contenders was never really something people saw – mainly because they lost in the first round each year – but the Bengals had great teams during that stretch.
Now, they’re just mediocre. The Bengals won six games in 2016, finishing third in the AFC North. They’ve since lost Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zeitler, their two best offensive linemen. To make matters worse, Andy Dalton was not good last season, throwing just 18 touchdown passes in 16 games.
The Bengals need to have a strong draft and reload with young talent on both sides of the ball. Outside of A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert, how many truly dynamic playmakers do they have? Take your time.
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Yes, Seattle’s window is closing, and perhaps the Seahawks know it, too. The team is shopping Richard Sherman, one of their best defensive players. There’s a reason for that, and it’s likely because they believe he’s expendable at the age of 29. In addition to possibly dealing Sherman, the Seahawks will have a big decision to make next year regarding Kam Chancellor’s expiring contract.
Russell Wilson keeps Seattle in contention last year, as we saw last season, but he can’t do it all himself. The Seahawks need to improve their offensive line, give Wilson a big receiving target and ensure Jimmy Graham is around for the long haul.
If the Seahawks can’t do that, their window to win a Super Bowl will close fairly quickly – even if Wilson is still in the mix.
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New York Giants
The Giants have spent a great deal of money and draft assets on the defense in recent years, completely revamping that side of the ball. Unfortunately, it won’t be enough to extend their Super Bowl window. Why? Because of the guy playing quarterback.
Eli Manning is on the decline, and we saw that on full display last season. He had just 26 touchdown passes and 16 interceptions, while averaging just 6.7 yards per attempt. It’s understandable to expect his skills to decline at the age of 35, and it’s a big reason the Giants’ window is slowly closing.
It will never be completely shut thanks to that defense, but it’s hard to win a Super Bowl with a quarterback who’s inconsistent, turnover-prone and has below-average arm strength and accuracy.
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New Orleans Saints
The Saints haven’t been legitimate Super Bowl contenders since 2013, but anything is possible with Drew Brees at quarterback. Unfortunately, he’s nearing the end of his career, and thus New Orleans’ window to win another championship is rapidly closing.
Brees probably has two or three elite years left under his belt, and unless the Saints can give him a formidable defense and a good running game, they’re not going anywhere. There’s only so much Brees can do by himself, having led the NFL in passing yards five of the past six years.
In order for the Saints to re-open the Super Bowl window, they’ll need to go almost all defense in the draft. They need a pass rusher, cornerback and safety, and another linebacker wouldn’t hurt, either. So, yeah. Basically every defensive position is a need.