Future shock: Packers will own 2014-16
With young, stud QBs, Bucs and Falcons also positioned to dominate down the road
PIGSKIN PANEL PICKS
- Eric Allen: Green Bay Packers
- Stephania Bell: Atlanta Falcons
- Matthew Berry: Philadelphia Eagles
- John Clayton: Buffalo Bills
- Colin Cowherd: Green Bay Packers
- Dave Fleming: Tampa Bay Bucs
- Ashley Fox: Tampa Bay Bucs
- Tim Graham: Green Bay Packers
- Dan Graziano: Detroit Lions
- Christopher Harris: Atlanta Falcons
- Tim Hasselbeck: Tampa Bay Bucs
- Merril Hoge: Tampa Bay Bucs
- KC Joyner: New England Patriots
- Eric Karabell: Pittsburgh Steelers
- Mel Kiper: St. Louis Rams
- Paul Kuharsky: Atlanta Falcons
- Chad Millman: St. Louis Rams
- Antonio Pierce: Pittsburgh Steelers
- Mike Sando: St. Louis Rams
- Aaron Schatz: Green Bay Packers
- Kevin Seifert: Green Bay Packers
- James Walker: Tampa Bay Bucs
- Bill Williamson: Green Bay Packers
- Matt Williamson: Pittsburgh Steelers
- Pat Yasinskas: Atlanta Falcons
A solid to above-average running game is nice, but in today's passing-dominated league, it's like parsley. It's nice decoration, but it's not a requirement.
If you have all of these key ingredients -- and you're also coming off a Super Bowl title --- you have a good chance to be very good, maybe even dominant, in three to five years. Take a bow, GM Ted Thompson, coach Mike McCarthy and the Green Bay Packers. With a superstar quarterback (27-year-old Aaron Rodgers), a rising young superstar-in-waiting at tight end (Jermichael Finley), a solid offensive line and a young, deep defense led by linebacker/wild man Clay Matthews, your team is the pick of the ESPN.com Pigskin Panel to be the NFL's dominant team from 2014 to 2016.
"It's rare that a defending Super Bowl champion is considered an up-and-coming team, but that's exactly what the Packers are," ESPN.com AFC West blogger Bill Williamson said.
With six votes from our 24-person panel, the Packers didn't exactly win the popular vote in a landslide. Two other teams with young standout quarterbacks -- Tampa Bay (Josh Freeman) and Atlanta (Matt Ryan) -- finished second and third with five and four votes respectively. With three votes each, the Steelers and Rams tied for fourth. Four other teams received one vote apiece. Freeman, coming off a monster second season (25 TDs vs. six picks), will only be 26 in 2014. Ryan, 33-15 as a starter, will only be 29 at the start of the 2014 season.
"Tampa Bay's biggest hurdle is the division it plays in," ESPN.com AFC North blogger James Walker said. "But once the window closes on the New Orleans Saints and quarterback Drew Brees, who's 32, the Bucs and Atlanta Falcons should battle for NFC South supremacy."
The panel will weigh in on hot NFL issues throughout the season.
The Pigskin Panel: Most dominant team from 2014-2016
GREEN BAY PACKERS
2010: 10-6, Super Bowl champs
NFC North blog
TAMPA BAY BUCS
2010: 10-6, third in NFC South
NFC South blog
2010: 13-3, NFC West champs
NFC South blog
2010: 12-4, AFC champions
AFC North blog
ST. LOUIS RAMS
2010: 7-9, second in NFC West
NFC West blog
Four teams received one vote apiece: Buffalo Bills, Detroit Lions, New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles.
EXPERTS: Most dominant NFL team from 2014 to 2016
ERIC ALLEN, ESPN: When I evaluate a team over a two- or three-year period, the first thing I do is check upstairs in the personnel department. The Green Bay Packers have put themselves in a position to win over an extended period of time. Ted Thompson has done an awesome job of building the team with young players and adding hungry vets along the way. Follow the money: The Packers pay players who make up the core of a team: QB, CB and both lines. Aaron Rodgers has all the tools to lead the next dynasty in the NFL, and an emphasis on the running game will also help. I like the fact that the Packers have potential playmakers in every unit. And they also have that great home-field advantage.
THE PICK: Green Bay Packers
THE PICK: St. Louis Rams
THE PICK: Tampa Bay Bucs
THE PICK: Buffalo Bills
MIKE SANDO, ESPN NFC West blogger: It's tough enough predicting which teams will win from week to week, let alone which ones will stand tallest several years from now. The teams with the best young quarterbacks have the best shot, so it's tough to bet against Green Bay with Aaron Rodgers. I'll cast a vote on a longer shot by saying Sam Bradford's arrival in St. Louis puts the Rams in position to be that dominant team from 2014 to 2016. Bradford immediately took charge of the offense and won over the locker room with his approach and abilities. The Rams' ownership situation has also stabilized with billionaire Stan Kroenke taking over from Chip Rosenbloom. The Bradford-Kroenke combination should be a good one for St. Louis. Coach Steve Spagnuolo has the defense improving behind young talent at middle linebacker and defensive end. The early signs are there for St. Louis. Improving the stadium situation is the next step.
THE PICK: St. Louis Rams
THE PICK: Atlanta Falcons
THE PICK: Tampa Bay Bucs
KC JOYNER, The Football Scientist: Team building is a process that takes time, so the dominant team for 2014-16 must have a group of talented young players in place right now. Being that the NFL is a passing league, having a top-line quarterback also is a must. Using those criteria, the New England Patriots look to be the best candidate for mid-decade supremacy. For proof, check out their ranking in the following categories:
• 2010 starters who will be 30 or younger in 2014: 17, tied for fourth-best in the league.
• 2010 starters drafted in the first or second round who will be 30 or younger in 2014: 9, tied for fourth-best.
• 2010 starters who have made a Pro Bowl/All-Pro team and will be 30 or younger in 2014: 3, tied for second-best.
Tom Brady's age is the biggest wild card here (he will be 37 in 2014), but let's not forget that Brett Favre recently showed the world how well an aging quarterback can play when he is surrounded by a boatload of young talent. Brady will do the same and thus will have a great shot at collecting more Super Bowl rings than any other quarterback in history.
THE PICK: New England Patriots
MATT WILLIAMSON, Scouts Inc.: The Patriots and Colts crossed my mind, but I can't bank on their quarterbacks still being dominant players from 2014 to 2016. The same applies to the Saints. Teams with young stud quarterbacks (Detroit, St. Louis, Atlanta) also crossed my mind. But it's Pittsburgh, led by Ben Roethlisberger (32 in 2014), and Green Bay, with Aaron Rodgers (30 in 2014), who stick out. Call me a Pittsburgh homer all you want, but the Steelers just don't go away. With fantastic defensive play and acute personnel decisions, they have a formula that has stood the test of time. They are perennial contenders. Give me Pittsburgh by a narrow margin over the Packers.
THE PICK: Pittsburgh Steelers
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