Prognosticating points to ponder

RANDALL THE HANDLE, Special to QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:41 AM ET

TORONTO - While the NFC-favoured Green Bay Packers appear to be even better than last year’s championship squad, we say: “caveat emptor.” Let the buyer beware.

Winning back-to-back Super Bowls is no easy task. History shows that consecutive crowns have been attained just seven times in the past 45 seasons.

The Steelers won Super Bowls IX and X as well as XXIII and XIV and are the only team to win consecutive titles twice.

Others that have managed the feat include the Packers (I and II) the Miami Dolphins (VII and VIII), the San Francisco 49ers (XXIII and XXIV), the Dallas Cowboys (XXVII and XVIII), the Denver Broncos (XXXII and XXXIII) and the New England Patriots (XXXVIII and XXXIX).

Not since the 2006 season, when the Colts won the Super Bowl as a 5-1 choice, has the favourite captured the Lombardi Trophy. Green Bay was listed at 10-1 at the beginning of last season. New Orleans was 22-1 just two years ago while the Steelers were a 20-1 choice when they won it in 2008. When making future plays, it is always best to look for value and a live long shot. If you’re going to tie up you hard-earned bucks for six months, there had better be a lucrative prize at the end of that rainbow. A team or two from this group may warrant your attention:

The Falcons (15-1) — They were 13-3 just a year ago and the core team returns. A couple of new additions should bolster this Atlanta team as the signing of DE Ray Edwards helps address their pass rush deficiency while on the offensive side of things, all are gaga over rookie WR Julio Jones. If the Eagles are an 8-1 choice and have a season win total of 10½, why should Atlanta be 15-1 with the same 10½ season win total? The answer … value.

The Saints (16-1) — The offence could be better than ever. QB Drew Brees had respectable numbers in 2010 but a battered running back corps, some nagging injuries and an uncharacteristic 22 interceptions caught up to the Saints in the end. If the defensive does their part, look out.

The Steelers (15-1) — With few changes, fewer off-season distractions and fresh off a Super Bowl appearance, the Steelers figure to be in the mix once again. While last year’s record was slightly better than they were, Pittsburgh’s rugged style and vast experience makes them attractive in this price range.

The Jets (16-1) — They chirp a lot but they also back it up. They’re a year older, wiser and they might just be better. They took a huge step in last year’s post-season, knocking off the rival 14-2 Patriots. QB Mark Sanchez remains a concern but other parts are as good as any.

The Ravens (16-1) — Always physical and with great leadership, this Baltimore bunch can never be ignored. After three consecutive trips to the postseason as a Wild Card, this could be the season that they reach the next plateau. If mammoth Haloti Ngata isn’t the best defensive player in the league, please tell us who is.

The Cowboys (20-1) — Things have been unusually quiet in northern Texas this pre-season and that has to be a positive. Jason Garnett took over mid-season and led the team to a 5-3 finish. That was without Tony Romo and say what you will about him, Romo’s numbers rank him amongst the best. Don’t forget, it’s a quarterback’s league these days.

The next tier down may also uncover some value teams. We’ve seen a fair share of wild-card qualifiers win the championship.

That being the case, there are a few teams that may not win their division but could be dangerous if they find their way into the playoffs. Stepping slightly outside the box, a case can be made for the following group. After all, this is the NFL and rarely do you see what you get or get what you see:

The Giants (25-1) — Missed playoffs with a 10-6 mark last year.

The Bears (28-1) — Reigning NFC North champs, same division that Packers hail from. Just sayin’.

The Bucs (28-1) — 3 wins in ’09, 10 wins in ’10. Sign of things to come?

The underachieving Texans (25-1) — Wade Phillips takes over previously inept defence.

The Lions (40-1) — May be premature but personnel keeps getting better.

The Chiefs (40-1) — Was winning the AFC West such a fluke last year?


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