Blue-chip team: Super Bowl contender http://www.nfl.com/news/story/09000d5d8 ... g-big-jump
Red-chip team: Playoff contender
Green-chip team: Middle-of-the-pack team
Orange-chip team: Improving but still not near the playoffs
Brown-chip team: No chance to win and the year will be a long one
Teams are listed alphabetically within each grouping.
Indianapolis Colts: Last season, the Colts had eight victories in games decided by eight points or fewer. They had to fight and grind it out to win -- but their leadership and toughness always seemed to prevail. Can they be expected to do the same this year? As long as Peyton Manning stays healthy and the defense keeps improving, the Colts will be a high a seed come January. My concern is that they have contract problems running rampant in their locker room -- much like the Chargers -- and typically those issues seem to prevent teams from winning close games. Will these problems be enough to make them a candidate to get upset in the playoffs? Something tells me yes.
Miami Dolphins: Much has been happening in Miami in recent weeks, but what should not be lost in all the hysteria of the Heat adding LeBron James and Chris Bosh is that the Dolphins are a Super Bowl contender. Last season, they were one of the best teams in the league in terms of execution, but struggled playing 2-minute defense (30th overall) and failed to make explosive plays (gains of 20 yards or more). Miami is close, very close, to becoming a Super Bowl team -- in part due to its size, mental toughness and ability to consistently execute each week. If the Dolphins stop the big plays, make a few of their own, and find a way to close out games, J-Lo and Marc Anthony might have a stake in a Super team.
San Diego Chargers: Everyone realizes Norv Turner knows how to direct a good passing game, but he also loves having a big running back who can control the game and force teams to defend the box -- which he did not have last year. With the addition of RB Ryan Mathews, Turner has his man and will make the already explosive Chargers even more dynamic. The Chargers were unable to run the ball last year, finishing 31st in the league. San Diego picked up four yards on the ground on first down yet the defenses still bit on every play-action fake. If the Chargers can work through some of their off-the-field problems, they can compete with anyone.
I can't say I agree. I think we're too young. I would put us in the red chip category. However, I do think that with one more off season of adding some weapons offensively, in 2011 we'll be ready to do something real special.